Nov

2

The Sandbag‏, by Duncan Coker

November 2, 2011 |

 One type of false modesty or at least related has to be the “sandbag”. It often refers to golf, meaning to falsely increase ones handicap to give an advantage during tournaments. Examples are everywhere, as before any friendly competition with a neighbor, “I’ve not played in weeks… just recovering from a hurt…” This makes ones the underdog giving a slight advantage.

Sales reps sandbag the budget for a lower number then they might actually expect thereby increasing their potential bonus, ”..competition is tough, order are down, conditions bad.” Of course on the other side are the executives who pad the budget and maybe these two forces make the market. In fishing the sandbag equivalent would be, “ this is my first time on the river.. not sure how to work this water…” in which case your friend surrenders the best fishing holes and runs.

Southerners I think have particular skill with the "sandbag" given their genteel mannerisms which can hide their true sagacity and abilities. They are in fact much more adept at most things practical and otherwise. At first I underestimated my college roommate his being from small town Florida. But he was my better at everything from music to sport to study and I learned much from him.


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  1. Nick Pribus on November 7, 2011 11:16 am

    The art of the sandbag is not lost on good finance staff most of all, I have been sniffing out sandbaggers all career long. The sandbagger thrives where people do not come armed with facts, then those rhetorical skills can convert the emotional thinker to any train of illogical thought.

    My favorite sandbag witnessed first had was while interrogating the numbers at our ice cram facility in Kazakhstan. One year the results were down, weaker than the budget, and the principal excuse was the weather - it had been simply too cold a summer for good ice cream sales-most citizens eat their ice cream outdoors as impulse purchases, the cold weather kept them indoors. The following year, results were again down, and the presentation highlighted that it had been much to hot all summer long, the hot weather keeping the average ice cream consumer indoors.

    So I went to the hotel that evening an fired up the internet, weather underground providing the average high temperature in the city of Almaty for each of the two years, in the first year 84.1 degrees, and in the following 84.9. I called the team to a meeting and from the archives presented the prior year blaming cold weather, and the current year presentation blaming hot weather, and graphed the two years average high temperature side by side. Thus my elenchus- at what exact temperature are ice cream sales optimal, one would assume from the graphs somewhere on the order of 84.5 degrees.

    The sandbaggers, and I am not immune, experience a cognitive dissonance that must be rationalized away. It cannot be that the business is not performing, or that I am not performing, it must be the weather.

    To their credit, the ice cream management team turned the business from losing money to quite profitable over the next several years, and I never heard another excuse on the weather or anything else for that matter- they alone were responsible for the bad and the good results.

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