Thursday, June 9, 2011

Top 5 Highly-Paid But Useless Corporate Jobs

Let's face it.  Corporations often hire people to do jobs that don't really need doing.  Sometimes it's because an executive is building an empire.  Sometimes it's the result of random corporate confusion.

Most of the time, these useless jobs pop up at the bottom of the food chain. However, some are execs that are both highly-paid and exist in almost every large firm — even though they're not really accomplishing anything.

Here is my list of the top 5 time-wasting and useless (but big money) corporate jobs.  I'm happy to argue about my selection, of course, especially if your job is on my list:

1) Useless Job #1: Chief Information Officer

  • The Role: Information technology is supposedly so important that a separate executive is need to formulate strategic goals for an organization, and manage the implementation of useful technology to "increase information accessibility and integrated systems management."
  • Typically Reports To: The CEO, CFO, or COO
  • Why It's Useless: The CIO concept dates back to the days of the mainframe data center, where the computer power for a company could be centralized in order to reduce cost.  However, centralized IT bureaucracies always were notoriously lame at serving their "customers", so even back then, department heads started purchasing minicomputers and then personal computers, just to get away from the limitations of central control.  Today, there's a massive migration to simply buying computer power over the web (i.e. "cloud computing"), which reduces the role of corporate computing to essentially maintaining a network — hardly something that requires vast strategic skills.
  • Proof of Uselessness: Check out the 10K reports for Microsoft, Oracle and IBM on the SEC's Edgar database.  Those reports have lists of key executives, like CEO, CFO, and down to smaller roles like senior VPs, etc.   Despite that fact that these firms work closely with the IT groups inside thousands of corporations, none of those three companies lists a CIO as a key player in their own firm. That tells you everything you need to know.
2) Useless Job #2: Market Strategist
 
  • The Role: A marketing strategist is tasked with focusing an organization's energies and resources on increased sales and dominance of a targeted market niche. The resulting strategy is intended to combine product development, promotion, distribution, pricing, relationship management and other elements.
  • Typically Reports To: Head of Sales and/or Marketing
  • Why It's Useless: There's no question that a company needs a strategy.  However, what it doesn't need is a person assigned full time to set that strategy over and over and over.  Strategy is a long-term commitment.  Once it's set, the challenge is to implement that strategy and make it work. However, if there are strategists running around, trying to justify their existence, they will constantly try to tweak the strategy, thereby making tactical execution difficult or impossible.  Worst case, they end up making the company a fail, simply because the strategic direction is always changing.
  • Proof of Uselessness: Man alive, just spend some time talking to one of these types. Better yet, next time you go to a "marketing strategy" presentation, play the "marketing strategy buzzword game."  Hand out a list of buzzwords.  Each time the strategist uses a buzzword, everyone has to take a sip of coffee.  Make sure there's a full pot on the conference room table, because you're gonna need a refill.  Trust me on this.
3) Useless Job #3: Chief Ethics Officer
 
  • The Role: Responsible for assessing the ethical implications of the company's activities, making recommendations regarding the company's ethical policies, and disseminating that information to employees. They are theoretically interested in uncovering or preventing unethical and illegal actions.
  • Typically Reports To: CEO
  • Why It's Useless: The Supreme Court has repeatedly reaffirmed that right of corporations to be treated legally as individuals.  However, if corporations really are individuals, they're also sociopaths.  Just as a sociopath will pretend to be nice in order to get what he wants, a corporation will pretend to be ethical, as long as it serves the needs of the stockholders. The only reason that most corporations don't launch profitable ventures that end up killing children is that it might result in bad publicity. Period. Because corporations are always guided by a supreme sense of near-psychotic self-interest, there's no need to pay somebody big bucks to publicly pretend otherwise.
  • Proof of Uselessness: If the role had any real meaning or power, you'd see Chief Ethics Officers (aka Chief Compliance Officers) being promoted into CFO, COO or CEO positions.  But that never happens, a clear indication that the job is a sinecure. Truth is that the real C-level executives pretty must treat the Chief Ethics Officer as a joke and use it to make their "executive ranks" look a little less all-white and all-male.
4) Useless Job #4: Product Evangelist
 
  • The Role: Just as a religious evangelist creates converts, the product evangelist tries to get consumers to literally believe in a product or service, which they preach in an attempt to convert others, actively spreading the word on behalf of the company.
  • Typically Reports To: Head of Marketing
  • Why It's Useless: The idea of having CUSTOMERS become evangelists is brilliant.  Nothing could be better for a product or a company.  But having an inside person (i.e. a corporate drone) trying to promote the concept is a lame idea because it's so obviously self-serving.  In most cases, the "evangelist" simply becomes an internal pain in the tuchus by constantly trying to promote his own agenda at the expense of other product groups.
  • Proof It's Useless: Think of it this way.  Who is the most annoying person you've ever met?  For most people, I bet it's some religious nut who just can't let well enough alone. He chases you around and keeps pestering you to become a true-believer.  Well, that's exactly what you get when you pay somebody to act like a nut case.
5) Useless Job #5: Change Catalyst
 
  • The Concept: Nurture teams and organizations to succeed and achieve business productivity and organizational goals by challenging paradigms of management and leadership thinking and by guiding people through to real action and research of their professional and personal work. (Note: the preceding was lifted from an actual website.)
  • Typically Reports To: CEO (under contract)
  • Why It's Useless: These are the tapeworms of the corporate world. They latch onto the management fad du jour, and then suck money out of your company by setting up dopey meetings, writing unreadable reports, and providing unwanted/unneeded advice.  By positioning themselves as "catalysts" they neatly remove themselves from any actual responsibility for results.  On the other hand, if something good happens, they can say that it happened because they were "facilitating" the change.
  • The Results: For a corporation, a really bad fiscal year is the equivalent of a thorough vermifuge. When the money disappears, all sorts of parasites get, well…, crapped out.  This particular ilk is always amongst the first to be eliminated.

READERS: Any additional jobs I should add?  (Other than "BNET blogger", which is a tad too obvious.)

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About the Reviewer: Geoffrey James has sold and written hundreds of features, articles and columns for national publications including Wired, Men's Health, Business 2.0, SellingPower, Brand World, Computer Gaming World, CIO, The New York Times and (of course) BNET. He is the author of seven books, including Business Wisdom of the Electronic Elite (translated into seven languages and selected by four book clubs), and The Tao of Programming (widely quoted on the Web as a "canonical book of computer humor".)

Thanks to Geoffrey James / BNet / CBS Interactive
 
 

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