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Lessons from "Capitalism: A Love Story"

This post by Jill Schlesinger originally appeared on CBS'

The MoneyWatch crew hit the movies last week to see Michael Moore's "Capitalism: A Love Story" - here's the group's review:

In the days since seeing "Capitalism" I find myself thinking about various aspects of the film that perhaps many of my co-workers might not have experienced. Specifically, I think that I'm the only staff-member who has experienced capitalism through two different prisms: that of owner and employee.

I have logged a whopping six months as an employee, after having co-owned and operated my own company for fourteen years. Before that, I was always more of an independent contractor or sole proprietor than a worker-bee. Maybe because I have actually been a boss before, parts of "Capitalism" were cringe-worthy, much in the way that we're often most embarrassed by the foibles of fellow members of whatever club to which we belong.

I never dreamed of being the boss-I was an accidental owner. Still, once in the power seat, one can easily fall into the trap of thinking you know better than your staff. Throughout my tenure, I'd like to think that I listened to my staff, but once I left, I found out the truth and it wasn't exactly rosy.

I didn't actually seek out current and former employees, but when many found out that I had left the world of investment management for media, they contacted me. One thing led to another and by the end of most of the conversations, I learned a lot about myself and how I might do it differently if ever put in the position of boss again.

What does this have to do with the movie "Capitalism"? As I watched, I kept thinking that it wasn't capitalism that was flawed, but the owners/managers who had somehow forgotten that their jobs involved more than creating short-term earnings for shareholders or worse, to extract the maximum dollars for themselves and the rest of the c-suite, often at the expense of the rank and file.

Bosses, you have no idea how damaging it is for you to park your Porsche in the company lot as you begin a round of lay-offs. Nor do you understand how much more productive your employees will be if you treat them with respect and honor their roles in the company. When you do so, they will tell you directly when a co-worker isn't carrying his/her load. Listen to their wisdom and don't think that you know better, because after sitting on both sides, I can tell you that the workers are wiser than you think.

Jill Schlesinger is the Editor-at-Large for CBS Prior to the launch of MoneyWatch, she was the Chief Investment Officer for an independent investment advisory firm. In her infancy, she was an options trader on the Commodities Exchange of New York.
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