Amidst layoffs -- yes, they're still going on -- it should not be a surprise to anyone that employees feel frustrated and cynical about their employer. The bigger the employer, the greater the sense of frustration, according to my anecdotal observations. Pressure from Wall Street to lower costs is almost universally translated into lowering headcount: it's the easiest and quickest way to please the Street. At the same time, the pressure to drive revenue creates a culture of "deliver or else." Companies the size of HP and IBM need to create $10 billion in new revenue just to keep their investors happy. The running joke in tech companies is that if a line manager fails to hit their numbers for two quarters they're out. When this Great Recession ends, look for this culture to continue, and for corporate cynicism to spike. 2010 will likely see a wave of corporate mergers take place in an effort to create global powerhouses and revenue-generating machines. I hear GMs of big tech companies tell me that the fun is gone, that the spirit of innovation and that the 'values' at the root of the great technology boom are lost amidst the pressures to meet quarterly expectations. Executives at my biggest clients are whispering to me: get me outta here. They're asking me to find the fun places to work, places where they can put their stamp on things. But before you complain, before asking for the start-up, ask yourself what you mean by "fun."
It's true that as technology companies grow in size, the pure-play technology-oriented enterprise -- the company you always wanted to work for -- naturally morphs into a more complex, dispassionate, commercial enterprise resembling the company your dad worked for. The technology idealogues get acquired by the corporate beasts. Business guys take over. This can spell doom or success depending on the leadership and the talent that is developed to meet the challenges in the market.
In my corner of the world, we don't make a value judgement on size. There are big companies that stick their necks out and achieve great things and big (and small) companies that are a pain to work for. We look to the leader, not a company's size, as the issue. As organizations grow in complexity, a new breed of leader - the model changers and transformational figures - need to be developed so that the needs of the market are met, value is created and employees have a reason to come to work. If you're with one of these beasts hear the message: master your surroundings and stick your neck out. Hopefully, this defines fun for you. If this is not possible, heed your instincts and get out. Life's goodies come in big and small packages. Look to the leadership.