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Management Side
Saying goodbye to the corporate torture chamber

For the past few weeks, I've been hearing a radio advertisement on WLW Radio in Cincinnati, Ohio that always brings a moment or two of laughter.
In fact, the commercial spot is so good that I'm almost concerned (almost!) that radio listeners won't remember the business sponsor because they're too busy laughing or nodding in agreement.
Here's the essence of the marketing spot.
This is a retirement speech to the company. The retiree, obviously thrilled to be leaving the insanity of one of those "We sleep with our profit margins" corporate conglomerates, says the following in his going-away address:
"First, I would like to thank most of the folks on floors 4, 6, 7, and 12. I spent a little time on each of those floors, usually moving up and down, after some company acquired, the company, acquiring us.
"I honestly don't even know what company I am retiring from anymore, but I do know that I am happy to retire from it, and for that, I thank the Mutual Fund Store (the ad sponsor).
"Without them, I would have been stuck in this GOD-FORSAKEN, SOUL-STEALING, MISMANAGED, CORPORATE TORTURE CHAMBER, for who knows how many more years, instead of retiring today!
"Thank you. I am outta here."
For full disclosure, the Mutual Fund Store is not one of our advertisers. (Though we would welcome them.)
This ad brings back memories - memories accumulated after more than half a dozen jobs over three-plus decades in the print industry.
One that I shared with friends recently was this. Prior to the start of a late spring 2009 corporate meeting - which proved to be a bit of a prelude to the formation of one company followed by the bankruptcy of another, several newspapermen were discussing the idiocy of the "corporate model."
Once the meeting got under way, of course, the corporate cat that pays
their salaries got the tongues of most of them.
Not all, but most. (They remind me of those poor souls with nothing more than Facebook muscles. What a sad existence.)
To the best of my recollection, I endured two more meetings with that corporate conglomerate before resigning without notice in the summer of 2009. (Those are even more interesting stories.)
But let's move on.
The message of the Mutual Fund Store advertisement, as I interpret it, is that everyone must take a measure of responsibility for his or her long-term financial independence.
By taking that responsibility, this anonymous retiree was able to walk away from the ever-changing ownership of the corporate elevator that traveled between floors 4, 6, 7 and 12. Or, in other terminology, cubicles 1 through 4.
Unlike what a pampered few online bloggers who've never sustained lasting employment might have you believe, corporations are not bad things. In fact, by and large, they are very good things. They provide jobs to millions of Americans. They provide even more jobs to millions of non-Americans.
But they also have their shortcomings. Many of those shortcomings are so apparent in areas of middle management - where too much authority in the hands of an ignoramus can be a bad thing and a detriment to the company's overall well-being.
The better corporations out there, and I like to think this includes the majority of family owned corporations, understand the real and measurable value of their human resources.
Moreover, many of the smaller, truly local companies do not bother with terms like "human resources" when talking about their co-workers.
Terms like "human resources" remind me of those notorious big-business employee "flow charts" often mandated by dooless wannabes with no worthwhile purpose on this planet.
"So," the mid-manager might begin yet another time-wasting meeting, "Let's talk about your human resources as they pertain to this year's flow chart. How are your direct reports measuring up?"
To which any reasonable person would respond, "What is a 'direct report?'"
As it turns out, "direct report" is another term for a "human resource;" i.e., someone who could appear on the latest "flow chart" with absolutely no identity whatsoever. Just an anonymous line-item entry in the latest budget.
And some corporations wonder why nobody gives a spit.
A far better approach to a successful business, it seems to me, would be to show some degree of appreciation to those who've helped establish and maintain said business.
Good businesses recognize good employees. Good businesses understand that these people are not "direct reports," they are co-workers.
Good businesses stand and deliver on their own merits. They do not steal or "borrow" from other businesses.
And, Lord knows, they don't have mid-level hacks waste everybody's time with asinine meetings just to hear themselves speak to human resources and direct reports who are obligated to listen.
At an Ohio Board of Regents meeting in Columbus several years ago, I heard former Regents Chancellor Rod Chu (I think that was his name) say that a board meeting was often little more than a group of people sitting in a room, admiring a problem. (Or something like that.)
Speaking of meetings, in a recent online column, Helen Roush, the vice president of Communications Sciences at Paperitalo Publications, asked the following rhetorical questions:
Have you ever attended a business meeting that seemed to go on forever, seemed pointless or boring? Have you ever attended a meeting that became a free for all or turned into nothing more than a "bitch session?" Have you ever seen a business meeting less controlled than an elementary school recess or where personal attacks broke out?
Obviously, Helen has been there and is all-too familiar with the process.
The best corporations - and the ones that people want to work with - are those that appreciate their co-workers' efforts and do not waste
their time.
And they don't do employee flow charts.

Rory Ryan is Senior Editor, North American Desk, at Paperitalo Publications and the owner of The Highland County Press in Hillsboro, Ohio. He can be reached by email at or

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