This is not a political post. It could very easily turn political but instead it looks at another side of corporations.
Nugget: Corporations do a lot of good. Corporations are made of lots of good people. Corporations need good people. When I realize these truths, I am much happier.
Unpacked Thoughts: One could say the above nuggets are only justifications for feeling good about working for corporations that are destroying the planet or whatever cause a person happens to be fighting for. That is fair but I really don’t see it as the complete truth.
Living a meaningful life in a corporation will eventually bring up moral dilemmas. By definition, a corporation is responsible for creating profit which could in turn harm workers or the environment. This story is a common thread of American \ Western Culture. The “big bad company.” Almost anyone in a company will at some point in their career have to make moral decisions between what is right for the company and what is right for their beliefs. But this is also true for all areas of life from leisure to buying decisions to decisions about where you live.
There is no way my friends from the political extremes would be buying any argument that corporations are good. This is not intended to be a political post. But I will make the following argument: if corporations are truly evil because they put profit over people, and if corporations have all the political and financial power, then what are you going to do about it? How are you going to fight this? How are you going to gain the political or financial capital to change the system without the help of corporations? I would like to suggest you could fight the corporation from within and make positive changes inside the building. Imagine if the CEO of Exon was an environmentalist?
But I would like to put all of this aside and look at the wonderful things corporations do. I would say that for most of my career, my company cared more about my physical health than I did. Corporations spend lots of money on the health of their employees. Corporations need their people to be healthy.
Corporations also do a lot of good in the community:
- Sponsor community events
- Give scholarships
- Train employees who then go on to be civic leaders
- Prop up local businesses who provide services like coffee, food, supplies, etc.
- Give jobs
- Pay taxes
- Improve local infrastructure
- Bring new people into a community.
Most importantly, most corporations have a mission and purpose. I work for a company dedicated to changing healthcare.
Personal Story: “Corporations are evil” is an idea that blocked my happiness for a long time. When I was a senior in college wrapping up my engineering degree, I had to catch up on a bunch of core classes that I had skipped because of loading up on math and science in my first 2 years. One of these classes was anthropology. What a fascinating class. The curriculum for 100 level classes is so much easier than 300 and 400 level classes and this was clearly evident in this class. Basically we read interesting books (I had only been reading purely technical books for the last 3 years). Books about people from different places were fascinating. Then writing papers about my opinions on these books was fun. Long story short, I took a liking to this class. I enjoyed challenging the professor and would spend time in his office discussing these opinions – this was very refreshing as someone taking almost all technical classes where there is a right and wrong for most work. One evening towards the end of the semester during one of these office chats, he asked “Erik have you chosen a major because I was thinking you would do well in Anthropology?” At this time in my life, I was not so in tune with body language so I probably laughed as I answered that I was a senior and engineering major. I will not forget seeing the anger in his face. He said something like “damn it, next year you will be some cog in a machine and making more money than me.” At the time, this didn’t have a huge impact on me and just made me laugh. Perhaps he was frustrated he had spent so much time with a student not choosing his field.
I wish I could remember his name because I would actually like to thank him. The software field has exploded across the planet since I was in school. Having awareness about culture has been a tremendous benefit to my career as I have had the opportunity to work with people from many different cultures. This is lost on many engineers and really blocks careers. While I arrogantly blew off this comment about being a cog in a machine at the time, this influenced me throughout my career. Am I wasting my life helping a corporation make money? This question led to much unhappiness. When I realized the answer is no, I became much happier.
I am living a life of meaning with lots of happiness while working in a corporation.