A British-American bluestocking living in the UK writes about politics, pop culture, and emerging new paradigms as they unfold on both sides of the Atlantic. (New content.)

Monday, 21 May 2012

How Corporate Culture Destroys the Innocent

A few years ago, in a very elegant hotel in Hong Kong, I was privy to a conversation between three or four middle management executives. After getting sloshed on a few drinks, two of them started to tell stories about how business deals were struck in a recent trip to a Pacific Rim country. They told how they had gone to a business meeting that was followed by a banquet and that after they had eaten, they were greeted with a parade of prostitutes and told to "pick the one they wanted" to seal the deal. I remember feeling sick to my stomach. It probably wouldn't have mattered to me much, except that at the time, I was in a relationship with one of the people present at that meeting (who was sober, thankfully.) I remember images flashing through my mind, of countless business trips when he had "fallen asleep and just forgotten to call." I wondered what was truth and what wasn't.  It was on that night in that hotel in Hong Kong that I knew I wasn't in Kansas anymore, I realized at that moment that I had possibly walked into a big rabbit hole. I was being introduced  to the  behaviour of a  corporate culture that had its own moral code: make money and make it in any way possible. There is a whole set of rules in this corporate culture: the rules of no rules. It was every man for himself and any excess was fine as long as you could write it off as a "business expenditure" and make sure that you "sealed the deal." In the next years, I was introduced to the "half-truth" (what you say isn't false, but you aren't telling the whole story), the world of the adult bully and the world of "just look the other way and don't ask questions." The idea of "God" is a myth. Accountability? Not an option. If you can get away with it, do it. I wish that I could say that I was just an observer, but I wasn't. I was a victim of the best. I learned that "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" wasn't just a catchy motto. I learned that it extended to other cities:  what happens in Beijing, Singapore, Seoul, Munich, Kuala Lumpur, Sydney, Tokyo (and everything in between) stays there, too...and sears through any relationship attempting to be built on truth and integrity.

I always thought that gangs were found in the streets, marking up neighborhoods with grafitti and wearing distinct hoodies. There are more nefarious gangs and these are the men (and some women, I have to say) who wear their suits and ties, wheel and deal and run over anyone they can in their quest for power and money. When we talk about the "banksters" who were responsible for the collapse of the world economy, they are just the tip of the iceberg, underneath the frigid waters are millions of lesser executives in all sorts of positions all around the globe in all sorts of corporations who prop up their "bigger bosses." What I saw, too, was how chasing the "big deal" was never about the profit, it was really about the sport.  Successful corporate culture is always about seeing how much you can get away with...on every level possible. Can you win the largest contract to get the promotion? Can  you find the next company that will be open to your pitch? Can you hire someone that has good qualifications and a good set of pins so you can possibly sleep with her on business trips, even though you have a perfectly wonderful wife back home? Can you be subtle enough to do a good enough job to topple your adversaries in the office as covertly as possible? It's all in the name of the game, and if you want to play, you have to play dirty on all counts, don't you? How big can you lie and get away with it?  That's the game...that's the sport...that's the seamy side of how corporate culture works.

The newspapers are always filled with corporate bosses and/or men who have been toppled. And invariably, it is usually because he has been "caught cheating". He has either been caught cheating on his taxes, cheating in a business deal or most likely, cheating on his wife. They don't see anything wrong with what they do. To them, this is all just part of the way things work in their world. They live in "Never Never Land": Never tell the whole truth, Never rat on your colleagues personal indiscretions (or they may rat on you) and never, ever get caught in the lies you tell, no matter what. And because of these "unwritten rules of no rules", the families involved with these people and caught in this web suffer the most. Many a woman has spent sleepless nights while her husband is away on business trips where there is no accountability at all for his actions. And because many men in these structures are often cold, ruthless and without compassion, they really have no feelings or emotions around the nefarious things they do.

Studies have shown that corporate culture attracts, breeds and fosters people with disturbing tendencies bordering on sociopathic/psychopathic. Dr John Clarke, author of  the book, Working with Monsters talks about how corporations reward the very behaviour that can victimize their colleagues and families. He writes: "When the victim publicly suffers, the psychopath derives enjoyment from seeing evidence they’re able to hurt and conquer another person.There’s an absolute lack of conscience, lack of remorse, and lack of guilt. They’re manipulative, superficially charming, and pathological liars. They like conning people and there’s a grandiose sense of self-importance.”  The workplace, according to Dr Clarke, seems to be the place where this type thrives. “People actually like them,” he says. “They use their excellent verbal abilities to create this false persona and people find them exciting, dynamic and engaging, and they use that to camouflage the torture they’re inflicting."  If the corporate culture rewards this behaviour (think Gordon Gecko) can you imagine the havoc this personality creates at home?  According to Dr Clarke, this personality disorder cannot even be rehabilitated. "Rehabilitation programs teach them better social skills, and the psychopath then uses those better social skills to target victims more effectively.”  What happens to their victims?  Victims of these people usually experience depression and suicidal tendencies simply because they continue to get caught in the web of the manipulation. And the more one is traumatized by one of these glib mad men, the harder it is to get away. Corporations like these guys and hire them because they don't care who they hurt and what they need to do to get the job done. Get it?

Usually, this personality is found in someone who felt powerless in childhood and at some point had a significant experience where he realized that he could exert power over someone and it was like a drug. The craving for power and the ability to control and manipulate people is their drug of choice. The sad thing is that they use the same tactics (charm, effusiveness, grandiosity) to lure people in. By the time their victim has figured them out, they are in quicksand. And when you get wise to their tactics, they feign remorse and "promise to change" but they never do. They simply reel you in tighter with their lies.

Corporations continue to thrive because they reward this behaviour. They send their top people to places where they can have their "perks" and no one will be the wiser. They put their executives in positions where the family is always secondary to profit. And usually the men they hire are fine with that. Who wouldn't want to be at a resort for a week where no one knows what they do?  Families and marriages and relationships are destroyed because of the complete lack of accountability, morality and integrity on a personal level. The corporation rules. Everyone and everything else is collateral damage.

About the only bit of karmic retribution is that sexual harrassment lawsuits against bosses are on the rise. The boss makes his move, she thinks it might help her career. She has second thoughts and slaps him with a lawsuit which will give her enough money to make her own future elsewhere. Then there is the other scenario ( which takes a bit longer). The boss sleeps with his colleague and she thinks it is "forever" and he never leaves his wife. He thinks he has the best of both worlds. Miss Mistress gets fed up and rewards him with a day in court. He insists it was "consensual" but he can't really prove it. He loses his job and tanks his career. His colleague takes half his pension. All for a "bit of fun". Prostitutes abroad also are raking it in. They have figured out they can get photos of their clients credit cards on their I-Phones while he is in the shower. If they are quick, they can make off with his Rolex watch and a buttered croissant off the breakfast tray and exit the hotel before he can towel himself off. That night, she will be counting her pounds, laughing at how she duped the "stupid man at the bar."  And the guy in the shower thinks he has really scored big and more than that, his wife will never know That's how the sense of grandiosity in these men plays out. They cannot see their own dark shadows. It's always said that the wife is the last to know. Wives know the truth: that they are the first to know. It's just that they keep hoping they are wrong and it takes time for them to say something. In the end, the house of cards comes crashing down. That's the law of karma. No one is safe from that immutable law. Even if it takes years, there will be a great reckoning.

So, when people vilify the "banksters" and shout about how economies are collapsing, it is important to note that the whole system is built on lies, manipulation and deceit...on all levels. It doesn't just take investors as victims...it takes whole families and plunders them, too. Even the innocent get tied to the railroad tracks in the pursuit of profits.

But you know... the perpetrator doesn't feel a thing. He's hardwired to hurt without compassion. That's why he is indispensible to the company.