Thank you for coming to this all-hands meeting, which I invited you to via a series of coy emails with subjects like “It’s Big Ideas Time” in an attempt to get you to buy-in to a series of decisions before you hear them, because I feared and still fear the possibility that you will rebel from a top-down management style that I try to play off as democratic. Robin, the lights?
As any Buddhist will tell you, the only thing we are sure of in life is change, and that the best way to start a speech is with a bit of wisdom that, while true, becomes diminished and actually kind of offensive in a managerial context. I also have some John Wooden quotes I could relay to you, but you’re probably already familiar with them due to my email signature.
This is our situation: things here are going well, really well actually, but not as well as an imaginary benchmark that people who don’t work here have created. People, generally speaking, some group of people, somewhere far away, don’t have confidence in us. Investors are wary, some of them. The public, well, only about 80% of the public is on our side. And when people’s confidence in us is only medium-to-medium-high, this creates all sorts of issues for us, none of which actually matter, but some of which matter to me.
So I brought in some people. Call them consultants, call them decision-makers, call them experts fluent in the type of business-speak that you find in the section of the bookstore where Trump’s books are, the point is, they are very good at making you think they know what they’re talking about, even when their skill set mainly involves making wealth inequality much worse, alienating workers from each other and from the results of their work, and using “data” as a generic catchall answer to the question, “Why, dear God why, are you doing all this?” I trust them because they cost money. They cost money because people trust them. Everybody trusts them. They cost a lot of money. And I don’t want to admit that I misspent funds, so I feel obliged to pay attention to them.
What they told me is, we need to adapt to a changing ecosystem. Metaphorically speaking, we need to grow a new skin or some kind of third stomach, suitable for the new sorts of metaphor plants that are now growing in our competitive forest. Our sector isn’t the same as it was ten years ago. And so we can do the same things we’ve always done, or we can stand on two legs for the first time, put on some Jordans, and jump for fruit that we used to collect by looking for undigested scraps in large mammals’ droppings.
What does this mean for you? It’s actually quite straightforward: we are going to immediately and irrevocably change your responsibilities, alter your workflow, needlessly complicate our management structure, and dramatically transform how you relate to external and internal stakeholders. Each of these changes has been painstakingly considered by people who don’t work here, or by people who do work here but are isolated from the results of their decisions by a series of structures which ensure that they basically don’t understand what goes on here on a day-to-day basis. The nature of my knowledge is piecemeal, incomplete, and incoherent, and that’s why it’s so valuable: because it’s mine.
I’ll be a little more detailed: whereas before you had projects that made you think, “This is difficult, but I can get it done,” now you’ll have projects that will make you think, “I don’t know what this is, I don’t know who to ask what this is, and nobody in my vicinity has any clue what’s happening.” Whereas before you had a team and a supervisor, now you’ll have a “network of colleagues,” the exact nature of which is deeply mysterious, and who you can’t count on for much of anything because it’s unclear who has what responsibility. Whereas before you had a small group of people who you mentored, now you won’t be mentoring anybody with consistency, and thus the part of your job that made you think, “You know what, I matter,” has now disappeared. Whereas before you received twenty-five emails per day, now you will receive ninety-five emails per day because you will be part of several new “horizontal groups” that have strange acronyms and you don’t know why they exist. Whereas before, when you received an email, you would think to yourself, “I understand the words that are inside this email,” now when you receive an email, you will think, “Was this sent to me by mistake? What even is this?” Whereas before it was clear what your relationship with external stakeholders was, now, in the guise of being more “transparent,” you will receive endless questions you don’t know the answers to, from people you don’t know, and when you tell them you’ll go looking for an answer, they get upset because their answer doesn’t come in a timely fashion. Whereas before there was a clear career path along which you could advance, now it’s every person for themselves in a sort of schmoozefest-to-the-top that is quite frankly sickening. Whereas before we had bring-your-dog-to-work day, now you will have bring-your-work-home day, which is every day. Whereas before you more-or-less trusted upper-level management, now you will not trust us at all, and you will mine our various communications for further signs of deterioration, the result of which will be a near total loss of faith in our ability to shepherd this organization, the further result of which will be a loss of motivation to do your job well, because if management is screwing up so badly, what’s the point of anything?
It’s important to note that your best friend at this job will quit in three weeks.
It’s important to note that my decisions arose from a place of rationality and careful consideration, and were not the result of intense, all-consuming pressure placed on me by our casino capitalist political economy that values change for its own sake, fetishizes “leadership”—by which I mean reckless self-aggrandizement instead of prudence and consensus-building — makes you think other people are out to destroy or replace you, provides cover for the lie that CEOs deserve to make three hundred times what their employees make, encourages the proud annihilation of the natural world, has totally warped and degraded the incentives of elected officials, encourages staff to be overworked and underpaid in order to serve the interests of people who have no interest in serving others, and is the reason my mental health has deteriorated while I’ve had this job.
You will not be receiving a raise. But I plan to use my large salary to donate to several charities the minimum amount of money that makes me think I am a good person.
In one month’s time, expect to receive a questionnaire about how things are going, and expect an organization-wide reply three weeks later in which I spin the disastrous feedback into near-universal praise with such saccharine ferocity that you will think I have lost touch with reality as we commonly understand it.
Any questions can be directed to your immediate supervisor, who won’t know the answers because they had no say in my decisions, and to reiterate, they aren’t your supervisor anymore, except they sort of are still? Thank you and, to paraphrase the great Buddha Shakyamuni, we should not live in the past but rather dwell fully in the very strange new present.