Life At Megacorp 18

When I joined Turtle Bay Canada it was new to the Canadian marketplace as an investment manager. When you join a new player in the market your enthusiasm can be very high, particularly when you start winning business in a significant and impressive way.

Turtle Bay Canada required a client to have an asset base of $600,000,000, but its initial wins were accounts in the billions. The local investment management firms in Toronto were getting blasted off their feet by Turtle Bay Canada.

As Turtle Bay America had many clients with subsidiaries in Canada, those subsidiaries were flocking to Turtle Bay Canada. It was easy money!

So why was Turtle Bay Canada kicking ass in the market? Primarily because it had a small, highly motivated and driven Canadian employee base willing to go the extra mile and be part of a winning and growing corporation. This contrasted with the Canadian investment management firms which were rather clubby and old boyish and took savage competition as anti-Canadian.

They realized rather late that Turtle Bay Canada was a powerful, aggressive, and competitive force. In a matter of years, Turtle Bay Canada had established itself as a major player in the market.

The Toronto old boys club were caught with their pants down! Their mismanagement was failing to realize the threat of Turtle Bay Canada in the Canadian marketplace resulted in them losing many accounts and then terminating hundreds of jobs.

When you work for a gangbuster firm new in the market, and you had a charismatic and down to earth president that gave a damn about employees and did not hesitate to promote and praise employees, you give it your best.

I will admit I was caught up in the euphoria for 5 or so years, often staying late, arriving home in the early morning. I was negotiating big time, high value contracts and getting a pat on the back and a promotion or two. And I was participating in the incentive plan which was, of course, chicken shit in comparison to what the Canadian and New York Senior Management Team was raking in.

I was enjoying myself. I felt I was contributing, so I busted my butt.

I recall initially how small Turtle Bay Canada was. We all knew each other and celebrated our successes. We had regular quarterly update meetings with a free lunch thrown in. We would celebrate wins. We would celebrate promotions. There were separate adult and children’s Christmas parties. There were golf tournaments with clients.

Money and success were flowing.

Then the Lehman Brothers collapse in 2008 suddenly changed everything.

By 2008, Turtle Bay Canada in Toronto had expanded to Montreal and Vancouver and was becoming a Megacorp. Turtle Bay America had decided to outsource to Turtle Bay Canada a whole host of administrative functions due to the cheap Canadian dollar.

India was not quite in fashion then, as an outsourcing destination. Unfortunately, after a few heady years, Turtle Bay Canada’s president was terminated. His generosity and spirit were a bit alien to the tough New York boys, particularly as Canadian operations had somewhat peaked and Turtle Bay Canada had little room for growth after capturing so much of the marketplace.

The mass terminations started a few months after the Lehman Brothers collapse. In one particularly spooky moment I was talking to my Turtle Bay America friend, Anne Kolodny, who had a solid Turtle Bay America Human Resources Department contact. That contact had advised her a big termination event had been planned in New York and Philadelphia for the next day.

Offices were being booked for hundreds of New York and Philadelphia terminations. We said we would touch base the next day. Anne was terminated before we could have our next conversation. I was devastated.

A long-term friend and brilliant lawyer gone in the bat of an eyelash. I suppose in your late 50s you have a bull’s eye on your forehead.

Morale at Turtle Bay started to plunge.

I gave a moment’s reflection about my performance, which was always solidly rated, yet my boss Sally Self had never acknowledged or thanked me. Not only that, I had filled in for her maternity leave and for those of colleagues without so much as ever receiving thanks for that hugely stressful feat.

Can you imagine playing outfield for the parent’s association baseball championship at my son’s school with a Blackberry stuck to my ear trying to close out a deal while filling in on maternity leave?

My attitude began to change quickly. I felt abused and manipulated let alone massively overworked. I decided to be 9-5. And like when I was working with CRAP, it really didn’t make a difference.

Perhaps it was because our new hire, Shalla Makmood, announced she was pregnant several weeks after we hired her. Sally and Shalla were both young mothers and that sort of left me with no common connection to either.

If Shalla was 9-5, I was going to play that game. What a fool I had been to fritter away my time for 5 years on late night deals. I felt I had cheated my children out of a father. No more. Fuck off Turtle Bay.

Did I previously mention some of the strange productivity schemes invented or pirated by the CRAP HR Department to increase productivity? Turtle Bay management in New York was burbling like a baby over a new program it had developed or, rather, pirated as it sounded like some mutation of the affirmative action campaign in the United States in the 1960s and 70s.

The program went by the name of Global Inclusion and Celebration of Differences. The idea was to make everyone feel appreciated and wanted despite their ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, or race. Differences were to be celebrated in a public and flashy fashion.

The intended result was to be a diversified workforce which respected groups other than their own group. This erroneously assumed segregation existed.

Accordingly, there was the Black Business Association, the Kansas City Bible Study Group, the Muslim Business Group, the Asian Employees Group and, of course, the LGBT Group. I lost track of all the diverse groups.

A member of the Senior Management Team was to act as management sponsor for each group.

Most employees were totally dispirited by the vicious and continual rounds of terminations. They were not enthusiastic about being manipulated so that some SMT sponsor could claim glory for the management of the group for which they acted as executive sponsor.

The reality of this Global Inclusion and Celebration of Differences was a greater fragmentation of the employee base with employees sticking to their own group and thinking it superior to the other groups. Diversity in a defensive and destructive sense was the result the HR idiots reaped.

I shouldn’t be too hard on the poor HR Department here. Nor should I accord any concern by Turtle Bay New York management about any concern for whether its employees were LGBT, Muslim, Black, or Chinese. Their only goal was to secure cheap labour and to satisfy clients who were looking for a service provider. What a joke!

One had only to look to the board of directors of Turtle Bay America in New York to see it was comprised of older white men with a token black, Asian, and female. Even that amount of tokenism was lacking in the Canadian SMT Turtle Bay Canada team.

The SMTs in New York and Canada were united by their greed, so really there was no need to celebrate any diversity amongst themselves. Money is a great unifier!

No, the real reason for this promotion of diversity was a powerful group of mostly US governmental type agencies demanding that its service providers have a diversified workforce which were not discriminated against. So, to the uneducated concerning Megacorp International, it was an attempt to celebrate employee (and not management) diversity.

For the educated about Megacorp International, and to the eager MBA graduates toiling for Megacorp International, it was a calculated show to retain and increase a client base.

Turtle Bay had only one goal and that was to increase profit. If it meant putting on a show for existing and potential clients, a Las Vegas show was in order! An SMT-produced Cirque de Soleil, so to speak.

The increasing ranks of unmotivated and cynical employees viewed this with a good sense of humour. Why would Turtle Bay give a shit about employees when it decimated them in rounds of downsizing?

The Global Inclusion and Celebration of Differences program was a dismal failure despite a legion of newbie brownnosers who tried to shine brilliantly by establishing these groups. Although the whole program might have, and should have been, destroyed by a Newark (or Detroit) Race Riot State of Mind, it died a slow and deserved death over the period of three years.

I recall that the Turtle Bay HR types required each employee to attend two Global Inclusion and Celebration of Differences events as part of the employee’s performance appraisal goals. Their desperation to make the program a success was clear to most employees.

AS an interlude, let me tell you I attended an LGBT group event. The LGBT group was sponsored by a homophobic member of the Turtle Bay Canada’s SMT. It had an evening event with a drag queen performer. There was mortification on the poor SMT sponsor’s face.

It was quite clear he had no place at such debaucheries. I enjoyed the anti-corporate mood of the evening. There are funny moments at Megacorp!

Then, for a moment, it struck me. I was a minority at Turtle Bay Canada in Toronto. An old white man in his 60s with only three others in my category. I was sorely tempted to form a true minority group within Turtle Bay Canada’s operations: The Over 60 White Man Club.

I conferred with my three other colleagues on this point and I think the result was that to form such a group would amount to employment termination. Yet, being surrounded by a 65 per cent Chinese workforce, that had its own Asian inclusion group, any trumpeting of anything white was totally and incredibly politically incorrect. But it had a brash and truthful reality to it.

No racism involved. We just wanted to highlight our identity, just like all the other groups!

Now, one of my three colleagues were terminated at age 65 so our group at Turtle Bay in Canada would have been me and two men, one of whom was a Turtle Bay slave. But because he had absolutely nothing else in his life than a miserable existence with the company, he was unwilling to sacrifice his less than fulfilling Turtle Bay Canada life for a life of nothingness in retirement.

So, our club never got off the ground.

The other old man wanted nothing to do with the group as he had a bad gambling addiction and was afraid of losing his paycheque.

At least four of us old white men experienced the contradictions and racism inherent in the Global Inclusion and Celebration of Differences program.

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About the Author

Ross Trenholm
Life at Megacorp is a true-to-life account of living and working in the higher echelons of the corporate world. Ross Trenholm is the fictionalized persona of those who have lived the Megacorp life and only the names and places have been changed to protect the innocent.