I went for a walk today and as I was walking I was thinking about my job situation. I’ve also been reading a lot of futurist websites lately, and a lot of them are about Artificial Intelligence, or AI. How do these two things relate?
Consider the following quote:
“The AI does not hate you, nor does it love you, but you are made out of atoms which it can use for something else.” — Eliezer Yudkowsky – http://yudkowsky.net/singularity/ai-risk
The quote is about AI, the assumption being that unless it is specifically programmed to be friendly towards humans, it won’t be.
A slightly modified version of this quote could apply to Corporations, in relation to their employees:
“The Corporation does not hate you, nor does it love you, but it pays you money that it could be using for something else.”
This is true of most traditional, vertically integrated corporations, whether they are publicly held, privately held, or ’employee owned.’
It is possible, however, to organize a corporation such that the first part of my version of the quote is not true. (See, for example, this list: http://www.worldblu.com/awardee-profiles/2011.php ) But the vast majority of corporations are not organized that way. In most corporations, the low-level employees have almost no idea what is going on at the top, and the top has almost no idea what is going on at the bottom.
At most corporations, the low-level employees learn about decisions, even major decisions, after they are already made. I’ve been on the receiving end of this several times in the past few years. This is wrong, and completely backwards! It’s also extremely frustrating for the low-level folks.
Unfortunately, my soon-to-be-employer is a corporation that operates this way. I know this because my current boss told us that some of their people that we met with shortly after the sale announcement only knew one day before we did! Lame! This was a major decision. We should have known about this months ago! It may not have changed the final outcome, but at least we’d have had advance warning instead of having it sprung on us at the last minute!
Even better would have been to have a meeting and discuss the possibilities, and maybe, just maybe, have come up with some better ideas. Likely? Maybe not, but possible? Definitely.
So why do so many companies operate this way, and why do so many people (employees) put up with it? I don’t know for sure, but my guess is fear and inertia. Companies are afraid of what their employees might think/do if they knew about decisions ahead of time, and employees would rather put up with it than try to change things or find a new job.
What is needed instead is transparency and courage, two things which are in short supply at most corporations.
It may be time for me to explore my options for working for a better, more transparent, more courageous company, or help my new company become such a company. Wish me luck?
Until next time: Have fun, don’t die, and make mine Marvel!