I created Corporate Game Changers for people who want to turn around their bullsh*t job into a positive force for change. Together we can use human-centered leadership and business-for-good practices to pave the way for a better future.
I came across an article yesterday that left me in shock and pretty much sleepless. It was addressed to people conscious of the sustainability challenges of our world but stuck in a bullshit job. The key message was a call-to-action to start the so-called resistance, with the first step being to sabotage the performance of the company you work for.
Beware the anarchist distributing poor career advice
The post called “Bullshits jobs: Small manual of social sabotage declassified by the former CIA” recycles the techniques used by the Allies during the second world war to be deployed from within a company to undermine meetings, processes and decisions.
The summary could be “You are wasting your time in a bullshit job, therefore big companies are your enemy and the best way to help the world is to bring them down.”
I had been receiving this guy’s newsletter for a little while and so far he was making a lot of sense. Like me, he is worried about our collective future; like me, he is worried about selfish capitalism and like me, he is trying to reach individuals to take action in order to create the rules of a new world.
This article however is the knife in a partnership contract which will now never happen.
The advice to slow down or destroy the current system is childish and irresponsible.
His advice if you are “desperate in your bullshit job”, is to “sprinkle over time grains of sand to make the wheels of the system grip”
I quote: “The goal is to slow it down and / or destroy it.”
I don't see how bringing big corporation down and in essence making the economy collapse could in any way bring us closer to a more equitable society.
It is is sick and irresponsible. Childish and anarchist.
Sabotage is career-suicide for the perpetrator and it brings down a company and the people employed in it.
And even if it would work, another company - probably worse, think edge-fund- would take it over and nothing would fundamentally change for the world and its sustainability challenges.
The author of the article describes his actions as “civilized and non-violent” - I think it’s mean and counter-productive.
So, inspired by Jacinda Ardern, I shall give him nothing, not even his name.
Big companies are not the enemy
I agree that bullshit jobs are a pain.
Whether you are at that end of the spectrum where you don’t know how to keep yourself busy each day, or on the other end of the spectrum where you are overwhelmed with stressful deliverables which you know are pointless - I feel you.
I have been there - yep, both ends of the spectrum and many times somewhere in the middle.
Like me, there are millions of people across the world — clerical workers, administrators, consultants, telemarketers, corporate lawyers, service personnel, and many others — who are wasting away in meaningless, unnecessary jobs, and they know it, probably feeling miserable for it.
It still remains that the way our economy runs today - which means the way people get reliable pay checks at the end of the month and the way governments gets tax money - is mostly driven by large companies.
Big companies are inefficient, they are polluting, they are exploiting human capital (at least most of them) - and yet they are the ones enabling employment, mass manufacturing and innovation.
That’s why I believe Big Companies are the best place to start a revolution towards a better world.
Let's upcycle Big Corp
If we could keep the positive aspects of Big Companies - the scale to touch millions (billions!) of lives, the reach across all continents, the speed that governments don’t have, the search for new solutions to new problems, the ability to duplicate what works from one place to the next -...
... and add what is currently missing - collective success rather than individual performance, long-term effect rather than short-term wins, ethics above profits, results before communication, steady reliable progress rather than superficial perfection - ...
...we would have the greatest power house you can imagine to change the world for the better.
Admittedly, a lot of large companies are claiming that they are fully dedicated to their consumers and the planet (just check the similarity of mission statements across the board). The reality of course is less rosy, and even the most advanced in their industry are still a long way from true business-for-good.
Big Corp could be the greatest power house to change the world for the better.
But what these mission statements offer is the possibility to be held accountable.
One way that a company can be held accountable is through media and NGOs. This is limited however by the amount and the veracity of information that reach the external world.
Another way that a company can be held accountable to its commitment is from the inside, by its employees. It is likely to be incredibly powerful because employees do have access to the detailed information.
A case study in corporate activism
Let’s take a practical example of how the power is within.
Suppose a company has a commitment to packaging circularity - like many at the moment.
One way to achieve this is to modify all packaging formats so that the material they are made off can be easily recycled in well-established treatment streams in all countries where they operate - say, paper.
The technical solution would be to replace the full plastic packaging by a majority of paper and a thin layer of plastic which is detachable when throwing it away, so that 98% of the pack can be recycled, and reused and recycled and reused.
And because the plastic is only 2% on the pack, even though the volumes are ever increasing (the basic principle of the market economy remains growth!), the amount of crude oil that needs to be extracted from the ground to make plastic is reduced by 98% versus the full plastic version.
The other way to approach the circularity commitment is to declare that all packaging needs to be 100% recyclable by design. This is what most companies are opting for at the moment.
So the technical solution to that is to change the packaging material from non-recyclable plastic to recyclable plastic.
Except this does not take in consideration the existence and prevalence of the recycling stream - currently very limited. So the pack is in principle recyclable, except that there is no active industry at the back of it to actually transform it into raw material again.
And even if it would be recyclable, the material cannot undergo multiple rounds of recycling without losing of its aesthetic properties - transparency for instance. It can only be circular ONCE. So it will still need new plastic to enter the circle, and the total amount of crude oil required barely goes down.
A whole lot of R&D brain power for an environmental impact close to nil.
A whole lot of R&D brain power for an environmental impact close to nil. While that same brain power could have been put to good use and really move the needle for the environment.
And I am not even talking about the voice of the consumer here - what would they choose if they were presented the options? How come we do not ask?
It may not even be a matter of wrong will from the company, but a matter of imprecise goal setting, lack of depth of managers and leaders and overall disempowering processes.
Transform companies from the Inside Out
This packaging example is a typical situation where experts in the matter can speak up and influence outcomes. This is a situation where corporate activism can make a difference.
This is the real resistance. Helping your company really achieving the goals it have set for itself, and preventing them from falling in the trap of superficially ticking the box. Helping your company truly become business-for-good.
This is the real resistance. Helping your company truly become business-for-good.
The world needs employees to rise to the challenge of making the most of what works - the company deciding to deploy resources behind a more sustainable packaging - while helping it towards change that really move the needle - establishing crude oil needs as the right KPI rather than recyclability.
As compared to my anarchist resistant, I believe that corporate activism is THE way to make the most of a bullshit job. It’s not about picking up all fights - but where you can come into the picture, speak up and help stir your company in the right direction.
And what’s more, as compared to a saboteur operating in the shadow, you may even inspire others to do the same - adding up slowly, one by one to what will become a network of positive force within the company.
You may even get recognised for it and get a career boost.
And who knows? It may even reach a critical mass of employees becoming an internal movement of unstoppable activists… the new corporate normal.
You are not alone feeling stuck in a bullshit job and wanting to have a positive impact onto the world. It’s up to you to decide what you will do with this untapped power - will you use it as a force of destruction or a force for good? Let us know in the comments below!