The Hyper-Transparency Challenge

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The Hyper-Transparency Challenge

An unprecedented amount of intelligence about every public company is now accessible to executives, employees, competitors, shareholders, regulators, suppliers, and the media. Combined with a new cynical attitude among individuals toward icons such as large corporations, as well as powerful new communication technologies, such as blogs and video-sharing sites, this trend poses a threat to businesses of all sizes and in all industries.

Until the 1950s, there was a general sense in America that institutions should not only be trusted, but revered. Big companies like General Motors, the government, and the church formed the pillars of society. But in the decades since then, the public’s faith in each of these institutions has eroded, due to scandals involving CEOs, politicians, and the clergy.

In the past decade, tales of corporate excess have become so common that they’re hardly newsworthy. It’s no wonder that some individuals have become jaded. Stories of deceptive practices at companies like Enron and WorldCom, as well as details of the fat retirement packages given to Jack Welch and the rich severance deals given to disgraced executives like Michael Ovitz, have all inspired distrust toward corporations. In addition, bankrupt companies that have laid off workers and demanded concessions from unions have bred resentment among their current and former employees.

For these reasons, a small but growing number of people feel an urge to cause problems for giant companies and the executives who run them. Consider the Web site called Untied.com, which was started by a disgruntled United Airlines passenger who couldn’t get anyone at the company to respond to his complaint. Today, the site has become a magnet for complaints from the airline’s passengers, as well as United’s current and former employees.

To fully comprehend just how damaging a site like Untied.com can be to a company’s image, consider this excerpt from Untied.com that describes links to various recent postings on the site:

“A letter from a current UALer asks other employees whether the airline ‘has done for you what you expected it to?’ For the many past and present employees who have added their nightmare experiences to the employee feedback section, the answer is clearly not! For anyone considering employment with UAL, or similarly, for the many laid-off employees who are wondering what happened, it may be useful to remember that the airline is not known for rewarding the best, but rather, for punishing them. . . . The advice of two former employees is useful reading for employees (both past and present) and passengers alike: UAL does not care about you, and your life is better post-UAL!

“In related stories, another employee alerts the AFA to the cynical financial manipulations of upper management while they continue to squeeze the regular employees...

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