Once upon a time, I worked at a full-time corporate marketing job. I had a pretty good title (Senior Copywriter), pulled a halfway decent salary (none of your business), and enjoyed unlimited free snacks.
But every day, I left that place with a funny, nauseated feeling in the pit of my stomach.
This can’t last, I thought. Some day, it’s all going to collapse.
And now, it’s happening. On the heels of the retail and service sectors imploding, the same is now happening to white collar jobs. The tech sector will collapse last. But without support from the other sectors, its turn will come.
Now, I’m not going to tell you the name of the company I’m referring to, because the truth is, I’ve worked at several companies that had the exact same problem.
You see, it was never about the company itself. It’s about the parameters of the entire unregulated, quarterly report-crazed, market fundamentalist system, which no other developed country has.
Here’s what gave me such a stomach ache:
- Talented designers and art directors paid to engage in repetitive, unimaginative tasks
- Middle managers whose main job seemed to be glibly spouting platitudes and trendy B-school phrases
- Top executives completely disengaged from rank-and-file employees
- A strategic plan that, while never publicly discussed, seemed to consist of three phases: (1) acquire smaller companies, (2) grow to a certain predetermined size, (3) get acquired by a very large company—with all other decisions subordinate to those three steps
- An advancement system that seemed to be based on the movie MEAN GIRLS, with endless gossip and backstabbing, no 360 degree performance reviews (or any reviews really), and no HR involvement
- A weird and ominous quiet which permeated the office like a kind of poison fog
And here are the conditions that I believe led to this situation, which again are not unique to any one company:
- An emphasis on short-term gain (i.e. quarterly reports and IPO fixations) at the expense of long-term planning
- An obsessive focus on growth at the expense of customers, employees, and even stability
- A tendency to put vaporware and PR before meaningful product features
- An authoritarian, top-down orientation that kills insights and ideas (frequently disguised with New Age-sounding BS, to fool workers into believing it’s in their best interest)
- A wild west mentality including “at-will employment,” which says employers can fire you at any time for any reason or even no stated reason at all
Chances are you may recognize some, or all, of these parameters. You may think, “I worked at that company.” And maybe you did. But even if you didn’t, you worked in corporate America. And corporate America, as it is, has written its own obituary.
All it took was one pandemic to push it over the edge.
Something’s got to change.