I've been reading Nomi Prins' Other People's Money: The Corporate Mugging of America, which was published in 2004. (My paperback version has an update from 2006.) So the material pre-dates The Great Recession and provides an important remembrance of the insanity that was the late 90s/early 00s.
From page 7 of the paperback:
"Robert Schiller of Yale University and Irrational Exuberance fame spoke after lunch. His cautionary talk, supported by slides depicting graphs of lowered profitability and other financial health indicators, was challenged by the room. A series of grilling questions poking apart his argument followed. Though Schiller delineated clear reasons why the market was overinflated, no one really wanted to listen."
Sound familiar? For some people, you could present all the evidence in the world and they'd still argue to be wrong. To quote Dr. Stuart Woolley, "The turkeys don't even realise that they're voting for their own Christmas."
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Welcome to the Causey Consulting Podcast. You can find us online anytime at CauseyConsultingLLC.com. And now, here's your host, Sara Causey. Hello, Hello, and thanks for tuning in. In today's episode, I want to yet again revisit this idea of cronyism, and how things that happen in politics, in the economy, in corporate America, on Wall Street, etc. Those things are not coming as a surprise to the power brokers and the fat cats and the bankers. If you're still not tuned into that reality yet, and you still think that the market has just whims, its capricious, its fickle, and we just don't know how it works. If you're still in that reality, I am really not sure that you're going to make it. On October 27 of last year, I published a podcast episode titled, cronyism, collusion and RTO Do not be naive. In the write up, I wrote on September 28, I bucked the social media trend and told you that GM walking back its RTO mandate was temporary. It didn't represent a total capitulation on RTO in favor of work from home. Instead, in my opinion, it was a temporary stop gap for people to either warm up to coming back or leave. And now we're here. GM employees will be back in the office next year, not all of them are happy. Told you. So key topics, more predictions for me three days in the office will eventually transition to five days in the office. I do not believe hybrid work is being set up as a permanent model for most companies. Many people who work that way don't even like it. And I just don't see it being a permanent thing. Workplace feudalism, as well as just gestures broadly, feudalism in general, is becoming too obvious to ignore. Is it really about in person collaboration? Or is it about compliance and obedience? Be wary of people on social media who want to give you hot air and opium, they might be lowing you into a happy coma, that won't end particularly well. I will say the same thing to you. That was in q4 of last year. Here we are q1 of a new year. And I'm telling you if you're listening to people that are getting blindsided by what's happening, in my opinion, you are picking the wrong individuals to tune into. I'm not playing games, I'm not going to sugarcoat anything, I'm going to be very blunt with you. If you are listening to the hot air and hopium crowd, or you are following these commentators and talking heads on social media, who are either spoon feeding you pablum, or they're acting like they're just so surprised and butthurt by all of this, they just can't imagine our to, you are saddling up with the wrong people, in my opinion. And I see them on LinkedIn all the time. All the time. We just can't believe this would happen. We just can't believe an employer would like demand RTO we can't believe they would say if you live within X miles, you're coming back. I mean, how could they do this? It's like they don't even care. And I'm like, No shit. Hi. Hello, how are you? Welcome. V tie Ville common, the only new dobro personnel have it. Welcome to Real reality. Welcome. I'm so glad that you finally got out of your Suzy cream cheese Pollyanna sunshine bubble and decided to join the rest of us down here on Earth. Welcome. It's going to be a hard landing for you. I've talked before about people who try to take 15 minutes of fame. Or they try to take a sliver of positive publicity and build an entire identity around that. It boggles my mind. Maybe I'm just old and salty, but I'm like, how do you think that's going to work forever? People have such a short attention span there are so many flashes in the pan nowadays that you're somehow going to build an entire identity or an entire business model around a ephemeral thing that happened to you on the interwebs some of these people, okay, I am editorializing here. I don't want to get any hate mail. This is just my opinion. And I could be wrong. But for me, some of those people include individuals that got so geeked up on remote work and work from home and work from anywhere that they built an entire identity and an entire business around that. Now I'm not Saying building an entire business around being remote yourself. I do that. And I'm not out here trying to be Malcolm Gladwell and be like, Oh, well, I should be at home. But you shouldn't. No, that's not what I'm saying. I don't ever want to go back to the cube farm, I don't miss it. I hated it when I was trapped in it. And I damn sure don't want to go back now. It's worse, it breaks your spirit when you've had your freedom. And then you have to give your freedom up again, it sucks Been there done that highly don't recommend it. So I'm not saying that that what I'm talking about is remote work itself. What I'm saying is someone who has built an entire identity or an entire business model about trying to hype everybody else up and say, like, I am the expert on remote work. I am a remote work thought leader. And I believe that nobody is ever going to have to go back to an office again. That blows my mind. I can't get there. That's another situation where I have to just sort of stand back throw my hands in the air because I'm like, I can't I can't wrap my mind around a business model like that. Because what if you're wrong? If I'm wrong, and there is some nationwide strike, and everybody's like, Hell, no, we won't go. We'll sit at home and starve before we go back to the cube. And I turn out to be wrong. I'm just wrong. And I will come on the air with egg on my face, and I will eat that crow. I will say you know what, it's my time to have a slice of humble pie. I was wrong. But if you build an entire business, or an entire identity online around, I am the expert on remote work, and I believe remote work will last forever. And my predictions will never be wrong. And then you're wrong. You are screwed. Your credibility is shot. And your ability to continue on in that business without a drastic change is shot. Also, I just I don't get it. You know, it's like the memes that go around now lampooning the concept of a thought leader. And it's sad because that term became so hackneyed that now someone who actually is a thought leader in their industry, someone who is well respected and considered to be a valid source, someone worth listening to someone who has a real perspective, some real chutzpah, they can't call themselves a thought leader anymore, because that term is a cliche joke. So to me, it's like okay, remote work, thought leader, top voice of remote working, we'll all work from home forever. The companies of the future will all be remote, and we'll live in a happy utopia. I hope that that works out for you. But I don't have much else to offer the hopium crowd except hopium. I hope you're paying attention. I hope you have a plan B. I hope you have a way of being able to salvage your credibility when all of this goes pear shaped because I'm pretty sure that's what's coming. Last week on LinkedIn, they published the article when remote jobs become hybrid. The write up says at least one big company is bringing employees back to the office by simply reclassifying them as hybrid, even if they were hired as remote workers. USAA informed employees if they lived within a 60 mile radius of the San Antonio based company, they were expected in the office three days a week. According to an internal email cited by the Wall Street Journal. The maneuver comes as many employers way not only the pros and cons of remote work, but how strictly to enforce Artio policies. The New York Times called it a phase of trial and error that comes with staggering stakes and quote, well, yeah, the staggering stakes are going to come for John and Jane Q Public but not for the fat cats, the wealthy elite, the power brokers, the politicians, etc. They have a pretty clear track record of taking care of themselves. Feel free to read any of Glenn Greenwald's books, or Nomi Prins. If you read with liberty and justice for some, you'll see a very well documented look at how all of these people take care of each other. That's like there was an article written where someone was trying a journalist was trying to say that he was totally fine with Caspar Weinberger not serving any time because they were Safeway grocery buddies. He pushes his own shopping cart in the safe way. So if he walks, that's all right by me. Oh, okay. So you can break the law and not be punished for it. If you are a hyperlink, you're involved in politics, and you push your own shopping cart at the grocery store. Got it. Okay. That's pretty clear. Sure. One of the things that just made me shake My head in dismay, reading the comments under that LinkedIn article, this is a bait and switch. These companies are not going to be competitive. It's like they don't even care about their people. The radius they've given is absurd. People are not going to be able to make that kind of a commute. I don't know what they're thinking, this is terrible for recruiting. It's terrible for retention, just a lot of apparent surprise, and butthurt. And I'm sitting out here going, if you're surprised, and butthurt by this, you have not been paying attention. As I said, the gloves are off here. If you are listening to people who are being blindsided by what's happening right now, in my opinion, you are listening to the wrong damn people. You had better wake up, your family had better wake up, you had better be prepared to I hope not get steamrolled by what's coming in the economy. I think back again, to Orlando miner reading a post from social media about someone who had moved away from the office, and then he and his wife both got the come on back, or it's your job edict. And they were freaking out about having to commute like 90 minutes or two hours each way, and how they were going to handle that because they had bought a house that was away from the office thinking that they would be work from home forever. If you don't hold it, you don't own it. If you don't own that company, you don't make the rules. And I really do not give a hot damn what they told you in the recruiting process. I don't care. You want to talk about how corporate America doesn't care. I'm telling you right now, I don't care what kind of hot air hopium and propaganda they gave you to get you in the door. They might have said we'll be work from home forever. Don't worry about it work from anywhere forever. I don't care if you're in Beijing, or Beirut or Detroit, Michigan, I don't care if you're doing the job from Sacramento, California, or Boston, Massachusetts, you can work from anywhere as long as you're getting your work done. If you believe that hook, line and sinker, and it made you think that there was no way that company would ever change its mind, I am sorry for you. I have been inside the belly of this beast for years. The shenanigans, the chicanery, the awful headache inducing things that go on behind the scenes, like Nomi Prins, in her books, talks about what she saw on Wall Street what she saw in these giant finance firms, and how headache inducing it was for her. Well, I'm telling you from an HR and recruiting perspective, I've had very similar experiences being you know, gestures broadly at all of corporate America, in a variety of industries and a variety of companies seeing how the sausage is made. That's one of the reasons why I'm so passionate about getting on my blog and getting on the airwaves here, at some risk to myself, quite frankly, to tell you Yeah, when you go behind the curtain and you look at how the sausage is made, it's not so great, you know. So again, I'm going to say if you're listening to people that have been blowing smoke, hot air and hopium whatever they're told, they just go along with it. They will put that hook in their mouth and get snagged by whatever propaganda is out there. Whether it's state sponsored corporate America sponsored what's the difference? Eat Toki Chateau six of one half a dozen of the other. In my opinion, you're saddling up with the wrong people. Just my opinion, and I could be wrong, but that's where I sit on the issue. MIT Sloan Management Review published an article on February 27. titled Work From Home regulations are coming companies aren't ready. The byline reads the growing compliance costs of remote work could push more employers to bring workers back to the office. When that popped up on my little news alert thing on my phone. I didn't feel any surprise at all. None zero. I have tried and I've tried to tell you and hopefully you've connected the dots. If corporate America wants you back but in seat and not enough people comply. Guess what? The state will make damn sure you comply? Oh, well, they would just never we live in a free country. We live in a free society. They would just lover. Hmm. Yeah. Like Bill Hicks said if you think you live in a free country, try going somewhere without money and see how far you get money talks and bullshit walks. Okay. If the power brokers, the people who have more money than you and I will ever see in 10 law lifetimes say you're going back because that's what we want. You're going back. And instead of burying your head in the sand, and listening to the hot air and hopium crowd on social media, the same ones that are Oh clutch my pearls, I just can't believe this honestly, these companies don't care. Oh, yeah, it's almost like that, because it is like that. You can make the most artful justification about why they should look remote, why they need to keep kick the the geographic boundaries down and keep the keep the barriers low. Let's look at anybody geographically, let's get the best person for the job. They don't care if they want you back, but in See, they will make any justification that they can to counter your argument they will well in person collaboration, well, the joy of being together. Well, the pandemic is over. Well, if someone was worried about it, they've been vaccinated and boosted. And so it's time to come on back. Well, we got this real estate and it's just sitting empty, and we really need everybody to come on back. Well, we're kind of tired or remote work anyway. And we really feel like people that are still on that don't need to be here. Yeah. Yep. So this, this article surprises me Not at all. They talk about some interesting statistics, one of which is between 2019 and 2020, the number of people working primarily from home increased from 5.7% to 17, point 95% of all workers in the US, and then from 14.6%, to 24.4%, in Europe. So it sounds to me like there were there was already a decent sliver of the population working remotely in Europe. So it didn't increase quite as much, but it didn't have as far to go. But when you think about that, if if this if this data is correct, if you had roughly 18% of people working primarily from home, that's not a huge portion of the population. When you think about it in those terms. How difficult is it going to be for the RTO happy components in corporate America to crush 18%? Not very, I understand the oh the hate mail, you're just being a Debbie Downer. You're too cynical, and we're gonna we're gonna kick their butts. We're just going to have a sit out. Okay. Sure, I'm sure you will, I am sure that you will. With new data showing that remote work could save companies up to $10,600 per employee annually. And major employers such as three M SAP and Spotify committing to making remote work programs permanent, the trend looks like it's here to stay. But the increased flexibility and cost savings of remote work also mean that employers no longer have the kind of control control because that's what it's all about. No longer have the kind of control over the safety and stability of their employees work environments that they used to. Employees might also find it harder to separate their work and personal lives. These issues have prompted a surge in new regulatory developments aimed at making sure remote workers home workers and teleworkers are protected under existing environmental health and safety legislation and guidelines and that employers are not running afoul of labor laws in quote. Yeah, so I think some of the companies there they've mentioned there have had layoffs. I mean, it's sort of I don't think it's difficult to connect the dots on that we're gonna we're gonna have layoffs, we're gonna purge certain people and then we're going to do an RTO edict. I can totally see that happening. i That's not far fetched in my mind, at all. To me, this is like whenever you hear a politician, any of them and doesn't matter, Republican Democrat, red blue neocon Neo lib, again, II talkie show six and one half a dozen of the other. When you hear one of them, get up on a platform and say, the billionaires are still not paying their fair share in taxes. We need to tax them more. If we did this, all of our economic problems would be solved. We just have to try to conquer these greedy billionaires and then nothing effing changes. Nothing's going to change these people. At that level when you're talking about that kind of money. They can afford the high priced lawyers, the high priced accountants, they will put their money in offshore bank accounts and tax shelters and tax havens. They'll funnel it through foundations. They know how to play the game because they are the game. In the episode I published on February 16, Baylands and uncIe secured creditors are you ready? I talked about a video from Kitco, where they interview Lynette Zeng, if you did not watch it, please go back and watch it it the life you saved could be your own. And in that video, they also play a clip from the FDICS, our AC meeting from November of last year. And the quote that I highlighted in the write up was this, we want them to have full faith and confidence in the banking system. There's a select crowd of people that are on the institutional side. And if they want to understand this, they're going to find a way to understand it, which came from Gary Cohn are con, not sure how it's pronounced at that FDIC meeting. He also at that meeting, when they're sitting around these power brokers, the FDIC, when they're sitting around, they talk about that very concept. We're talking about high level people that have expensive lawyers and expensive accountants, if they want to understand this, they'll find a way to do it. Now we have to keep general public calm and pacified. They don't need to know about any of this until it's too late for them to really do anything to help themselves. But the high level people with their high level lawyers and high level accountants, they're gonna find a way to understand this. And so it is with tax regulations, you can get up there and try to act like, Oh, I'm just focusing on grassroots Power to the People, we're going to tax these greedy billionaires and nothing is going to change. You could come up with 100,000 new tax laws, and they would figure out a way to beat the system. Even if they had to just get up and leave the country, whatever they had to do to beat the system they would do. This is reality. If it sounds overly cynical, if it's upsetting to use, and you can turn this broadcast off and go watch Sesame Street or something. But I think if you're an adult and you care about your future, you had better wake up. And so I think it is with these regulations, right? In my mind, if they start putting more EHS regulations, they limit contact to certain hours that even more so motivates corporate America to say just come on back. We don't want to deal with the headache. It's too litigious. It's too much drama. I can contact Sally, because it's still work hours and her timezone. But I can't contact Bob because it's not work hours in his timezone. Corporate America is not going to inconvenience itself in order to convenience you. In my opinion, they're not going to open themselves up to regulations and fines and penalties to make sure that their top talent stays nurtured. I don't see that happening. Again, from this MIT Sloan article, employers that embrace the remote work revolution understood how it could help them stay resilient, nurture their top talent and save some money on commercial real estate. Unfortunately, mistakes and how they manage remote employees could undo a lot of that goodwill, creating bad optics and exposing them to significant financial penalties along the way. Will these increased risks and potential liabilities offset the advantages of remote work in the eyes of large corporations? That will depend on the employer recently, as the economy has begun to slow and public health measures have been lifted? By the way, I'm just going to butt in and say do you think that those two things are unrelated? Do you think it's a coincidence? That public health measures have been lifted as the economy slowed? long pause there because I want you to reason that out for yourself. Do you think that that's purely coincidental? Many employers have started to reverse course on their remote work policies citing improved productivity and collaboration in an in office environment. employers that want to get their employees back into the office could start pointing to the growing costs of complying with remote work regulations as another reason to go back to the old way of doing things told you so. Meanwhile, many other employers have doubled down on remote work insisting that it is the way of the future and using flexible work structures as a strategic recruiting tool in quote. Yeah. Again, I'm reading this I'm not surprised by any of it. I think that there are a lot of companies in corporate America that want to go back to the old way of doing things. And even if you are working for a company that says they intend to be remote forever, that does not make it so it is not written in stone and irrefutable. If we were going to sit down and write our dystopian novel or the screenplay for a movie, we could always have a situation a purely fictional situation. Were the business owners and the state colluded together. And the business owners could go to the state and say we really want the peons and plebs to be back, but in seat, we're having some trouble getting them past the whole work from home revolution. So we need a little something something, can you help us out? Can you make it so that it doesn't seem like it's our fault? Can you make it so that it's like the state has these laws and regulations and these fines and these penalties, and so we had to bring them back. It wasn't our fault. We just had to do it in order to be more legally compliant or to avoid paying fines in an economic downturn. Kay, thanks. If we were writing a fictional book, or creating a screenplay for a fictional movie, we could totally do that. I don't think it would seem utterly outlandish or bizarre for a plotline like that to occur. I don't know about you. But I don't think it's far fetched at all. So I'll wrap this up by saying yet again, I hope you have a job loss Survival Plan roughed out, I hope you also have an RTO Survival Plan roughed out in the event that you freelance or you own and operate your own business and you're sitting there rolling your eyes thinking, well, this would never apply to me. Are you more gamed out appropriately? If the primary way that you make your money dries up? Maybe not for forever, but for a while? Do you have a plan B, C, D, E F, do you have transferable skills to help you make it through this downturn? If you're a freelancer who's committed to remote work, you don't want to travel? You don't want to be buttoned seat in an office somewhere. Have you really, really, really were gamed out that plan B, C, D, E, F, G, and so on. And is it remote friendly? Are you trying to dip into other reservoirs of talent that you possess that could also be done remotely from home? I feel like it's better, in my opinion, to think about these things in advance. Again, to paraphrase Lynette Zang, I would rather be 10 years too early than 10 seconds too late. I don't ever tell you what to do. I sit here and I opine for your entertainment only, but it's definitely my wish that you'd be early instead of late. Stay safe, stay sane. And I will see you in the next episode. Thanks for tuning in. 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