Another impressive blog from Seth Godin’s yesterday:
Omission, commission and the places in between
If you accidentally leave the gate open and foragers end up destroying 1000 acres of crops, the guilt feels different than if you went and actively burned down the fields, even if the damage is identical.
In our society, we treat errors of omission differently from the decision to commit a crime.
But there are countless places in between.
What if you should have known?
What if you could have known but didn’t bother to do the work?
What if you promised you’d do the work to find a path, but then didn’t?
One reason we hide is that we’re afraid of being on the hook, of making a promise we can’t keep, of showing up and taking responsibility for our intentional actions. But, as information becomes more widespread and our leverage increases, we’ve already put ourselves on the hook. Could, should and would not only rhyme, they exist on a continuum.
It caused me to reflect on a meeting I had with a business owner last week. He had asked me to investigate if he was eligible to receive the JobKeeper extension from 28th September and also to review why he wasn’t eligible for the initial JobKeeper subsidy from 30th March. I determined that he should have in fact qualified in August and had missed out on $130,000 in badly needed government assistance. He was extremely disappointed in his accountant who had told him in April that he wasn’t eligible, but failed to subsequently review eligibility or point out that was possible.
His accountant wasn’t specifically engaged to do this ongoing monitoring because the client didn’t know it was required or even possible. Should the accountant have know the rules? Could the accountant have known of the possibility of future eligibility? Was there an obligation to proactively use his/her knowledge and expertise to assist their client? Was the obligation increased because of the significance of the possible benefit, the stressful environment in April or the complexity of the rules and the likelihood that the client would not be able to navigate them without help?
I’m not suggesting that the accountant should have done this work at no cost, just that help should have been offered. The same as when a mechanic notices a potentially dangerous fault when servicing your car.
These are the times when I am not proud of my profession.