What Corporateness Means and Why it’s Bad

If I’m going to write a blog about how to not be corporate, I should probably explain what I mean, right? For the record, I’m not talking about the business structures that allow people to organize themselves in complex ways and that reward personal achievement. Corporations, not Marxist collectives, have given us cars that most Americans can afford, computers and internet connections that empower individuals, and convenient access to a stable and abundant food supply. I, for one, am grateful for that.

Rather, what I wish to address in this blog is the social plague that turns interesting people with unique perspectives, ideas, and feelings into robot-like placeholders within the collective glob. That, I suspect, is what people really mean when they say, “that guy Cornelius Copymuffin is so corporate.” You know that guy. You hate that guy. Together let’s work on not being that guy whenever possible.

I don’t know all of the reasons why people become or act corporate. There are moments when I too act corporate, and especially in the moment when it happens, I can’t always explain why. One of the goals for this blog is to get a better understanding of that and, in so doing, avoid future corporate moments.

With that said, I suspect corporateness happens when we care too much about other people’s opinions and don’t trust our own instincts more. Does anyone really enjoy listening to the discussions with nasty phrases like “maximizing resources” and “utilizing communication mediums?” There’s nothing wrong with making the best of what you’ve been given or using different tools to share ideas. The problems occur when people use words and phrase or do other life-stiffling things just to get others to think more highly of them.

What’s wrong with throwing in a few “utilize” curveballs into the presentation, you ask? It does make everything else sound more official, and that’s good for business right? Well, what if I asked to utilize your stapler or if I wanted to utilize your assistance in moving? Would you be more or less likely to help with each “utilize” I throw at you? Why then would that be different in a business context?

I can understand the impulse to rely on repeated business phrases in certain contexts. It helps to minimize the risk of personal rejection, for one thing, but that doesn’t mean depending on corporate language and behavior will produce the best business results.

But corporateness doesn’t just happen in the office. It shows it’s ugly head every time someone muffles their own inner clarity in deference to what others may think or expect. For example, everyone knows that if you’re a creative type then you have to support a certain political party or you’re not really a true artist. Whether or not you agree with everything the party supports is inconsequential. After all, being an artist just means doing everything possible to resemble one. Isn’t that so? And speaking of politics, one must never question any position that one’s own party advocates or other party members may question one’s loyalty. That’s corporateness at its worst ladies and gentlemen.

Corporateness makes the world worse by decorating it with blandness, buracratic speak, and dishonesty. It creates an environment that helps evil spread. Soon, I’ll explain why in more detail. But for now, this post has grown long enough.

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