|Southwestern Bullying Students|
|November 26, 2010|
It is astonishing that the Southwestern Company's antics are nearly identical to what they were when I knew them in the 1970s. "Follow our advice, do what we say, or brand yourself forevermore as a failure." A bullying so transparent that you have to wonder why anyone, even an 18- or 19-year-old, would be taken in by it. The answer is that no one is, initially: the summer outing is sold as an adventure, a lark. Students are encouraged to try it out, and if they don't like it--well, no harm done. The Company is taking no risk at all, only the students are...
The bullying begins when they attend "sales school" in Nashville, living 3 or 4 to a motel room under the watch of a Southwestern manager. They go to "school" in the daytime and the rest of the time--even lunch breaks--are forever hectored by Southwestern personnel to rehearse their sales scripts and adopt the right attitude. In my day you were supposed to shout, "Ah feel healthy, ah feel happy, ah feel ta-riffic!" every twenty minutes or so throughout the day. At the motel and during the Sunday pep meetings, Billy Bobs and Norma Raes from East Treestump, Arkansas would sidle on by, chat you up and size you up, and tell you what you were doing wrong. Basically, if you acted like anything other than a redneck wannabe, you were accused of being over intellectual and snobbish.
I do not doubt that this is a benign, even positive, experience for a large minority of recruits. However, most people simply are not wired to wander around strange neighborhoods, making door-to-door cold-calls 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. It is difficult to think what sort of career or aptitude this experience would enhance, other than low-level one-on-one salesmanship.
My brief experience left me with one useful insight, which is that the Southwestern recruitment model is just an caricatured microcosm of sales recruiting in general: a vast and random intake of candidates, with little attention paid to their interests or aptitude: followed by a vast wash-out of those who shouldn't have been recruited in the first place.