CHAPTER 1: The Problem with Regular Jobs
Section 6: Bottom line or higher purpose?
At the end of the day, the bottom line delineates between the gains made in a company and the losses it endures. Too many people think of the bottom line as a financial indicator alone, like a scorecard that is the purview solely of accounting gurus, but the astute observer knows that the figures of a financial statement speak of much more than dollars and cents. They tell a greater story of human assets and liabilities, of expansive abundance derived from the harvesting of human potential or limiting scarcity inherited from the wilting of will power.
It’s an interesting study in contrasts to notice that shareholders often focus on the numbers of a financial statement, whereas stakeholders focus on the meaning they convey. If you’re a shareholder who is investing money in a company, you are ostensibly doing so in order to accrue a gain in your own financial portfolio. You want your money to grow, and you make investments accordingly. If you’re a stakeholder, on the other hand, you want your value to grow, and so you search for meaning in the results posted by your firm. What does a profit mean? What does a loss mean?
Shareholders perceive their investments quantitatively. They focus on raising their bottom line. Stakeholders perceive their involvement qualitatively. They focus on attaining their higher purpose.
These differentiators provide a means by which to ascertain the degree of alignment that you, as an employee, can hope to achieve within a corporate framework. If you find that the goodwill you want to generate from your efforts does not translate into an increase in your value to the firm, you may find that the corporate bottom line will never serve as a trampoline on which to leap to higher levels of your career progression. If your quest is qualitative (as in wanting to do meaningful work in order to fulfill a higher life purpose), but the firm you are working for is quantitative (as in preferring to measure its success by dollars and cents), it will be difficult for you to make better sense of your job. If financial returns do not allow you to make meaningful projections, then you are caught in a corporate paradigm that does not support your needs.
Again, it’s imperative to keep in mind that an organization does not necessarily exist for the good of the people who work there. It exists to produce a certain level of results, usually financial. But the converse must be true for a firm to succeed—its employees must work for the good of the company. Anyone who by their actions decreases the firm’s investment in them (otherwise known as a salary) will soon discover that someone will show them the way to the exit door.
The philosophy of good governance would have us believe that the human factor within a company could become primary in the boardroom, and the principle of corporate social responsibility would have us believe that a corporate entity could integrate itself harmoniously with the environment, but both good governance and corporate social responsibility quickly fall through the sieve created when those initiatives punctuate the bottom line with deficits. It’s the fundamental nature of the beast to care for itself first, and solely, if survival predicates that instinct. There is no life for an employee’s higher purpose when a survival scheme seeks to avoid corporate death.
How, as a stakeholder, do you want your value to grow? What are the qualitative contributions you make?
What degree of alignment is there between your quest for your higher purpose and your employer’s focus on the bottom line? Is the alignment increasing or decreasing over time?
Copyright © 2017, Joseph Civitella.