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The company

A few days ago I heard, on a not-so-popular sitcom, the phrase:

I have to do what’s best for the company

I hadn’t thought of this before, but I then asked this simple, vital question:

Who is “the company”?

It may sound silly, but, really, who makes up any company? I could think up three distinct groups of people:

  1. Founders
  2. Shareholders/investors
  3. Workers/employees

The way business works in North America, “the company” is synonymous with the people who own it – not even the people who run it – but strictly own it. These are the people who started it, inherited it, or put money in it seeking profit.

Does that make sense? It makes some sense. I mean it was their idea (or their progenitor’s idea) that got the company started and going. It’s the American dream and way: you have an idea, you work hard, you get rich.

So where does the system break down? Where does it go from being from living the American dream to laying off “redundant” workers because it’s best for “the company”? Or, bluntly put:

Where along the moral and social spectrum does it become more acceptable to take away livelihoods than to make a few million less this and next year for yourself and your shareholders?

Would “the company” run or even be without the workers? At the risk of sounding socialist, aren’t the workers just as much “the company” as the folks upstairs and in the board room?

(These are big questions that I’m not equipped to answer. But it’s more satisfying to ask out loud than to just think, suppress, and go on with my day.)

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