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Being loyal to a corporation is sick. It is genuine madness.
August 20, 2013 12:12 AM   Subscribe

A corporation is not a living creature. It has no soul. It has no heart. It has no feelings. It can neither experience towards you nor enjoy from you even the concept of loyalty. It is a legal fiction, and it exists for one purpose only: to make profit. If you assist in this goal in the long term, your ongoing association with the organization is facilitated. If you detract from it consistently, you will be cut. Family is “where they have to take you in no matter what you’ve done.” A corporation is… well, it’s sort of the exact opposite of this.
Be loyal to yourself.
posted by Foci for Analysis (88 comments total) 89 users marked this as a favorite

 
Looks like the original site is down. Here's a mirror.
posted by zsazsa at 12:16 AM on August 20, 2013


It's interesting how every generation seems to need their own version of this screed.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:43 AM on August 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


Well yeah, because it's something nobody teaches you, is actively propagandised against and really only something that you can only grok once it was done to you.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:57 AM on August 20, 2013 [52 favorites]


This is why I always say don't take a gig where they want you to talk to HR. I deal business to business only. I do the work, I send my invoice. If I have to talk to anyone at all, it will be an AP clerk in Accounting.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:07 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Previously on MeFi: How to Keep Someone With You Forever
"So you want to keep your lover or your employee close. Bound to you, even. You have a few options. You could be the best lover they've ever had, kind, charming, thoughtful, competent, witty, and a tiger in bed. You could be the best workplace they've ever had, with challenging work, rewards for talent, initiative, and professional development, an excellent work/life balance, and good pay. But both of those options demand a lot from you. Besides, your lover (or employee) will stay only as long as she wants to under those systems, and you want to keep her even when she doesn't want to stay. How do you pin her to your side, irrevocably, permanently, and perfectly legally?

"You create a sick system."
Hat tip: Pope Guilty
posted by MuffinMan at 1:11 AM on August 20, 2013 [41 favorites]


"don't take a gig where they want you to talk to HR"

Would you please explain this a little more, if you don't mind?
posted by Hicksu at 1:13 AM on August 20, 2013


I hate the reality that it is so difficult to be loyal to oneself and one's family without feigning loyalty to corporations whose social structures are so fragile that one or two sociopaths can undermine any healthy interactions.

I have aging family with no other source of support, primary financial responsibility for my household (including sole responsibility for the mortgage and major household expenses), a spouse who has regular fits of rage that include threats of scorched earth divorce and taking anything he can from me, and a work environment that includes my manager having a blatant affair with a cuthroat peer. What the fuck else am I supposed to do in this situation? I'd love to Maslow up the hierarchy, but not all of us have that privilege. And I am privileged in relation to many people who have it worse than me.

The question is not why people are loyal to corporations - it is why corporations have come to be the basic unit of employment. If you have means to change that, or ideas about how others might help, that's wonderful and necessary. Perhaps reversing the ridiculous corporations-as-people bullshit would help. But don't castigate people who desperately hang on to their jobs because they need income. Nobody wants to feel like they're wasting the best years of their lives, everyone wants to believe they are doing something good with their careers, and some are in such awful personal situations that working for BigCorp looks good in comparison to the bleak alternatives.
posted by SakuraK at 1:14 AM on August 20, 2013 [20 favorites]


I wish this meme of "a corporation only exists to make a profit" would die.

Corporations are for making widgets that people want (or need), or providing services people want (or need). Profit keeps them alive so they can keep doing that instead of going out of business.

Please don't buy into the "but profits!" framing from the morons in middle management (and higher!) who use it to justify being shit at their jobs.
posted by But tomorrow is another day... at 1:18 AM on August 20, 2013 [21 favorites]


One of the reasons why I find this interesting is that I've been thinking about how to run a business that tries to maximize the levels of fairness and caring towards the people that work for it. But the more I read and think about it, the less likely it seems to reconcile the inherent opposite forces in the employer-employee relationship even if the working conditions are good, the people nice, employee growth is prioritized, etc. I'm looking hard for companies that go that extra mile for their employees but I'm not seeing any.

Just discussing these things often requires you to use a pro-business language that tries to mimic humanness but that comes off as manipulative in the way it tries to put a positive spin on things ("...like family", "personal growth", "we care about our employees", "fairness and caring").
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:29 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just discussing these things often requires you to use a pro-business language that tries to mimic humanness but that comes off as manipulative in the way it tries to put a positive spin on things ("...like family", "personal growth", "we care about our employees", "fairness and caring"

That kind of double speak does your head in. In my company, whenever anyone higher up than me says anything, I need to translate it. Like, "what do they REALLY want? What is it they are really saying?"
posted by Omnomnom at 1:36 AM on August 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


It is a legal fiction, and it exists for one purpose only: to make profit.

Well, yes and no. Actually, since 1970 the more common belief has been companies are all about delivering shareholder value rather than profit.

Which is partly why we have large, heavily invested companies that don't deliver much profit relative to their market value and also why some companies cook the books in the name of maximising the share price.

Forbes did a good takedown of both the "mere legal fiction" and "shareholder value" arguments in June. The Atlantic also did a piece on shareholder value. Headline quote:
Multiple studies of corporations that stay successful over time—most famously the meticulously researched books of the Stanford-professor-turned-freelance-business-guru Jim Collins, such as Good to Great—have found that they tend to be driven by goals and principles other than shareholder returns.
In summary: the business world is as prone to fads and fashions as anywhere else. Professors and CEOs make their names on creating or executing bold new theories. Executives lower down the food chain like doctrines they can swallow and repurpose because if the CEO has bought in, it helps them up the ladder.

Shareholder value hasn't had its day, yet. But its poster boy, Jack Welch, has described it as 'dumb.' At the moment, as a new generation of executives seek to make their names after the financial crisis it is arguably an interesting time for the theory of capitalism as the debate about what companies should do goes on, and specifically the role of social responsibility in corporate life.

Consumers need to do their bit too: for 30 years, the march of globalisation has delivered cheap food, cheap cars, cheap electronics etc. Often the social or environmental cost has been paid some distance from the point of retail. There is a discernible gap between what Western consumers say and do in respect of ethical purchasing. Many have shown little appetite in giving up that privilege and paying more for stuff or consuming less. Consumers in developing countries want cheap stuff now too.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:38 AM on August 20, 2013 [56 favorites]


Hicksu: "ob1quixote: "don't take a gig where they want you to talk to HR"

Would you please explain this a little more, if you don't mind?
"

I suspect that ob1quixote is referring to doing contracting or consulting, not being hired directly by an employer. Contractors and consultants submit bills directly to a company for services rendered instead of receiving a paycheck, hence the "speaking to an AP in Accounting."
posted by fireoyster at 1:39 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Corporations are for making widgets that people want (or need), or providing services people want (or need). Profit keeps them alive so they can keep doing that instead of going out of business.

Food keeps me alive, but I don't routinely shove everything in my refrigerator down my throat at once or steal food from people on the street all day long.

I'm looking hard for companies that go that extra mile for their employees but I'm not seeing any.

Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap company apparently still practices his "constructive capitalism", which has the highest salary capped as a multiple of the lowest and involves lots of charitable giving and efforts.
posted by 23 at 1:40 AM on August 20, 2013 [21 favorites]


Ehhhh, I dunno, the fundamental points are valid, but I feel like the piece wholly fails to acknowledge the complex intersection of identities at play. Work, is not just work - not even for the freelancer, as he acknowledges - and there are myriad factors shaping the way we approach work, think about it, define it, and let it define us. I feel like he's ignoring the huge cultural and social forces at play in this, in favour of a very simplistic kind of crude and reflexive Marxism (and I love Marxism!), that places the onus on for this "trick" on employers and companies. It's so much more than that. Work is, for most people, so much more than that. It really is the defining factor of Western society.

This was compounded by the patronising "listen here sonny" tone.

I work in internal communications. Sometimes, my job is fostering this sense of "loyalty" and belief in my company, in their goals and values. I cannot lie; I often feel it's horseshit. But by the same token, you know something he elides in his piece? Loyal employees are the happiest employees, by far. This is not conjecture; the data on this is unambiguous. People like liking their jobs - no surprise, really. Not so stupid after all, perhaps.

I dunno, I think there's a lot more nuance and interesting ways of thinking about this than a kind of adversarial binary (work/life, employer/employee, etc).
posted by smoke at 1:45 AM on August 20, 2013 [17 favorites]


Good comment, MuffinMan.
posted by smoke at 1:46 AM on August 20, 2013


Ehhhh, I dunno, the fundamental points are valid, but I feel like the piece wholly fails to acknowledge the complex intersection of identities at play.

It's true that people do derive pride, satisfaction, fulfilment from their work - but a great pile of faeces is dumped on this once we enter the clear-out-your-desk-and-get-escorted-to-the-door-by-security methods of modern corporatism. You can enjoy your work, have pride in your employer as much as you like, but that won't count for much when you've been outsourced and you're trying to work out how to keep a home for your children.
posted by Jimbob at 1:52 AM on August 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


Seconding smoke, great comment MuffinMan.

I highly recommend Good to Great by Jim Collins.

There is hope. A lot of business schools are teaching students about the research showing these "outsource anything not nailed down" tactics aren't effective. Some of the students are even paying attention.

Unfortunately there are still quite a few big C consulting types who can't think past an ROA figure on a spreadsheet to what the numbers actually mean. And enough numpty middle-managers who listen to them uncritically because "Hey! Bonuses!"

The tide is turning, albeit slowly.
posted by But tomorrow is another day... at 2:06 AM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Capitalism - Dilute! Dilute!
posted by thelonius at 2:07 AM on August 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


I think it's fine to enjoy your work and the people you work with and the company you work for but at the same time you need to keep in mind that if it benefits them more to let you go than to keep you they'll be shoving you out the door as fast as humanly possible no matter how many sad-faced "This is the hardest part of a manager's job" speeches they give and they'll probably move on with their day 5 minutes after you're gone while you're still standing shattered in the parking lot.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:09 AM on August 20, 2013 [24 favorites]


I've always understood that you should not give any more loyalty to the corporation than it gives to you: and it gives you none.

The problem for me is counterfeiting the loyalty which is generally a requirement. I'm happy about lying, but keeping it up all day every day is harder than I ever realised. Only the other day my boss's boss told me it might be better if I didn't sigh resignedly at the beginning of team meetings: hadn't even realised I was doing it.
posted by Segundus at 2:13 AM on August 20, 2013 [32 favorites]


I've been thinking about how to run a business that tries to maximize the levels of fairness and caring towards the people that work for it.

Pretty much the only form of business which can do this as a part of its structure and not on the whims of some benevolent ceo is the worker's cooperative. You can't start with a bunch of hierarchical relationships and end up with a system fair to all.
posted by beerbajay at 2:23 AM on August 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


Be Loyal to One Person: You

This is certainly more reasonable than blind loyalty to a company but taken to the extreme it's also a recipe for making sure that nothing ever changes. What force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:27 AM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Joining up with other workers to own the business you all work for is another way to make sure that your own needs are prioritized. If you're a worker who owns the business, are you going to pay management salary levels that would demand layoffs if business slowed? Would you lay yourself off? Of course not. Flying solo is an option too, of course, but for some sectors like manufacturing, it's not feasible. In those instances, cooperatives are the way to go.

The Mondragon Cooperative Corporation in Spain is a great model for how to do this. It's not hard to appreciate the difference between Mondragon and Any Big Private Corp here:

Each year, Mondragon publishes the number of jobs it has created, and has often set job creation as a priority target in its annual strategy plans.

As the Harvard International Review remarked, “most large global corporations, by contrast, develop strategies to increase earnings through job reduction”.

posted by deliciae at 3:06 AM on August 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


Hat tip: Pope Guilty

Every so often that post gets another favorite, and I'm never sure whether to be happy that somebody saw it or sad that they found it comprehensible.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:15 AM on August 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


Most normal human beings are loyal to their family, tribe, or community as much as to themselves. These are entities capable of loving you back.
posted by spitbull at 3:50 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was made (voluntarily) redundant by the biggest company - tens of thousands of employees - a week last Friday. I can't complain at all about the terms of the redundancy. I was treated very generously, which allows me not to rush back to a job in the same sector but to spend a bit of time working out how to move my career in a different direction.

I spent 14 years working for BigCorp - from the year after university to teetering on middle age - and all of the terrible things you're advised against in this piece have happened to me: 70-hour weeks, working weekends and so on. I never never felt any kind of affection for the brand or the company. I appreciated some of its qualities - the corporation was serious about diversity and inclusion - but I never felt that I wanted to fight for the cause of BigCorp, but very often for the cause of the people I worked with and for. With hindsight, sometimes the crunch periods seem to be their own reward - the camaraderie, the ability pressure grants to see what really is critical, the (though this is not flattering to me) crusading veal that allows you to dismiss people not working at the pace you are. I would not want anyone starting a career to have to learn this lesson, though. I would much rather the sick system was abolished, but I did at least understand I was working within one while I was there.

Meanwhile, I am learning to my surprise that even a job I disliked in a sector I barely respect was somehow important to my self-esteem. I was expecting it to take a little longer to feel useless.
One of the reasons I'm typing here is because I was actually casting around to find a thread to comment in just so that I could exercise the brain enough to write some paragraphs. Apologies for the elisions and coyness - the generous part of my treatment is not actually in my bank account yet so I'm being cautious...
posted by calico at 3:51 AM on August 20, 2013 [20 favorites]


I was loyal to the same business for nearly 30 years. Rode with it through a lot of ups and downs, put in extra hours, endured some crap, found some joy, worked for less than I was worth at times and had periods when I suspected I was a bit overpaid. I was in a position that was fairly unique, especially given my credentials, which meant hanging on to that job was important to me. In the end, when we shut the door, there was one other employee that had been there for that 30 years with me, and a number that were close to having 20 years at the organization.

Was it tough to lose that job? Hell yes! At my age making a transition was going to be difficult to say the least, it was going to be tough finding a job in a work world where most people were going to look at me and wonder 1. why doesn't he just retire? and 2. how can someone that old still be alive? It took me nearly a year to find that new career and, needless to say, that year was filled with a lot of worry, anxiety, and self doubt.

But, not for a moment did I consider my job loss as being the result of a lack of "loyalty" on the part of the organization I worked for, nor have I been as bitter as the writer of this article seems to be.

I would like to think that a significant percentage of the work force in this country is smart enough to be aware that businesses grow and shrink and come and go. That ANY job below that of owner is subject to those forces, and know that everyone should be responsible for their own career and fiscal well being, no matter how much "loyalty" they feel is embedded in the company/employee relationship.

The writer was in a job he enjoyed, he had great benefits, was paid well, had a supervisor he respected. At no time did he mention that a contract was broken, that he was misled, that he was lied to. The job was there and then, due to the usual ebb and flow of business, the job was gone.

Yes, there are companies out there (and as mentioned above, possibly employee owned organizations) where the philosophy is different and more employee focused, but, in reality those are the exception, not the rule and to base your personal expectations as to how the world is going to work around the "exception" may be a bit foolish.

The irony for me, in the end, was that I was the one handing out the letters, keeping the last one for myself. I can tell you that I DID consider those people my family, and I had spent a significant amount of my time advocating for them, making sure that benefits were good enough to take care of them and their families, making sure that every possible penny earned by the organization was going back to the people doing the work. Considering their well being was just as important as considering the quality of our service to the community. But in the end, that loyalty on either side was trumped by the reality of the fact that a business has to be viable. All the loyalty in the world doesn't make payroll.

The writer paints with a pretty broad brush that may be weighted down by his own distorted thinking about how it was going to play out at his job, what the dynamics of the company/employee relationship was for him, and his disappointment when that didn't prove to be true.
posted by HuronBob at 3:52 AM on August 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


Foci for Analysis: "One of the reasons why I find this interesting is that I've been thinking about how to run a business that tries to maximize the levels of fairness and caring towards the people that work for it."

Some states have a legal corporate form that describes this. California calls it a Flexible Purpose Corporation. Washington calls it a Social Purpose Corporation. Several other states have similar structures. To quote Washington State law, these types of corporate forms "must be organized ... in a manner intended to promote positive short-term or long-term effects of, or minimize adverse short-term or long-term effects of, the corporation's activities upon any or all of (1) the corporation's employees, suppliers, or customers; (2) the local, state, national, or world community; or (3) the environment."
posted by fireoyster at 3:59 AM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


best autocorrect I've seen in awhile:

the...crusading veal that allows you to dismiss people not working at the pace you are.


posted by jpe at 4:06 AM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


(should I admit that I'm not even sure that was autocorrect as much as a brainfart? no, best not to I reckon)
posted by calico at 4:11 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I thought it was interesting that, after all that, he feels it's ok to be loyal to a sports team. I mean, they are corporations that don't pay you and will abandon you the second they get a better offer.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:14 AM on August 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


Be loyal to yourself.

I tell my staff this - they're mainly in their mid-twenties, refugees from private sector law firms seeking a less traumatic life in the public sector. I don't phrase it in such harsh terms as the blogger - I simply tell them that their obligations to their employer are limited to those spelled out in their contract.

Do your job well, yes. Work hard, yes. But I tell them not to feel like they should work overtime because of some vague expectation. And to not think it's a job for life, because it isn't. One day, they'll outgrow the role and it will be time to move on to something better and, when that happens, they shouldn't hesitate out of some sens of misguided 'loyalty'. I tell them that they don't owe their employer anything - their employer purchases their time and the use of their skills from them - and that they need to look out for their interests first, because the employer is surely putting its interests first.

I'm pleased when they move on and get better jobs. Then again, perhaps I'm insane, because they have moved on to better jobs, and now I'm doing the work of three people.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:26 AM on August 20, 2013 [19 favorites]


I mean, if all my staff leave, it's possible that I'm doing management wrong. But given that they left for far better, higher paying jobs, I prefer to think that I'm doing it right.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:27 AM on August 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


It's important to separate out loyalty to the corporation / company as an abstract entity with loyalty to your coworkers / managers / other employees. The former is horseshit and is a waste of your time, since a corporation can't possibly return loyalty, due to the small problem of lacking the faculties to do so. But loyalty to the other people you work with may or may not be misplaced, depending on the people involved, the workplace, etc.

If the people you work with are shitty, then of course they don't deserve loyalty. But maybe they're great, and the relationships you build with them may go beyond one employer and have value. It's impossible to say in general what's appropriate.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:43 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


You know, I get the cynicism from some of the posters who have already learned this, but I really appreciate this post right now. I've been working for over eight years for a theoretically non-profit company. This last week, I just saw a peer, who is, from a technical standpoint, exactly as qualified as me, but an external applicant, get hired over me.

I figured, hell, I'll stay with this company forever. Now I'm all about defecting to wherever I'm most needed. The cue about keeping up one's own career, one's own development, is what I do, indeed, see reflected in the more successful members of my field. I forgot this in my desire for stability and some sort of pride in time served. It's helping my bitterness recede, and for that, I thank this timely post.
posted by cobaltnine at 4:49 AM on August 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


I landed a job right out of school with a company that ranked in the top ten of the Fortune Five Hundred. It was well known as a cradle to grave, many people retired with 35-50 years of service. We used to joke about our blood was the color of the company's logo. Fifteen years go by.

Then it happened. I was working in the field when my supervisor paged me and asked that I stop at the office, "Just for a second." I was handed a sealed envelope outlining my severance package. Before I could catch my breath, they were asking for keys, credit cards, etc. They did offer me a ride home since they also took my company car. I took a cab.

I felt so betrayed. One of my co-workers called me an hour later wanting to know why he had to go to the customers office and complete the job I was in the middle of when I was called to the home office. He was speechless, the company told my fellow employees that I had quit. My coworkers new better than that.
posted by JujuB at 5:16 AM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Has anyone else here read Susan Faludi's STIFFED? It has some very good sections on men who used to work in the Aerospace industry losing their jobs and finding their sense of identity - of masculinity - coming completely adrift. It was written over a decade ago, but the sections on how companies abandon their employees without a second thought, and the damage that does to individual lives and to whole communities, ring true to this day.

Also: I do not think that this problem can be solved without changing the sort of organisation that a company is. Corporations are the building blocks of our society. They are where we spend most of our time. For many of us, they have far more impact on the day-to-day texture of our lives than the political organisation of our home countries. We need to change them into something more democratic. But to do that will require taking over the levers of power.
posted by lucien_reeve at 5:21 AM on August 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


So... reading this article and this thread, what are the arguments that white-collar workers don't need unions? Something about being able to negotiate more efficiently on their own?
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:42 AM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


My wife is a line manager at Costco. Costco is a great company that is committed to what I've heard others call "welfare capitalism". They treat her very well. They pay her well and the benefits are good. Her health insurance is better and cheaper than what I had at a big Pharma. Costco is doing great and shows no sign of faltering. Instead of tens or hundreds of millions the he could command elsewhere, the CEO caps his compensation at about $400,000 because they feel that 10 times what the average employee makes is sufficient for anyone. They really seem to do their best to walk the walk.

Still, I tell her what I always tell myself: always have your parachute close at hand.
posted by double block and bleed at 5:44 AM on August 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


At no time did he mention that a contract was broken, that he was misled, that he was lied to. The job was there and then, due to the usual ebb and flow of business, the job was gone.
I’d been promised a fat bonus–about a month’s pay–if I could finish the core of the control system UI in under 12 months ... As I walked back to my desk to clean it out, my team lead stopped by to tell me that I had her to thank for the severance package. "I told them they had to pay you your bonus or I’d quit."
Yeah, sometimes there's the breaks in business, but he was fired because he was outperforming expectations on a project that they'd motivated him to work hard on by promising him a bonus. That upper management then tried to renege on.
posted by Candleman at 5:50 AM on August 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


‘Corporations are people, my friend’
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:52 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Candleman: "Yeah, sometimes there's the breaks in business, but he was fired because he was outperforming expectations on a project that they'd motivated him to work hard on by promising him a bonus. That upper management then tried to renege on."

Like my brother (who was laid off after 29.5 years at Fermilab) says: "No good deed goes unpunished."
posted by double block and bleed at 5:58 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't kid yourself Jimmy.If a corporation ever got the chance, it would eat you and everyone you care about!
posted by blue_beetle at 5:59 AM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think the loyalty to coworkers vs loyalty to the corporation contrast that Kadin2048 mentions obscures the fact that loyalty to coworkers is often the means through which an inadvertent loyalty to the corporation is produced. In many cases (there are certainly exceptions), actions that serve the interests of a corporation occur as a result of employees' obligations to one another, rather than to the corporation.

An important part of this is the way that employee relationships occur in the context of a hierarchical chain of command. Suggested ways of acting as an employee can be propogated throughout a corporate structure because they are enforced in the context of what are often congenial relations between coworkers. By locating the enforcement of correct employee behavior in the context of affect-laden interpresonal relationships, employees have an obligation to act in ways that benefit the corporation because doing so fulfills a loyalty--not one to the corporation, but to the coworker.
posted by patrickdbyers at 6:00 AM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I spent just enough soul-crushing time working in HR to know that nobody's job is safe, no matter how much of an asset to the organization he may be. If the wroing person takes a peevish dislike to you, for whatever stupid-ass reason or for no reason at all, it's easy enough for him to find a legal way to get you dropped like a hot potato if it's important enough to him and he can get the right other people on his side. They even have fancy seminars about it. I had more than one sleepless night on the occasions when I was required to work on those cases, and was very happy to find away to get out of that office.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:07 AM on August 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


DUKE. Although I am unhappily in straitened circumstances at present, my social influence is something enormous; and a Company, to be called the Duke of Plaza-Toro, Limited, is in course of formation to work me. An influential directorate has been secured, and I shall myself join the Board after allotment.

CASILDA. Am to understand that the Queen of Barataria may be called upon at any time to witness her honoured sire in process of liquidation?

DUCHESS. The speculation is not exempt from that drawback. If your father should stop, it will, of course, be necessary to wind him up.

DUCHESS. But it’s so undignified it’s so degrading! A Grandee of Spain turned into a public company! Such a thing was never heard of!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:36 AM on August 20, 2013


I had sexual relations with a corporation once. God, it was hot.

I was all, "touch me there, oh please touch me there!" and it swiftly convened a meeting of its board of directors to pass a resolution that the business strategy of the company should include touching me there, and that a Chief Touching-Me-There Officer should be appointed from among the senior management and tasked with delivering on the new Touching-Me-There strategy. Then an internal marketing committee was formed to brand the company's Touching-Me-There activities (they chose the tagline Got Touched?) - and then six months later the half-year financial report came out and its interim dividend EXPLODED inside me.

The result of that one encounter was a half-human, half-corporation baby we called Bobby, Limited. He's two months old now and I love him an' all, but his growth projections are a little behind, so I'm thinking of outsourcing some of him. Like his "pooping himself" activities, which are NOT adding sufficient value to his overall performance, as far as I'm concerned.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 6:38 AM on August 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


Eight months ago, the factory Himself & I worked shut its doors - the parent corporation restructured itself through bankruptcy and took the opportunity to kill off some of its own smaller units. They didn't want to run us anymore - we are in a foreign land - but they didn't want anyone else to have us either; so instead of offering the plant for sale, they fired us all in a big meeting the day after the legal stuff went through. Then they hired contractors to rip out a few carefully selected machines to make sure the factory could never run again.

Not surprisingly, the bankruptcy was structured in such a way that they managed to avoid paying their debtors while still keeping all their assets. At one stroke, we were converted from "valued company assets" to debtors; our severance pay was never paid out and never will be, because debts owed to workers are unsecured and go to the bottom of the list. Shareholder value was certainly maximized that day.

Those of us in manufacturing sector know exactly what loyalty to the company gets you - 25 years of service and you're out on the street in January with the contents of your locker in a cardboard box.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 6:47 AM on August 20, 2013 [23 favorites]


The only thing wrong with the article is that it doesn't acknowledge that in general being loyal to your coworkers is as dumb as being loyal to the company. In general it's dangerous to think that they care about you any more than than the company does.

Be polite, be professional, but remember that when push comes to shove they are there to stay employed just like you are. If that means stabbing you in the back that is what will happen.
posted by winna at 7:01 AM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I don't get this. Who is "loyal" to their company? If it was about helping them out, they wouldn't have to pay me. Someone needing to be told that a corporation isn't a real person who cares about you is like finding an adult who believe in Santa Claus.
posted by spaltavian at 7:04 AM on August 20, 2013


I had sexual relations with a corporation once. God, it was hot.

But I had needs -- HR needs.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:04 AM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


That's sad and disgusting to hear, Mary Ellen Carter.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 7:05 AM on August 20, 2013


Family is “where they have to take you in no matter what you’ve done.”

More damage has been done to people's relationships with each other by being loyal to this notion than by being loyal to corporations. At least corporate loyalty has some mechanism of parting ways. Abusive or deadbeat family seems to be forever. I have a hunch that there would be less parasitic family relations if it were more common to "terminate" the relationship like you can do with a corporation.
posted by dgran at 7:05 AM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


One of my anthropology profs in university gave us a lecture on how the modern corporation is the tribal unit of our time. In many cases they expect the kind of loyalty that used to be called Nationalism, and work hard to create the impression that you are part of that family, while treating people as replaceable cogs. At the same time, they're often multi-national entities with incomes of the same magnitude as medium-sized nations, and have equivalent political clout. His view was that this is an entirely new situation in history, and that we're going to have to learn a bunch of new Work and political strategies to deal with these entities.
posted by sneebler at 7:06 AM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I don't get this. Who is "loyal" to their company? If it was about helping them out, they wouldn't have to pay me.

I am currently freelancing again in a position that I had originally left several years ago to work in the film industry. The company that I worked at is considered one of the premiere independent businesses in the marketplace, run by experienced, charismatic people. And the reason I left is largely because every day I was made to feel like I was a bad employee simply by dint of not valuing the company over anything else in my life - in fact, at a company retreat specifically intended to address work/life balance, the CEO stood up, took over the floor and told us that if we weren't willing to give 110% of ourselves to the company, we should leave. So I did.
But nobody else did. Everyone I worked with continues to put in the 70+ hours a week for entry-level pay; as a freelance editorial assistant I currently make double what people with law degrees made there. And this is across the board normal for that industry.
My ex-coworkers believe in that company in a way that I never could. Lots of people like that sort of culture - as was previously mentioned, there's a degree of comradery in working all of the time. Eventually, you stop seeing your old friends - because you're working so much - and then the people you work with become your new and only friends.
posted by 235w103 at 7:24 AM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


yeah, i get your company wanting you to be happy at work, but really i just want to do my job competently then go home. i've known plenty of people who have really sacrificed their lives to their job, and they're forgotten 10 minutes after they quit / are fired, so really what's the point?

i remember a documentary about Enron, where they were interviewing employees before the scandal erupted. i remember particularly a lady talking about how loyal she was to the company, much loyaler than her coworkers, if anyone's loyal it's her etc., which led me to believe that the corporate culture was big on drumming "loyalty" into its employees and on making them seem paranoid for not being as loyal as they should be. then of course their superiors bled their stocks and the company went bust.

i always thought there must be something systematically unhealthy about a company that forces you to be allegiant through propaganda. i feel that if your job is satisfying and your pay is good you really don't need any other motivation to be there. and once a better job with a different company becomes available really it is in your best interest to move on, and your current employer should be respectful of that reality and not chastise you for it.

i had a job once where it was drummed into us that "this is the best job in the world!" and if you didn't openly agree then you were scorned as not being "loyal". i am sorry but being jay-z is a better job than this, being the queen of england is a better job than this. i can agree that this is a good job and perhaps the best job for the people working it right here and now, otherwise we wouldn't be here. but i'm not so simple minded as to think there are no better jobs out there than the one you're currently in, even when you narrow it down to comparable fields requiring comparable levels of skill and experience.

i always think, you already have my body, now you want my soul?
posted by camdan at 7:42 AM on August 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


"A corporation is a band of fellows without any soul, of whom the law is a creature, who have some powers and take a great many more, and entirely ignore the statutory duties imposed upon them." Isaac Roop (1822-1869), first governor of the Nevada Territory.
posted by entropicamericana at 7:42 AM on August 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


in fact, at a company retreat specifically intended to address work/life balance, the CEO stood up, took over the floor and told us that if we weren't willing to give 110% of ourselves to the company, we should leave. So I did.

I've literally never worked anywhere that didn't trot out that line. Usually it's delivered by someone who might do ten hours of actual work a week while making at least five time what I do.
posted by winna at 7:49 AM on August 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


I had sexual relations with a corporation once. God, it was hot.

You all need to listen to the To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie album The Patron!
posted by winna at 7:53 AM on August 20, 2013


i always think, you already have my body, now you want my soul?

Has anybody mentioned the Wal-Mart cheer yet? "Gimmie a squiggly!" And they actually do a little shimmy shake. I would get fired on the first day, because fuck that noise.

Incidentally I just called out sick from my work, which is one of these places where I hear a LOT about "our shareholders" and the boss actually asked me if I could come in "at least for a few hours." She is well aware that I live on the other side of the city and public transportation / biking takes me well over an hour. And I paused for a minute and then I said "Nope, can't."

My mother was laid off after 23 years at BigCorpHMO. She had a stress-related panic attack at her desk and asked for medical leave (as advised by her doctor.) Instead she was let go. We all learned a lesson from her, and from listening to her as she processed.
posted by polly_dactyl at 7:58 AM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think you have to go through a couple of mergers, one of which turns out to be outright fraud, to really understand how loyalty to a corporation is just silly.

I went through the MCI/WorldCom merger, and got out about three month prior to implosion. I went to BellSouth, and went through the AT&T merger and two years to the date, I was bought out.

Luckily at my age, I was anticipating both outcomes and I was prepared. I'm a flexible and resilient kind of person, so I just learned a new skill and moved on.

I will say this. You should always be looking for something better. Better paying, better circumstances, better projects, etc.

Things can happen so quickly in corporate America. One day, you're part of a division of a company, and the next, you're doing the same job, but your org structure is completely different, reporting at a corporate level. It looks the same, but it so isn't.

Oddly enough, they don't consult with the workers on these things, they are announced to us and we just have to make it work.

There's freedom in being a workplace mercinary. You know exactly who you are and why you're there. It doesn't mean that I don't bond with my co-workers or that I don't respect my managers. It just means that I'm always open to a discussion to move to a higher paying job. Always.

When it comes to working and jobs, I am always interested in myself first, and the organization second. My radio dial is turned to WIFM. What's In it For Me?

I don't think of this as being disloyal, I think of it as enlightened self-interest.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:01 AM on August 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


When company executives describe the employees as "family," they may actually, in that moment, believe it. When they later decide to lay off some of the family members to save money, they may still believe it. In both cases, it is a fantasy. You are not their family. They will not remember you in their will. They will not bail you out if you get in trouble with the law. They will never allow you to spend your vacation at their beachfront/lakeside 2nd home. They will invariably boot you out into the street if they think it will improve their bottom line. You owe them no loyalty, and yes, at least some of your fellow employees will have none for you. You won't know which ones until after they demonstrate that lack, if ever.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:02 AM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


the CEO stood up, took over the floor and told us that if we weren't willing to give 110% of ourselves to the company, we should leave. So I did.
But nobody else did. Everyone I worked with continues to put in the 70+ hours a week for entry-level pay


this is one thing i really hate about american work culture. the feeling is that if you're not destroying your life, you're not a good employee. i think honestly the purpose of working people so hard is to work them hard, not to get added value out of their work. of course if you argue for a better work/life balance then you're a socialist, and the CEO used to work 80 hours a week when he started this business, etc. well maybe owning a company where all the profits go to you gives you a lot of motivation to work harder, but your employees have zero invested, so give them a break.
posted by camdan at 8:04 AM on August 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


Yeah, this is why I enjoy my life as a freelancer. There's no pretense that I give a shit about your company culture or giving 110%--in fact, I specify that if you make me work more than I'd like, my rates go up--and it's just business on both sides. It's a lot more honest that way, I find, with a lot less of the bullshit. But I'm fortunate to swing that and thank the dark gods for my fortune every day. People always tell me about the lack of security, but shit, 4 times I've walked into the office all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (or with as much enthusiasm as I can muster in the morning) and 4 times gotten the "Blahblahblah had to make some tough calls" speech and my walking papers. If you only have one source of income these days, you're a damn fool.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:05 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Has anybody mentioned the Wal-Mart cheer yet?

Many years ago I was waiting for my second interview for a Wal-Mart distribution center when I heard issuing from the bowels of the huge building, "Gimme a W!" Then the thunderous, "W!"

I got a different job.

Businesses spend a huge amount of effort forcing us into a place where we have little choice but to adopt the "take what you can, give nothing back" mindset just to get anything out of the system, and then everyone wonders why society is in such a bad, self-centered place.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:05 AM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I mean, if all my staff leave, it's possible that I'm doing management wrong. But given that they left for far better, higher paying jobs, I prefer to think that I'm doing it right.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:27 AM on August 20
It wouldn't be hard to imagine that if you were doing management right, your jobs would be the the "far better, higher paying" ones. Allowing people to leave isn't necessarily a sign of benevolence, rather it's just a sign that you're not malevolent.

Being in the middle of the pack is practical, but are we really to the point where aiming for "good enough" is the best possible outcome? Because if we are perhaps this is why loyal employees are happier employees, they simply don't know enough to know better.
posted by Blue_Villain at 8:08 AM on August 20, 2013


"Just remember, Robots, there are no good jobs."--my employer.
posted by No Robots at 8:26 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Who's gonna save us from this lonely picket line?
Ten years of service but I'm still not worth your time
And I've seen men give their lives
And heard the stories that they tell of
How they labored for this company which sold it's soul to hell!"
-Dropkick Murphys, "Ten Years Of Service"
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:26 AM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap company apparently still practices his "constructive capitalism", which has the highest salary capped as a multiple of the lowest and involves lots of charitable giving and efforts.

My (nonprofit) employer does something similar - salary caps and a guideline about keeping top salaries to a reasonable multiple of bottom salaries. We also have a staff committee devoted to representing and advocating for staff interests and they get access to top management with their proposals, complaints, etc. It doesn't always result in paradise, and crappy things and unfair firings and so on happen here too, but I have to say that there really is a sincere effort to address things like fairness in compensation.
posted by aka burlap at 8:37 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Apples and oranges are flying in all directions. I appreciate the writer's niche, being able to live on contract work, doing a job he likes. His loyalty is to himself and (presumably) those who depend upon him for material sustenance, also his creditors, to whom he's pledged remit for things the cash bottleneck won't supply. An analysis of our labor force, I suspect, would put him on one of the steep ends of a bell curve, where wage earners comprise most of the hump. So then, he describes the privilege relegated to a small facet of the labor force in our capitalist system. (BTW--I look forward to a more descriptive term for our brand of capitalism. We may need a new set of ideas to encompass supernational interaction among the greedy. Or, if you insist, the ambitious.)

Loyalty isn't an issue for most people. I would think devotion would be a better description. Their jobs are even less requited and more tenuous than his. Sassing the system gets you the boot, and a few weeks on unemployment won't come anywhere near making the nut on the average wage-earner's monthly outflow: house, car and medical bills. Oh, and food and clothes.

Anyhow, any system that relies on the good will of its members ought to have some way to cultivate that good will. As has been pointed out, black ink--in whatever manifestation--is the primary goal of any company. So, where's the enlightenment? My notion is that the system itself is a fraud. In that, I agree with the blogger.

I don't buy his theory (if I may simplify), that a society of workers ought to be every person for himself. Reagan was famous for his blurb (when he worked as a shill for GE) "At General Electric, progress in our most important product." The blogger's essay illustrates one of the effects of that theory. Worker stock in a company goes only so far: what do you do when the well runs dry? The malaise goes to core values that somehow can't account for individual worth and collective efforts in the same paradigm. On the other hand a stable workforce contributes to a stable company, and most outfits would suffer if everyone was always on the lookout for a "better offer" with another company. It seems a resolution may reside in discovering a theory of organization that uses the natural tension between the needs of the workers and the needs of the corporation in a way that benefits both. However, I don't believe reason operates in those lofty halls where the movers and shakers do their esoteric dances. I think reason is obviated by the blogger's stated creed: Look out for number one, and fuck the rest. In plain terms, he's just doing what he sees them doing.

Those in power exercise it. The rest of us take what's given. We are bribed in stages, so that control is pretty much laid on one tier at a time--each tier managing the attitudes of their subordinates, and each tier progressively removed from the way they affect those in their charge, or compel the attention of those by whom they are managed. The further up the ladder they are, the less they are aware of the details of those below them: who they are, what their lives are like. I say it's a class thing. The higher the tier where you reside, the more you have at stake in conserving the system: your assets are manipulated, but not as much as your goods. The functioning of any given company is amortized--via stock options for example--so that upper managers don't fail simply because a given company goes tits up. The peons in the trenches get to eat cake, or die, or whatever. The system is funded from the bottom up, one dollar at a time. This is where the consumer, in theory, could manipulate policy. But in practice, the consumer has no reliable choice but to feed the system. It doesn't matter which brand of toothpaste he buys, or which car, or where he gets his food. He will eat, perhaps, brush his teeth, if he hasn't lost them via poor health care, and drive to work. The unemployed do not factor into the health of the system, so they are ignored. The only thing that's important is that job slots be filled (to a certain degree), so that the trickle-up may continue.

In the end, the system loves people like the blogger. It hates unions and co-ops, or thinkers outside the box who have some sort of attachment to humanity in general. So long as we are kept busy fending for ourselves we won't accumulate any leverage to move the bones of the system around in any way that might be a threat. Follow the money to see who is the beneficiary. Watch where the dollars fall off the money tree to see who gets bought, and look down to see who gets sold.
posted by mule98J at 8:54 AM on August 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


The only way out that I see is worker-owned businesses run along the lines outlined in The Seven-Day Weekend. Everyone in this thread should read that book.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:09 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Charles Stross (mefi's own!) posted something similar about three years ago: Invaders From Mars. It's a short piece, well worth reading, but the TL;DR is that corporations are essentially hive minds with no empathy, and no real shared goals with humans.

I've worked, mostly, for smaller companies my whole working life (until very recently, with one oddball exception, the largest had around 100 employees). Working for a big(ger) company I can see clearly the difference, though frankly working for smaller outfits wasn't *that* much better. But the hive mind, no concern for humans, aspect is vastly magnified at my current employer over my prior employer.

The worst part is that either by upbringing or genetics, or some combination, I have a strong loyalty and work hard urge. I'd love to say fuck 'em, my job is to do the minimum effort needed to stay employed, but so far efforts to do that have failed.
posted by sotonohito at 9:44 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


frankly working for smaller outfits wasn't *that* much better

Indeed, the worst company I have ever worked for in this regard was also the smallest.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:51 AM on August 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


frankly working for smaller outfits wasn't *that* much better
Indeed, the worst company I have ever worked for in this regard was also the smallest
This is my experience too. Yeah, if you pretend that a large company is a "person," you'll find that that "person" is an asshole. But on the other hand, many small business owners are also assholes. (Not all! But many.)

And on the gripping hand, if you work for a large company, there will still be a few real individual people in that company whose character makes a big difference in your life. "Corporate jobs" are not all the same. Having a supervisor who is kind and decent and ethical is really important. Having a few coworkers who are kind and decent and ethical, ditto. Okay yeah, from a legal point of view you "work for" the company and not for any one individual; but from a social and psychological and practical point of view, you still work for your boss, and what sort of boss you get still matters a lot.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 10:15 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Or to put it another way: "Corporations are all psychopaths" and "corporations don't deserve loyalty" are ideas that seem to me to let individual bosses off the hook too easy. A manager who demands loyalty which he hasn't earned and won't reciprocate is a bad manager.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 10:25 AM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't think it's madness to give your loyalty to a company, it's just that loyalty should be earned. You should be as loyal to your employer as your employer is to you.

In my case, the large corporation that I work for is hit and miss in this regard. It really comes down to the individual divisions and how those managers run them. In the division where I work, they take more of a long view. Low turn over is good and it's cheap. Hiring and is hard, it's hard to know if you making the right decision, and on-boarding is expensive. Happy, well paid employees are productive.

I was nearly hired for another position in the division and the hiring manager told me, "We always try and bump the pay-scales a little bit. We end up paying pretty well for that kind of position but people generally don't leave unless they're promoted." When it's time for annual raises to get doled out, the head of our division doesn't have a ton of say in how much it's going to be. So, he tries really hard to make it up in other ways. I got bumped a pay-grade so that I got an extra week of vacation (they couldn't get me a raise, though they tried). He has said that, "I want anyone who wants to work from home to be able to do so." Which is what I'm doing now. I've been with the company for 18-months and I was still the new guy until last month and that was only because someone on our team retired. The next newest person has been with the company for seven years. Our department hasn't laid anyone off in at least the last 15 years. I even saw the division head tell my manager to go home early because she had been doing too much work. My boss continually has to remind me that, "As long as your work gets done, I don't care too much how many hours you put in." She has also told me that I might end up putting in some extra hours here and there but if it starts getting consistent, to let her know so we can try and re-balance work loads.

I don't feel any particular loyalty to the company and I still know that they don't feel any particular obligation to keep me employed. I don't want to have to leave the company and especially this division if I don't have to but I won't feel bad if I do. It would take a lot to make want to consider leaving though. My employer treats me pretty well and it seems like it makes good long-term business sense to do so.
posted by VTX at 11:40 AM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Those of us in manufacturing sector know exactly what loyalty to the company gets you - 25 years of service and you're out on the street in January with the contents of your locker in a cardboard box.

25 years from now, people will be fighting each other for the cardboard box.
posted by Gelatin at 12:26 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


The Work Revolution is a thing that came across my dashboard yesterday. What kind of a thing, I'm still not quite sure, but they sure are for something and they have a manifesto. Very Fast Company circa 1999.
posted by troyer at 1:21 PM on August 20, 2013


The saddest thing of all is that the vast majority of people in a corporation actively work towards their own demise these days.

Think of being called by your boss to work on an exciting project that will have you traveling to Mexico for the next year. You and a team of people of varying ranks in the company whip a factory into shape and help plan and build a rail line to that factory down in Mexico. Then you work on the border piece. Everyone does a fantastic job and you get awards. The next year your whole office is let go as everything moves to Mexico. The only ones who survive are executives and they all get big bonuses.

So, you have an entire organization working hard to eliminate their own jobs. I keep wondering when people will wake up to this fact.
posted by UseyurBrain at 1:22 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I was fired for the first time a couple weeks ago, and I'm still pretty upset about it. It was a 'summer job,' not a permanent thing, so I'm not too heartbroken (besides about the lost dollars).

It was a great lesson though, afterwards I realize how unprofessional they were and how mistreated I was. From now on I'll definitely be more cognizant of my place within an organization and how to find new opportunities.
posted by Strass at 1:33 PM on August 20, 2013


Suddenly, working for the government feels very safe.
posted by psoas at 2:02 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've worked for the same guy for thirty years. You know why? I can trust him absolutely, he doesn't make me work too hard, he's fine if I sleep late occasionally, and if I make a mistake he doesn't make a big deal about it or listen to people's complaints or anything. Best of all, he is always up for a drink after work. Me, inc.
posted by forgetful snow at 3:26 PM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]



Strass: "I was fired for the first time a couple weeks ago,"

Yeah, but you look like you're a nice kid with a summer job. Although I wouldn't have guessed it by the wisdom in the next sentence.

It was a great lesson though, afterwards I realize how unprofessional they were and how mistreated I was. From now on I'll definitely be more cognizant of my place within an organization and how to find new opportunities.

I was in IT in the late '90s early '00s. I was fired, laid-off, forced to scab, bought out, sold, severanced, by myself, with one other person together, with three other people together, on a team, in a division, or even part of a huge public utility that had their entire IT department taken over on like ten days notice. And this was over like eight years. My old resume was like a phonebook. They're always, always going to be unprofessional. It's like they don't understand what the word means.

Bonne Chance, mon ami.

forgetful snow: "I've worked for the same guy for thirty years."

You are either really lucky, really talented, or both. That doesn't make it any less awesome. Having a boss/working with a guy who doesn't actively treat you like shit is so freeing, I'm wearing out my backspace button trying to describe it.

I recently fell into a fantastic opportunity in a small division of a pretty big corporation, and I'm working for this kind of guy. It's pretty damn nice when your boss sends you a Friday morning "High priority" subject line: URGENT! email with the content being "got your sticks in the trunk?"

(sticks=golf clubs)
posted by Sphinx at 5:18 PM on August 20, 2013


But nobody else did. Everyone I worked with continues to put in the 70+ hours a week for entry-level pay;

People keeping a bad job in a terrible economy isn't "loyalty". It's not like getting a better job just didn't occur to them because they love their company so much.
posted by spaltavian at 6:58 PM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I find it surprising that people are loyal to their company. Seriously, layoffs are happening every day of the week. No doubt some of that is due to corporate incompetence and dickishness but there are plenty of examples where there really is no choice. Even if it's a co-op run for the benefit of workers, the money still has to come from somewhere.

Having said that, there is still room for loyalty at work. In my time as a software guy at a telecoms company, I was loyal to my workplace buddies and my work unit. We did have a quasi-family like atmosphere. It lasted for ten, fifteen years. But none of us had illusions it would last forever.

What has lasted though are the friendships. I left that job fifteen years ago, but those workgroup buddies are still close friends after all this time. (If I had been a freelancer, I somehow don't think it would have been the same).

This reminds me of an interview I read about troops in a British military unit being deployed in Afghanistan. Most of them had no belief in the mission of defeating the Taliban, but they all had an intense feeling of watching the backs of their fellow soldiers. Isn't it easier to be loyal to the flesh-and-blood around you than some remote abstract construct?

Ironically, my approach to company loyalty is considered to be a big problem in Management. It leads to intra-company conflict, turf wars and the "silo" buzzword. Oh well..

p.s. I do career mentoring for new grads. Two things I always tell them is that you have to work on building up a financial cushion, because layoffs happen to the best companies, the best employees, the best workgroups. Secondly, you have to build up a competency cushion so that when they go down the list, your name is last to get picked.
posted by storybored at 1:22 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Isn't it easier to be loyal to the flesh-and-blood around you than some remote abstract construct?

Ironically, my approach to company loyalty is considered to be a big problem in Management.


If they were smart (they probably are not) they would find some way to exploit it. I always find that "soldier's loyalty" to be kind of sad, because if it wasn't for the system putting them there in the first place they wouldn't need to look out for each other.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 1:41 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


If they were smart (they probably are not) they would find some way to exploit it.

They did try but not with us. There were two strong technology groups in R&D, the upper management decided it would be a good idea if the groups fought against each other to come up with a new product.

Well, they got the fight alright and in the aftermath, much of top talent left, the product they came up with in the end was an abortion and the company went into a tailspin. They recovered partly but with about 20% of their former employee count.

I always find that "soldier's loyalty" to be kind of sad, because if it wasn't for the system putting them there in the first place they wouldn't need to look out for each other.

No need to be sorry for us. We all loved building software. We wanted to be there.
posted by storybored at 2:03 PM on August 21, 2013


'Yeah, I don't get this. Who is "loyal" to their company?'

Shit, people are loyal to corporations that don't even employ them. They call it "brand loyalty" or "being a sports fan."

"I will say this. You should always be looking for something better. Better paying, better circumstances, better projects, etc."

Yes. Always have an exit strategy.

"This is why I always say don't take a gig where they want you to talk to HR. I deal business to business only. I do the work, I send my invoice. If I have to talk to anyone at all, it will be an AP clerk in Accounting."

For you and the author of this piece, that's a really nice option. Vanishingly few have it. I mean, shit, I'm technically a freelancer and contract employee, but a) the idea of going corp-to-corp is daunting b) it is really tough to build the sort of rep or network where you don't have to fear for your paycheck (I'm working on it; I've got a pretty impressive resume but shit is rough out there). And I'm near the top of the food chain (though not a developer/sysadmin/DBA/architect or what have you; tech writer with video experience and some UX skills), relatively speaking. A lot of my friends and neighbors work two or more jobs just to stay afloat (yes, this is NYC, but my point still stands).

I like the idea of employee-owned companies (though again, that may be sort of a "nice, if you can get it" thing), but we definitely need to get away from the laws that require a corporation's first duty to be to its shareholders (esp. short-term, per annum reckoning). Toxic, and creates an environment where capital is people, and people are not people other than in terms of their access to capital.
posted by Eideteker at 9:56 AM on August 23, 2013


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