I keep hearing the phrase from CEOs and corporate executives that “we have to do what’s right for our shareholders.” But when does a business have to do what’s right by its employees – the people who are expected to often work more than 40 hours a week and put the businesses’ interests before theirs at times. Whereas shareholders have little to no loyalty to the business, and will sell their shares if the business does not perform, employees do have loyalty – to their colleagues and to the continued success of the business. Yet a business will sever ties with these employees if it’s in the businesses’ best interests.
Business and Feudal Society
Picture Europe in the Middle Ages: landowners (nobles) passed their land, title, and privilege to their sons. They profited from their workers (peasants), and carried the attitude that the peasants existed to serve the nobles. Duty flowed upwards from peasants to the landowners.
Eventually, a revolutionary idea surfaced: that nobles existed to protect and serve their peasants, and that duty flowed downwards
Fast forward to today and the corporate America that we live in. Corporations have owners (shareholders) and employees. Many consider the ultimate responsibility of every business is to the business owners. Many corporations push their workers, and will lay off employees when it can increase or secure profit. In this current scenario, duty flows up from employees to the corporation.
Here’s a thought: does the atmosphere exist for a revolutionary idea that corporations exist, and have responsibility not only to themselves, but to their employees as well? Should duty flow down from the business to employees?