Why I Became the Corporate Cynic

Someone once said that the road to hell was paved with good intentions. So it is in corporate America. The plans, programs and policies employed by even the most honest and forthright companies to promote a healthy organizational climate very often fail to produce the intended results. Despite the best of intentions, the plans are soon abandoned and forgotten. The programs fail and the policies appear to be worth no more than the paper they were written on. The organization becomes infected with cynicism and frustration. Morale suffers. There may even be a myriad of casualties (usually some innocent employees) strewn along the way. Everyone begins to look for answers. New plans are developed. New programs and policies are rolled out and the process repeats itself again and again.

An in-depth investigation into these failures, however, would reveal that the original plans were sound. The programs and polices were intelligently crafted and well intended. What else could account for this phenomenon? Sad to say, but history will continue to repeat itself because of the one item most frequently overlooked during the postmortem: management.

Management is that group of individuals charged with the execution of these plans, programs and policies. I will include all levels from vice president down to foremen in my definition of this group. Since these managers run the company, it is here where the attention should be focused. In my opinion, the telltale sign that an organization has serious management problems occurs when and employee, usually at the water cooler or over a cup of coffee, is overhead to say, “Had I been in charge, I would have done things 180 degrees differently.”

During my now thirty years in midlevel management at small, medium and large companies, I’ve often felt that way myself. Whenever I think that I’ve seen it all, I’m surprised again. But in spite of the fact that I am the consummate corporate cynic, I have always given the company at least “20 degrees” for having good intentions. So while I myself might have not have done things 180 degrees differently, I certainly would have by 160.

About five years ago and probably out of pure frustration with the “system”, I wrote a book about those 160 degrees of deviation that needed correcting. After recalling all of my observations and personal experiences, I decided to offer my opinions on how those deviations could be identified and fixed. A review of my finished work revealed a distinctly cynical view of the corporate world. I guess that was to be expected. And so be it! I titled by book, “160 Degrees of Deviation: The Case for Corporate Cynic.” I am by no means an expert on organizational culture but I sure am a product of it!

Jerome Alexander MBA CPA


2 Responses to “Why I Became the Corporate Cynic”

  1. Oliver Nyumbu Says:

    I like the feel and thrust of this Jerome. My view is that orgnaisations can easily breed cynicism by rehearsing their failure to deliver on promises. You are quite right about the crucial role of management. Research suggests that 70% of people who resign their jobs say they are leaving their line manager rather than their employing organisation as such. Call yourself a Corporate Cynic is you like but I think Corporate Realist works just as well.

  2. thecorporatecynic Says:

    Thank for your comments, Oliver. One of the points that I try to deliver through this blog and these posts is that companies and managers DO NOT have to act in this manner.

    Sad to say, I have found these behaviors are becoming the norm in business today.

    Hope you stop by again, I enjoyed your comment.


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