Workplace Issues

‘Pleasant Myths’ Designed to Aid Recruiting: A Net Negative?

Employees aren't really your most important assets, and you aren't a meritocracy, an equal opportunity employer or environmentally friendly.
David McCannMay 6, 2014

CFOs may be making huge strides in the strategic realm, but the top calling for many remains the same as ever: good soldiership. The chief strategist usually is, after all, the CEO, who needs the finance chief’s support in pursuing important strategic agendas.

A common one, even if not the most important: presenting the company as a great place to work.

Think about the boilerplate statements that CFOs and other corporate executives make, very often literally, in that pursuit: “Our employees are our most valuable asset.” “We are a meritocracy.” “We are an equal opportunity employer.” “We are environmentally friendly.”

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CFOs of public companies have to sign off, at the risk of personal liability, on the accuracy of financial statements that present the company’s fiscal reality in great detail supported by vast evidence. By contrast, holding out the company as a great employer, as reflected in the statements cited above, requires no supporting evidence whatsoever.

A short but super-sharp piece in Inc. takes those statements to task, submitting that such “pleasant myths” distract companies from “actually doing something about unpleasant facts,” which unfortunately tend to be far afield from the myths.

Are employees actually companies’ greatest asset? That’s debatable, but what’s not, the article points out, is that companies don’t actually behave as if they believe it. Are companies meritocracies? Maybe. Or, maybe, they’re more tribal in nature, with those who “know the right people” getting the promotions. That allows people “to pat themselves on the back for being smarter and better than everyone else, when in fact they just happened to be born into the right tribe,” the article suggests.

Are companies really equal opportunity employers? Come on. Minorities and women are dramatically under-represented in C-suites, Inc. notes. Are companies really environmentally friendly? Almost none can be, the publication contends.

Doing what’s necessary so that when a company says such things, it’s telling the truth, may be a worthy goal. Saying such things when they’re not true, while competitors are doing the same? It’s one reason workers generally don’t sense much reason to be particularly loyal to any employer.

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