Why You Got 99 (%) Problems in your Organization

If there’s one aspect of organizational dynamics that chaps my hide it’s the elitism that naturally surfaces due to the structural settings inherent in corporate hierarchies.

In our capitalist power-network we have several specific classes: the business-owning class, the self-employed and small-business owners, and the working-class. We can also certainly argue that there is another class consisting of highly trained professionals (physicians, lawyers, etc.) who, by virtue of intellect or specialization, have a place at the top of the power structure and remain in close proximity to the business-owning class.

Let’s face it though – in many organizations there are essentially two classes:

  • the big boys (and I have no problem referring to the elites in that gendered manner)
  • everybody else

Everybody else, of course, being the 99%. Those of us who are not the top dog.

But our tendency, as human beings, is to assert our own exceptionalism by scrambling and clawing our way to the pinnacle of some sort of mountain. It’s why here in my state of Louisiana, when yet another cringe-inducing report highlights our rank as 49th in something, Louisianians like to say “Hey! At least we’re not Mississippi!”  It’s why evil reigns in the world as our citizens – and politicians – successfully “other” people.  It’s why the unseen aspects of caste, as explored by Isabel Wilkerson in her masterful book (seriously; go read it), not only formed who we are as the USofA but continue to permeate our everyday lives.

And within our organizations we thrive on this shit. We memorialize the divisions. We idolize the few over the many. We glorify those who are sitting atop the mountain peak…and we install artificial barriers to prevent others from scaling the slope.

Far too many middle managers and HR leaders (glorified middle-managers), intoxicated by their amorphous organizational power, forget they are actually a member of the 99%. So rather than speaking truth to power or fighting the good fight, they bask in their ability to impose organizational constraints that serve little purpose other than shoring up their own unabashed desire to consider themselves part of the company’s 1% club.

We see this when they:

  • Implement attendance policies that promote flexibility for the elite and punish the masses for being 1 minute late to work
  • Have “leadership team” dinners, retreats and outings while wondering why the masses aren’t ecstatic (!) because Fred’s Ice Cream Truck will be coming to the parking lot for an hour on a summer Friday
  • Readily negotiate benefit offerings with the elite (“No problem Dave; we’ll give you 4 weeks of vacation on date of hire”) while lamenting the “excessive” use of sick/vacation time used by the masses
  • Enroll the elites in the “Wine of the Month” club while handing out company-branded water bottles to the plebes in the warehouse
  • Provide a super special parking lot (close to the building! Can’t let them get their expensive leather loafers wet!) that’s barely 25% full while the masses park far (far) away
  • Deploy seemingly arbitrary and capricious steps in the employee selection process including post=offer screening for recreational marijuana usage for *safety sensitive* positions even while Bob the SVP of Sales openly celebrates 420 day with reckless abandon

Gotcha. Corporations, business entities and governmental institutions are not democracies. Someone has to make the difficult decisions. We reward and recognize on merit, performance and other measurements that are commensurate with “value” to the organization. To the victors go the spoils.

But here’s a tip: if you’re in HR you best remember the 99%. Because YOU, my friend, are one of them.


One thought on “Why You Got 99 (%) Problems in your Organization

  1. .Wow! Bitter Much? This screams “entitlement”. This great nation was/is built on Ameritocracy – from the humble beginnings of immigrants landing on our shores, penniless and determined to make a life for themselves and their children. Through hard work, taking risks, sacrificing and their own efforts they carved out their own destiny. You, my friend, have the same opportunity. So do I. Had I chosen to dig in, put in the hours, make the sacrifice, dedicate myself to reaching summit, through my own efforts, I could be sitting in the C-Suite. Here’s a news flash – “You are OWED NOTHING, NADA”. I have a high school education and have been able to obtain a Regional position with a respected company. Through my own efforts, my own decisions on taking the hard road to develop my skills and knowledge, and the mentorship of other professionals, I have obtained a position, of which I am proud. MY hard work and dedication took me to where I am today. The companies I have worked for OWED ME NADA – but my pay in exchange for my time. ALL Companies hire individuals to perform work. It’s that simple. The company and employee make an agreement “In exchange for your time, to perform these duties, I will pay you.” If you don’t like the “agreement” – don’t take the job! Go somewhere else. If you aren’t hired, maybe you need to develop/improve your attitude, knowledge or skills or all three. If an employee is late, doesn’t perform his/her duties to the company expectations – they should be disciplined or fired. Again, I state “YOU ARE OWED NADA”. Where is the kumbaya coming from? When did having work ethics become an “elitist” slogan. Grow up! Get up, and go to work (on time)! Put in the hours and effort to better your skills and knowledge! Quit whining or move along. We, as corporate America need to stop lowering the bar into “entitlement” and raise the bar back up to achieving great heights by ethics and hard work. WE are entitled to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” nothing else – earn it. BTW – I don’t receive the perks given to the leadership of the companies I have worked for – but then again – they make the decisions, take the risks to ensure that 100’s or 1,000’s have a job.
    I support your freedom to express your opinion – and I will exercise my right to express mine.

Comments are closed.


Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word.