I found this post over at Oligopoly watch interesting for reasons different to Steve (the author):
"In business writing, the problem of how to write about a company's actions and intentions leads to shortcut expressions that don't represent the truth. Let me illustrate with a number of random quotes off the Web, often from business magazines or business sections of newspapers:
- "The company wanted to cross sell products across business unit product lines"
- "What it all comes down to is that Microsoft intends to dominate every market that it contacts."
- "Apple doesn't want music consumers to have freedom of portability."
- "At the simplest level, he says, it is because GE wants to be known as a good company,"
- "Cargill would like to control the trade in food and to make larger profits by buying cheaply from farmers."
- "Looking at this acquisition on the surface, IBM has
always wanted a piece of the retail market."
- "Known for its thriftiness, Disney hates being made to look like a typical money-burning Hollywood studio."
In all of these quotes, companies are presented as having wills of their own. It's a shorthand, of course, pointing at the management at companies cited. We all understand that, or do we?
I don't think we do understand it, and I think that it goes further than just being shorthand. And I reckon that is just the way big companies like it.
It is common to give companies personal traits, particularly big companies. As consumers we hate it because it gives the people in the business something to hide behind, and the managers hiding behind it love it for the same reason.
But if we talk about the company rather than a person, or people, it lowers the chances we have of actually talking to someone real about anything of importance. Or being pissed off by someone real, or even being delighted by someone real.
It's a bit like being told "It's Telstra's policy to do x." You can't actually speak to someone who owns the policy, it just belongs to "Telstra". Or "We can't do that." Who's the "we", exactly? The "we" is of course the company, who isn't really anyone. At least anyone who is generally willing to put their hand up.
"Holden wants to reduce costs, so it is sacking 1500 staff." No it isn't. Someone, somewhere at Holden who made the decison to cut costs by sacking people is. But because we don't always know who that person is, he/she is largely shielded from some of the backlash. And I bet that is the way they like it.
Wake up. We want to deal with people. We want to have conversations with real people. Why won't they let us? What are they hiding from?