Corporate Zombies and Karen Incorporated
LinkedIn hashtag campaigns, demoralized workers, and the false choice between equality and equity
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Editors Note: everything I write below is directed at large corporations. Small businesses don’t have time for this bullshit.
For long-time readers of The Plant, you know I have a gigantic, Chewbacca-sized hair across my ass when it comes to the bogus astroturf environment, which is corporate culture. As work has become a more all-consuming part of our lives, the companies we work for worry about our “welfare” and want to be our “friends” (friends who would shackle you to a laptop 20 hours per day if they could, but friends nonetheless).
This friendship offensive is directed primarily by one group of people seeking relevance in their corporate existence; the “Department of Karen’s,” or as most non-jaded people call it, the HR department. As the pod people body snatchers who staff the Department of Karen’s have multiplied, they have invaded the bodies of most corporations by now and morphed them into “Karen Incorporated.” Karen Incorporated is primarily run by people who have nothing better to do with their time than be on the lookout for any social cause they can clamp their leopard-striped Lee Press-On nails into and activate all their corporate zombie slactivists to post some frivolous hashtag campaign on LinkedIn. All of this is to pretend they are “changing the conversation” or some such nonsense when they are simply screaming into an echo chamber of people who are either in lockstep agreement with them or too afraid of the Department of Karens Stasi’s to say otherwise.
Today I bring you a case study of one such Karen Incorporated initiative which exemplifies the grandiose tedium they emit into the world. This enterprise’s (which shall remain nameless) Department of Karens was putting the pedal to the metal on the autobahn of corporate slaver when they instituted multiple #brave #heroic #stomach-turning hashtag campaigns in the span of a couple of just a couple of weeks.
They may want to slow down a touch; the Shift + 3 keys can only take so much abuse on the keyboard.
The first campaign, which, as far as I can tell, was unique to this company, was deemed #NoHate, to which we owe them a debt of gratitude for combating the growing popularity of the #Iamgoingtopunchyouinthegenitals hashtag.
In this William Wallace-esque show of courage, employees took pictures of themselves with “No Hate” written on their palms, wrote some long diatribe about how “hate does not live here” or “taking a bold stand against injustice,” and then would “call out” (i.e., try to shame) other people in the company to take up the “challenge.” If you search LinkedIn, you will find hundreds of these posts.
This was a target-rich ridicule environment, so let me call out just a couple of these posts to show you the zombie-like corporate behavior the Corporate Karens induce.
Virtually all the #nohate posts say the person is responding to a “call to action.” Much like the World War I Doughboys, charging a German machine-gun nest, these heroes emerged from the best among us to take the “action” of scribbling something on their hands, copying and pasting a post from some marketing template, and taking a picture of themselves. Congratulations! Because of your efforts, women can shed their burqas in Saudi Arabia, and gay people in Iran are no longer thrown off buildings. Great work. Medals of Honor across the board.
Even better, the marketing departments can track every persecuted person rescued because of their #nohate hashtag and add it to their annual goals—two birds with one stone and all of that.
This next one is so dung-laden that he should apply to be an organic farmer.
First off, he claims he is “accepting a challenge.” What exactly is the challenge here? Did he go on Fear Factor and have to cut off his testicles while shaving his legs and watching Love, Actually? I’m lost.
He then follows up the confirmation of his utter emasculation with the standard issue MLK citation. I’m sure MLK’s real dream was to become a throwaway, mundane quote in every corporate social media campaign until the end of time (or at least until his FBI files are released and the left cancels him too). Doing him proud, pal.
He rounds out his post by using the Commie language of “equity” to explain that “hate has no place in our communities,” a word into which I will do a deep dive later on because it pervades corporate language broadly these days.
Then, within days of this mindless corporate garbage, the folks at Karen Incorporated had another one of their favorite hobby horses pop up on the calendar, International Women’s Day, or #IWD2023.
Here is a typical example of one of the #IWD2023 postings.
A consistent theme throughout these posts is the zombified employees giving themselves big zombie hugs, which is odd because I thought we were not supposed to make stereotypes about sex preferences. Why is a self-hug the international sign for women? If there were an International Men’s Day (I know, we are about 50 million suicides away from that, but bear with me), do you think the pose people strike in those pictures would be a hug? No, it would more likely be a James Bond finger gun pose that would then get the “toxic masculinity” treatment. How about that? I guess there is actually a difference between the sexes.
Come to think of it; I have an idea that will put all these corporate social media campaigns to shame. Remember those Save The Children commercials that, for $4.99 per month, you could adopt a starving African child and help save their life? How about we update that, but we replace “starving African child” with “oppressed woman” and “$4.99 per month” with “LinkedIn hashtags.”
Stick with me. We get John Travolta on a plane to Sudan to shoot a commercial with a woman facing genital mutilation because of some 7th-century cultural bullshit, and he tells us, “for just 20 LinkedIn posts per month with the hashtag #savehervag, you can save this woman’s vagina from disfigurement.” Did I just save the world, or did I just save the world? Can someone get the Nobel committee on the phone, please?
Jokes aside, there is also a disturbing language trick being executed in this farce.
The Politics of Equity
I am going to dive into a relatively detailed analysis of “equality” vs. “equity” and their political uses here. If you want just to get back to the jokes, the “too long; didn’t read” summary is - equality is a critical goal in any liberal (small-l) society, and equity is simply a powerplay by powerful goons to give handouts to their preferred class of voters or employees. I’ll note below where you can jump back in for the jokes part.
For those of you sticking with me, let’s go…
First, let’s level-set on terminology, specifically, the difference between “equality” and “equity.” For that, let me turn to the fount of all bad ideas, The World Economic Forum:
“Equality means that we treat everyone equally - each person or group of people is given the same resources and opportunities. Equity means that we provide resources and opportunities that fit the specific needs or circumstances of that person or group, and in that way, we can reach an equal outcome.” [emphasis added]
See the difference? Equality ensures everyone has the same chance to succeed in their chosen areas, which is difficult enough given all the differences people have in genetics, culture, and upbringing. Equity means we decide on a predetermined “equal outcome” and design policies around that. They seem similar, but they aren’t. Striving for equality should be the goal of any just society. Equity is simply the will to power for a politically favored group.
The WEF utilizes this helpful cartoon to dumb down the conceptual difference for all the illiterate plebs out there; however, this Marvel cartoon obfuscates the differences between the words.
Superficially, this seems great. The short guy in the purple shirt gets the box the taller blue-shirt guy had, and now they all can watch the ‘roided up slugger hit a 700-foot homerun. Except, that’s not how equity works in the real world.
First, when equity meets the meat puppets of planet earth, there must be decisions about what type of equity you are striving for. That comes down to the subjective views of what the politically powerful in society want to achieve. As an example, “women in STEM” has been a mantra of the left for years now, but we never see anything about “women in deep sea fishing” or “women in septic system installation” because the passion for sex-balancing professions is a farce. There is a desire to get women into safe, high-paying jobs instead of dirty and/or dangerous lower-paying occupations. Let the toxic cock-havers keep those shitty jobs for themselves.
The fact that men make up nearly the entire workforce in high-risk jobs is made clear by the fact that women are 46.6% of the workforce in the US but only 8.6% of workplace fatalities. Where are the politicians standing up for men and telling women to grab their chainsaws and head into the forests in the great Northwest?
How about the push for women to go to college and “make something of themselves” so they can throw off the yolk of the patriarchy? After all, if women don’t have the same opportunities at higher levels of education, how will we ever avoid becoming The Handmaid’s Tale? Well, there isn’t equity here; in fact, it favors women across all degree levels and heavily in bachelor’s and master’s degrees. And this isn’t exactly a new development as the sex balance of bachelor’s and master’s degrees flipped in favor of women nearly 40 years ago and doctorates almost 20.
I won’t hold my breath for the programs to encourage men to get into college.
Even the alleged “pay gap” isn’t nearly as cut and dry as many make it seem (or even in existence at all). Take this Pew Research survey, published just two weeks ago, with the misleading headline Gender pay gap in the U.S. hasn’t changed much in two decades. When you look at the data, the story is not nearly as cut-and-dry.
First, there is the issue of how the study is performed. It is not done by looking at two people in the same profession with similar experience and credentials but rather by taking all men’s median hourly earnings divided by all working men and comparing that to all women’s median hourly earnings and dividing that by all working women.
One obvious issue here is that it doesn’t account for job selection, which they concede in the study:
Even though women have increased their presence in higher-paying jobs traditionally dominated by men, such as professional and managerial positions, women as a whole continue to be overrepresented in lower-paying occupations relative to their share of the workforce. This may contribute to gender differences in pay. [empahsis added]
“May?” How could it not? Comparing a 60-year-old male cardiologist with a 60-year-old female social worker doesn’t feel like a relevant comparison to me, but maybe I’m the crazy one.
And even considering that difference, women 25-34 are nearly at parody with men. Further, as older lower-paid women and higher-paid men age out of the workforce, the overall balance will clearly continue to bend in favor of women, based solely on the college degree figures noted above.
Finally, there is the factor of what workers want out of their lives and careers. When asked about being the boss at work, 46% and 42% of women and mothers, respectively, said “they would not like to be the boss or top manager where they work,” versus 37% and 27% of men and fathers, respectively. Interestingly, when women become mothers, their desire for top jobs increases only slightly, whereas when men become fathers, the desire for top jobs increases by roughly 1/3.
Again, equity has nothing to do with solving real-world injustice but rather ensuring politically favored groups get their hand-out.
The second challenge with the overly simplified view in the cartoon is that we need to determine who is the person in the purple shirt and who is the person in the blue shirt, which is incomprehensively difficult, if possible. Sticking with the example at hand, can anyone say that women inherently wear the purple shirt and all men are festooned in the blue? Of course not. Is Chelsea Clinton, Ivanka Trump, or Melania Obama more disadvantaged than, well, nearly any man? No, determining who adorns the purple versus the blue must be decided individually; even then, it’s impossible to determine which qualities to favor over others.
Jokes Start Again Here
Given that context, the sleight of hand, and ideological claptrap, should be evident in this post.
Right off the bat, I love the know-it-all mentality, “do you know the difference…” as if she is some rhetorical expert. This is all the more laughable because her definitions and the distinction she attempts to draw between the two concepts are drivel.
According to this master of linguistics, “equality” is defined as “everyone has the same.” Same what? Opportunities? IQ? Paycheck? Education? Type of cubicle? I know another word that means “everyone has the same” as a general principle; oooooh, what is it? It’s on the tip of my tongue…oh right, “Communism.”
I suspect she leaves this nebulous because she doesn’t actually have a clue what the word means, and this is just a Karen Incorporated word vomit.
After the nonsensical description of equality, she defines equity as “recognizing the individual circumstances…and providing the resources needed to create a truly equal playing field?” But didn’t you already do that with equality by explaining that “everyone has the same?” Or do you mean everyone has the same to start, then some people get more based on “disadvantages” (I can only guess what she would put in that bucket)? And if that’s the case, then would the person who didn’t qualify for the additional resources initially because they didn’t have the “disadvantages” become qualified for those resources by virtue of your equality definition to ensure “everyone has the same”? Or is the concept of equality now a MAGA plot to bring women back to the days of foot binding? Around and around we go, on the Karen Incorporated merry-go-round.
See what I mean? In the zombie employee apocalypse, these mindless drones hurl around the words they are supposed to utter to be a “good corporate citizen” and help with their bonuses at the end of the year.
If you want a lesson on the difference between the concepts, let’s check in with America’s Commie-in-Residence, Bernie Sanders, on Real Time with Bill Maher.
Well, that was embarrassing. When the corporate zombies lose Bernie…
The sheer befuddlement represented in this post is the perfect example of how lousy, formally discredited ideas are smuggled into mainstream culture as something lustrous and untried. They make their way from elitist commies (at places like the WEF) down to corporate CEOs who give a couple of internal presentations with the new jargon they barely understand but do so because all their CEO buddies are using the same catchphrases (all the while they are all too scared to admit the emperor has no clothes and none of them have any inkling of what they are talking about). Then, the new Vice President of Toilet Plunging, who wants to impress the Executive Vice President of Corporate Bidets, who is under pressure from the marketing department to get their “earned media” stats up, whips up an inane post about topics that they only have the most tangential understanding of, with the expectation that they can check that box. No one will read their blather among the 15,000 other posts on the same topic.
Unfortunately for them, The Plant is always watching!
What is the point of all of this?
And all of this is to what end? Supposedly to make people happier and more fulfilled at work? If that’s the goal, then let’s pull the plug on this vegetable of a program right now. People are miserable in their lives, especially at work.
According to the Pew Research State of the Global Workplace 2022, the situation is nearly dire. 60% of people are “emotionally detached at work.” 19% are “miserable,” with just 33% “thriving in their overall well-being,” and only 21% “engaged at work.” Stress among workers is at an all-time high. All the while, every large company I am aware of has some employee well-being initiative, which includes rubbish like LinkedIn hashtag campaigns. Well, how the fuck is that going?
A summary chart from the Pew report is instructive to our discussion.
I’ve written before about the concept that “Liberals love humanity but hate humans,” and this represents a microcosm of that. On an individual level, people are not engaged at work; they are not thriving in their lives, have consistent daily stress, and do not feel they are treated with respect. However, they are delighted with their country’s efforts to preserve the environment. This tells us that in abstract concepts over which they have no control, workers feel optimistic, but in their tangible, day-to-day lives, they are wretched.
To be fair, we can’t blame this solely on the Department of Karens (though I REALLY want to), but we can clearly say that they are failing miserably at achieving their supposed ends.
The ever-so wafer-thin silver lining to the dark economic cloud casting a shroud over us at the moment is that corporations are being forced to decide what is the wheat of business operations and what is the chaff. To the surprise of no one, corporations find that the chaffiest chaff that ever chaffed is the most recent appendage to the Department of Karen’s, Diversity, Equity (there’s that word again!), and Inclusion roles (DEI). Those roles are being slashed severely compared to the rate of non-DEI jobs.
According to NBC News, “DEI roles increased by 55% following demands for broader racial equity and justice after [George] Floyd’s murder, the Society for Human Resource Management reported in 2020,” but “[t]he attrition rate for DEI roles was 33% at the end of 2022, compared to 21% for non-DEI roles.”
This is a step in the right direction, to be sure, but what is really needed is a broader change of mentality among corporate leadership.
As I wrote in a previous piece, aptly named “Professional Useless People,” most of these initiatives at companies are simply make-work jobs that the Karen Department leadership utilize to enlarge their empires by hiring desperate 20-somethings with no skills to speak of because they went $2000,000 in debt to emerge from college with a Woman’s Study degree. If these departments were limited to the essentials of the HR function, such as hiring and firing and managing benefits, how many people would be needed in these departments? The scientific answer is a shit-ton less than what they have now.
But even that alleged need is a sideshow to the Department of Karen’s genuine desire, which is to abide by their corporate self-consciousness and convince people that they are as critical a part of the business as roles like sales and R&D. Well, I have news for all the Karen queens and kings out there; no matter how many LinkedIn hashtag campaigns you shame your employees into participating in, no matter how many employee survey’s you email by telling employees “how much their voices matter” (and then have them lie to you because they assume you are tracking their responses), no matter how many inclusion statements you publish into the ether which no one reads…you are not a critical piece of the business and never will be.
It’s about time corporate leaders grow some bigger balls (or ovaries – is it too late not to come across as sexist?), put these departments in their diminutive place, accept 5% of the Gen-Z staff will give a shit, and quit out of protest (you didn’t want them there anyway), and move on with important business. Business that does not include inane LinkedIn hashtag campaigns.
As someone who works at a fortune 500 company, this is spot on. Thankfully I'm fairly insulated from this stuff since I'm a programmer, but still
Great read! I don’t always make it the bottom of articles on subjects I’m all too familiar with but the humor element kept me going. So glad I own my own business in a red country setting and none of this nightmare ideology has crept in. And it never will. I’m also my own HR department and I discriminate-I don’t hire idiots.