Contributor Jeffrey P. Blum is a family law mediator.
Robert Greene’s book “The 48 Laws of Power” instructs us to never criticize our boss. Avoiding criticizing your boss is important for maintaining your position and gaining favor. Criticisms can be perceived as a challenge to your boss’ authority, potentially undermining your credibility and jeopardizing your standing within the organization.
Instead, Greene advocates for a diplomatic approach, indicating that concerns should be framed as suggestions or observations rather than direct criticisms.
One example of how to operate vis-a-vis your superior that Greene provides, involved Cardinal Richelieu, who served as chief minister to King Louis XIII of France. Richelieu was a shrewd and powerful politician. However, he was also careful never to criticize the king directly. Instead, Richelieu would flatter the king and make him feel like the most important person in the kingdom. He would also defer to the king’s judgment, even when he disagreed with it. By doing so, Richelieu was able to maintain his power and influence without ever provoking the king’s anger.
With Greene’s lessons about how to deal with superiors in mind, I venture to address the issue of our town council’s recent action vis-a-vis the remodel and reconfiguration of the Adult Recreation Center. I must tread carefully since I serve at the pleasure of the town council as a commissioner on the Community Health and Senior Services Commission (CHSSC). My mantra is: Don’t criticize. Instead, make suggestions and observations.
I attended the town council meeting on Nov. 21, since the town council was slated to discuss the remodel/reconfiguration of the adult recreation center. The town council had indicated CHSSC would be involved in this recreation center upgrade process.
The town council previously decided to allocate approximately $866,000 plus other possible funds to this project, as a stopgap to keep the center attractive and operative while the long-term goal of building a new center was underway.
The adult recreation center issue began with a review of a town staff report, which included a summary of “additional anticipated needs for the facility that are currently underfunded.” To my dismay, the total cost of these needs is $845,000, which consumes nearly the entirety of the sum the town council allocated to the upgrade project.
Here’s where I make my suggestions and observations (as opposed to criticisms).
First, I am puzzled about how and why the $845,000 in maintenance costs were not brought front and center before the town council voted to expend $866,000 or more on upgrades including for electronic upgrades. My understanding was that the sums previously allocated for this project, were not to be put towards maintenance needs but instead were to be put towards repurposing the building’s space so that more older adult service providers could move in and utilize space in the building, and the funds were also to be put toward upgrading electronics.
During the town council’s discussion of this project, it was decided that the $845,000 in maintenance expenses would be addressed in the 2024 town budget discussions, which will not occur in detail until at least the spring. Yet, I observed from the meeting discussions that the original resolution for spending $866,000 remains intact. Indeed, considerable discussions focused on upgrades to possibly be implemented, a name for the modified upgraded structure, and a desire to make “transformational” changes to the structure.
These discussions led me to wonder: is the cart being put before the horse? Perhaps the discussions concerning the upgrades, the name for the upgraded structure, and the work to be done by CHSSC on this upgrade project should be deferred until we have a clear picture of how much the maintenance costs will eat into the sum originally allocated for upgrade costs.
As we face a situation devolving into a possible contest between maintenance expenditures and the original intent of spending money on upgrades, perhaps a modified resolution concerning upgrade expenditures is appropriate, along with a pause in work on upgrades until the scope of maintenance expenses is addressed.
I offer the foregoing observations and suggestions to the town council with due respect and deference. So, don’t fire me.
Jeffrey P. Blum is a family law mediator who lives in Los Gatos. He can be reached at [email protected].