Most Americans recently polled reportedly seem to hold favorable opinions about America's corporations.1 If true, it means that most Americans don't know what I know and what they need to know. Trained as an organizational psychologist much of my research and consultative work during my career were for government agencies at the local, state and federal level. But I also have studied exhaustively the corporate side of organized life and have written more about it than the government side.2 My overall conclusion, not opinion, regarding all large organizations, especially large corporations, is that when they are unmasked their leadership is found to be morally depraved, and their organizations dysfunctional. I frame this overall conclusion about corporate America as an overarching simple truth that subsumes many other simple truths.
A Moral and Functional Framework for the Simple Truths
The primary intent of this article is to unmask corporate America by telling you about those simple truths. Even simple truths need an explanation; otherwise their full meaning and validity may be missed, and the massive and relentless lies may remain unchallenged. So, I want to tell you what they mean in the case of large, publicly traded corporations, at least to me.
Many decades ago I learned what morality really meant from a brilliant lawyer turned ethicist, believe it or not. He had studied all cultures throughout time and identified what he called the ten universal values: accountability, caring for and respecting others, commitment to excellence, fairness, honesty, integrity, justice, loyalty, promise keeping, and responsibility.3
Throughout history these values have been breeched more often than practiced. The breeching of any one of these values always, without exception, is an act of wrongdoing, of one kind or another, whether it be of a wrongful economic, psychological, social, or physical nature. Their breeching is always harmful to some degree ranging from the trivial to the devastating and deadly. Immorality, therefore, in whatever form it is manifested lies behind every wrong deed and its consequences, both of which are usually rationalized by the wrongdoer as being moral. Moral rationalizations salve consciences for those wrongdoers who have a semblance of conscience (one syndrome of psychopathy is the absence of a conscience).
Even though the compromised and ludicrous U.S. Supreme Court ruled a few years ago that corporations legally are persons, a corporation per se can't act immorally. Only people can. And in the case of corporations, or any organization for that matter, its leaders and close subordinates are in a position and have the predisposition to willingly act immorally. Peons near and at the bottom either do the wrongdoing ordered or expected or face the consequences of their disobedience.