The other day, a friend of mine, who works for a modest sized manufacturing company, told me why his boss had to lay-off most of his workers. Apparently, some official from Cuba called to place a rather large order. My friend and a handful of his coworkers reminded their boss that there was an embargo against Cuba. He reassured his workers that the order was legitimate. The order was legitimate, but his boss quickly learned he was, in fact, not permitted to ship his products to the shunned island nation, after his employees finished the entire order. Because the order used a custom design, my friend’s boss had to throw away several hundred thousand dollars worth of material. If he did not own an established business, this would have ruined him.
As this business owner struggles to cope with such a significant loss and his relevantly low paid employees try to make do with their unemployment benefits until they can be called back to work, if they can be, businesses should focus on a couple of lessons. In this day and age, it is tempting to simply say government got in the way of this business owner and present the most basic deregulation argument in order to simply cater to business interests. If one recalls the history behind the Cuban Missile Crisis and the embargo, the policy was put in place for very good reasons, i.e. revolutionary forces seized US property interests then the USSR used Cuba to point nuclear weapons at the United States. As such, this mistake cannot be blamed on government.
Whether you agree with the continuation of the Cuban embargo until Castro’s regime wilts away or favor a loosening of sanctions to better reflect the realities of the modern world, the policy is law and has been law for over fifty years. Consequently, the business owner made a serious mistake that he should not have made. This man has an education and was old enough to remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. For those who do not believe political science is a useful field of academic study, this is the very reason schools need to impart a very robust understanding of the social sciences. Considering the globalized nature of the world, especially when it comes to business, this scenario exemplifies why it is important for all Americans to pay attention to what is going on inside and outside of the United States.
Furthermore, American workers have varying degrees of education, but few workers are able to fully utilize their educational experiences in their workplaces. One reason is that employers do not take advantage of their workers’ broad bases of knowledge and skills. The culture from which this businessman, my friend, and myself hail often discourages workers from improving the workplace through unsolicited creative thinking and problem solving. In fact, it is almost considered disrespectful or insubordinate to ask questions. (Keep in mind, the US manufacturing sector desperately needs a revolution of innovation.) Although this particular individual was open to his employees voicing their opinions, he did not consider their input. Had he investigated the warnings of his employees, he would not have made such a costly mistake, which hurt them as well. You never know where a good idea will come from, so a wise man will listen carefully to anyone willing to share her thoughts and make decisions understanding he could be wrong.
Read old posts