Corporate Proper

Google has just made an offer to pay its new CFO 70 Million USD, thus making Silicon Valley the new “Wall Street” – albeit with relaxed rules on dress code and corporate behavior.

Speaking of corporate mis-behavior, an extreme case came to mind, that of Fox and Fidelity. In the early 90’s Fox ex-President Stephen Chao almost drowned Rupert Murdoch’s dog at a corporate pool party (besides ordering in a stripper – male one). Then, a decade later, Fidelity settled a law suit concerning a Miami yacht party – strippers and dwarf-tossing – all client’s write-offs. Most recent, a bunch of federal agents themselves were prosecuted for taking bribes (pre-paid prostitutes) down in Colombia.

When it comes to “play” in a “work” environment, oil and water don’t mix.

Corporate recruiters are tasked with “best bang for the buck” i.e. graduates who wanted to pursue “plastics” as the next big thing (after The Graduate). Their GPA’s might reflect their academic ambition – but not their ethical conduct on the weekend – these days, at Penn State, the news was about “don’t go upstairs” at a frat party.

After some initial career successes, these frats-and-grads – now mid-managers, could do no wrong ( the Wolf of Wall Street adrenaline).

Until…..disaster struck.

No colleges or corporate can predict or prevent these missteps. After all, it’s not their role to equip these youngsters with social intelligence i.e. how to behave off-hours (while parents had thought they could just outsource it to colleges).

Mid managers are on auto-pilot (some on steroid) when it comes to behaving at corporate parties: hold their drinks and smile a lot. Old-boy network under alcohol reflexes, like at the golf course and hunting ranch, kick in ( no tie, but still looking dressed-casual, whatever that means). A form of “promoted beyond their level of competency” that Peter Drucker was referring to.

Publicly traded companies like Fidelity Investments finally learned to pay special attention to their public image . After all, investors might include Sovereign funds in the Middle East (no drinks) or the Far East ( no beef).

Imagine you can’t spit in Singapore, but you are encouraged to turn on your Bachelor Party switch at corporate events.

Back to Rupert Murdoch firing of Fox President (reminds me of Sixteen Candles – “what automobile?” the scene where toilet papers wrapped around upscale neighborhood trees).

Conduct unbecoming is certainly punishable. But as a society, we need to deal with this social-skills gap, from high school to frat house. Why wait to settle million-dollar law suits and suffer brand reputation for years just because today’s corporate officers don’t know how to socialize (always on-stage, especially in the age of social media and selfie). For more, consult “Welcome to New York”.

Silicon Valley, by design or default, advocates fun-filled workplace to foster creativity and attract talent (Like our Idea Man, Paul Allen, whose post-success life involved a yacht with a music studio worthy of the Rolling Stones). Paying Ruth Porat $70 Million to keep Google “Do no Evil” might be a good investment. Those amounts could easily be wasted on arbitrage for excluding female participation at corporate outings (strip clubs).

No wonder IT companies just focus on efficiency and outsourcing where possible e.g. Amazon’s “two pizzas” teams. It keeps the machine humming, corporate proper and predictable. Human, as it seems, is an asset corporate can and can’t do without. The irony of all this was when Stephen Chao went from being a president of Fox to flipping burgers at McDonald’s: a move that still kept him corporate-confined but demanded few human initiatives: no stripping, just flipping.


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