The parable of the honest employees

A wealthy investor started a department store.  He hired some managers to the run store and went away on a long trip.  While the investor was away the store became very large and they hired many workers.  At first the work culture was good but as time wore departments started to resent each other.  Employees started stabbing each other in the back to climb the corporate ladder.  Workers became lazy as coffee breaks and lunch breaks started getting longer and longer.  Poor service started irritating customers.  Managers forced employees to endure unproductive corporate training.

Some managers were honest enough to acknowledge the dysfunction and make the best of the situation.  They rarely bucked the system because they found the task of challenging the system too daunting.  The dysfunction of the company started to impact the profitability of the company.  Managers spent company money on endless seminars, consultants and motivational speakers.    Different promotions brought in new sales but they spent so much on perks, benefits, and extra vacation days there was rarely, if any profit. 

Lots of people complained.  Most complained about how dysfunctional things were and how they weren’t fulfilled in their careers.  Some people moved from department to department thinking the next move would leave them more satisfied with their job. 

There were some in the company that started to wonder whether it was morally correct to take so much company money and spend it on themselves.  If the owner ever came back heads would roll.  They started asking poignant questions about how much money the company was really making.  Some managers  and other employees felt threatened by the questions.  Some others entertained the questions but never got around to answering them.  The honest employees sat in limbo as changes were promised but never seemed to materialize. 

Eventually it became an ethical issue for some of the managers and employees.  They began to wonder how long they could be complicit with system that was cheating the owner and so completely disconnected with the purpose of the store.  Management seemed overly concerned with sales while disregarding the truest measure of success: profit.  When they asked management if they could change a few things they were told that the owner hired the managers and they were plan a, there was no plan b.  Some stayed in the company making the best of the situation but many left the company because they could no longer pretend anymore. 

  1. #1 by Bill Kinnon on June 19, 2008 - 10:20 am

    Great parable, Leighton. Well done.

  2. #2 by chuck on June 19, 2008 - 2:36 pm

    very very nice.

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