The company is never as good as the reputation

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Feb 26

I’ve worked in my share of companies over my career. While our impressions of those “100-best companies to work for” lists might illicit company envy, the truth of the matter is usually quite different.

Dorothy traveled to the Wizard of Oz only to have to see the “great” Wizard of Oz. Somehow, the wonderful, magical wizard was all-knowing, all-seeing and all-whatever to solve anyone’s problems. It was a joy to be in the presence of the wizard.

Until the green curtain was pulled aside to reveal the inner workings of the “great” and “powerful” wizard.

So it is with companies, divisions, departments and teams. The hottest companies have their own set of issues to solve. One company may have the “best” people and the worst culture to take advantage of their people’s talents. Other places may have good people and no framework for them to do excellent work. Other places may have fabulous people and processes that fall apart all the time.

The deal is this: the marketing of the company as a place to work is rarely the same as the reality of the company as a place to work.

Don’t think that because you now work at the almighty (insert company name here) that you now get to live on easy street. You might, instead, be working in Nightmare Alley. That difference can kill your career.

What is the biggest disconnect between what you thought working for the company would be like with the reality of working for the company?

  • Matt says:

    As an employee of one of Fortune’s “100 Best To Work For”, my question every year is – ‘Who filled out those surveys?’ I’ve never understood how they rate the companies, but my own experience here leaves me with two theories on why my company is on the list: 1) the surveys are ‘rigged’ or 2) there are A LOT of really bad companies operating in the US, so the competition is light.

    Fairness in pay structure is probably the biggest disconnect I have. Degreed professionals in my department make less than ‘managers’ without degrees. There is also no accountability for actual work produced/not produced (as a ROWE junkie, it burns me to the core), so you have to do something really bad to get fired. Good for job security, bad for progress and productivity.

    The benefits aren’t superb, as we suffered for several years with exempt employees unable to use individual sick days (had to be in week increments or the time had to be made up). I imagine that little piece of information didn’t show up in the survey results during those years.

    • Scot says:

      @Matt – my understanding is the magazines doing the rankings send surveys to the corporate public relations group and people, management people, answer the survey. The survey is usually about hours and benefits with other options. So, for example, a Microsoft “free snacks” benefit is more of a cool place to work than one that doesn’t have free snacks. That has nothing to do with whether or not Microsoft is the right fit for you and your work or even if anything gets accomplished by the company. That is the disconnect. And that is why the “marketing” of the company as a place to work is not the reality of the company as a place to work.

      I used to work for Washington Mutual — a “100 best” place to work — and we all know how Washington Mutual ended up.

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