It’s a pretty pessimistic world these days. And although some forecasters see bright skies coming up over the job market horizon, others see only gloom mixed with a little doom. So, clearly, it depends on whom you talk to and on the worldview or outlook you’ve decided to go with. (Like most things, it’s less about the overall job market and more about your market as industries shift; for instance, if you are in healthcare IT right now, you most likely have a rosier view than others.)
And in the midst of all this chatter, you may have noticed that the word “corporate” has taken on an ugly connotation in today’s world of work, perhaps even uglier than in times past.
The basic gist of the discussion is as follows:
Large corporations are bad, corporate leaders are bad, traditional corporate organizational structures are bad, the corporate job market is bad.
It’s all just bad. Bad, bad, bad.
In many ways, it reminds me of the angst felt by blue-collar workers after the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, only now it is suburban-educated/raised yuppies with college degrees upset by their unfair working conditions (“Death to the corporate cubicle!” and “Silos are so unfair!” are mantras that light up Twitter chats. Of course, nothing does so more than “Why doesn’t my boss care more about my happiness?”).
Let’s face it, though. Hating your boss is anything but a new concept. (Historically, when unemployment goes down, so does the image of “corporate.” There’s really nothing new under the sun, after all.)
And who can really argue that bosses, and thereby corporations, don’t deserve at least some of this enmity? I mean they are out for themselves, after all…
But lately it has been especially easy to “hate”…because, well, it is all bad…right?
Baby Boomers aren’t retiring fast enough. The economy is uncertain on a good day. The job market is at a standstill. And adulthood is being forever delayed.
If that isn’t bad enough, companies just keep raking in the money, or so it seems, or worse, they keep hoarding it. And even though they are spending more time, money, and resources than ever on contemplating employee happiness, no one is fooled, especially my ever-vigilant Twitter friends.
I mean, if ever there were a time for “power to the people” it should be now, right?
Well, good luck with that.
It may make for good social media chatter, but it rarely makes its way into real application.
Why? Because lost in the passionate outrage is the definition of what is a corporation: a group of people all working toward one goal…to sell a particular product or service and to sustain it. In other words, there’s no more “power to the people” than in the corporate environment…at least in theory.
What causes the friction is that not all parts of that power have an equal say or reap the same benefits.
And if you look at it logically, they shouldn’t. The risks, rewards, liabilities, efforts, etc. are not, and will not be, the same.
I hear a lot of chatter across social media that Gen-Xers and Millennials are going to do something different. That they are going to tear down walls and redefine the corporate environment. Sure, they are. That is, at least until they become the “establishment.” (I’m not sure progressive HR programs count as “different” anymore than listening tours or offices without walls are. Changing the package does not change the product.)
See, right now, it is easy to be upset, but what about when internal promotions start heating up? And they will (see my article “The Era of Promotions Will Return: Will You Be Ready?“). Within the next 2 to 5 years, we will see Baby Boomers exiting the market in larger numbers. As a group, they can only hold out for so long. Then all those Gen-Xers who have been frustrated with a stalled career will have to decide how they feel about corporate leadership now, not to mention all those professionals who decided to strike out as independent contractors. It’s a great gig if you can get it, but sustaining it for 10, 15, 20 years is not as easy as the advice columns make it sound.
And what about all those startups that won’t be startups anymore? Either they will or will not be an established business by then. And, really, isn’t their ultimate goal to become, well, profitable…really profitable? So who stays and who goes then? And how is power distributed…equally?
The point is that it’s not “corporate” that is so bad. It’s the general unfairness of life that is.
The question is what you are going to do about it?
Are you going to be ready to read the market and roll with it? Will you be poised for the promotion, or will you still be hanging out on Twitter railing against the “man?”