A shareholder can control certain aspects of the financial dealings within a company, but the extent of the control is limited, as is the responsibility or liability he has for failure on the part of the company.
Although the meaning of ownership has changed in that it has become a much more complex notion than “this is mine and that is yours,” the attitudes and beliefs that it once bred remain unchanged. To change these attitudes would need a prodigious exercise of thought and will, and it is easier and more comfortable–at least on the surface–to leave well enough alone. But, paradoxically, to leave well enough alone in this case means considerable rationalization, frustration, and even chaos. It would not be so bad if those who performed the magic of turning Cinderella shareholders into Queens for a Day were not taken in by their own magic; but they are.
One of the most pervasive dichotomies affecting our thinking and arising out of the univalent view is the management/employee dichotomy. A great deal of confusion has been created by this dichotomy because it naturally implies that managers are not employees. This implication is reinforced when managers discuss employees: “All that employees really want is as much money for as little work as they can get.” “A company is not there for the good of its employees.” And so on. When a manager says this, he is talking about them–the employees–not himself.
But the question naturally arises that if the manager is not an employee, what is he? This is where the shareholder-owner illusion becomes useful. Given the polarity “owner/employees” managers gravitate toward the belief in the univalent view of organization. Power, it is said, is vested at the top and percolates unidimensionally through the organization. This gives rise to the great emphasis that is put on the “organization chart” with the board of directors, and frequently even the shareholders, at the top.
March 15th, 2020 ~Stay tuned. . . .