Working Wounded: Business Myths


After 10 years of writing Working Wounded I've concluded that there are a lot of myths about work. I thought it would be fun to tackle some of the bigger ones in this week's blog. Check out my list below and send me some of your favorites.

It's impossible to be overpaid when someone else signs the paycheck. Let me offer a short translation of this rule: as long as someone is willing to pay you a ridiculous amount of money to work, then you aren't overpaid because that person has established a market for your services. I disagree.

Corporate salaries are absurd. Cost cutting, layoffs and a myriad of other organizational sacrifices should float more than just the boats of the CEO and a few top executives. I'm no Marxist -- CEOs do deserve a big paycheck when they are successful. But this escalator only seems able to go up.

Greed is good. The biggest problem here is that when Oliver Stone came up with this mantra for his Gordon Gekko character in the movie "Wall Street," it was meant as parody. Yet I hear some variation of it whenever I talk to traders, salespeople, etc.

Henry Ford, hardly a commie himself, once said that only a fool holds out for the last dollar. I think wretched excess is a terrible way to run a company.

The bigger the jerk, the better the boss. Probably my favorite quote on management came from President (and General) Dwight Eisenhower. He once said, "Hitting people over the head isn't leadership, it's assault."

Sure, jerks do get your attention and possibly results over the short term. But most employees will flee at the first chance they get. There are just too many sane bosses out there to continue to slave away for a jerk.

You've got to be first to market. Microsoft seems to me to be the only company that consistently puts second-rate products on the market and lives to tell the tale. The rest of us have to pick our spots, and often the first to market position can't justify launching a crappy product. So it often pays to wait.

Innovation is the middle name of American corporations. Despite rising stock prices and productivity, I believe that corporations in the U.S. are running on fumes. Don't believe me? Listen to most people talk about the management of their companies. It's not a pretty sight.

I see far more innovation right now coming from abroad and from the not-for-profit sector, and I think it's time corporations started walking their talk.

Corporations are drowning in regulation. Tyco, Enron, WorldCom, etc. left in their wake Sarbanes Oxley and a host of other regulations. There is a lot of talk now about how corporations are being held back by senseless regulations.

I hate filling out government forms as much as the next guy, but these laws came into place because of abuse by corporations. And in order to maintain the trust of the average investor these regulations need to remain in effect, no matter how much whining you hear from big business.

The bottom line isn't just the bottom line. If I've learned one thing as an observer of business and the founder of four corporations, it's that there are many bottom lines for a business. In addition to economics, there are also social and environmental considerations. The financials really are only a part of the picture. The soonercorporations take a broader view of the bottom line, the sooner they'll begin to fully reach their potential.

Quote of the Week

"No one regards what is before his feet; we all gaze at the stars." -- Quintus Ennius

Book Excerpt of the Week

From: "Triple Bottom Line" by Andrew W. Savitz (Jossey Bass, 2006)

"Correctly understood and applied, sustainability is about strategy, management, and profits. But in today's interconnected world, thinking about profits as if they were unrelated to the economic and social impacts of what you do to get them is shortsighted and counterproductive. Social and environmental issues are creating risk and opportunities that fundamentally change the playing field for individual firms, industries, and business itself. The best run companies see this and are turning these trends to their advantage."

Blog Ballot Results

Here are the results from a recent Working Wounded Blog/ online ballot:

How do you feel about your current job?

I do call in sick a lot, 8.1 percent
It's a calling, 20.3 percent
It's a job, 68.6 percent

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