Going along

I know this much is true: if I worked at a bank, and the head teller told me she’d been stealing money from the ATM and needed my help to cover it up, I wouldn’t have gone along. Even if she’d been crying. Even if she’d been my best friend. I probably would have talked her into going to the bank manager and confessing.

But I certainly have gone along in my life. When you work at a big company, you go along in a lot of ways. If you’re in marketing, you figure out how to make more money on your brands by giving your consumers less, and how to hide this from them so they don’t stop buying you (“New and Improved” labels, on products that have fewer sheets or weigh less, is one way that usually works).

If you’re in Human Resources (as it’s so deceptively called), you rank people on lists and give them numbers so that it’s easier for their managers to fire them when their bosses have told them to; all the while pretending, of course, that you’re on the side of the people, not the bosses.

I left my Fortune 100 company when it became clear to me that none of these things was working, and that the company was dying. They brought in a supposed “turnaround expert,” who slashed costs, fired people in droves, and created a sham company that looked good in PR pieces; finally another unsuspecting Fortune 100 company bought it.

The whole charade took a couple of years, and during that time the people who were left there all went along – but you could see in their faces that they knew they were doing it. They made a lot of money (the ones who had stock options, at least), but they sold their souls in return. Sometimes I think about what I could have done with all that money, had I stayed, but it wasn’t worth the price.

In an ideal world, you’d never go along. You’d never steal money from a bank, you’d never gyp consumers, you’d never fire good people, you’d never help the rich CEO destroy your company. But since the world is not ideal, nor are we, I guess the question is: What is the price? Prison? Your soul? Or, I guess for me, just an uneasy wrestling with one’s conscience.

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