This article is a personal belief statement about what I think is wrong with working in the corporate world.
The points I mention are based on my own experience from working at a Fortune 500 company for 5 years as a middle-manager.
1. Most Corporations Have Lost Their WHY
I believe this is the root for every point that follows.
Once upon a time, the corporation was a startup and had a founder. The founder had a clear reason why he started the company, he had a vision. In most cases, it was not for the money or just for profit but because of a higher cause. The founder started the company to make a dent in the universe, to create something of immense value.
Without that big reason Why to begin with, the company would not have been able to grow to such a massive scale and call itself a corporation.
Unfortunately, most companies that are corporations today have lost their why.
Sometimes it’s because the founder died a long time ago and the son or an outside person took over and started to run the company for profits only. Other times, it’s because the founder has given away too many shares of the company and other people, who don’t embody his Why, get to make major decisions.
This is what happened to Apple when Steve Jobs got fired from his own company. Apple went almost bankrupt. Fortunately for Apple, Steve came back as the iCEO and turned around the ship before it crashed.
Today, Steve is gone. He is one of the people I look up to with the highest respect. I sincerely hope that Apple will be able to keep up with the challenges ahead and that Steve Jobs’ Why keeps being embodied in the company for a long time to come.
When a company looses its Why, things go bad. Employees are treated differently, decisions are made on the wrong basis and customers become numbers who have to wait 30 minutes on the phone to speak to a human.
If you have ever worked at a corporation that has lost its Why, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
2. Your Impact is Close to Zero
This is a major problem. If we do something and see that it has no impact, we are not very excited about doing it again.
Let’s say you are a project manager and work at BigCorp. BigCorp has just won a bid for a massive implementation project at a new client. You are very excited. You get green light and start planning. You gather your team, draft concepts and work night shifts to finish the first planning phase of the project before the deadline.
Two days before the deadline, your boss comes to you and says “Charlie, I’m sorry to tell you that we have to stop the project. The client cancelled it because of budget issues.”. Now you are less excited.
How do you feel in this situation? You feel angry and certainly not valued. You feel like all your work is worth nothing now and you are right.
This happens every single day in corporations, I have seen and felt it myself many times.
3. Your Can’t Live Your WHY Within a Rigid Corporation
Since most corporations have lost their Why, it’s close to impossible to live out yours.
Even if your Why resonates with the general idea of the corporation, it’s very tough to have a real impact. Let’s say you are on a mission to improve people’s lives for the better. This is what drives you and fires you up every morning.
You choose to work at GlobalHealthCorp because that’s what they say their mission is. It’s a very honorable thing for you and for the company to pursue that mission.
You started working there three months ago and remember why you joined the company. Somehow you have an awkward feeling. You earn a good salary, have great benefits but something doesn’t feel right. You don’t feel like you have been able to live the reason why you joined the company at all by now.
You have been dealing with corporate politics, already had to fire 2 people because of budget cuts, spent most of your time in corporate meetings with no clear agenda and most days felt like you have not achieved a thing.
How did you improve people’s lives for the better by now? Maybe the company actually does improve people’s lives for the better overall but you just don’t feel like you are contributing to that and that’s what makes you not love Mondays.
4. You Have to Do Meaningless Work Because it’s in the Manual
This is definitely something I know from experience. I can’t count the number of meaningless reports I had to fill in when I was in corporate or the 3-day meetings that could have been done in one hour if there would have been a clear agenda and some sanity in the organization.
Many of the things I had to do in my corporate job could have been done by somebody much less qualified. Much of that stuff was meaningless, I still had to do it because it was in the manual.
5. “We Don’t Have the Budget This Year”
I don’t know how many times I have heard this. Sometimes it was when I asked for a raise for my team, other times it was when I asked for an initiative to bring in more business or to improve processes.
When the decision, if money is spent or not, has been made in Q4 last year, things rarely improve significantly this year because you can’t be flexible. If you have to make this year’s decisions based on what somebody else thought was an appropriate budget 9 months ago, you can’t embrace opportunities.
6. “This is Not Possible”
This one made me cringe every time I heard somebody say it.
Why the hell is it not possible to do something in our system that all of our small competitors can do in a blink of an eye?
Why should the customer comply with us just because we are incapable of purchasing systems that are adaptable to changes?
In the Fortune 500 company I worked at, this was a major issue. I spent countless hours explaining clients why we can’t change something so small that it was almost ridiculous to talk about it. I wasted countless hours dealing with corporate politics to make things work that should have worked without saying.
7. People Around You Have No Passion For What They Do
Like most of the points I have mentioned, this one especially goes back to point number one. When a company has lost its Why, you may search long for passionate people within the organization.
If people are not passionate about what they are doing, they disengage from work. It just becomes a clocking in and out, no matter at which level in the organization.
Working around people who are negative, always gossiping and have no enthusiasm for what they do is horrible. It’s just no fun and it’s very energy consuming.
An Alternative to the Corporate Rat Race
Over the course of the past year, I had the chance to work with almost 100 unique and brave people. All of them in pursuit of something more fulfilling and meaningful. Most of them sick and tired of the corporate world and some of them already living the alternative.
The alternative is called Startups and Small Business. To me, there is no big difference between these two. The one, most important thing they have in common is that the Why of the founder(s) is embodied in the company.
There are countless Startups and Small Businesses to choose from.
Of course, there is a hook. It’s hard. It’s scary. It’s tough. It’s not, what one of my coaching clients recently called, “The Golden Corporate Cage”.
Finding an organization that you can believe in takes time. It takes a ton of effort. It takes bravery. It’s not something for people who are merely looking for a comfortable life.
A startup career is for brave heroes who crave for challenges. It’s for the ones who challenge the status quo. It’s for the brave minority who are looking for more than an average job where they get to sit in corporate meetings all day long.
A startup career is for a few audacious souls who do things for impact, not for a paycheck. It’s for troublemakers who seek to challenge a whole industry. It’s for courageous warriors who set out to make a dent in the universe and have a whole lot of fun on the ride.
If you feel like this is you, let’s get on this quest together and make this ride fun, meaningful and a big success.