Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Posts Tagged ‘Corporate rules’

How to Date a Corporation: Dating Rules for a Post-Citizens United World

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

The Supreme Court recently determined that corporations are entitled to freedom of speech because they are legally persons. The ramifications of this decision, Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, cannot be overstated: it introduces an entirely new and untapped population into the dating pool.

Chances are you’ve never dated a corporation before. But don’t be intimidated. This can be a fun and exciting opportunity… as long as you follow the corporation-dating rules.

1. Consider your options. There are a lot of corporations out there. Is this really the best corporation out there? Is this corporation “the one?” Or should you keep looking?
2. Don’t seem too eager to get involved. Remember, corporations are predatory by nature and enjoy a chase.
3. Do a background check. What kind of relationships has this corporation had in the past? What is the corporation’s history
4. Investigate the company the corporation keeps. Who is on its board of directors? Have any been indicted?
5. Check out the corporation’s assets and figures. How do they look? Are they appealing to you?
6. Say that you’re fiscally conservative but socially liberal. Corporations find this very sexy.
7. Make sure you wait before you give up any of your assets. Corporations lose interest when you give it up right away.
8. Don’t over invest. Nothing hurts more than giving without getting.
9. Resist the “urge to merge.” Mergers often look appealing but they tend to be messy and almost always hurt party.
10. Assume the worst. Corporations have a one track mind and they can’t wait to get their hands on your goods.
11. And last but not least…Protect yourself. Corporations can be very reckless and you never really know how many people this corporation has screwed.

*This post originally appeared in Working Life. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Katie Harper is a co-founder of Laughing Liberally, a political comedy group, with whom she performs regularly at venues including Netroots Nation (the convention formerly known as Yearly Kos). Katie blogs for Huffington Post, TakePart, 23/6, Nerve, Culture Kitchen, and Campus Progress. Katie is also an Artistic Director and Comedy Curator at The Tank, a non-profit performing arts space for emerging artists. Her award winning documentary, La memoria es vaga, about historical memory in Spain, has been screened throughout Spain and the U.S. Katie is currently developing a one-woman show and a documentary film about her summer camp, Camp Kinderland, and their “peace Olympics” games. For more information, check out http:// katiehalper.com

Why Do Ideas Have Such a Hard Time Surviving at Work?

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Image: Bob RosnerAn old UK study found that 81% of people had their best ideas outside of the office (but you’ll have to guess what percentage found them in the bathroom!).

Visit any business web site, read current business magazines or listen to business gurus and it’s all about the “ideas”. In fact, it sometimes feels like “new ideas” are the answer, no matter what the question.

This blog will spend time NOT exploring how to think outside the box. Rather, it will look into how we all got jammed into the box in the first place and why it’s bad for our organizations and really bad for us. And deadly for new ideas.

Okay, let’s give you some additional information on that UK study about where our best ideas are generated. Sony Ericsson conducted the study and found 81% had their best ideas outside of the office. Top places for idea generation? The car, in bed and socializing. At the bottom of the list was in the pub. And finally, as promised above, 6% of us have our best ideas in the toilet.

So why do we have to escape our desk to find our best ideas? I’ve got three reasons why. First is the ubiquitous cubicle. Sure a great idea can come to you while sitting in a cube, but is it because of the cube or in spite of the cube? The cubicle company’s literature emphasizes that cubes foster conversation, bring teams closer together and can be darn good looking. But the reality is that we need less noise and distraction, especially if we are going to wander in that fragile area called idea generation.

Another part of the problem is the tendency of organizations to promote the people who have never had an idea on their own into management positions. Sure it makes sense; people are put into management because they support the status quo. This reminds me of a line I once heard about Al Gore. “Al Gore is an older person’s idea of what a younger person should be.” And people who don’t have ideas have a really weird view of how people with ideas should be treated. Actually weird isn’t the best word to describe it. How about dangerous. Why? Because people who’ve never had a good idea like to pick at ideas, play devil’s advocate and attach timelines and budgets to them much too early.

Instead of giving the idea, and the idea generator, room to maneuver they often force the baby to survive outside of the nurturing cubicle where it was created much too early (okay, the words “nurturing cubicle” are totally oxymoronic and run counter to what I wrote about cubes above. But since this is called a blog, a certain amount of inconsistency comes with the turf.).

Finally the biggest idea killer is the “corporate immune” system. This idea was first described by my friend Gifford Pinchot, best selling author of the book “Intrapreneuring”. He talks about all the ways that organizations seek out and destroy anything that runs counter to the status quo. The challenge is that the corporate immune system is relentless in its ability to remove threats and ensure mediocrity.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how organizations kill ideas. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to tell you where I have my best ideas, because right now, I gotta go.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

Rule of Law Makes a Comeback

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

Remember when President Reagan was shot and Al Haig famously burst into the White House and said that he was in charge? Okay, it might not have been as over the top as Howard Dean’s scream, but Haig did become the poster boy for an “Era of Executive Testosterone Overload.” An era that seems to have come to an end. Finally.

Executives-in-charge, no that doesn’t sum it up adequately. Executives as rock stars is more like it. For much of the last decade the line between CEO and celebrity blurred. Some weeks there seemed to be more CEOs on magazine covers than supermodels. And gossip columns were full of tidbits on their lavish lifestyles.

In the future if they try to carbon date the exact moment when the “Era of the Executive” ended, remarkably it didn’t involve a “perp walk,” with a shamed executive being led away in handcuffs.

It ended with Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld. In this Supreme Court case, the justices held that the President of the United States is not beyond the law and must follow certain legal principals and the Geneva Convention—even in wartime.

This case is definitely the icing for the end of the unquestioned executive, but the cake has been rising for a long time. Enron, WorldCom, Tyco—executives learned the hard way—via hard time—that Leona Helmsly was wrong. It’s not just the little people who have to pay taxes. The rules are for all of us.

Consequences. What a concept.

Like it or not, we all need to get ready for more and more restrictions and rules surrounding executive behavior. Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX for short) is just the start. The reason that more regulations and restrictions will be right around the corner? Because people are tired. Tired of guys (yes, mostly guys) who earn millions of dollars in salary, with a boat load of options (backdated of course) and then still manage to justify having employees not covered with health care or on food stamps. Hollywood long ago learned that corporate executives are the perfect movie villain, can politicians be far behind?

Don’t get me wrong, I hate the idea of acres of staff having to be hired to fill out forms for the government. The problem is that SOX is necessary because executives couldn’t police themselves. Just like the Labor Union movement in the first part of last century, once again executives moan about a logical response to their greed run amok. What is always overlooked by executives and the often toothless business press is the wretched excess that preceded Unions, SOX, etc.

Sure there are good guys and gals out there in the executive suites. Warren Buffett immediately leaps to mind. For him to give a gift approximately 5 times the size of Carnegie and Ford is indeed worthy of sainthood. For that alone I promise to take back two-thirds of the Nebraska jokes I’ve made through the years. But it’s not good enough to give back some of the gain, the public is demanding that executives do the right thing from the very start. And I don’t think that’s too much to ask. Even from the Oil Industry.

Enjoy your slice of humble pie, Mr. Corporate Executive. You earned it.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

Why I am Pro-Corporate

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

I am pro-corporate. I’ll go a step further with that and proclaim that I believe that there are no bad corporations, and that I haven’t seen any corporations do anything wrong.

I see the way you are looking at me. I’d better explain.

The reason I say there are no “bad” corporations is because corporations are not sentient beings that can “do” things or that can be good or bad. They can’t make decisions. Corporations are just a bundle of contracts that allow groups of people to more easily raise capital and amass resources. Corporations are things, like chairs, and things do not make decisions, any more than a chair does. Corporations are tools and tools are neither good nor bad.

When I say I am pro-corporate, this is what I mean: The things that the corporate legal structure enables people to do are good for society. This is why We, the People decided to enact the laws that created corporations. If we want to be able to accomplish things on a large scale, like build a railroad or airports and airplanes or skyscrapers – or solar power plants to replace coal power plants – we want to enable people to more easily raise the necessary capital and amass the resources needed to get the job done. The legal structure of the corporate form of a business accomplishes this.

Corporations, a bundle of contracts, don’t “do” anything, people do. And that is why this discussion is important right now. We are looking here at how to restructure our economy, but before we can do that, we have to correctly identify what went wrong. We have to understand who the good and bad actors were.

So what are some of the things that companies have been doing that we as progressives think should change? Let’s use the highly-publicized example of Wal-Mart and their low wages and benefits and Chinese imports. Wal-Mart always complained about being cast as the bad-actor. They said that if Wal-Mart raised wages and benefits and their competitor Target didn’t, then they would be at a competitive disadvantage and Target would take over the business. And, by extension, any company that tries to “do the right thing” is immediately at a disadvantage to a company that does not.

Looked at this way, if we make Wal-Mart raise wages and Target doesn’t, then not only is Wal-Mart in trouble as a company but now we’re starting all over again trying to get Target to raise wages. And if THEY do so, then along comes K-Mart or Costco or a new company X-Co to pay the low wages, charge lower prices and take away the business. This feels like it is going around in a circle, trying to fix a problem in one place and the pressures of the system immediately make the problem appear somewhere else.

I think blaming companies for the things they “do” also places a lot of stress on people inside of them who might agree with us, and even can alienate them from otherwise supporting progressives. People in the corporate world often feel trapped because the rules of the game require them to engage in what we think of as bad behavior. These are good people who would be very helpful to us in making the correct changes but they feel forced by the system to do the things they do. They are pulled two ways. Executives at Wal-Mart on the one hand can be want to raise wages, and on the other hand have a responsibility to compete with Target.

So what am I getting at here? The companies are not the problem, the rules we set up for them are. Companies operate on a playing field on which the rules of the game are supposed to be decided by US. We, the People are supposed to set up the ground rules and then the companies are supposed to follow those rules. Wal-Mart followed those rules. If we didn’t like the wages and benefits that companies pay, why don’t we change the rules and tell them they all have to pay higher wages and provide better benefits?

Now we’re getting somewhere. Many progressives have been trying to get companies to “behave” in better ways, and haven’t been getting much done — I think due to not correctly identifying the problem. The real problem is that we haven’t set up the rules of the playing field to require these companies – all of them – to provide good wages and benefits, etc. It is our job to regulate what these corporations do. So why didn’t we, through our government, change the rules for all the companies, so they all had a level playing field and clear rules? Identifying why we have not fixed the rules is the path to fixing the larger problem.

What has been happening is that a few people in the bigger companies have been using the resources of those big corporations to influence our system and set the rules of that playing field to give an edge to their companies. They do this so they can personally gain.

This is where we need to focus to fix the corporate system. There should be no way for people in companies to have any say whatsoever in how the playing field on which they operate is set up. How to accomplish this is a subject for future posts.

As I said above, corporations are just a tool, like a hammer. But a hammer can do a lot of damage if a person hits you upside the head with it. That is what we have to stop: a few people using corporate resources and hitting us upside the head.

Oh, and for the record, I am pro-chair, too, though my wife will probably insist I am a pro-couch partisan.

Dave Johnson:Dave is at Fellow at Campaign for America’s Future and a Fellow at the Commonwealth Institute.

This article originally appeared at Blog for Our Future and is reprinted here with permission from the author.

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