Recently, I had a very thoughtful discussion with a professional colleague about the changes in corporate life that have taken place over the years. While the most profound changes have occurred since 2000, these changes actually have their contemporary genesis in the boom years of the 1990s before the major economic recessions of the past two decades.
The severe economic upheaval of 2008-2010 clearly served to escalate the evolution and commonality of certain behaviors in corporate life that can actually be dangerous to long term career success. Presently, the “global pandemic” can also serve to encourage such undesirable behaviors and poor decision making.
Journey to being a “Sell Out”
Driven by a strong desire to survive and earn a high income, far too many people have “sold out” in their corporate life. This may not have been a conscious decision for the people who have. Some people feel pressured to “sell out” by the onerous characteristics of the corporate culture around them every work day.
Corporate life in the current economic climate can be very demanding in terms of time and energy. Both globalization and technology have served to drive a 24/7 business mentality in many industry segments. With this level of required commitment, it can be very easy to drink too much of the company “Kool-Aid” for perceived self gain.
A high level of dedication, a strong desire to produce results and a steadfast commitment to return on investment and increase in shareholder value are all strong career drivers as they rightly should be in corporate life. However, there is a critical “line” and loss in perspective that should never be crossed.
If crossed, this fateful line is the compromise of strong moral, personal and ethical values purely for the sake of profit, greed and self enrichment. Once crossed, there resides the “trap” whereby you can become overly dependent on the relationship with your current employer for your continued career success and desired income.
You may have “sold out” in your career if you have engaged or you feel “forced” to engage in any of following behaviors:
- Your career progression and level of attainment is based and dependent on your relationship with one person in the organization, usually a C-level executive or other department head
- Your current career opportunity has become the primary reason for living your life
- You have to regularly compromise your moral and ethical standards in the execution of your work responsibilities
- You live to make your bonus incentive payouts and will make business decisions on this basis in order to ensure this outcome
- You sabotage the career success of others for advantage and self enrichment and to gain favor with company executives and other leaders
- You have come to believe the company way is the only way
- You regularly execute business decisions that you know are wrong or based purely on the basis of "self gain"
- You expect your direct report employees to always execute their work your way or the company way
- You hire, promote or terminate employees based solely on their loyalty to you and your agenda
- You blame other employees for your failures or set them up to fail and do not accept responsibility for your personal business outcomes
- You view employees as expendable human capital and you feel no responsibility for their success or for their future if you lay them off in order to reach company financial targets
- You frequently use the term “team player” in order to manipulate support from co-workers or direct reports.
I believe most of us recognize these behaviors from our personal experiences and observations from corporate life. Obviously, these are not behaviors that anyone will readily admit to socially or in public.
Rather, these are behaviors that you must thoughtfully consider in the private conversations you have with yourself about how you conduct your life and career. It is critical for us to never lose our objectivity, balanced perspective, critical thinking and sense of ethical behavior during the course of our career.
There are times when we must have the moral and ethical courage to take a stand and do what is right for the business we work for, the customers we serve and the employees we lead, even if we realize less short term personal gain as a result of our business decision.
This is what the most truly successful leaders do. The people who have “sold out” are only along for the ride for as far as this choice will take them in their career. Do not “sell out.”
The ultimate legacy of your life and career will be based on the quality of your human relationships, the value you truly created and in the difference you honestly made in the lives of others.
Please choose the “high road” during your life and career. The rewards in this choice are endless and they endure.