LIVING 7,000 DAYS on the carbon-choked planet as a business journalist, writing more stories than I care to recall, qualifies me to say this: Companies rock. Companies suck.
Companies rock because they create jobs, wealth and boom economies, raising the quality of life for hundreds of millions of people. I love their brains, talent, energy. We'd be drinking well water and riding horse-drawn carts if it wasn't for the fabled capitalist drive, work ethos and innovation.
Companies suck because they're soulless creatures, snuffing those same people in their drive for earnings growth, market share and greater stock-market value. I hate their unbridled greed. And in the brutal global economy, it may get worse before it gets better.
As a former workplace columnist, I'm still disturbed by the part about crushing their troops like so many bugs. Especially when companies cultivate armies of good, faithful employees, then gut them seppuku-style and toss the bodies.
What's worse is when good, faithful employees profess to believe in their bosses or businesses. And when they get chopped or demoted, many are devastated. Why? Because many still believe in those old-fashioned virtues (loyalty, honesty, hard work, selflessness), while companies and some bosses play by different rules, a crueler game (ruthless cost-cutting, careerism, personal gain).
Companies exist, for better and worse, to make money. Many employees know this, but don't really understand it. Corporations are legal entities, not loving, caring people. Your relationship with companies is a simple contract, not a blood oath. You work, they pay you.
Unfortunately, many bosses -- even the humane, well-meaning ones -- are corporate proxies. Whether they like it or not, they're beholden to the profit gods, if anything to preserve their jobs. They may be fine, wonderful folks away from the office. They pay taxes, go to church, buy Girl Scout cookies. And that's really neat.
But in the office, those corporate proxies will do almost anything to survive. You may be a talented, hard-working bee, a good person playing by fair and honorable rules. But to the money men and women, you're a big salary with a target on your back. You can't bring spirit to work in a spiritless workplace. You can't bring meaning to a business without soul.
The employees who find it hard to transition to the next stage? Those who delude themselves into believing their smooth-talking bosses and their high-flying companies. Beyond the corporate rhetoric, your employer is not "family." And the proxy boss is your "friend" or "associate" as long as it benefits him or her. When your time comes, don't fall into that trap, that conceit. When your time comes, know when to move onward and upward.