A Critique of Corporate Culture

values1We live in a world of numerous competing arguments and messages. Our government wants us to be patriots, our families want us to be selfless, and our employers want us to be loyal. In all three instances we have competing parties who want our loyalty, certainly we cannot satisfy them all. What family would willingly want to give up its 18 year old male children to die in distant wars? What company would want our 20something to get a family and start cutting back on working hours? And what government would want its most talented capitalists to renounce their citizenship and move elsewhere?

To say we can satisfy all these requirements at once is naive, we cannot. There may be times when the stars align and it may seem like we are quelling the insatiable desires of our social circles simultaneously, but that’s simply an illusion. Each circle is attempting to control the other. On the spectrum of ‘soft’ arguments and ‘hard’ arguments, families rely on ‘soft’ arguments and governments rely on ‘hard’ arguments. Let’s talk about this briefly then delve into Corporate Culture.

Family Time

The family unit (no matter how its constructed), simply wants you to harvest buying power so that they can consume it and survive. You are tied to the family unit because of innate social desires, it is natural to want immortality via a bloodline, or to form long lasting bonds with a partner. Therefore, the family doesn’t need any fancy slogans or posters to convince you to work for itself, it merely gives you what you desire most; a sense of purpose (and sometimes sex).

Governments Love 18 Year Olds

The government wants you to be a good citizen. That is, follow its laws and live your life within the framework of our collective desires (go to college, get a mortgage, have some kids, die, repeat). But beyond this, the government needs more from you. The government wants you to pay taxes, the government wants you to willingly sacrifice your children (and potentially, yourself) to be slaughtered in its wars, and the government wants you to accept its authority. Now this last part is difficult, why on earth should I throw away my children, my money, or my liberty for a distant government?

112Look at these wussies. They just LOOK unemployed. Sickening

The way they convince you is via ‘hard’ arguments, propaganda in the form of a complex mixture of modern patriotism, fear, and selective individuality. But the surprising thing about government propaganda is how effective it is.

Questioning the motives of someone volunteering for military service is an extreme taboo in American culture, even though the majority of those serving are simply finding (in their eyes) the easiest way out of poverty. And yet, to whom does this taboo serve best? It serves the government best. Similar to how salary talk is taboo, but benefits the employer. The availability of volunteer soldiers is key in America because a draft is so unpopular.

Corporations Squander Propaganda Opportunity

What is so depressing about corporate culture is how much potential is squandered because people are literally forced to get on their knees and suck that sweet sticky personified labor value from the cocks of employers. So the employer walks around on a high horse thinking its 88th iteration of the productivity maxim “VALUES,” has really changed things this time.corporate-values

Seriously, the people who make this stuff need to be fired

I have yet to find a person who actually believes in continuously re-hashing the same 5 principals in ever flashy graphics and complex wordings. The slogans are the same everywhere, essentially, work harder, admit to mistakes so we can fire shitty people (you know, do your managers job for us), don’t complain about your job, and give charity under our vanguard so we look good.

No one believes it, but people do it because they want money.

The only thing corporate life has successfully done is attempt to ‘force’ its employees to sacrifice their other obligations by threat of starvation and social exclusion. Once a company loses this power to convince you to act like a drone, they lose all power they once had. We all have to take a second to admire the 40-something year veterans of industry who have been stamping and mailing checks since the 70s. Their genius is not in their ability to do calculus, be politically savvy, or even be likable (for the most part these employees have been massive assholes), no, their genius is shown by the fact that they are capable of forcing the company to continue mailing letters in 2015, when that shit should have ended in the late 90s.

In some sick way I admire these people, because they personify the opposite of what a corporation wants, someone who fails to improve themselves, worker longer hours, etc. They are living proof of the failure of older, non tech companies to capture its employees into its world view, something families and governments do much more effectively.

The Real Problem With Most Corporations

Upper management treats its middle managers and employed like children. It is an outdated, 1950s liberal model where people are machines, the propaganda delivered is lazy, and those at the top function on the assumption that they know better than those at the bottom. Which is true on its surface, but it’s more perverse than what the sentence suggests. They think they know best about the information we should know about the company, and that’s the issue here friends. Every conversation, meeting, and email reads like a press release from the CIA about its intentions in the middle east; purposely vague to the point of telling you nothing.

Corporate-SecretsFor the most part, the truth is pretty boring

Now, this secrecy and vagueness makes sense for a modern nation holding sensitive national security information, but it does not make sense for a corporation attempting to get employees integrated into their ideological framework; that is, sacrifice your personal life to be more productive.

It follows that since those at the top are more intelligent, productive, and superior to those below that their decisions are infallible to these plebeians. Lenin said it best, “Freedom of discussion, unity in action.” He was referring to how the communist party would deal with matters of state behind closed doors. But this idea doesn’t come from Lenin, even if it’s quoted by him, it’s an idea as old as the bronze age trade oligarchies we know and love (Carthage comes to mind here). But sadly, this is an idea, I argue, which doesn’t translate into business. Due to the laziness and ineptitude of most corporations, potential is lost via the ability to encourage employees to forgo their family and governmental obligations.

Amazon, Apple, and Google have it figured out, to an extent here. They have devised a method to build a new world around productive labor, a way in which to harvest the productive capacity of citizens like modern governments reap an 18 year old for military service. But Amazon, Apple, and Google don’t need force to get people to sacrifice their lives and that, is where the true power is. Willing death. It’s companies like this who will inevitably dominate business and those who fail to recognize it’s pervasive power will slowly be destroyed.

dezeen_Apple-Campus-2-by-Foster-Partners_2At the Apple Campus, Jesus makes an appearance to reassure the faithful, you made the right life choice

So while typical corporations flounder around by instigating a trifecta of perpetual failure through, failed cultural development (via dramatic amounts of information asymmetry), low performance (people doing the work of machines), and treating middle management like pawns (these guys are supposed to be your future…).

Our model corporation who will conquer the globe deals with all these problems by developing an entire physical world in which the employee operates. Encouraging a culture of  company ownership and demanding sacrifice. This is more than just work out centers and a breakfast nook. It is complete with a powerful public message (do no evil) and persuasive private ideology which rationalizes the sacrifice one must make to remain employed, to achieve greatness through the vessel of this company (via scientific development).

Switching back to our inept corporation we are treated to a poorly constructed “town hall” meeting. Something so similar to the scripted and sterile American presidential “debate” town halls that it’s almost plagiarism to draw the comparison.

Our poor, stupid masses sit upon the plastic, mass purchased chairs and look upward as the meeting begins. The speaker presents himself and numerous flat screen televisions parrot the same image that we all see before us, a wizened, intelligent care taker who explains our woes and blazes the path toward our future. We’re on the right track at least. But then we fall off it almost instantly, as senior management paces back and forth they feed the crowd nonsensical phrases like ‘business realignment’ and ‘enhancing interconnectivity’, the congregation settles in for this quarters sermon. Which, unfortunately is a repeat of last quarter, and the quarter before that, and so on. Multi-million dollar failures are explained away in mere sentences, sales are constantly “strong” despite the released financial results, and we are always blind sighted by how competitive the market place is “now-a-days.

president-obama-at-town-hall-meeting-with-senator-reid-in-henderson-nevada-021010Can you get a more staged scene? I’m looking at a racial rainbow over here. No nation is THIS diverse…

This routine is so tired and stale that the very thought of our abashed leadership standing in front of the huddled sheep and speaking truth (aka, x division will be seeing firings, financial issues at y, gutting segment at z); that the very second our preacher utters a phrase cleansed of the orthodox jargon we’ve all come accustomed, we know we’re fucked and should start updating the resume. The town hall ends and we return to our cubes, more confused than inspired.

At each iteration I try to fight back the parallel between 1984 and these ‘discussions’, but I can’t help it anymore. The new business jargon of our floundering, 1950s corporation living in 2015 is like the newspeak of Oceania. Except, at least the newspeak in Oceania controlled thought in a way which turned everyone into an empty vessel for the government’s opinions, this flawed business jargon just leaves everyone confused, unsure of what’s happening, and forever in the dark about their financial security.

“The state of our union is strong”, would be a faster way to encompass this lazy, inept corporate communication of the past. It’s a phrase which reflects our collective feelings in 7 words, the speaker always says we’re fine, we would never know if it was otherwise, and we are too immature to be trusted with the truth. The state of our union reminds us all how little impact we have on the affairs of our nation; as if to drill home the fact that citizens are just plastic bags flying in winds it cannot steer or control. For some reason, a large number of modern corporations have decided this is the most effective model to convince its employees to work 12 hour shifts.

The clapping is to reassure everyone that the prior 2 sentences were indeed, accurate.

So yes, “The state of our union is strong,” but should it really be so revolutionary to say any different?

If I was going to run the internal communications of a major corporation it would be taken as seriously as propaganda attempts in dictatorships. Every month is a struggle, every year is a new war. People pass by the wayside because they are too weak to fulfill our vision of personal fulfillment and worldwide development. We are bringing jobs to millions and through our tutelage your name will be remembered in history. Simply to mention that you work for our company is an immediate ticket to social praise and recognition. This company would be your family, this company would be your government, your home, and your personal life. And you would choose it willingly, because by the time you recognized what you’ve gotten into, it would already be too late.

THAT is the future of business.

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4 comments

  1. Plato

    I think that you have a good article here and a worthy cause but you err in just writing some things off because “they are old” in your eyes.

    Technology is fine and will continue to expand but must not ever be allowed to replace the human mind. You err because you are young; as you grow older you will change.

    With a smile, that is if technology lets you love that long. There is a real risk that if we allow life to be controlled by hi-tech it may destroy life. The dog must wag the tail, even if it is an old dog.

    IkeJ

    1. Hi Ike,

      I do not think I am writing off 1950s corporate governance just because it is from the 1950s. Instead I write off this old form of corporate governance because it is entirely ineffective and self defeating. I argue that the future of corporate governance is not in lies, nonsensical phrases, or ‘charity team building’ events.

      I think the future of corporate governance is about convincing you to neglect your family/governmental responsibilities to engage in its world.

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