Corporate Complacency is the Creatives' Cancer

Mistaken for a corporate drone, I cringe at the oozing complacency in my workplace daily. I plug into the coffee machine spigots tacked with (not so) clever signage, “Lattes for Late Nights.” Work till you drop. Labor for the machine. Just another day. Complacency is the new security.  

As a Gen Y by birth and a Type A by personality, I consider my optimistic outlook to be on par with a Spongebob Squarepants. (Yes, I was one of those college girls in the mid-2000’s with the lifesize Spongebob pillow suspended above her bed.) I want to empower colleagues to flourish on the job. I long to be a part of a company, large or small, with a culture that inspires. I believed I could almost singlehandedly morph a soulless corporate behemoth to miraculously produce now-happy employees humming Bob Marley songs in the break room.


Some may consider me a tad ambitious. Why not be?  I believe I should voice problematic issues to the leaders, so they can address and rectify the situation. Too many Millennials are afraid to reach out, or lean in, as some Gen Y’s like to call it. Not me. I’m known around the office as the “No B.S.” girl, who knows how to get things done and effect change. I’m a bit of a disrupter, and a dose of disruption is one cure for complacency.


Because I am the Social Lead for the agency, I screenshot every itty bitty whiny tweet from frustrated employees about filling out their expense reports. Not to brag, but I’ve been told my social listening skills are above par. I know what our employees are feeling, hoping, dreaming and despairing. What’s my goal as the positioner of our agency in all things content and social? My job is to mask the flaws and hype the positives. In other words, I’m a not-so-well-paid online fabricator.


At an optimal opportunity, I reached out directly to the CEO with my two cents. Yes, it took me about 48 minutes to compose that 200-word email. I expressed my concern with the demoralizing culture at our 1,100-employee company. I stated that I believed the issue was complacency. I also was so bold as to insinuate I had an idea for a plan to revolutionize our culture. Two business days later, he responded. Score! Not only did he agree with me, he asked, “Where would you start?”


If that isn’t success for a young gal with less than twelve months at the company, I don’t know what is! I triggered his interest and garnered his attention. What’s tragic is that the story (almost) ends there. What I came to discover after I sent him a thoroughly proposed plan informed by the Netflix culture deck, is that our new CEO is vocally opposed to the idea, as he publicly announced (while making eye contact with me) during our latest company meeting.


Though I could have received that news with a defeated attitude, I instead decided to pursue other opportunities. Why stay where I cannot effect change at scale? This style of corporate leadership may not work for me, so why invest maximum effort for minimal return. I’ll go where I can either create or support a dynamic culture. Where complacency cannot even take root in the soil of healthy competition.


2016 Update: This post was written during my time within a corporate setting. My outlook on corporate has changed dramatically since originally publishing this article. I have learned that if I had approached the complacency with a different attitude and in a smarter way, I might have experienced the opportunity to grow as a professional, rather than jumping ship prematurely. Lesson learned.