Debunking 5 Corporate Myths

CIQ Headlines

Republished from Associated Content

It’s easy to get snookered by prevailing myths: that sports stars are heroic human beings as well as athletes; that Thanksgiving will be a wonderful time to connect with family; that someday we’ll get to cash a social security check.

Corporate life overflows with its own fairy tales. I’m a consultant, so I’ve sojourned in myriad firms, industries and institutional cultures. Here are some common myths debunked.

Myth #1: Business is about making money

Truth: Business is about the agenda of the guy (or gal) at the top. The CEO might be obsessed with his image, or power, or crushing a competitor, or with fear of losing his job. The byproduct of this activity might enhance corporate profits. Or not.

I have seen a CEO protect a bungling friend who drove a division to quarter after quarter of losses. This CEO protected his pal to the detriment of the company and his own reputation. In his book on the financial collapse, “To Big to Fail,” Andrew Ross Sorkin depicts a pantheon of banking CEOs who put their own agendas ahead of not only their companies’ bottom lines but the wellbeing of the global economy.

Hint: Try to discover what the real corporate goal is. If you’re driving to enhance profitability through risk-taking, but the Main Man is motivated by fear, you will not get ahead. Become acquainted with the psychological makeup the boss. Is he motivated by greed? Jealousy? Ego? Endeavors that feed his motivations will be the ones to gain support.

Myth #2: People want to know if there are problems

Truth: Most businesses already know that the marketing woman surfs Facebook all day and that the VP of Technology’s emails are virus-infected. If they wanted to change it, they would have done so already. This kind of dirt is supposed to stay tidily under the rug. No one wants you showing up with a broom.

Problem-pointer-outers often indulge a fantasy that they’re nobly crusading against the conformist organization. However, in his book, “Whistleblowers: Broken Lives and Organizational Power,” C. Fred Alford points out that many whistleblowers are actually angry individuals, who isolate themselves from coworkers friends and family.

Hint: Learn to distinguish between problems that can be identified and those that can’t. If someone has been there for a while, they’re not likely to be out the door because of something you point out. If a practice is entrenched, it’s not likely to shift.

When you do identify something that might be changeable, don’t red flag the problem and walk away. Instead, bring a solution.

Myth #3: Complaining co-workers will support you

Most companies are one big bandwagon of complainers.

However, the minute you go to a meeting and introduce the idea of restructuring the circulation department, those vociferous whiners will go nose-down into their blackberries.

Jeannie Daniel Duck calls corporate transformation efforts a “Change Monster”— the title of her book. Far from wanting to change, most people, she says, enthusiastically embrace stagnation.

Hint: Like attracts like. Which means most companies have employees who are at home in the organization. They may not be happy, per se. But something about being there works for them, or they would leave. Granted, right now people may stay in their jobs because of fear of the recession. But this pattern holds just as true in non-recessionary times.

Myth #4: Being right will get you ahead
Truth: Career-wise, about the only thing worse than being wrong is being right. Many citizens of cubby-land harbor a private fantasy of being proven correct. You said if they did not upgrade the computers disaster would ensue. Secretly you hope for the day when the servers melt down and you can forward your email predicting doom.

Step away from the keyboard. Most particularly if someone on high up disagreed with your point. Be prepared for those above your head to co-opt your thinking and say it was all their idea.

Hint: Give up the need to be right. Famous anger-management psychologist Albert Ellis coined the term “must-erbation”—that incessant inner voice that screams people must agree with us, we must convert them to our point of view. People, however, are allowed to believe whatever they want, even that the earth is flat. If you need to prove yourself right all the time (and thereby make others wrong) you do not have the level Zen needed to succeed in business.

Myth #5: Companies change
Truth: A company only changes if there is change at the top. It’s the rare leader who is made of stern enough stuff to shift his point of view. As noted by “Change Monster” author Jeannie Duck, when confronted with something they have done wrong, most people look for someone or something to blame. They do not pause, examine their responsibility for the situation, and resolve to mend the faults in their characters. Right now, the Great Recession is serving as one huge fig leaf, with dozens of CEOs pointing to it as the cause of all corporate ills.

Hint: Choose good companies to work for. Many times the quality of the company and the person you work for is much more important to your overall happiness than the job description itself. The recession won’t last forever, and when it ends, set your sights on courageous companies that hold themselves to account and embrace growth.