Collapse of the Corporate Conscience

Mister Rogers doesn’t live here anymore. As for Ward Cleaver, well he’s moved on too. Get Smart, who finally got smart, up and left. The times they are a changing, and now there is a new corporate sheriff in town gunning for the bad guys. The only thing is, he’s looking to recruit them not shoot them.

A corporate boss reading the business news.


I am not one to go down memory lane. I don’t listen to the decades’ old music of my adolescence or pine for mythical days of a bygone past when life was simply cherry red or midnight blue. Nope, I am living right here in the Now not residing somewhere amongst the there and then. Don’t be upset with me just because I seemingly lack a sense of nostalgia for yesteryear. I’ve just always been that way. I need newness; I crave originality. I can count on one hand the number of movies I have seen twice or books I have reread. Most likely it would require two hands to count the number of songs from the seventies that I still listen to on a regular basis. You can thank Led Zepplin for that.

No, I don’t wish or long for anything from my past. I embrace change and innovation. Evolution is, after all, the natural order of things within the cosmos. Adaptation is nature’s way of addressing and solving problems while at the same time, creating new opportunities. But while most things move forward in a somewhat progressive manner, others still trod along in a much more regressive fashion.


Not so long ago, a new buzz word began being tossed around within business circles. An idea that was to be the redeemer and savior of the corporate world, once implemented. A panacea in the making, the model business model, taking into consideration all things excellent and worthwhile. Corporate profits were to be structured around a kinder and gentler treatment of employees, customers and of the all too long exploited environment. It was and is after all the age of Aquarius and supposed enlightenment so that the very notion of a “Corporate Consciousness” just seemed to be a natural extension of the times.

For years now, new agers have spoken about the raising of the consciousness of the planet and how a new world lay just around the next historical bend. It’s a pleasant thought that just hasn’t seemed to have taken root, in the business world at least. If corporations had, in fact, even kept the status quo, we might have all been collectively further ahead at this point, but sadly, such has not been the case.

No, what we have seen instead is the evolution of an alarming trend. One could make a strong case that, concerning the current corporate leadership in North America, the inmates running the asylum.


So let’s look at the evidence, shall we? Over the past decade, numerous studies have been conducted around the globe, by various thinktanks, to get some sense of the current makeup of corporate leadership. The conclusions they are reaching don’t paint a very lovely picture. Again and again, they’ve found that an imperceptively large percentage of psychopaths have snake charmed their way to the top of the corporate ladder.

Nathan Brooks, a forensic psychologist conducted one such study last year. The study measured the so-called ‘dark triad’ of personality traits, made up of narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Roughly one-fifth of the 261 senior professionals studied from the United States showed ‘extremely high’ levels of psychopathic traits. That is roughly the same rate seen amongst prison populations. Compare that to the rate of psychopathy in the general population which is about one in a hundred.

A psychopathic man

For the sake of clarity let us just touch on few personal characteristics that categorize someone as a psychopath. Psychopaths lack empathy, the ability to stand in someone else’s shoes and understand how they feel. As a result, they lack concern, regret or remorse for other people’s distress. They exploit, manipulate or violate the rights of others while, at the same time, showing a total disregard for normal social behavior. There are additional traits, but I think by now you’re getting the picture.

The study concluded that the primary contributing factor to this issue was that recruiters “tend to focus on skills rather than personality features which has led to firms hiring “successful psychopaths” who engage in unethical and illegal practices and have a toxic impact on colleagues.” Often this leads to subordinates either being bullied themselves or being forced into bullying others.

I recently spoke with a colleague of mine who witnessed this type of bullying first hand. He indicated to me that a fellow manager who, upon emerging from a meeting with the Regional Manager, exclaimed he was belittled to the point of wanting to drive his car into a brick wall. So commonplace is this type of disrespectful behavior nowadays that the other managers were quick to quip, “oh, so just one of his normal visits then.”

In another recent conversation, a manager friend told me how he was berated and disparaged not because he failed to exceed his sales target but because he did not surpass his goal by what the superior deemed to be a significant enough percentage.

A picture of a young man working on his laptop.

Making matters worse is the fact that the problem does not appear to be abating anytime soon as additional studies suggest that psychopaths are more likely to study for degrees in business and economics. One such Danish study concluded, “…there are more individuals with manipulative, ruthless, and self-serving behaviors entering into the corporate world than elsewhere, as evidenced by the accumulating research on corporate psychopaths.”

To be fair, not all companies are working this way. Some take into account social consciousness having consideration for employees, the environment, and the consumer. In other cases though, sociopathic leaders were quickly on to this idea of corporate consciousness but for all the wrong reasons.

Portraying themselves as the “do-gooders” of the world, manipulative leaders headed up projects designed to give off the illusion that within the company mandate lay a sense of actual caring and genuine concern. Half-hearted initiatives were introduced with great fan fair accompanied by press releases for all the world to see, only to die on the operating table of implementation a few short months later. The Mission Statement was the primary objective, not the mission itself.


It’s not just you

So what are we left with? A disengaged workforce who on some level are convinced that “it’s them” that is the problem. Not only is employee well-being suffering but incidents of counter-productive work behavior and workplace bullying are on the increase. Stress leave has skyrocketed in the last number of years with one HR manager referring to the current situation as, “an epidemic of stress.”

Bonus structures are tweaked to the point of being unrealistic and unattainable. This is, of course, by design. Sales projections no longer reflect the reality of the marketplace. We have shrinking margins and a shifting market that is moving more and more online. The carrot is getting smaller while the stick, longer.

Doyen Digital Nomads Corporate skyscraper

It’s not just a matter of not wanting to pay bonuses to cut payroll costs and increase shareholder value. Although that is a motivating factor for these self-ingratiating leaders who are themselves, significant shareholders.  No, the bonus structures themselves are now wielded as weapons in an effort to build a case against employees so that wrongful dismissal is easier to justify.

Company expectations and performance demands are through the roof while simultaneously human resources are being cut back to the bone. Employees and managers alike are expected to accomplish more with fewer resources. Companies expect their employees to be top performers but are only willing to pay them a minimum wage. “Mercedes taste on a Volkwagon budget,” as my dear mother would say.


So out of control is this, “more, more, more,” corporate attitude that just recently an associate indicated to me that his assigned sales target for February represented a year over year targeted increase of 80%. Unrealistic goals such as these set the whole staff up for failure and cause morale to tank to the point of finger pointing and backbiting as employees struggle to meet unattainable individual targets.

One CEO of a company I worked for made no apologies for this divide and conquer approach to sales management. He was concerned only about the numbers and not at all about how it was negatively impacting people’s lives.

There is no mistaking the fact that people’s lives are suffering as a result of this trend. I have seen it time and time again but you the reader are free to draw your own conclusions.  One thing is for sure, no company even dare to use the old tagline, “we a people orientated company,” anymore. Even these morally bankrupt individuals won’t push the envelope that far.

A picture of a corporate skyscraper.

As for me, I am glad to be out. My new journey amongst my new digital nomad associates has been brief but refreshing. It’s a tightly knit community that is growing at a very rapid pace. Forbes predicts that half of the American workforce will become digital nomads of some sort within the next 20 years. Of course, their desire is not only one of adventure but even more so freedom.

They work primarily as freelance artists picking and choosing their assignments, making their hours and deciding where to live next week, next month and next year. They consist mainly of graphic designers, IT specialists, online media creators and virtual assistants. Ironically, the very students that scored lowest in the same studies outlining psychopathic tendencies.

Of course, it’s not all roses and sunny days in the life of a digital nomad.  It too has its challenges and stresses.  There is work availability, travel, wifi speeds, job security, hassles at the border over work permits and visas plus a myriad of other things to worry about. Although, when you are gazing out over the Bay of Thailand from a beach on Koh Samui, it certainly puts a different spin on your problems.


I am pretty much still on the periphery of it all, but my experience thus far has been positive with people more than willing to take the time to share ideas, resources, and knowledge. Make no mistake, there are others as well, mostly involved with online MLM’s who come to you under the guise of wanting to help when they are simply trying to recruit. Even so, when I have made my lack of interest known, they politely thank me and disappear back into cyberspace.


It’s too early for me to make a fair comparison of the two lifestyles, corporate nine to five verses digital nomad.  What is immediately apparent though is the feeling and impression you get from this close community. They consider themselves as being totally different and separate from the masses.

Pioneers, adventures, and explorers who’s main goal is just to have fun in life. They have consciously and willingly taken a chance in their lives by striking out on their own, and I for one hold them in high regard for that fact alone. Most of us never mustered the courage or self-belief to do so.

Some don’t make it “out there” and have to return to “regular” jobs, but they take solace in the fact that at least they tried and have some stories to share.  But try again they will for in their hearts beats loudly and strongly that old adage, “Work to live, don’t live to work.”


How baby boomers can work remotely from the Internet


What do you think? Are you experiencing adverse effects as a result of this changing corporate environment? Have you ever considered leaving it all for the nomadic lifestyle? Feel free to leave a comment below.

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One thought on “Collapse of the Corporate Conscience

  1. Oh yeah John I’ve left that corporate environment; you hit it on the nose regarding the work environment that our fellow friends and families have to work in. We need to relearn that people are more important then profits; and invest in our children who will be our future.

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