Dear Aunt Sophie,
I have a very responsible position with an international organization. Soon I will have to take a business trip to a less developed part of the world to see what some of my subordinates have been up to in the field. I have instructed them in friendliness and joking but they are still not welcome. Last time we were looking for nuclear development and found nothing amiss. But I have learned from that experience. I can not believe they would do anything like that with germs.
The whole world is waiting for my report and it makes me nervous. If my agents have not found anything it does not necessarily mean there is nothing to be found, but if they have found something there might be a war. This could be an unpleasant trip, but my superiors say it does not look good for me to get my reports through the press, so I probably can’t get out of going, but if I do go, I could be exposed to whatever it is that my agents might not have found. I never thought I would be putting myself into this position when I accepted this job. What should I do?
Hans from Turtle Bay
Since you didn’t tell me exactly what your job is, I will have to hazard a few guesses and you will have to draw some parallels. (It is oh, so much easier for me, Dear Correspondents, when you are frank with me. You can trust Aunt Sophie not to reveal your identities.)
Reading between the lines, I get the sense that you’re afraid since you screwed up once, you might be screwing up again. You needn’t torment yourself just because an insane third world tyrant once managed to run a nuclear development program full tilt right under your nose. Of course everyone knows the same madman would never think of doing the same thing with biological agents and poison gases, especially since you say you have learned from the experience.
I’m sure your agents are a credit to their organization and have been extremely careful not to upset their hosts in any way. Don’t let it bother you if they are not welcome where you send them. Does the IRS care if its auditors aren’t popular?
This may surprise you, but the whole world isn’t really waiting for your report, so you have no reason to be nervous. You are just a façade, pretense, window dressing, a sham. Your real job is to cover for the complete irrelevance, incompetence and corruption of your organization.
As for the possibility of unpleasantness - there is no reason why a trip to a brutal third world tyranny should lack appeal for anyone in your position. While conditions in the field are often less agreeable than they are at HQ, with a minimum of ingenuity one can devise mental strategies to make the experience enjoyable. For example, although you will have to forgo things like the opera and chowing down at Nobu, where else can you get a front-row seat at a stoning or a beheading?
You can surely manage for a few days. You needn’t stay long, but be sure to get enough face time so your subordinates remember what you look like. People in a leadership position who refuse to go where they have sent their personnel usually develop an image problem. Once you acquire an image problem it becomes effortless for people to despise you. Just ask Trent Lott.
Think of this as an opportunity to prove yourself a man of mettle. If you handle it right, you’ll be able to dine out for months on the stories, assuming you don’t pick up some revolting disease.
Good luck and God bless.