Live

Watch CBSN Live

Top 9 Lies That Big Corporations Tell

All big corporations lie. If they don't, they'd go out of business.

This post are the nine most common falsehoods that large firms tell (and plenty of smaller firms, too.)

Not every firm tells all of them, but plenty do. And every corporation tells at least some of them.

Click the green NEXT button to view the first lie.

RELATED POSTS:

Illustrations from bigstockphoto.com
LIE #9: "Employees are Our Most Valuable Asset"
  • Why It's a Lie: If this were true, then layoffs would be the LAST resort during hard times. Companies would jettison facilities, equipment, executives, and inventory before they even considered dumping employees. Furthermore, if this were true, the FIRST action that any company would take, when profits went up, would be to raise employee salaries. But, of course, the opposite is the case. Employees are always the FIRST to feel the brunt of executive incompetence and the LAST to benefit from an upturn in profit. Ipso facto, this is a lie.
  • Why Big Corporations Tell It: This is part of the general disinformation campaign that corporations foist on employees in the hopes of generating a sense of loyalty. While executives probably don't expect every employee to believe this BS, they know that some percentage WANT to believe that they're valued and, as such, may work harder when told that they are. Certainly, the lie is more likely to motivate the hoi polloi than the truth, which is that, while you may have a real relationship with your direct superior, the corporation views you as an expense that should be swapped out for something cheaper as quickly as possible.
LIE #8: "Your Responses Will Be Completely Confidential"
  • Why It's a Lie: Corporations are not legally bound to respect statements of confidentiality, mostly because they've managed, for the past thirty years, to scuttle any and all laws or regulations that force them to respect any form of employee privacy. As a result, you can and must assume that any and all statements made while you're at work will be made known to your management.
  • Why Big Corporations Tell It: This lie typically comes up when a company is performing some form of employee survey. However, the ONLY reason that a company EVER gathers information is to use it, and they're not going to go through the expense of finding out what people think unless they can use the data in as many ways as possible. That very much includes finding out who are the malcontents who could cause trouble sometime in the future.
LIE #7: "Business Taxes Are Killing Us"
  • Why It's a Lie: It's absolutely true that the top corporate tax rate in the United States is 35 percent, far higher than most other places in the world. However, through years of lobbying and paying for political campaigns, large U.S. companies have developed a Byzantine system of shelters, tax credits and subsidies in order to avoid paying anywhere near that amount. To guage how effective they've been at this, consider that the corporate share of the nation's tax receipts over the past fifty years has dropped from 30 percent of all federal revenue to a measly 6.6 percent.
  • Why Big Corporations Tell It: The fiction of a tax-beleaguered corporation segment has become a mainstay of the power of big corporations to continue to create a favorable business climate. Because voters are easily fooled into believing that their jobs are dependent upon low corporate taxes, they continue to elect politicians who are (essentially) in the pay of the large corporations. These large corporations, especially in the military market, sell their products (made elsewhere, alas) to the government at a huge markup and then are paid from taxes taken primarily from the poor stiffs who keep voting for the pro-corporate candidates.
LIE #6: "We Are a Meritocracy"
  • Why It's a Lie: Anyone who has hung around the executive suite for any amount of time know that the typical corporation is partly comprised of toadies whose sole ability to thrive is based upon an unerring sense of who needs a good butt-kiss. While promotions sometimes go to the best candidate, in many cases real talent and experience has little or nothing to do with who actually gets on the fast track. Employees enter a company through pre-existing connections with colleagues or family members. Similarly, an executive comes in at the top and pulls a bunch of cronies with him. Or somebody has an affair with the CFO and then becomes the chief auditor, and so forth.
  • Why Corporations Tell It: Even though most executives inside Fortune 1000 firms "won" their position as much through connections and politics as through actual talent, they want to believe that they were promoted due to their vast intelligence and ability. Furthermore, they want to convince their underlings that if they work hard and do what they're told, they'll be duly rewarded. The fiction of a meritocracy thus allows executives to indulge their vanity, while simultaneously holding an illusory carrot in front of the eyes of otherwise hapless employees.
LIE #5: "Your Participation is Entirely Voluntary"
  • Why It's a Lie: This is an example of the old adage "methinks she doth protest too much." The mere fact that the statement is made shows that it's actually not voluntary. If it were truly voluntary (like eating in the cafeteria, for instance), there would be no need to make a statement about it.
  • Why Corporations Tell It: This lie pops up whenever corporations want to either steal your time or pick your pocket. For example, if you're asked to a brown bag lunch where there will be a presentation by top management, attendance is OBVIOUSLY required, even though it's eating into your personal time. But by saying it's "voluntary", the corporation can pretend that they're not imposing. Same thing with contributions to the CEO's pet charity or political candidate. Yeah, your participation is entirely voluntary... as long as you are voluntarily trying to end your career at that firm.
LIE #4: "Unions Force Jobs Overseas"
  • Why It's a Lie: While this lie sounds plausible (because unions can indeed add to labor costs), it doesn't explain why MILLIONS of non-union jobs have also been exported overseas. For example, there was never a union of computer programmers, but high tech firms have largely moved their development efforts to India and China. Similarly, call center workers were never unionized, but now it's rare to find a call center located in the United States. Therefore, the trend toward sourcing jobs overseas can't really be the result of labor unions, can it?
  • Why Corporations Tell It: Unions cause a shift in power away from management. While there is no question that unions can create problems of their own (organized crime, among other things), the main reason that big companies oppose labor unions is that they limit the ability of management to make arbitrary decisions that impact employees. It's really just a power play -- nothing more, nothing less. Rather than admit it, corporations promote the fiction that labor unions have forced them to do what they would have done regardless, which is move the jobs to places where poverty and a low standard of living makes it possible to pay workers peanuts.
LIE #3: "We Are Environmentally Friendly"
  • Why It's a Lie: Big companies have supply chains that reach deep into countries like China which do not enforce environmental laws. The pollution that's created in these truly laissez faire industrial areas is horrendous beyond belief. However, almost all big firms only require their suppliers to give them easily-forged paperwork claiming that the suppliers followed local environmental laws. No attempt is EVER made to physically audit the supply chain and find out what's really going on.
  • Why Corporations Tell It: Employees and investors do not want to be associated with companies that create a hell on earth for the unfortunate people (including children) who suffer as a result. By telling this lie, and generating the (probably) fake paperwork to back it up, companies can 1) pretend that the horrors aren't really happening and 2) possess plausible deniability ("we didn't know and they're not part of our company anyway") if the horror stories finally become public knowledge.
LIE #2: "We Are Neither Racist Nor Sexist"
  • Why It's a Lie: This one's easy. Just take a look at your top management and your board of directors. If they're not somewhere around 50% female, then your corporation is sexist. If they're not somewhere around 13% African American, then your corporation is racist. It's really that simple.
  • Why Corporations Tell It: Because it's no longer socially acceptable to be racist or sexist, corporations (like many individuals) feel the need to insist that they're not, even though (consciously or unconsciously) they're self-selecting for leaders who "just happen to be" middle-aged white males.
LIE #1: "Our Core Values Are..."
  • Why It's a Lie: All corporations have exactly one core value: Make Money. That's why corporations only do "good deeds" and avoid "evil deeds" when it's in their financial interest to do. For example, corporations only give to charitable causes when they can trumpet their contribution in order to improve their brand equity. Similarly, they only limit their negative impact on the environment when it improves their cost structure (e.g. saving energy). That's the exactly the way a high-functioning sociopath works. Sociopaths are perfectly capable of showing love for another person, but will only do so when it's in their own interest. As soon as it's not, they'll stab that person in the back.
  • Why Corporations Tell It: The "core values" statement is a prime example of what's known as the "law of inverse relevancy." That law, roughly stated, is: "The less you plan on doing about something, more you must talk about it." While corporations give lip-service to all sorts of positive intentions, they NEVER do ANYTHING that's not going to help them make money in some way. And rightly so, because a corporation that does something unprofitable because "it's the right thing to do" (i.e. without some corresponding financial benefit) will find itself on the wrong end of a shareholder lawsuit. This is not to condemn corporations! They employ people and create wealth, both good things. But it's silly to believe that they're not going to do anything and everything to increase revenue and profit, even if it creates all sorts of problems for the rest of the world.

IMPORTANT: Enjoy this post? Then you'll probably enjoy my new book How to Say It: Business to Business Selling available for purchase here.