Traveling to a foreign country for the first time is an experience that usually leaves very deep impressions on people. The culture and customs seem very exotic as one comes to the realization that not everyone lives as they do.
One can have these same experiences upon returning to their home country if they have spent more than a few years overseas. You see your culture from the outside for the very first time. In some cases this is known as “reverse culture shock.”
Well, this reverse culture shock seems to be an ongoing experience for me. Most recently it has to do with corporate culture as the MBAs churn out ever more initiatives, goals and theories for the rest of the organization to adopt.
Once adopted, it becomes part of the culture and actually changes the behavior of the employees. When this happens it is derogatorily referred to as “drinking the kool-aid.” There of course is many different flavors of Kool Aid depending on the company but one flavor that seems to be quite prevalent is “Passion!”
No matter what industry one is in, it is now a requirement in Corporate America to have a passion for what you do. That is to say that by directive of the upper management you must actually love and become emotionally excited with your work. This is especially true for the sales department but easily spills over into other departments and is absolutely vital if one wants a promotion.
YOU MUST HAVE PASSION IN LIFE AND IT MUST BE WORK RELATED.
I don’t remember “Passion” being part of the business curriculum when I was in college so I’m pretty certain this is a relatively new idea. However, the idea has caught on so strongly I’ve had grown men tell me they are passionate about these: sanitation, paper, industrial supplies, medical devices and so on.
What is a bit scary is I believe these people have honestly convinced themselves they are passionate about the mundane objects they are selling! I’m being completely honest when I say I had someone tell me they were passionate about not only paper but toilet paper and paper towels!
For me to make a mockery of this type of passion is actually a cardinal sin in corporate land. If you do not drink the kool-aid, you do not get promoted and if you are not getting promoted then you will eventually be fired in today’s environment. It is not dissimilar from an actual cult in that you must adhere to the corporate line of thinking and there is very little tolerance for those who do not conform.
Thus I remain in a state of shock which I cannot seem to dispel. At least once a month I hear grown men tell me they are passionate about some aspect of the corporation which really should inspire no emotional reaction in any human being.
Finally, here are some corporate words that bug me.
1. Challenge = Problem – Problem is a dirty word, you’re simply having a challenge!
2. Actionable – As so much junk is thrown your way during a typical work day “actionable” is like a red tag attached to the item which tells you you must do something and not just file the e-mail away.
*Junk (work/communications others have created that they have to send to someone else in order to be seen as productive.)
After I published this post I opened up the New Yorker and read a book review called “The Iron Curtain” which examines the daily life of living in the Eastern European states under Soviet rule.
One sentence in particular really stood out which said that people are not so easily socialized, which was referring to turning the citizens into pure Communists.
You know where I have heard this word before?
Yep, in corporate america at my former company. You see, when the MBAs’ rolled out yet another initiative that would invariably make our lives much more difficult they first went to the regional leaders who were to socialize the new concept/idea/initiative. This is the exact word they used and when I saw it referring to Communism I had to look it up to make sure I knew what it meant.
Socialize: Make (someone) behave in a way that is acceptable to their society: “newcomers are socialized into our ways”.
Since this coincided quite nicely with my post I had to add this update and wanted to finish with a story about how the corporation tried to socialize us.
1. Psychological profiles
– No kidding, we all had to take an hour test to determine our profile.
2. Berating by leadership in front of peers
– This was pretty much the straw that broke the camel’s back for me and one of the reasons I decided to leave. They gathered us in a room for two days and we all had to stand up in front of everyone and present what we had done and were doing with our customers.
It was the leaderships job to point out all of our faults and continually grind away until we admitted we had not done a good job. The leaders justified this by saying they wanted to “help us.” If you did not admit that many of the things you had done were wrong then you were in for a very rough ride as they would basically try and break you.
And you know what? This was all seen as normal behavior! The leaders actually had drank the Kool-Aid and honestly believed what they were doing to us was not degrading but actually “helping.”
Well needless to say my former company has had extremely high turnover. In fact out of 25 or so people in my immediate area I can only name one or two that are still with the company. A gulag it was becoming indeed!
Wrapping up this post, the next time the MBAs’ propose you drink yet another flavor of Kool-Aid, perhaps you could propose that they give this beverage a try instead.