Let them eat cake!

The Company held decapitation day earlier this year, and this time the CEOs grabbed the ax themselves, bloodied their hands a little and lopped off the head of their own executioner.

Word has it that the Human Resources person was let go, (hopefully) because she finally realized that The Company does not love its employees or want to further their growth, and also fosters a culture of fear.

Supposedly several employees had filed complaints against their managers with HR. The HR person went to the CEOs and suggested some management training options, since it had become clear to her that the managers were very uneducated in management techniques. The gossips tell me that the response was that the CEOs did not want the managers thinking for themselves but just wanted them to do what they are told – so the training idea was nixed. Apparently the CEOs were also very upset about the disloyalty their employees were showing by questioning – well, let’s be honest here and just leave it at that – by questioning.

I’m sure the truth is a bit more complicated than that and the rumors are embellished, but I from what I experienced there and in the work world at large, I believe the gist of the message. The Company didn’t really like thinking, which was synonymous to questioning, discussing, and initiating. For example, we got this great new engineer who had worked on a lot of retail products. He went ahead and added an auto-run feature to the CDs, which is no big deal and is a very standard, I’d say expected, feature. He didn’t ask, he just did it. The guy worked lots of extra hours, and he never shirked his responsibilities so he didn’t do it at the expense of something else. He got in trouble. Yep, at least that is the story the rumor mill generated. What they taught me in school is that initiative is what you are supposed to have to show off “your stuff,” get ahead, move up. Well, they need to have a class in school on how to work for control freaks and kiss ass because that is what seems to further one’s career these days (surgical spine removal also seems like it would be beneficial).

The culture of fear is rampant throughout corporate America. When I was fired I heard a lot of “If they fired you, they’ll fire anybody.” I’ve heard this since then at other companies where folks were fired. Really what people mean when they say this is that how good our work is has nothing to do with keeping our jobs. Good reviews have nothing to do with keeping our jobs. Being promoted has nothing to do with keeping our jobs. Being well liked by our peers has nothing to do with keeping our jobs. I also hear a lot of fear about changing jobs. People complain to me about their jobs, but when I suggest looking for a new one I get a lot of maybes: maybe they’d get a job that was worse; maybe the new job would be less stable; maybe this… maybe that… As a result, I know a lot of people who spend 40+ hours a week, keeping their mouths shut, not being themselves, not really enjoying their work or growing, hanging onto the whisp of a hope of a bonus and the fear of what lays outside their cubicle walls.

Why am I writing about this today if the latest decapitation took place several months ago? To be honest, I had decided not to post about it because I’m trying really hard to let it go, but, today’s article on the Slow Leadership site, aptly titled Loyalty and a Culture of Fear was just too apropos to let it go.

I love this paragraph from the article because it really encapsulizes what I felt happened to me (yes, I wasn’t mature when I sent my frustrated email that ultimately got me fired, but that was the boiling point of an ongoing, unaddressed problem where I felt a total lack of respect from my workplace as a whole): Surely respect for others should extend to respect for their opinions, concerns, and anxieties? To be respectful means to listen with an open mind and a tolerant outlook. You won’t find Hamburger Managers with either. That’s why they make such poor listeners. They think they already know everything useful, and they have no respect for anyone who cannot directly advance their prospects. Of course they demand loyalty, even though they give none to others.

The next time you are upset about the lack of loyalty from an employee, boss, friend or family-member look to yourself first. Are you able to listen to this person’s ideas and anxieties without becoming threatened? Can you have an academic debate with them about these ideas? Do you understand that it is because this person respects you that they have come to you with concerns? Have you displayed loyalty to this person or do you try to climb the ladder of success by standing on her back?

Think about it – what you get from people is often a direct reflection of what you give to them.  Just like the HR person who had, under the direction of others, terminated so many people under ‘interesting’ circumstances.

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