Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the sinking of the great liner RMS Titanic. We have always marked this ceremony with a series of traditions in our household, but one of the best is drawing conclusions from the disaster. The greatest lesson is (perhaps): Do not fight with an iceberg for an iceberg does not mind a collision and you do.
Beyond this we have been inspired by the heroism of some of the passengers and all the crew of the great liner. Charles Lightoller is a model for a twentieth century ideal Englishman. If being a hero on Titanic was not enough, he served with honor in World War II.
However, if choosing a career, one need not choose RMS Titanic. One hopes one will do well in a dying enterprise when panic ensues and death is all around, but nobody should volunteer for a disaster. Yet many enterprises have all the marks of doom and the wise would purchase a ticket on a different liner. If you are “the chosen one” you must go on your quest, but no human is required to die for the White Star Line.
Here are four warning signs that you work for the RMS Titanic:
The Captain ignores warnings and chugs merrily along.
Captain Smith died bravely, but it would have been better for his passengers if he had not had the chance to go down with the ship. Sadly, he ignored warnings and did not take adequate precautions for the safety of his ship. If you work for a company where leadership makes 21 knots in an ice field, after a warning, then get off the ship if you can. If you cannot, get a room close to the lifeboats. You will need them.
One sure sign of RMS Titanic syndrome: worry about ice is viewed as whiny carping or undue criticism. Of course, you might be carping, but it is a good idea to take ice seriously in April in the North Atlantic.
The company cares more about appearance than safety.
The White Star Line was not required to put more lifeboats on RMS Titanic but nobody told them they could not. Evidently, more lifeboats would have spoiled the views of the ocean and the lines of the ship. You know you work for the White Star Line when appearance and the illusion of security counts more than safety.
The crew is treated badly.
The band of the White Star line is famous for playing bravely as the great ship died. These good men reduced panic and set an example. The company sent their grieving families a bill for the uniforms they carried to the bottom of the Atlantic.
If you work for a company where you can imagine this happening, leave. Often this will be due to ineptitude where the infrastructure of the business or ministry will have been cut to the point that such mistakes are possible. Nobody is there to say: “Wait! We cannot bill the band’s families.”
Even more frequently this kind of vile decision is also made in companies that are driven by fear of making a mistake. There is a policy manual and the only way to avoid getting fired is to follow that policy manual. The policy says bill for uniforms when they are unreturned, so bills are made because nobody dares risk the wrath of the White Star Line managers and speak up about the situation.
The passengers and crew have a disproportionate sense of safety.
Nobody said the ship was unsinkable, but the White Star Line did claim that everything possible had been done to make the ship practically unsinkable and to make the ship safe. This was, of course, a lie. The White Star Line could have built the watertight compartments higher. They could have used better steel. They could have placed more lifeboats on the ship.
If the company starts lying to you, get a new company.
It is doubtless true that the belief in the (relative) safety of Titanic killed people. Why get into an egg shell of a lifeboat when one was on the safest ship ever built? No ship is unsinkable, no company (see Kodak) unbreakable. If people keep using jolly talk to silence the critics, get a new ship and company.
What do you do if despite all your efforts you end up with Captain Smith on RMS Titanic? First, pray. Second, read the next in this series.