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Corporations Aren’t People, But …

Corporations Aren’t People, But …

Corporations are people.  So says the United States Supreme Court.  In the recent, hotly-debated Citizens United case, the Court ruled, as it has in the past, that corporations have the same rights of free speech as American citizens – and that there’s no limit to the money they can spend to have the corporation’s voice heard on political matters.

This ruling reversed a long trend toward limiting the influence of corporations on our political process.  But whether or not you agree with the Supreme Court, you have to agree that corporations, and organizations and businesses of all sizes, consist of people – not all of whom are represented in the corporation’s “free speech.”

When a corporation “speaks” into the public discourse, it’s speaking not for the people who work there, but for the people at the highest level of power within that corporation.

The public relations and advertising firms that represent the corporation don’t poll the rank and file; they poll the Board Room. Whatever the few and the powerful decide will be the public position of the corporation, even if most of its employees hold contradictory points of view.  As an employee, unless you are a substantial or majority stockholder, your vote doesn’t count on the matters on which the corporation decides to exert its influence.

Is the company you work for using its resources to speak for you? Maybe your company is doing good in the world—maybe it’s supporting the “right” causes, maybe it represents your politics pretty well.  And maybe it doesn’t.  If it doesn’t, it’s not just that your voice isn’t heard; it’s that your time and talent are being used in the name of the corporation to support things in which you don’t believe.

Shouldn’t you understand the power of the “speech” that’s being uttered on your behalf, without your consent?


Do a little research on the money that your company spends on causes, charities, and politics. If you work for a publicly traded corporation this is public information. Make a conscious decision about whether or not these expenditures represent you. This is a value check that many of us don’t make about our current or future employers.

About the Author

Jim Hessler
Jim Hessler bootstrapped his way from retail work into a successful career as salesman, sales manager, Fortune 500 executive, and corporate turnaround engineer. Along the way, he developed The Leadership Platform, a proven model for training managers to become sustainably better leaders. It became the basis of his leadership primer, Land On Your Feet, Not On Your Face: A Guild to Building Your Leadership Platform. Jim is the founder of Path Forward Leadership Development Services.

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