An interesting thing happens when a sudden realization of impending doom hits a firm. Suddenly, all those people who were "selflessly burning the candle at both ends to keep the company afloat," somehow find the capacity to "burn the candle at all three ends." Project Sinister has managed to really boost sales of their secondary products after the dramatic crash and burn of their flagship product, on which the hopes and dreams of the firm (and the servicing of its required debt payments) were laid.
Suddenly, after a frank "all hands" disclosure by the CEO that the firm was headed for imminent ruin, along with the positions of all gathered in the room, (and that included the phrase "well and truly fucked") the sales force which was "working as hard as humanly possible" to sell "products that can never support the revenue needs of the company" has managed to "work harder than humanly possible" and return a cash-flow positive, record revenue week selling "products that can never support the revenue needs of the company." As compelling a lecture as he gave you'd think he didn't know that he is only weeks away from being fired. This is because he doesn't know he is weeks away from being fired.
Perhaps one of the many the lesson here is "don't provide a magic bullet if you want people to learn marksmanship."
When you see something like this it is hard not to think that some of the universal tenants about mankind forwarded by notable philosophers over the centuries have been, well, slightly off.
I've put together this convenient table to explain my new (and horribly disillusioned) position.
Confucius: Man basically good. (Significant evidence during the brutal
warlord infighting of the Chou Dynasty to the contrary notwithstanding).
Rousseau: Man basically good ("Noble Savage"). Society makes man evil. Widespread peasantry is the ideal state.
Scientologists: Man basically good, but the machinations of certain evil aliens long ago complicate matters.
Kierkegaard: Man is impossible to classify.
Puritans: Man is basically evil. Fire purifies. (Though this is hard to compute given how deeply carbon stains).
Baptists: Man is plagued by total, hereditary depravity.
Equity Private: Man is basically lazy. Innovative and complex incentive and disincentive structures must be continually created and refined to compel any desirable behavior (including the absence self-destructive behavior). Excessive gaming of the system will be employed at every opportunity to avoid doing anything resembling work.
Much as I enjoy the work (and really, it may not sound it, but I do) I dislike the disillusionment that it breeds in me.
I suppose I might have one dirt encrusted root, sticking precariously out from the side of a sheer cliff face yet to hang onto: If we bought the company it's partly because the personnel were in the bottom quartile and, accordingly, I'm getting a poorly representative sample of the workforce at large. Please, oh please, let that be true.
(Artwork: William Blake, "The Good and Evil Angels" c. 1805, c/o The Tate Collection)