Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Rose by Any Other Name Still has the Blight

There’s a growing expansion of titles and positions in Corporate America. I get the creation of Chief Information Officer (CIO), or even the cutesier title of Chief Knowledge Office (CKO) that showed up of a few years back. Being in the environmental management business I even get the proliferation of CSOs – Chief Sustainability Officers – although for the most part theses tend not to be new hires as much as a re-titled compliance officer or environmental VP. Everyone’s got to have a CSO these days. You got to.

But I’m not as patient with overly pretentious titles such as “Green Prophet,” or the trend among West Coast techie firms like Google who created the position of “Jolly Good Fellow” for their new self-awareness/meditation manager (“oh please” to both these gems). Even a small professional service firm I know let their single on-staff graphics designer re-title herself “Art and Atmosphere Director.” You know, if I’m an engineering manager at a big chemical firm and I’m cheesed over the graphic on page 34 of my technical report that was issued by this firm, do I really want to ring up the Art and Atmosphere Director. Is that going to make my mood any better?

But the renaming trend follows the “Happy Company” trend. Yes, there really is a move afoot in the corporate world to aim for universal happiness – not merely stability or profitability or sound corporate citizenship, but happiness. Now if I worked at Google and was showered with all of their perks, including free lunches and that happiness/meditation guru, and there was still money left over to burn, then happiness seems within reach. But when a smallish firm I know distributes copies of the latest business happiness psycho-babble book to all of its employees and that firm hasn’t made a profit in four years due to mismanagement, something has gone off the rails and the conductor-has-no-clothes syndrome has won the day.

Fast Company Magazine reports this month that the organizing service firm Engage Network holds flash-mob style Love Song Sneak Attacks - renditions of Paul McCarthy’s “Silly Little Love Songs” and other treasures to perk up the staff. “When things suck,” says the firm’s co-founder, “we use games to bring us back to a sense of lightness.”

Just what American business needs to pull us all out of this recession – a sense of lightness. Then we can graduate to a sense of mindless distraction, and on to a sense of total shallowness. And we’ll certainly need more CLOs – Chief Lightness Officers. Oh boy, “The future is so bright, I’ve got to wear shades.”

You know, maybe that bureaucratic, wasteful, lumbering, bumbling, central-planning-obsessed Federal government idea doesn’t look so bad after all.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

This is the natural extension of Wellness, and Quality Faires. To me, it signals one of two things, not mutually exclusive: either they caught some wave and made money quickly, and are still giddy and not-quite-grown-up. They think that their youthful free spirits were what got them there, and are trying to perpetuate this, as an example to all those boring firms. Or second, management knows less and less what it is doing, and so fastens on things that are not especially measurable.

Both of these are understandable short-term responses. But in a few months, someone has to step back and notice "Y'know, this is nowhere near as cool as we thought it was when we first put it out there. Let's Drop it."

Dubbahdee said...

A friend of mine has said many times that there are two kinds of pain. the pain of discipline and the pain of regret. the good news is that we get to choose every day what kind of pain we will live in.

We might from this posit the corollary that there are two kinds of happiness. The happiness of flatulence (to suggest one possible term), and the happiness of discipline. And likewise, we get to choose which kind of happiness we will live in every day.