Corporate Secrets from Generation X to Generation Y

So you’ve completed college and started your first job.  You probably started out enjoying things, but soon became frustrated by the various rules and policies that you found.  You can’t understand why you need to come in at a certain time instead of having a schedule that you can adjust around your life.  You submit ideas for improving things, but just have them rejected.  You honestly want to make things better, but no one seems to be listening to you.

Here are a few things to consider and that may not make you feel better, but at least give you some insights you may not have considered:

1)  The primary purpose of any business is to make money for the owners.  It is not to give people jobs.  It is not to save the environment or promote some social agenda.  This is not evil but fundamentally good.  The more money a company makes the better job it is doing meeting the needs of its customers, and meeting people’s needs is a noble thing to do even if you are financially rewarded for doing so.  (It is true that there are some companies that make money through deceit and dishonest practices, but they don’t tend to last long).

Jobs are a byproduct of the business and most business owners would choose to do everything themselves if they could since, quite frankly, having employees is a hassle.  Think of all of the time spent doing payroll, filling out forms for the IRS, and learning and complying with the various regulations that employers must do.  Add on top of this dealing with the various personalities, and suddenly you wonder why anyone hires anyone else at all.

Unless a person at a job enables the company to make more money than they cost in salary, benefits, and infrastructure there is no reason to keep them employed.  If you demand more than you provide, such that the company does not make enough from your work to cover the expense of having you on the payroll, you will eventually be let go, either through a layoff or when the company shuts down.  (I wonder if the rise of unions and the hassle with dealing with the various work rules that resulted is a big reason a lot of manufacturing went overseas.  With all of the cost of shipping, dealing with foreign governments and cultural differences, it is not like it is something companies would do on a whim.  Maybe with a few concessions and a reduction in some of the truly destructive work rules, more factory jobs would return.)

2.  If you want to make more money or otherwise move up in a company, you need to be more valuable to the company.  This means that your actions and the products you produce must make more money for the company.  This means figuring out the needs of the company and meeting those.  The more money the company makes, the more they can pay you and the more perks they can provide.  If you do make a lot more money for the company and are not rewarded appropriately, you should look elsewhere for employment – that is your choice.

3.  There are usually good reasons for the way things are done.  It is not always just because “it has always been done that way.”  Realize that having a successful business does not just come through luck.  It is very competitive, causing things to be done a certain way out of necessity, and many of the practices and processes in place are due to the evolution of the company.

Take the time to talk with some of the higher-ups in the company and ask why processes you object to are done as they are.  Not in an adversarial, gripe-session way, but in a respectful way that shows genuine curiosity.  You will probably find that 1) people in the management chain have very high charisma and conversational skills, since this is a critical skill for management.  2) For many of the processes you despise, there are very good reasons for them.  Unless you really understand the reasoning behind the decisions, you really can’t make good suggestions for improvements.

If you take the time to gather information, you will both have a better understanding of how a company is run and why they make the decisions they make.  You will also get exposure with your management chain (good exposure if you are respectful and genuinely curious).  You will also start to be known as a person with ideas and with an interest in how the company functions.  This may result in you being involved when such policies are reviewed and changed.

4.  A large peeve I’ve heard from Gen y’ers is that they would like a flexible schedule and/or the ability to telecommute.  Realize again that the purpose of the business is to make money for the owners (see point one).  There are a lot of good reasons to have people together and all on the same schedule.  If you work in a job that requires interfacing with customers, obviously you need to be there when the customers are.  Even if you don’t interface with customers, most jobs require a lot of interaction with coworkers.  While it might be better for your schedule to work from noon until 8:30 PM, or from 5 AM until 1:30, there may be people who need to ask you a question or have you involved in a meeting and if you are not around, it makes it more difficult.

Telecommuting means that you are almost never available for face-to-face discussions, which are extremely valuable for a business.  Remember that businesses pay thousands of dollars for people to travel and meet for a few hours, so obviously face time is important.  There can be some jobs that you really can do with little interaction, but for many this is not the case.  Realize also that if people don’t see you, you are easy to forget.  It also makes it easier to eliminate you if you are not normally around since even if you are doing a great job, at some level in your coworkers’ minds you are already part way out the door.

5.  Keep your passion.  While all of your suggestions will not be taken, don’t give up the fight to change things for the better.  Rather than expecting things to change because you suggest that they should, however, realize that it may require you to work your way up in the company and make the changes.  There are also things that you may not be able to change universally, but you can change them at your level.  Think that the company should offer more training?  Consider budgeting more training for projects you lead.  Think that meetings are a waste of time?  Consider implementing other communication methods for your projects.

Also, a coworker of mine was fond of saying that “Science progresses one funeral at a time.”  The same is true with corporate policy.  Realize that things may not change overnight, but you can have your chance in the future.

6.  Finally, expand your information outside of your social contacts.  With the advent of Facebook, Twitter, and blogs, it is easy to start to believe that you have all of the answers, and that things would be so much better if people would just listen to you.  Realize that people have been working on ideas for thousands of years, and it is mostly the good ideas that have remained.  A wise person realizes how little they know and is always striving to learn more.  Read some of the great books (they’re great for a reason.)  Talk to people outside of your circle of friends, especially if they don’t share your viewpoints, and listen and process what they have to say.  Some of the time it may strengthen your viewpoints.  Other times you may reject what you read or hear.  Unless you are exposed to new ideas and learn from the past, however, you will never grow.

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Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning or tax advice.  It gives general information on investment strategy, picking stocks, and generally managing money to build wealth. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. Tax advice should be sought from a CPA.  All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.

Picture Credits: Sanja Gjenero, downloaded from stock.xchng

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