July 12, 2024

The Puzzle

The Puzzle


By Cate Sawers



And we wonder why the economy isn’t picking up

As fast as we’d liked

When the last few places I’ve worked

Have been indifferent to growth and financially corrupt.


Oh, they want to see profits, all right

But they are too self-conscious to take advice

And too ossified to know how to modernize

And so they live with massive inefficiencies, out of spite.


Management act like underpaid cops

Who graft a little extra on the side

From pointless overtime that is justified

By making like the underlings are all a bunch of crackpots.


Instead of charging $8 for a pineapple

Why don’t they try keeping basic goods in stock?

Besides causing debilitating price shock

It makes them look like thieving, short-sighted rabble.


It’s not that managers aren’t experienced or bright

It’s more that their loyalties lie with the clique

(Which is a separate thing from the success of the boutique)

For one thing, it lets them make the subordinates underwrite.


Microeconomics tells us that eventually all businesses die

But long before that, they have to change the way they profit

Especially in the service sector, it has to come out of employees’ pocket

So they barely break even, as if they were shanghaied.


For example, if you don’t tell workers their 1st check has arrived

You can borrow against your staff without interest for a week or thereabouts

Or if you make them use a proprietary store card to get their discount

You can attempt all manner of credit card fraud.


It’s not overly idealistic to say that if managers thought more like the Utilitarians

Companies would see growth and more of the employees would prosper

The boost in morale and productivity would open up business opportunities to foster

And CFOs wouldn’t be so hard-pressed to squeeze profits out of growth-retarding rent seeking.

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