Two houses alike in dignity

Who wins in a fight between the CEO and the CFO? I don’t mean in a life or death political battle for power and/or survival. Sadly, I also don’t mean in a mano-a-mano, unarmed combat, score-settling shakedown in the carpark. What I mean is, if the two of them have different cultural perspectives then which will prevail?

Suppose, hypothetically of course, that one of them is, in McGregor’s terms, Theory X and the other is Theory Y. Say that the CEO’s take on life is people-oriented. “Get the people thing right and the rest will follow” one can imagine him opining reassuringly as he meets senior management around the world. At the same time however one can equally easily visualise the CFO, who thinks pay rises and pensions are for wimps, suspending recruitment and stopping investment. Which will have the greater influence?

I think, and I say this for the second post running, we need look no further than Herzberg. The negative impact of the CFO’s hits against the hygiene factors will easily outweigh any positive impact of the CEO’s emollience on the motivating factors. Staff will shrug their shoulders, remind themselves that fine words butter no parsnips and the best will move on elsewhere. A kind of Gresham’s Law homolog will obtain and the bad culture will drive out the good. The CFO will win, and no-one will win.

“So much of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to work.” – Peter Drucker

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