I worked at an engineering company for five years. My first four years were wonderful: I had an amazing boss, whom we shall call Amazing Boss henceforth, and we had a great time working together.
Then the company was acquired.
And the new owners hired a bunch of people, including the new CEO, from GE.
If you know anything about how GE works, this is the part that should make you start to worry.
The new CEO started having quarterly town halls.
That part is fine.
But every town hall – indeed, every communication from him, was about the company goal: To earn $3 billion in revenue.
That was it: To Earn A Lot of Money.
Not to Make Great Products. Not to Be The Best in Our Field. Not to Make Customers Happy.
But to Earn A Lot of Money.
I tried to explain to my new boss, who also came from GE and who was in charge of internal communications, that perhaps engineers would relate more to a different goal – one that wasn’t, “Let’s make sure shareholders and executives get rich.”
I told her many many times that the CEO’s message was bad.
“This company leads our space in patents,” I said. “The engineers are super smart people who want to do cool things. That’s what motivates them – not making money for someone else.”
She ignored me and, in less than a year, she re-org’d me out of the company.
While Mr T and I were on vacation, my boss texted me with a question. I understand why he did it – my company is highly bureaucratic and there can be Drama.
It took me less than two minutes to answer the question and – done.
But it was the first time in my entire life that work has contacted me while I was on vacation.
I was not happy.
A dear friend told me that I don’t understand nature of work these days.
But I am not paid enough and I am really not important enough that I need to be available all the time.
A few years ago, as I sat next to a co-worker waiting for a meeting to start, I read that the Teamsters had led a successful initiative to cut executive pay at McKesson.
“Rock on, my union siblings!” I said as I summarized the story for my co-worker.
“They’re just jealous,” he said.
It wasn’t until I was about to fall asleep that night that I came up with the perfect answer, which was, “Oh? Do you think you’re management? Because you’re not. You and I? WE ARE LABOR.”
It took me a long time to reach that realization, but now?
I am labor. And I don’t really care if the execs get rich.