What Do You Hate Most About Corporate America?

ptm24's picture
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Between all the HR bureaucracy and inflexible bosses, there are a lot of things to dislike about corporate America. I've even known of people who are only willing to work for startups because they can't stand corporate culture. What are your biggest complaints and best stories about corporate America?

Comments (43)

Sep 26, 2018

At the high-level, it's the trade-off between execution vs planning. I'd say for start-ups, it's 80/20 rule where you spend most of your time making something and iterating it (e.g. your product/offering) as you don't have the resources to do the in-depth analysis (e.g. test markets launches). For corporate, it's the reverse. You spend 80 percent of your time planning, researching, developing internal presentations, etc. The other 20 percent is the actual follow-through.

This can get frustrating as you feel you're spending all your time developing ideas and future projects only to get most of them shut down as most won't make it through the approval process. There is a plus side to things as you aren't held as accountable for results as the higher-ups are the ones signing or not signing-off. For instance, the board agrees this is the most viable merger opportunity for the company but at the end of the day, if they don't feel comfortable going through with it, they aren't going to hold you responsible as your role was simply to do the legwork and analysis to allow them to make the decision.

For the day-to-day, for me it's the "ticky-tacky" bureaucracy that is inflexible and at times irrational. Like the WF expense policy thread a few weeks ago where employees who are working late aren't allowed to order early dinners despite perhaps the restaurant closing early (e.g. 6pm) or simply that they like eating their dinners earlier in the evening since it's usually healthier than late night eating. At my company, we have no travel gym expense so I have to stay at a hotel with a workout facility. I would much rather go to an outside gym that has things like squat racks and hammer strength equipment with the money saved by staying at a slightly cheaper hotel, but this is not allowed.

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Sep 27, 2018

Just returned to corporate America after 4 years with a small, independent firm.

I'd say what I hate the most is the inauthenticity of corporate America--the platitudes, corporate propaganda, bullshit mission statements, political correctness (I'd even be OK with the political correctness if I thought it was coming from an authentic place, but you get most people one-on-one and few people truly buy the BS). A small/independent company comes with none of the pretense that you get with corporate America. It's hard to describe, but it all just feels so phoney.

Sep 27, 2018
real_Skankhunt42:

Just returned to corporate America after 4 years with a small, independent firm.

I'd say what I hate the most is the inauthenticity of corporate America--the platitudes, corporate propaganda, bullshit mission statements, political correctness (I'd even be OK with the political correctness if I thought it was coming from an authentic place, but you get most people one-on-one and few people truly buy the BS). A small/independent company comes with none of the pretense that you get with corporate America. It's hard to describe, but it all just feels so phoney.

Brett Easton Ellis actually had a great talk with ReasonTV. You pretty much echo his critique of corporate culture as well.

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Sep 27, 2018
real_Skankhunt42:

Just returned to corporate America after 4 years with a small, independent firm.

I'd say what I hate the most is the inauthenticity of corporate America--the platitudes, corporate propaganda, bullshit mission statements, political correctness (I'd even be OK with the political correctness if I thought it was coming from an authentic place, but you get most people one-on-one and few people truly buy the BS). A small/independent company comes with none of the pretense that you get with corporate America. It's hard to describe, but it all just feels so phoney.

Do you think that hollowness stems from the way corporate America has changed in the last several decades? I can see all the attitudes you describe as coming off far less "phoney" fifty years ago, when there was a sense of corporate responsibility towards employees and the reciprocal loyalty on the part of those employees to the firm. I worked in corporate America for a while, and I can say that if I had thought the company gave a damn about me as a person, had some thought to whether I'd be able to retire comfortably, whether I had benefits that allowed me to get sick and not sink into penury, thought that the CEO wasn't going to get an 8 figure bonus in return for "cutting costs" by massive layoffs, all those platitudes would have rang a little less hollow.

It's tough to buy into the idea that you're all in it together to execute a mission statement, when the people at the top make obscene bonuses in return for screwing over those at the bottom. I don't mean that as some leftist screed against capitalism, merely saying that when the rank and file think that their interests are in many ways inimical to the people directing the ship, any top-down message of solidarity is going to ring hollow/hypocritical.

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Oct 29, 2018
Ozymandia:
real_Skankhunt42:

Just returned to corporate America after 4 years with a small, independent firm.

I'd say what I hate the most is the inauthenticity of corporate America--the platitudes, corporate propaganda, bullshit mission statements, political correctness (I'd even be OK with the political correctness if I thought it was coming from an authentic place, but you get most people one-on-one and few people truly buy the BS). A small/independent company comes with none of the pretense that you get with corporate America. It's hard to describe, but it all just feels so phoney.

Do you think that hollowness stems from the way corporate America has changed in the last several decades? I can see all the attitudes you describe as coming off far less "phoney" fifty years ago, when there was a sense of corporate responsibility towards employees and the reciprocal loyalty on the part of those employees to the firm. I worked in corporate America for a while, and I can say that if I had thought the company gave a damn about me as a person, had some thought to whether I'd be able to retire comfortably, whether I had benefits that allowed me to get sick and not sink into penury, thought that the CEO wasn't going to get an 8 figure bonus in return for "cutting costs" by massive layoffs, all those platitudes would have rang a little less hollow.

It's tough to buy into the idea that you're all in it together to execute a mission statement, when the people at the top make obscene bonuses in return for screwing over those at the bottom. I don't mean that as some leftist screed against capitalism, merely saying that when the rank and file think that their interests are in many ways inimical to the people directing the ship, any top-down message of solidarity is going to ring hollow/hypocritical.

I have to agree here. It's broadcasted in every possible way that you are a disposable and management is going to do whatever the hell they want. So why bother caring? People will make relationships on an individual or maybe even group level, but there is no large company I can think of that doesn't give any impression that it cares about anything else than squeezing everything and anything it can to pass more moolah up to the shareholders and executives. Which is fine, no one expects differently, but there's absolutely zero motivation to care about the company at all. And the farther you go down the totem pole, the more motivated people are to rip the company off any way they can think of because in their minds, they've already been screwed.

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Sep 28, 2018

This and personality tests. Jesus Christ it is annoying to have my boss refer to my personality test results as an excuse for him not being a true leader.

I also do not care for the brown nosers. Cronyism is the main meana of upward mobility with people occupying high level positions due to kissing ass. As long as their sponsors occupy high seats they are good. Of course, once the sponsor leaves it is the night of the long knives which is pretty funny.

Oct 2, 2018

I feel the PC/phoney-ness is exactly that, because we can all feel it.

For example, that Kapernick Nike commercial that just came out, does everyone at Nike feel that way?

If Nike had conducted a study that said if you put down minorities your revenue would rise, that Nike wouldn't find a way to rationalize it?

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Sep 27, 2018

This isn't something I hate, just something I've noticed. It's the passive nature of corporate. It's like being in a relationship with a woman all over again. Everything is "can you please" and "you're on this call, right?" tone like I'm supposed to know some shit I'm supposed to do. It's cool, but got damn it's such a feminine trait of the whole institution. I think that's why dumb people can't function when someone polished like Barry O is president, and why people think the media and the government is trying to kill them with corporate pollution.

But hey, I'm sure I can find something I actually hate. Gonna go with the lack of unlimited time off, that you can actually take and work remote if needed. Because who cares?

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Sep 27, 2018

I listened to this episode of Hidden Brain yesterday. 40% of the people couldn't identify the value their jobs contribute to society. That's tragic. It made me so so grateful to have broken out of that hellhole.

https://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcrip...

heister:

Look at all these wannabe richies hating on an expensive salad.

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Most Helpful
Sep 27, 2018

One really simple thing: the complete lack of recognition of the difference between activity and outcome.

Alfred Montapert was a practical philosopher from the previous century who wrote a book that's now out of print. He has a gem of a quote that I discovered in a commencement speech Denzel Washington gave.

:

"Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress."

I look at companies for a living. Doesn't matter if it's a 15,000-person corporation or a 150-person startup: half of people seem to spend the entirety of their time on activities that correlate in no way whatsoever to a productive outcome, and the other half only spend half their time on such activities.

It shocks me how rare it is to see an exception to that. It's proved to me that true intellectual talent is hard to collect in the same place. In a 1,000-person organization, you're unlikely to find deep saturation of really smart people. You may not even have enough truly smart, capable, intelligent, rational people to fill out management.

This explains one factor for why some companies are such outperformers: they maintain a higher-than-normal rate of superstars. e.g. Blackstone has less than 2,500 employees, but has scaled AUM from $101b (2009) to $450b in under a decade. Applied Minds has only a couple hundred people. IDEO has about 700.

In short, I hate seeing corporate policies or processes that fill up an 8-hour workday with stuff that doesn't matter to the stated objectives of the company at all.

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Oct 2, 2018

This mirrors my sentiments almost exactly. I have worked in several large organizations in several different countries and have consulted for governments and corporations alike. Almost without exception, large organizations produce too much busy work that has negative (not negligible, but negative) intrinsic value.

When I worked in corporate development, executives from all over the world would regularly travel halfway around the planet for internal meetings. Of course these meetings could have been done via video conference. In many cases, most participants in the meetings did not need to be there at all. But getting face time with the CEO mattered a great deal to them, so they came. That costs the company money and time. Moreover, it's a distraction from what those execs should have been doing--selling something, managing their people, building new relationships or even spending a few moments dreaming up an original thought so they could contribute to the firm's vision or strategy.

Too many people in corporate environments imagine they need to be doing something at all times to be 'adding value' (whatever the fuck that means). Essentially, they want to look busy as a means of job preservation. They confuse 'hard work' with useful work. The problem with this mentality, of course, is that 'busy work' tends to be a self-replicating virus. It creates more of itself and spreads. This results in more wasted time in most companies than I could have imagined while in college.

This leads me to my central thesis for the next decade: hundreds of millions of corporate jobs as we know them today will be eliminated. With the technology already available today, you could run most companies with perhaps half the current staff. As those internal processes and their corresponding tasks get automated, there won't be enough 'busy work' to justify keeping large numbers of staff around simply to push paper among themselves.

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Oct 2, 2018

I think a lot of it stems from the idea that jobs need to be "9-5". There are some jobs that can be completed in a couple of hours, but companies can't comprehend/admit. That's where busy work comes in.

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Sep 27, 2018
APAE:

On really simple thing: the complete lack of recognition of the difference between activity and outcome.

Alfred Montapert was a practical philosopher from the previous century who wrote a book that's now out of print. He has a gem of a quote that I discovered in a commencement speech Denzel Washington gave.

:

"Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress."

I look at companies for a living. Doesn't matter if it's a 15,000-person corporation or a 150-person startup: half of people seem to spend the entirety of their time on activities that correlate in no way whatsoever to a productive outcome, and the other half only spend half their time on such activities.

It shocks me how rare it is to see an exception to that. It's proved to me that true intellectual talent is hard to collect in the same place. In a 1,000-person organization, you're unlikely to find deep saturation of really smart people. You may not even have enough truly smart, capable, intelligent, rational people to fill out management.

This explains one factor for why some companies are such outperformers: they maintain a higher-than-normal rate of superstars. e.g. Blackstone has less than 2,500 employees, but has scaled AUM from $101b (2009) to $450b in under a decade. Applied Minds has only a couple hundred people. IDEO has about 700.

In short, I hate seeing corporate policies or processes that fill up an 8-hour workday with stuff that doesn't matter to the stated objectives of the company at all.

I think we will 100% end up with a socialist system. It's not because it's superior, but because it will work better than capitalism for full scale automation. If you're not trying to grow the middle class by creating jobs, what's the point of capital flowing from one person to a robot basically? Essentially, automation means we will have robots do all of the work for us and so they will be the beneficiaries of capital mobility.

Socialism will use political capital as a reward system, ie, how many people can you sway or how much influence over society do you have. That will be how projects and new innovations come into play, but you will probably only do it for shorter periods of time before returning to the rest of us in board shorts and flip flops.

I think there needs to be more stock plans made available to regular people, and it really needs to happen now. We can't wait until automation eliminates all of our jobs. That is not ok for society.

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Oct 2, 2018

This is a terrifying scenario. You need to contemplate the absolute power of the bureaucracy controlling the machines/welfare distribution. Unless they are Plato's altruistic Philosopher king, this power will be used to implement a totalitarian state.

The answer in my opinion is to halt urbanization and grow the suburbs. Implement local farming and local production of goods. Focus on cost efficient housing and kill the overreach of city planners in their Utopian wet dreams. People mainly need adequate shelter, quality food, and community to be happy. People being forced to live in smaller and smaller dwellings in crowded cities with crumbling infrastructure and rising crime will only cause more depression in our county.

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Oct 2, 2018

I'd like to say something about your "saturation" comment. Although my experience is miniscule compared to yours, I feel I've been around the block enough.

In a 1000 or 100 person organisation, you will always need admin, IT support, HR and other similar divisions. We can't expect all people in these areas to have the same intelligence as the product development guys.

The smart people are needed to produce the product/service, the other stuff doesn't require the same amount of smarts or effort.

Absolute truths don't exist... celebrated opinions do.

Oct 2, 2018

"...you will always need admin, IT support, HR.."

No, we will not always need people performing those functions. That would be like saying, "We will always need the guys in payroll processing." That function was outsourced and automated years ago. A HUGE percent of office jobs and tasks are not going to be done by humans within your working life.

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Sep 27, 2018

The fact that working from home is still a very taboo topic at certain firms. If it's a slow period, you don't have any client-facing work, meetings, or other important things - just plain old working in front of your computer, why can't it be done from home? If anyone needs anything, you're a phone-call away. Or slack. Or e-mails.

It's this idea that if there are no warm bodies on a chair for exactly x hours a day, then the employer feels "cheated", like he's paying you money for nothing. Fuck that, you're paying me for results and expertise, not for me to show up and sit on my chair to do nothing, if there's nothing to be done.

Same with rigid / inflexible bosses. There's nothing more infuriating (work-related, that is) than spending the holidays or whatever at work, with ZERO activity - often something that was well-known in advance. But, ya know, gotta keep the office staffed, just in case.

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Sep 27, 2018

the ego-driven leaders. seems once someone hits manager or at least a few years after, they just love to unload crap down the ladder onto whoever is below.

i've noticed that the workers will ask questions on how to do things, how to do things better, in an inquisitive way.

Those above, while not in the weeds of things tend to ask questions in an accusatory way....did you check ___ with a tone or didn't you do ___. It's managers job to make things work, but I've noticed the questions are just radically different: from learning and understanding to check boxing and accusing.

No matter where I go and the closer I've paid attention the more I've found this to be true. Managers and above dont seek to understand the problem or issue, just seek to checkbox-question you instead

Sep 28, 2018

Widespread lack of intellectual integrity. ''You can't say that'' culture. HR being used as a dating app. Random, completely worthless departments.

All of that is getting worse every year.

Oct 2, 2018

HR being used as a dating app? Sounds like a story there...

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there" - Will Rogers

Sep 28, 2018
  1. The phoney-ness that is described elsewhere.
  2. Related to #1, but quite distinct: the lack of real transparency. If the firm is doing something because its a regulatory issue or because we are being forced to in order to meet Street expectations or guidance or WHATEVER... fine. Just say so. Don't piss on my head and tell me its raining. I'm not stupid.
  3. The proverbial "old white men" and good old boys club who just WILL NOT go to the house. Not talking about this in the sense of "we n33d m0re Div3rs17y, ya'll!!!!1" but in the sense that this huge cohort of 60+ year olds are hanging on to their jobs and they just mainly want to do what they've always done because its comfortable to them.
  4. The culture of "well thats how we've always done it" as applied to fear of trying anything new. eg: working remotely, new lines of business, etc
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Sep 28, 2018
MidasMulligan:

1. The phoney-ness that is described elsewhere.

  1. Related to #1, but quite distinct: the lack of real transparency. If the firm is doing something because its a regulatory issue or because we are being forced to in order to meet Street expectations or guidance or WHATEVER... fine. Just say so. Don't piss on my head and tell me its raining. I'm not stupid.
  2. The proverbial "old white men" and good old boys club who just WILL NOT go to the house. Not talking about this in the sense of "we n33d m0re Div3rs17y, ya'll!!!!1" but in the sense that this huge cohort of 60+ year olds are hanging on to their jobs and they just mainly want to do what they've always done because its comfortable to them.
  3. The culture of "well thats how we've always done it" as applied to fear of trying anything new. eg: working remotely, new lines of business, etc

4 is the killer, dealing with it now, jesus it's infuriating

Oct 2, 2018
  1. Corporate America.
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Oct 29, 2018
ProspectiveWiseMan:

1. Corporate America.

WINNER

Oct 2, 2018

The people.

Oct 2, 2018

I'd take all the phoniness, brown-nosing, octogenarian-ass bosses and HR bs, if they would stop making me do 12,121,623,421.7 modules on the Volcker Rule and BSA security every damn month.

Oct 2, 2018

If the stock market is down substantially, some companies lay off 25% (or some high percentage) of the workforce. We have not seen this since 2008 but history has a tendency of repeating itself.

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Oct 2, 2018

Companies are right now constantly laying people off due to technology/outsourcing/offshoring. This is why even though the (bullshit) unemployment rate has gone down, workforce participation has also plummeted.

Oct 2, 2018

That might be true but it would get much worse if the stock market collapsed.

Oct 2, 2018

slow advancement. They look at you crazy if you try to move around after a year, even if that is what is "allowed"

Oct 2, 2018

No PTO... especially at Banks.

So tempting to jump to a startup with unlimited PTO.

Oct 2, 2018

powerpoint

What concert costs 45 cents? 50 Cent feat. Nickelback.

Oct 3, 2018

Once you understand how weak yet power-seeking people behave you understand corporate America.

For instance, people looking to control others do so via the most arbitrary means available. Someone looking to control their significant other may demand constant text updates when they aren't together as a means of giving themselves control over the situation. This is completely pointless as the person could just lie, but the point isn't to actually know what's going on, it's to project an image of power.

When your manager or supervisor requires meaningless updates, arbitrary pieces of information, or wastes time on unclear tasks, a similar dynamic is at play. He or she doesn't actually care about the thing they are demanding, they just want to "matter" in some way in what their employees do.

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Oct 3, 2018

Goddamn. If this was Reddit I would give you gold - and I've never even done that before.

Sep 28, 2018
TheStory:

Goddamn. If this was Reddit I would give you gold - and I've never even done that before.

a le redditor! tips fedora how do you do??

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Oct 3, 2018

lol

Oct 5, 2018

The complete over reliance on consultants and the complete absence of intuition.

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