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Tag Archives: Glengarry Glen Ross

Talking About A Revolution

boss

Flextime, telecommuting and consulting are no longer the new kids on the block. Twenty years or so ago they were exhibits a, b and c in the revolution of the workplace. Flexible time was to address the fact that few people live in social isolation. Telecommuting took advantage of technology and reduced overhead costs. Consulting was (in theory) to offer flexibility to workers and (in actuality) to save companies lots and lots of money. It was assumed, that work is work whether a boss (or colleagues) can see it being done or not. Ah how adorably naive we were.

Coincidence or not what is considered ‘productivity’ in the workplace has changed during the same period that these words became de rigueur. It’s difficult, and perhaps irrelevant to determine which came first, but my money is on the vernacular as the forerunner. Somewhere post Working Girl, Glengarry Glen Ross and Wall Street office life changed. There was a time (think really big hair) that getting the work done; in relative isolation was the norm. Most industries did not dictate group work, teams, or even presentations. There was little time spent selling oneself internally or making sure one looked as if one was working. The latter really took flight with advances in technology. How grand it is to set one’s alarm or code one’s email to appear to be working at 3:00 AM on a Sunday (during a 3-day weekend!) It would be wonderful if this “look at me, I’m working” approach was not a direct response to flextime, telecommuting and consulting. After all the very raison d’être of exhibits a, b and c is to not be engaging in work as performance art but instead to be producing perhaps invisiblly to the naked eye.

The workplace can be a very paranoid place indeed. There’s something about a shared microwave that breeds immaturity and pettiness as well. (Seriously people don’t ordinarily go around stealing each other’s food and leaving fuzzy congealed cartons in the refrigerator. But in the workplace we’re all 15 again.) It is (almost) natural to pit oneself against others and when others aren’t visible things get complicated and messy. Of course it doesn’t have to be this way.

Good leadership can create an environment of collaboration and support. A leader who understands how flexible work schedules and home offices can be beneficial will make it work. An organization that rewards productivity, stewardship and penalizes wastes of time, money and people will create more harmony among workers. But to do any of these things demands very skilled leaders. Perhaps there are people born with an innate sense of organizational behavior and social psychology, but I’ve yet to meet them. Being the best widget designer, or bond trader or scientist does not prepare one for being a great supervisor. It might seem a minor point, the cultivation of good bosses, but an awful lot hinges upon it.

As the ‘look at me I’m working’ approach becomes more popular, productivity is not necessarily increasing. Technology and real life lend themselves to working remotely, yet workers are often penalized (overtly or subtly) for availing themselves of the options. Neither of these workplace revolutions supports our economy or employment. Having people work more, do less and burn out quicker is not sustainable. Marginalizing talent who avail themselves of company policies is shortsighted. Much is said about preparing young people for the workplace. Enough cannot be said about preparing workers for leadership positions.

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Posted by on June 15, 2013 in Cultural Critique

 

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Always Be Selling

Are you tired, run down, listless? Do you poop out at parties? Are you unpopular?  Don’t reach for that bottle of vitametavegamin just yet.  It might not be vitamins, minerals and 23% alcohol that is lacking from your diet.  You may in fact be suffering from pitch overload.

Much is made of the unrelenting pressure and demands of sales.  Just look at those men in Glengarry Glen Ross or poor Willy Loman.  Selling can be exhausting and soul crushing.  But guess what? so is being sold to night and day, day and night.  From the moment we wake until we crumble into fitful sleep, we are bombarded.  The morning news is brought to you by…(even public broadcasting will read you corporate underwriter ads.)  The news (whether read, watched or heard) has to be weeded from the press releases and publicist’s coups.  Once out the door, wearing what was sold to you, you head for your commute.  At the bus shelter, or subway entrance, you will view at least 3 different rotating ads.  The subway car is plastered with ads (usually of a very depressing nature; lawsuits, questionable training institutes, and booze, lots of booze.)  One’s actual workday may be filled with more spin and sales, depending on one’s place and nature of work.  By the time we arrive back home, we have been pitched countless times.  It’s nothing we can’t handle.  We’re used to it.

It’s when the pitch tries to disguise itself, that things get a bit trying.  Back in olden times, when one had to get up from the recliner to turn the channel, to one of five stations; not everyone on television was selling something.  There was a format known as the talk show, where interesting people came to talk.  Some of these people were famous, sometimes not.  The reason that there were so many of these show is that they were interesting, and they were interesting because people weren’t being booked to sell a product.  Conversations were not being designed by publicists but by producers and hosts.  And I’m not just talking about Dick Cavett and Tom Snyder here; lots of hosts were creating great entertainment. Print media has become very similar to television in its mass marketed hermetically sealed value meals of stories.  Whether it’s an “expert” whose expertise is that they are selling their book, doling out a sound bite, or the hard hitting exposes about high end knock-offs periodically placed in fashion magazines, the audience struggles to discern; “is this real?”  When we add embedded advertising to the mix (shout out to General Mills for the television series Homeland!  Your Lucky Charms has never looked better in its FOUR close-ups!) it’s no wonder we’re feeling listless and pooped out at parties.

Embedding is not all that new.  Remember when Don Draper won the Clio for the Glo-Coat ad?  It wasn’t that the child as a prisoner (behind a kitchen chair) was so innovative, it’s that the commercial was filmed like a movie.  The viewer was lulled into the commercial because it felt like actual programming.  That is the point of embedded advertising.  We’re practically inured to traditional ads (unless it’s during the Super Bowl) and don’t even see the many pop-ups on our computer.  But when the ad seems like part of the narrative our brain needs a moment to register that we are being sold something.

The exhaustion comes from the fact that we have so many advertising delivery systems now.  What was the first logo apparel you owned?  Was it a T-shirt, a cap, or a cotton jacket festooned with a pattern of “Pepsi-Cola” emblazoned in red, white and blue (ahem, that was me.)  Please, that is so 1977.  There are companies who don’t even bother with design any longer, they just slap their brand/logo on the shoe, bag, shirt and call it a day.  You can’t even look at another person without seeing an ad (and I’m not just talking about people who copyright their baby’s name.)

At the end of the day, if we are surrounded by things (i.e., books, music, art) that we chose because they speak to some fiber of our being, we will rejuvenate (at least until the next day.)  But what if the book we fall asleep to is always a “bestseller” and doesn’t resonate at all?  What if at the end of the day we find ourselves surrounded by nothing more than what we’ve been sold?

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2012 in Media/Marketing

 

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