Cooper’s remarks are from an article based on her CBC interview. Here is part of what she had to say:
“No one ever considered I could be in training for a C-suite job in the bank.”To me, these remarks paint a picture of many high-level bank employees working hard, doing their best for the bank, and waiting to get noticed. Maybe Cooper didn’t mean them this way, but I know many people who think corporate environments work this way. My experience has been much different.
“It’s not that I aspired to be a CEO. It’s just that I was never even considered in that role.”
I’ve spent most of my career in high-tech reporting to high-level management. But I was a technical person and not in management myself. So, I got to observe CEOs interact with their direct reports without getting caught up in the fray very much myself.
I would characterize the climb to the top as a bunch of intelligent psychopaths playing an adult high-stakes version of king-of-the-mountain. I’m not just saying this for effect. Let me explain.
I use the word “psychopath” to mean a personality type I saw frequently. These are people who are indifferent to the happiness or suffering of others. They don’t enjoy hurting people. As a matter of fact, they seem not to notice or understand the feelings of others. They can scream at someone and then be baffled when that person leaves crying. There were others who did seem to understand others’ feelings, but they used this knowledge to manipulate rather than to create a pleasant work environment.
King-of-the-mountain is a child’s game where one child climbs to the top of a mountain of snow and declares loudly that he, usually a boy, is the king of the mountain. Then many other children begin climbing the mountain to first shove the king off and then shove each other off. Hilarity and concussions ensue.
When I hear someone complain about not being considered for promotion, I imagine a child standing beside the mountain of snow waiting to be acclaimed as king while the other children are violently throwing each other down.
Of course, the adult version of king-of-the-mountain is much more subtle than the child’s version. There certainly are frantic periods where executives get fired. But mostly there is relative calm where everyone is lining up their strategies to get each other fired. Some CEOs will fire potential rivals, but mostly they try to keep everyone in line with the promise of excessive bonuses and stock options.
I have some sympathy for low- and middle-level employees who get passed over for promotion for unfair reasons. This can happen due to gender bias, racial bias, or a whole host of reasons that affect both men and women. However, those aspiring to a top-level position need to roll up their sleeves and join the rest of the mostly anti-social executives in their slug-fest.