Tyler is a corporate lame duck. When his company was bought by a major competitor eightteen months ago, Tyler knew the odds of keeping his job were slim to none. Tyler doesn’t care.
After almost 20 years climbing the corporate ladder to reach an executive wrung, Tyler has had enough. In four months, when his current tour of duty is complete, Tyler plans to enroll in school and get his teaching certification. It will be a long way from the executive level position he now holds. Tyler can’t wait.
“ So," I asked, “what is a day in the life of a lame duck executive?”
“It doesn’t involve a lot of work,” he deadpanned. “I take long lunches and spend a couple of hours each afternoon working out in the exercise facilities in our building.”
“Doesn’t anyone notice that you’re not working?”
“My direct boss keeps giving me these projects that he thinks are important and will take up time. They’re not important, and they take no time.”
“You must be doing something with your time,” I pressed.
“I am keeping a journal of all the stupid things that have happened since the merger. So far, I have 72 entries. My hope is that Harvard Business Review will be interested once I’m out of here.”
With that, Tyler shared the entry 58, entitled “The future’s so bright we gotta wear shades.”
Shortly after the merger, it occurred to the new management that they might be having some cultural issues. To employees it had been abundantly clear for several months that the two cultures were as compatible as the Palestinians and Israelis. But to make sure, management spent thousands of dollars having an outside consultant confirm that yes, culturally, the two organizations were not compatible.
As Tyler explained, “Management’s solution was to create a culture program to promote the wonderful future of the new organization.”
A culture program, it turns out, is really an internal promotions campaign. Using the same methodology as a brand image advertising campaign, Tyler’s management believed by advertising the concept of a great corporate future, employees would believe they would have a great future with the corporation.
The culture program was called “The future’s so bright we gotta wear shades”. The promotion including handing out sunglasses to all employees. It’ wasn’t well received.
“The CEO told me he was really frustrated that employees weren’t responding to the sunglasses message,” explained Tyler. “The CEO said, ‘I’m psyched about it. It’s a great and I think if I could come to your team personally and hand out the sunglasses, they’ll think it’s a great message to.”
A member of Tyler’s team tried to dissuade him, reminding the CEO t that 95% of the people on the team were scheduled to lose their jobs by November 2004. In addition, thanks to a new calculation, their compensation package had been reduced 15-20%. In other words, The CEO was told Tyler’s team didn’t care about the corporation’s future.
“Did he listen to you?”
“Of course not.” Tyler boomed, “The message is ridiculous. It’s like a governor going around to people on death row and asking what can I do for your vote. I know you’re going to die three days after the election, and I’m not going to pardon you, but I really need your vote.”
The CEO came to the meeting, but he did not conquer. He handed out the sunglasses. After the meeting, he asked Tyler why people had fallen asleep during his presentation.
Tyler didn’t say anything. But, he excused himself saying he had to take care of a project. It was Project Journal. Entry 58. You can’t make this stuff up.
Note: The character Tyler is a real person. His name is changed. While his company did do a promotion and handed out tchotchkes to symbolize their growing culture, the campaign was not " The future is so bright you gotta wear shades," it was something similarly promotional. Tylers name and the actual promotion were changed to ensure that Tyler wouldn't get fired.