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Corporations are people too…

March 28, 2007

people.gif Well, no they aren’t really.   Corporations, at least here in the US are actually a legal entity just like a person, independent of the people who own them, or are employed by them.  All the people could go away, and the corporation will continue to exist until legally dissolved.   While an interesting aside, that’s far from my real point today.  

How many times have you had to deal with a large company or organization, and been frustrated by missed commitments, late deliveries or arrival by service personnel, given the run around while trying to get your bill corrected or a refund, or simply having to repeat your whole story time and again as you are transferred from person to person?    I’ll bet we all have at one time or another.  Maybe it was the cell phone, power, or cable company, or maybe the maker of a large household appliance, or maybe even a branch of school or government – they are a company of sorts, with organization, employees, and policies.

As individuals, we tend to see these large organizations as a collective entity.  We expect that all interactions we have with various staff members are documented in a system that all others have access to, and that if they really wanted to, whomever we speak with could either resolve our trouble or surely must know who can.  And why wouldn’t they know, they all work for the same company, right?  Further more, why can’t the company just do the right thing – they are a large company, with lots of money, hundreds or thousands of employees.   Surely, our issue would only require the tiniest of fractional resources to oblige.

Well, it really doesn’t work that way.   Deep down, we all understand this, but it really isn’t our problem.  We are owed something, and darn it, we want it, and we deserve it.  Fair is fair after all.  We call and we write, and we make ourselves heard one way or another.  Then a funny thing happens.  Sooner or later, during our interactions with various employees in a company, we find one that is human, one who deviates from the script, or takes our issue to heart.   We begin to see that contact point as separate from the company itself – our own personal liason.  Someone who listens to us, helps us navigate through all the rules and policies and make the best of the situation.  

We begin to understand the duality of that person as an individual, and an employee, a member of something larger.   As an individual, we can appreciate the constraints he or she operates within.  We can understand when they take risk to break process, or go the extra mile to try to improve, if not completely resolve our situation.   In that moment we recognize the humanity within the company and relate to it personally.   Do we then become more understanding, tolerant, and prone to compromise?  Do we see the relationship less of entitlement and more of partnership?

I offer this discourse with consideration to customer relations and social media.   Through blogs and forums, companies can reveal themselves as comprised of individual human beings, with thoughts, feelings, and ideals that can be interacted with seperately from the collective entity of the company itself.   There is opportunity to understand and be understood.  

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 30, 2007 4:06 pm

    Thus Human Resources have a tough job. I think it’s possible to have a high percentage of people willing to go the extra mile if they are motivated and happy. How to achieve this? well long matter for a reply on a post I guess. What do you think motivates people in a Corporation, Mark?

  2. March 30, 2007 6:16 pm

    I think there are a varieties of motivations based on personality, job role, and position. I also believe there are some common points. Most people want to feel significant and to make a difference. Most also want to be on their way to something more – they want to learn and grow. As part of making a difference, feeling “needed” can play an imporant role, and going through the process of talking a customer off the ledge and getting their situation resolved can make a person feel like they made a difference for the company and the customer.

    Of course, designing and developing a new product, creating a memorable and prolific advertisement, or helping to nurture and develop employees can all be rewarding roles within a company.

    Governments, Countries, Companies – any large and organized group of people exhibit many of the same dynamics, and these occur because they are comprised of humans.

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