Is it possible to pinpoint the moment when Americans decided boardroom decisions stem solely from deception and derision? Did the Enron debacle of 2004 set tongues ablaze, or have we long had reasons to distrust corporate America?
Since humans began to trade beads and meat, business has ruled our psyches and given us numerous reasons to dislike the top dog. Our perceptions are unmistakably based in reality. We know who built the pyramids, and it certainly wasn't anybody wearing the old-timey equivalent of a suit.
Bosses have long been portrayed in the media as cigar-smoking money hoarders because many actually were. In the past, viewing humans as commodities and squeezing every ounce of work out of each was quite in vogue. This practice fell mostly out of favor after the baby boomers were born. The humanistic paradigm shift in the 1960s was one of great influence not only for American society but to large corporations and their executives as well.
As the public has become more charitable and tolerant, a large number of businesspeople have started to believe they can run companies from a similar mindset. It's important to note that many of today's CEOs were college students in the '60s. Many absorbed the ideals of true equality and modern freedom. The range of thoughts, opinions and values are incredibly diverse in society as a whole, and that same variety can be found among executives. Many still rule with an iron fist, but plenty of those in upper management are finding many reasons to treat employees and their communities with respect.
Companies such as Ben and Jerry's, Subway and Toyota are doing their parts to raise awareness of environmental and health issues. In 1995, Subway hired its first full-time dietitian and in 2002 began its well-known national sponsorship of the American Heart Association. Since becoming health conscious, Subway has skyrocketed to the top of the list of franchises to own as ranked by Entrepreneur Magazine. With regards to environmental longevity, Ben and Jerry's has long been known for being "green" even before it was hip. Toyota, a relative newcomer to the environmental scene, continues to woo American consumers with the Prius hybrid, which made its American debut in 2000 (It's been available in Japan since 1997).
Google, ranked by Fortune Magazine as the best American business to work for, has taken a giant step forward by actually listening to employee concerns. Responsibility for the personal growth of associates and its job flexibility seem paramount. The executives at Google even let engineers spend 20 percent of their (paid) working time on independent projects. That is, all other variables aside, 20 percent of potential revenue is disregarded and essentially given back to employees. By doing so, Google keeps its workers mentally healthy and snares higher profit margins year after year.
As our generation enters the work force in the years to come, it's crucial to be open-minded, rejecting despondency and prejudice before stepping through the door. The business world of our grandparents no longer exists. Our peers are known for wanting stimulating and rewarding jobs right out of college and demanding respect from the onset. Businesses must continuously adapt to changing societal needs or simply fade away along with those short-sighted attitudes they embrace.
Kyle Cox is a junior majoring in marketing and anthropology.