Not to be confused with the movie “The Matrix” staring Keanu Reeves. I’m referring to the corporate matrix that many us spend much of our life toiling away. Having worked for corporations for over 40 years I have experienced very good organizations, average organizations, and well really messed up ones. Generally there are certain relationships that exist between a characteristic and the functioning of a corporation. In my experience most smaller companies are less dysfunctional and the larger companies are more dysfunctional. This is not a hard fast rule, but there does seem to be a correlation between the size of an organization and its level of dysfunction. You might also draw a correlation between the age of a corporation and level of dysfunction, but many corporations try to re-invent themselves periodically so this doesn’t always hold true. An example is McDonald’s that was founded in 1940 and Google founded in 1998. McDonald’s has been around 58 more years, but one might say it is no more dysfunctional than Google. Another correlation can exist based on the type of industry / sector that a business is categorized. For instance a insurance company will not survive unless it is very efficient versus a technology company that may have higher margins, which sometimes encourages reckless behavior from a business perspective.
Over time as a company grows, it begins to implement an increasing number of processes and controls. In my experience many of these processes have not been vetted against the simple equation comparing the ongoing cost of the process versus the value it provides the organization. This kind of process creep exists in almost all businesses, as the company seeks to create greater control over the workforce. Often times the corporation does not want to leave decision making to employees but instead implements a process that it hopes controls costs or improves compliance in some way. Examples of this include simple contract changes that require three levels of approval, instead of just empowering the first level manager to approve the change, or having painful promotion processes that require committee’s to make the decision instead of an employee’s manager.
When a company is initially created, it will depend on people to make decisions, and does things in a lean fashion, but as it becomes larger it begins to hire more and more employee’s, many that do not contribute to the bottom line (cost management or revenue generation). My experience is that lots of new roles are created for what I call bullshit jobs, essentially non essential work. Well if you have a lot of time on your hands, then you begin creating your own organization and start building new processes. Unfortunately the people in these bullshit jobs don’t understand process design and the cost versus value equation. Over the course of 20 years or so there is a process for everything and each of them has a corresponding burden that is foisted on the employee, and competes for their time, which initially was dedicated to their primary job functions. A couple things begin to occur, the first being the employee becomes more and more dissatisfied with their role as they must adhere to this overload of processes that they are asked to perform. The second thing that happens is they have less time to devote to their core job functions and the company must hire yet more employees to do the work and becomes even more inefficient. Remember some of this occurs because it is human nature to build your own little empires, thus adding more bullshit jobs and people to do those jobs, which then makes it more difficult to pursue the real goals of the company. All this results in less autonomy for the employee and an erosion of job satisfaction.
The point of all this is that there are corporations and there are people that work for them. Eventually the goals of the corporation and the employees begins to diverge in kind of a Grand Canyon way. If you need any evidence of this look at the layoffs at Microsoft, Meta, Amazon, Salesforce, and on and on. Either in anticipation or as a reaction to some sort of slow down in the economy, a recession if you will, these companies have slashed in some cases pretty high percentages of their workforce. The thinking was something like this. Well we better proactively cut costs in the event our sales decline or our cost of goods sold increases. A corporation does not possess human qualities like compassion, loyalty, empathy, love, or pain. This dichotomy between the corporation and employees is the world we live in. Actually this is really not something new and has been going on for the past 50+ years, probably becoming more common in the 60’s and 70’s as we began to offshore manufacturing decimating cities like Detroit Michigan and Cleveland Ohio. This trend continued throughout the Midwest and the rest of the United States. All for lower costs, resulting in higher profits and cheaper products.
If this is the current state of the matrix then you have to ask yourself, do I want to play this game? Finally you come to realize that the rationale thought you have cultivated all these years, makes it almost impossible to continue living in the matrix. Some of you may escape, but for the majority the matrix will lure you back offering riches that you can’t seem to walk away from. You have then resigned yourself to this life, convincing yourself it really isn’t so bad, but in your heart you know you have made the wrong choice. Money or Freedom?
In the next installment “Escaping The Matrix” I would like to make a case for choosing freedom.
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