Monday, October 26, 2009

The medium is often the message - but not always

As you may know the Denver Auditor's Office enforces Denver’s Prevailing Wage Law on all city construction projects. Rob Merritt heads up that unit which rigorously checks payrolls of companies working on city projects. Staff members have informed me that many companies have perfect payrolls, no mistakes, no shorting employees, no fraud or administrative laziness in paying workers what the law requires.

A couple of years ago, I initiated the Auditor's Appreciation Awards to such companies. This auditor believes you have to give credit where credit is due. So I sent a letter to the executive of one construction-company which had perfect payrolls at our Denver Airport. My letter invited the executive to our quarterly meeting at which the award was to be given to him and his company.
However, when he saw the return address from the Denver Auditor's Office, he put my congratulatory letter in his desk, unopened. Seeing the return address on our Auditor's envelope, he had convinced himself that he must have done something wrong on a payroll or owed the city money. This reaction shows the truth of the prophetic words of Marshall McLuhan who said so many years ago, that "the medium is the message." When he finally opened the letter, he had already missed the meeting at which we planned to give him the award for good work. So now I send these award notices in a plain white envelope made from recycled paper, of course.

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