Mar 11 2009

What’s wrong with corporate America

Being this is my “avocational” blog, I have never blogged about business issues here.  Until now, that is.  There’s a lot that can be said about the problems with corporate America, and Scott Adams has said most of it well enough.  However, I just read a great article by Ken Shelton, Editor of Leadership Excellence Magazine, entitled “Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Work?” that I just had to pass along. Shelton writes:

Already, our teenage population is perfecting the art of work-avoidance while taking comfort in inflated grades and “don’t worry, be happy” friends like Joe Fifer and Sam Fiddler.

No self-respecting, college-educated American youth is going to do any real work of the organization beyond age thirty. I define real work as the creation and delivery of the primary products and services of the company; the serving of actual customers; selling to potential clients; value-added support and management of those functions; and faithful, fruitful leadership.

If by age thirty, people haven’t mastered the games of delegating up and down, putting on appearances, politicking, and socializing, they deserve the awful fate of having to work for a living.

The real work is done by

  • Third-world nationals who don’t know any better
  • Women and minorities who do it because it’s there
  • Youth (under thirty) who have no power to avoid it
  • Seniors (over fifty) who do it out of duty

The article goes on to what the rest do to avoid work, which from my experience is pretty accurate.  I can’t tell you how much of my time was wasted just so someone up the food chain could pretend to justify their existence by creating useless programs, counting things that didn’t need counting, and so on. If you work in a fairly large corporation, you will know exactly what I mean, and you will be able to check each “work avoidance” technique off on Shelton’s list.

There were times, of course, when I would look at those “pointy-haired” positions and dream of how nice it would be to escape the actual work-force and become pointy-haired myself. Choosing the life of a technician – that is, actually working hard to become good at something to try to make a difference – under the direction of those who had escaped the real work is choosing a life of frustration, as the goals do not align.  In spite of the companys stated goals. And, of course, there’s always the short-term memory syndrome: within weeks, if not days, of leaving the actual workforce, managers will forget what real work is like.  The consequences of this situation is that most of those doing the actual work will eventually leave the work-force, either burning out, jumping ship, or choosing to move up.

The situation that Shelton discusses is alarming, and causes some concern – do I really want my children involved in corporate America?