I was fifty years old before I was forced to learn how to work inside a corporate environment. The Corporation slimed into my life seven years ago, by acquiring the company I work for. Suddenly, instead of working with 85 colleagues I was one of fifty thousand employees, and I had no idea for whom I was toiling (I think I am going to abandon this not ending sentences with prepositions. It’s one rule of grammar up with which I cannot put.). Their line at the time was “We like the way you guys do business, which is why we want to buy your company. Obviously we wouldn’t dream of changing anything.”
That sounded like bullshit at the time, and — surprise! — it was. I can’t say exactly who The Corporation is, because I have signed so many documents for them regarding the terms of my employment — and what I now see to be my inevitable termination — that I stopped reading them years ago. Who knows what obligations I may be under? I know some of us have cooperated with the press on a couple of investigative reports that were only marginally less sleazy than The Corporation itself, and those people were fired summarily. So I will be discreet, as that is the better part of valor (someday I’ll try to figure out what that means).
The hardest lesson I have learned it that The Corporation has only one thing on it’s mind: raising the price of the stock. Nominally we are a big-ticket retail operation. We sell expensive things to people who have to borrow money to purchase them. But in reality we exist solely for the economic aggrandizement of about fifty people, who own most of the stock.
So we do things like this: At the local office level, in order to demonstrate to Wall Street that we are proactively concerned about computer network security, we have stripped administrative access from everyone, and transferred it to Regional IT Managers, who generally don’t know their hard drives from their floppies. This “enhances” security, hardening The Corporation against hacker attacks and loss of important secret data, thus making investors breathe easier and buy more stock. Except that when someone in a local office forgets their password (and this happens at least once a week), they discover that it takes days for the overworked regional IT manager to reset their password, so they “borrow” the password of the person in the next cubicle. Naturally, this destroys all computer security as passwords are shared and bounced around, the exact opposite effect from what was intended, but that doesn’t matter — and here’s the lesson — because the investors only know about the official policy, and not what’s actually going on.
I don’t know why this frustrates me. Maybe it’s because all these corporate types are so smug and self-satisfied and well-paid, but they either don’t know or don’t care what they’re doing.
I’ve never written this stuff down before, and my thoughts are just coalescing. There will probably be more on The Corporation, and no doubt some of it will be more incisive than this, although at this time I am not expecting to achieve Joeseph Heller-level irony.