Is Dish Network Really the Meanest Company in America?

According to a recent article in Bloomberg’s Businessweek, Dish Network is a mean place. Really, really mean. And I’m not talking about how long they keep you on hold at customer “service.” They are mean to their employees, according to Bloomberg’s survey of corporate message boards.

They are also highly successful. According to recent data, they have 12 percent of the home TV-watching market, and their owner, a modern-day Grendel according to the former employees quoted, is a billionaire.

Wait a minute, you say – in Psychology at Work your central narrative is that positive, employee-focused companies outperform evil empires like the Dish Network. The good guys always win in the end, right?

As a general principle, this is true. The Gallup organization has the largest employment database in the world, and its conclusion – argued persuasively in research papers and best-sellers like StrengthsFinder 2.0 – is that organizations focused on employee strengths and virtues trump less humanistic competitors. Likewise, Kim Cameron of the University of Michigan’s business school makes an evidence-backed case that the employee-friendly “virtuous organization” is the best model for long-term corporate performance.

There are two explanations, then, for what is going on with Dish Network. The most obvious is that the exception proves the rule. Yes, Albert Einstein flunked fifth grade math and Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team, but these data points don’t mean new parents should reserve space in the trophy cabinet if Junior can’t add or dribble. Just because Dish Network can be successful being mean doesn’t mean most organizations will. A second explanation is more sinister, a head fake worthy of a Notre Dame linebacker. Maybe Bloomberg ITSELF is the meanest place to work in America! And by throwing Dish Network under the proverbial bus, Bloomberg takes the lenses off its own, ugly self. Think about it.

This is from our report on Bloomberg in 2011: “Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here.” So reads the sign over the gates of Hell in Dante’s Inferno. It might as well be plastered over the doors of (Bloomberg), according a recent decision by a federal judge, at least for anybody who wants to work and have a life. The judge, in EEOC vs. Bloomberg, tossed out a suit alleging that women who took maternity leave at the financial services firm fell off the fast track.

In other words, want kids? Bloomberg doesn’t want you.

Bloomberg, like Dish Network, has made a billionaire out of its founder. But it brings to mind a bit of scripture I remember from my youth: For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?

If you are the boss in your workplace, ignore Bloomberg and Dish Network. Let their owners compete for their own circle in Hell. Focus on the good in your employees; foster trust and empowerment; listen rather than talk in meetings. Help make your place of work a “virtuous organization.”

And switch to Direct TV.