Bad communication can be a win-win scenario

In the aftermath of GE's price fixing scandal, we learned that GE executives had a culture of winking while they told subordinates not to break the law. Sometimes. Each salesperson had to interpret the word and the wink, and the occasional lack thereof, according to their own internal rules. Effective communication was, effectively, absent.

Suppose, purely as a hypothesis, that the owner of a company who orders his subordinates to obey the antitrust laws has such poor communication with himself that he does not really know whether he wants the order to be complied with or not. If his order is disobeyed, the resulting price-fixing may benefit his company’s coffers; if it is obeyed, then he has done the right thing. In the first instance, he is not personally implicated in any wrongdoing, while in the second he is positively involved in right doing. What, after all, can he lose?

John Brooks, Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street

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