Life at Up Up and Away Investment Management International: Chapter 13: “So how does largecorp hang on?”

Chapter 13

So how does largecorp hang on?

Largecorp is still out there despite a stream of Millennials and burnt-out Boomers threatening so many of its dear values. The Millennials have seen many of their parents burnt out and chewed up by largecorp. It is tempting to say they are spoilt and from an “entitlement” generation however that may be largecorp speaking. Call them what you may but as a minimum many of them are very wary of what largecorp can offer them.

Perhaps these Millennials are wiser than the Boomers who suffered through tough economic conditions and had to bear economic exploitation with a contrived smile? When times turn tough will the Millennials buckle down and beg for mercy from largecorp?

Now if there are exceptions to the lackadaisical Millennials there are always the large accounting and law firms where the thirst by Millennials for wealth and power remains. But in other sectors, particularly in the financial services sector, largecorp is running a bit scared. Hence the concept of keeping employees engaged and happy! Exploitation has been replaced by a more sophisticated type of exploitation going by the name of “employee engagement”. Chief Happiness Officers are now appearing in largecorp as desperate largecorps attempt to deal with a silent rebellion of “I do not want to be your slave Millennials” in their workplace.

One strategy they have devised is work from home (WFH) which connects employees to work through a home computer. This sounds liberating but personally I have found WFH to be more intense than driving into the office and making the return trip which amounts to two hours. Instead of that mindless driving I spent those two hours glued to the computer, so my productivity and stress is increased by two hours and add on to this the lack of personal interruptions, lunch and human face time!  COVID-19 and WFH is making WFH more tedious than it ever was.

Although Millennials are a challenge for largecorp the expanding greed of the Senior Management Team dictates token concessions lest productivity be disrupted.

If you toil in the corporate offices of largecorp you may become immune to some of the outrageously abusive techniques employed by the SMT to increase productivity by squeezing employees. Many of these techniques have a gloss of being beneficial. Some of these techniques ooze compassion and care for employees. They are no more than cost saving ploys.

Witness the emphasis on “Wellness Programmes” which can range from bringing in dieticians, mindfulness meditation and employee assistance programmes offering assistance for psychological problems and substance abuse all of which arise from issues that threaten productivity and employee output. Care and concern for employees or an obvious goal of limiting short- and long-term disability claims by overworked and over-exploited employees at the hands of largecorp? If largecorp gives a shit about its employees it is always about their productivity and nothing more!

Look at the surging popularity of “corporate mindfulness programmes”. These Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programmes have as their goal the reduction of stress in the workplace most particularly through meditation and better enabling employees to learn techniques to manage stress through focusing on the body and breath with the message being that employee stress is the employee’s fault in becoming stressed out because they don’t have the correct mental mind set to deal with the stress. Nowhere is it admitted it is the possibility that workplace stress is not the fault of the employee, but the overwhelming amount of stress heaped on employees by a greedy largecorp more prone to outsourcing and downsizing than to some equitable and fair distribution of work.

Again, as mental illness like extreme stress stress is the leading cause of long-term disability claims for largecorp it has an interest in solving this as cheaply as possible while contemporaneously distancing itself from any ideological responsibility for the destructive tsunami of stress sweeping over its employees.

Most of these “Wellness” and MBSR programmes are peddled through largecorp’s Human Resources Department. Placate and accommodate the ideology of the day adopted by the SMT of largecorp. A truthful cause and effect analysis might reveal some validity for these two programmes but additionally one might very well point a finger at largecorp for terminating and outsourcing thousands of jobs then heaping the slack on paranoid and overworked domestic employees.

While many of the techniques used by largecorp to increase productivity and to project a positive public image are subtle and ostensibly beneficial to the employee there are a host of crude and demeaning Human Resources Department controlled programs. They are designed to augment productivity and the public image of largecorp. Through compulsion and extortion employees are compelled to participate.

One of the high-pressure tactics used to threaten employees and boost the image of CRAP was spearheaded by the United Way. For weeks there were mini putt contests, candy trolleys, auctions and countless other “United Way” contests designed to gouge employees to contribute to United Way. In fact, the President of CRAP and his compatriots in other insurance companies treated their United Way fund raising competitions as a private old boy’s contest to see which largecorp could raise the largest per capita contribution.

Imagine all senior managers and Assistant Vice-Presidents of CRAP being summoned to a “United Way Leadership Breakfast” at which they were subject to a miserably cheap breakfast and intense pressure to donate a minimum of $1,000 to United Way so their name could be published in in special United Way category the name which escapes me. So crude and primitive. Upon hearing about this circus, I never gave a penny to United Way despite being harassed by CRAP’s Human Resources Department to do so. A few years later CRAP dropped United Way and started a list of approved charities an employee could contribute to which would be matched by CRAP. Of course, the amount of paperwork required to obtain this matching contribution was accompanied by a wall of bureaucracy to the extent it was too time consuming to obtain the CRAP matching contribution.

I have previously described certain productivity programmes initiated by CRAP but before I forget there are a couple more I can remember.

The “Bee Smart Productive” programme where any employee that suggested a better way of accomplishing tasks that was chosen by the department’s manager would win a “Bee Productive” winner’s badge and would be forced to wear a bumble bee hat for a week. What idiots dreamt up this incentive for disproductivity? Can you imagine the humility of wearing such a hat? I was delighted never to have been a winner. I feared more from winning than being terminated for failing to actively participate in such a programme. Can you imagine the SMT wearing such hats for devising the best way of squeezing SMT incentive payments to themselves from largecorp revenues? The Bee Productive program lasted a mere month. No cash for employee winners, only a pair of movie tickets. Not only is the SMT insatiably greedy it was terribly stupid and ruthlessly cheap.

Although I can give you countless other brazen programs one which was very enlightening and continues to the present day in one form or the other occurred one year in the last two months of the Registered Retirement Savings Programme (RRSP) contribution season throughout CRAP’s retail insurance network.

RRSP’s are huge businesses for banks and insurance companies in Canada. Unobtainable targets are established, and immense pressure is placed on all retail branch employees to sell, sell and sell. Feeble seniors, welfare recipients, wife beaters, child molesters, illiterates and sexual abusers were all legitimate sources of RRSP contributions. The devil himself would have been welcomed! I suppose the incentive of free doughnuts and coffee was thought to be exceedingly generous even though the doughnuts were cut in quarters!

In any case retail branch employees were formed into RRSP selling teams compelled to wear baseball caps and T-Shirts denoting their team. Their daily results were posted in each retail branch totally visible to the public. Some MBA whiz kid had developed this program I heard and it was of course sanctioned by some Executive Vice-President in the retail side of CRAP. Of course, any team on the bottom of the competition or near the bottom was shamed. Also, any cash incentive for RRSP contribution increases to CRAP went to the SMT. The winning team received a $50 gift certificate each to some cheap chain restaurant.

Can the Millennials be bought off with such shallow and debasing contests? I would think they would be rightfully turned off.

Published by Robert K Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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