A funny seminar leader I knew once told me that being funny in front of a corporate audience is easy, because corporate context is so prudish. All he had to do to get a laugh in a corporate seminar, he said, was to refer to a physical imperfection on his body. His receding hairline, or his growing paunch. “Point at a scab on my elbow?” he said. “Bring the house down.”
No, corporations are not people. But if they were people, they would be some twisted motherfuckers, would they not?
I’ve been thinking about some of the attitudes that corporations put out (and ask their employees to pretend they share)—and trying to articulate what the corresponding human realities are, so that we may, at least in the privacy of this blog, keep it real. Feel free to add your own, in the comments.
Corporate Reality: People are irrational, corporations are strategic.
Human Reality: People are irrational, corporations are full of them.
Corporate Reality: Our company is like a family.
Human Reality: Yes, which means we can assume that corporate life is rife with alcoholism, drug addiction, jealousy, treachery, rampant passive-aggression, desperate attention-getting behavior and if not full-on incest, at least inappropriate touching.
Corporate Reality: We created this strategic initiative because it dovetails with our overarching corporate brand.
Human Reality: No, you did not either make a bunch of work for yourself and everybody else, for any reason other than greed or fear or boredom. (Or all of the above, which is a collection of emotions that everyone in corporate life knows how to juggle while riding on a unicycle.) After you conceived the program—so soon after, that you remember them as simultaneous—you wrote the idea up, sprinkling in catch phrases from the corporate strategic plan.
Corporate Reality: Employees want to be challenged at work.
Human Reality: Employees want to be admired for their work—by the people they work for, the people they work with, the people who work for them. By the people they go home to at night, by their friends and by their dead parents. And by their God, who wants them to do something truly worthy with their lives.
It's a lot they're asking, which is why most employees aren’t happy with their work. But since they know it’s a lot to ask, most of them show up every day and muddle through pretty well.
You should be grateful.