Thoughts in a Meeting: A Monologue on Corporate Dysfunction


I give up. I can't listen to this anymore. You just go on and on about him. No one here likes him. He's a suckup. Suck. Up. That's what he does. He won the Thompson account? I don't think so. Their CEO can't stand him. We won it in spite of him, not because of him.

You think we don't understand how this works? We know. The ones that make the most noise are the ones that get the next promotions.

360 degree reviews? Ha. More like rubber stamps.

I thought this place would be different, but… there were signs.

That smug smile during the interview when I asked about your management style. You said you just "hire the best people and get out of their way."

Did you think that was original? I only heard it at 10 of my last 12 interviews.

I have lots of potential for advancement? Sure, if I'm willing to sacrifice my integrity to play the game.

I could be like him. I could play politics. I could intercept the good news and run to tell you before anyone else. I could blame the failures on people that aren't around or people that I know will take it. I just wouldn't be able to sleep at night.

Thirteen years.

Four companies.

It's always the same…

I like to work. I want to contribute.

Now I'm just trying to cope. All I have ever wanted was the chance to be a part of something great. But I'm not sure there is such a thing as a great company.

The system feeds on itself.

I bet that's what happened to you. You probably started here and wanted to make a difference but… over time you realized you can't. People are scared. Nobody really wants change, they only say they do. You figured that out. You probably played the game because you had to. Now you don't even remember what life is like without it.

The system ate you up.

I bet you used to think for yourself. You probably sat in meetings but couldn't get a word in. Your boss was busy so all the information he got came from the guy that talked the most. Talked about nothing, but still talked.

Sometimes nothing sounds like something. The boss thought it did, and promoted the talker. That's how the system starts. One bad egg.

Eventually you gave in. You realized that no one wanted truth. No one cared about substance. You said nothing, but you said it so that it sounded like something. You gave the right appearance, and that's all that matters.

Now you have the position you want but… I don't know whether I feel envy or pity for you.

He'll invite us all out for drinks, now that you are promoting him. We have to go. Otherwise it looks bad. None of us want to though. We know he is your favorite.

How can you pretend that you don't play favorites? We've had six different strategies in the last two years. They all failed. Or else we didn't give them a real chance.

And who did you punish? The ones you don't like.

You let her off. You know who. It was really her fault but… you like her. You pushed the failure off on the people you thought were a threat.

The people that were better than you.

The people you should have been promoting.

(Yawn) Is this meeting almost over?

Yeah yeah, new strategy. Blah Blah Blah. You wonder why no one takes you seriously. Maybe if you took yourself seriously.

Finally. The last slide.

Our thoughts? You want our thoughts? I bet you don't get any.

I know what people are thinking. They are thinking about how to pretend to work on this until you change it and everything is moot. They are thinking about who they can blame. That's what the system teaches them to think.

Questions? Yeah, I have one. Why do we reward dysfunction?

Why doesn't anyone say what they mean or mean what they say?

Why does an honest opinion get used as a tool for corporate politics?

No, I don't have any questions. I know you only asked to be polite. I know how this game works. We're all just going through the motions.

I feel sick to my stomach.

Note: This doesn't represent any real situation, but an accumulation of bad work experiences. I just felt like writing something different.

  • Great post. I knew this was in you.
    You remind me of Paddy Chayefsky’s script for the movie Network. You know, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”
    There are companies that run the way you want Rob. They’re not dysfunctional. They’re not filled with “zeros, frauds, and bastards” (as David Ogilvy described the ad business). But they’re rare.

  • Gene

    A fresh breeze of honesty. Brilliant!

  • And there you have it: The reasons I am an entrepreneur.

  • Rob

    I do want to add, in response to several emails, that this has nothing to do with my current job. I actually have an extremely long leash. The catalyst for the post was several emails with old friends, which made me reflect on previous work experiences where I wasn’t so happy.

  • Jay

    That was great.

    We taped Studio 60 to check it out, since we had liked West Wing. Otherwise we’d not have even thought of watching. We watched it last night after House and Standoff.

    Your post reminded me of the guy at the beginning of the show who gets 53 seconds live on the air, after interrupting an unfunny skit on a failing SNL-like live show, to rant about how the show is no longer funny and people ought to change the channel and how the FCC and other PC factors have neutered the show. His rant was triggered by the pulling at the last minute of a skit, funnier than any they’ve done in four years, that might offend the religious right.

    Funny timing. And way too true!

  • Wow that Studio 60 bit is lifted from the Howard Beal rant in “Network.” Did they credit Chayefsky or call it a “hommage”?

  • Jay

    Yes, kind of. They made some references to Network, both among the people in th studio and in the snippets of various newscasts covering what had transpired.

  • lisa

    I can’t imagine living with a job like this day after day after day…

    I know there are people who live like this, I personally would live on bread and water under a bridge rather than work in this kind of world!

  • Auntie Em.

    I like your style of writing. And it sounds like the corporation I use to work for and it’s beginning to sound and be like the food service corporation I’m working for now.

  • This proves that if you have the right connections you can whatever you want to do. Our opinion seems less important each day, we must show them the opposite.