John Thain's Office: The Ground is Shifting Under Our Feet......

We are living in tight times. Wasteful expenses on personal pride and prestige can now come back to hurt you in a big way.

Thain's office remodel, regardless of its genesis and no matter how much or little he personally cared about it matter little now; it might have just bought him a ticket to a small room for a few years......

Conspicious consumption was already looking a little shaky, but it may become downright toxic in the next few years. I remember when I was first coming up in business, when I would call on potential customers or partners, I would always key on what kind of chairs they were using. Yes, that seems silly and random, but it always seemed to say a lot about the organization's values. If the chairs were too old and beat up, mismatched, and ugly, it told me that they might be too cheap for their own good. If the chairs were all matched, expensive jobs, it told me that the organization needed to maintain high margins all the time. If they were slightly mismatched, in good shape, and otherwise not worth noticing, I figured it was a value oriented organization.

Stupid shorthand ? Sure. Dependance on inaccurate stereotypes ? Naturally. Am I alone in that kind of meta-thinking ? No way..... the one thing I know is that I am pretty ordinary.

These kinds of calculations are going on all the time now. Think hard about where and how you lunch, what you drive, and what kinds of perks you are paying for with stakeholder's money. Think about symbolic shows of thrift, but also think about ways to show concern with value- its a fine line between cheap and careful, and an important one. Careful people will spend any amount if they think there is good ROI in it. Cheap people miss opportunity after opportunity, and often easily cross the line into excessive self-regard.

Even the once august term "Bonus" is losing its luster- we are going to need some new words to describe just rewards, because its pretty darn clear that reward and contributon have decopupled in many cases in a most unhealthy way...

Charitable thinking and actions to help your brothers and sisters on any level are going to be more and more important if this thing begins to really gather way. Don't be on the wrong side of it thinking that its just a bump in the road and that you deserve everything you can grasp. You dont, and it is not a mere bump- and everyone is watching now in ways they have not been for many years, if even in our lifetimes.

Views: 138

Comment by Steve Levy on January 24, 2009 at 10:40am
Greed is Good never went underground on Wall Street. You can't even begin to think you can hide $4B in bonuses paid early or $1000 garbage cans unless you're arrogant beyond description. We might publicly flog people like Thain and others before him with tomes about social responsibility but being like him is taught in schools, by parents, by existing leaders with a nod and a wink.

In a free market economy there will always be excess - and there's no condoning this - but alternatives ranging from social democracy to socialism all have significant consequences. Everyone is watching now but they will eventually become bored. The good people will always do good and the bad will always buy $1000 trash cans.

Who do you plan on following?

[Marty, please blog more, ok? And call me]
Comment by Martin H.Snyder on January 24, 2009 at 2:36pm
Steve when Greed Was Good $1000 trash cans were OK too because they were being bought with money belonging to depositers and investors levered 10-1. When it's 33-1 and spread to every last person with a dollar to their name, greed aint good anymore and systemic failure becomes a real concern. Just to be clear, systemic failure means your savings are gone, along with everyone else's and rich and poor wont have much meaning anymore, because everyone will be poor.

Then we start talking cold rooms and little food to eat, and it was not always thus. People wont be bored when they are starving, and consequences will be felt. That's worst case, but we are getting frightfully close by the day.

Socialism might look like a Sunday afternoon if heads dont come out of butts real soon......

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