GE’s $100 Billion Wipeout Heralds Reckoning for an American Icon

Few under the age of 30 might remember, but General Electric Co. was once a model of corporate greatness.

Back in 1999, when Steve Jobs was still fiddling with iMacs, Fortune magazine proclaimed Jack Welch, then GE’s chief executive officer, the best manager of the 20th Century.

Few people — of whatever age — would lavish such praise on the manufacturer these days.

GE, that paragon of modern management, has fallen so far that it’s scarcely recognizable. The old GE is dead, undone by an unfortunate mix of missteps and bad luck. The new one now confronts some of the most daunting challenges in the company’s 125-year history.

The numbers tell the story: This year alone, roughly $100 billion has been wiped off GE’s stock market value. With mounting cash-flow problems at the once-mighty company, even the dividend is at risk of being cut. The last time GE chopped the payout was in the Great Recession — and before that, the Great Depression.

Read more: Bloomberg Gadfly on GE dividend

And yet the hit to the collective psyche of generations of investors and managers is incalculable. For decades, GE-think infiltrated boardrooms around the world. Six Sigma quality control, strict performance metrics, management boot camps — all that and more informed the MBAs of the 1970s, ’80s, ’90s and into this century. GE, in turn, seeded corporate America with its executives.

Anxious Investors

Now, John Flannery, GE’s new CEO, is struggling to win back the trust of anxious investors. He’s set to detail his turnaround plans on Monday — and has said he’ll consider every option.

“There’s nothing less than the fate of a once great, great company on the line,” said Thomas O’Boyle, the author of “At Any Cost: Jack Welch, General Electric, and the Pursuit of Profit.” “Some of the fundamental notions about its status as a conglomerate and whether it can succeed in a world of increasing complexity are really being challenged right now.”

In hindsight, the seeds of this struggle were planted decades ago. Welch expanded and reshaped GE with hundreds of acquisitions and demanded every GE unit be No. 1 or No. 2 in its industry. He also culled low-performers ruthlessly, earning the nickname Neutron Jack. By the time he retired, in 2001, GE’s market value had soared from less than $20 billion to almost $400 billion.

But all that maneuvering, plus GE’s increasingly complex financial operations, obscured the underlying performance and put the company in peril during the 2008 financial crisis. Welch’s successor, Jeffrey Immelt, soon embarked on a plan to undo much of the House that Jack Built. He would sell NBC and most of the finance operations — two of the businesses that defined Welch’s tenure — along with units such as plastics and home-appliances.

The moves narrowed GE’s focus, yet it remains a collection of somewhat disparate manufacturing businesses, ranging from jet engines to oilfield equipment.

Out of Favor

Unfortunately for GE, that industrial conglomerate model has fallen sharply out of favor on Wall Street. And the rise of activist investors like Nelson Peltz has encouraged companies to try to boost their stock prices however they can, rather than focus on the long term. GE recently welcomed one of Peltz’s partners at Trian Fund Management to the board.

“The reckoning had to come,” said Jack De Gan, chief investment officer of Harbor Advisory, which has been a GE shareholder for more than 20 years before selling most of the shares in the past few weeks.

GE’s leaders have long defended the multi-business strategy by pointing to the benefits of sharing technology across product lines — jet engines, for instance, have a lot in common with gas turbines. In an interview with Bloomberg in June, Flannery dismissed concerns about conglomerates, saying investors care more about outcomes.

“They want growth, they want visibility, they want predictability, they want margin rate,” Flannery said. “And there are a multitude of models to produce that.”

$20 Billion

The new CEO has already said he’ll divest at least $20 billion of assets. He’s coming under pressure to do even more.

“Anything less than a sweeping plan to ‘de-conglomerate’ the portfolio would be viewed as disappointing,” Deane Dray, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, said this week in a note to clients. The potential moves include unloading its transportation, oil, health-care and lighting operations.

Read more: Bloomberg Gadfly on a GE Breakup

To be sure, GE’s issues run deeper than the composition of the company. One of its biggest divisions, power-generation, is in the early stages of a deep market slump — just two years after bulking up with the $10 billion acquisition of Alstom SA’s energy business. GE’s cash flow is light, potentially putting the dividend in jeopardy and driving investors away from the stock.

Flannery has spoken of the need to change GE’s culture and instill a sense of accountability. He’s reined in excessive spending — on corporate cars and planes, on the new Boston headquarters — and replaced top executives.

But the sudden changes, combined with Flannery’s relative lack of public reassurances, have spooked investors. In the days after Flannery’s first quarterly earnings as CEO, when he called GE’s performance “completely unacceptable,” the stock fell and fell. And fell some more, closing at the lowest level in five years on Nov. 2.

The shares slid less than 1 percent to $19.99 on Thursday, bringing the 2017 loss to 37 percent.

“You think about a company like Kodak. Will GE become that?” said Vijay Govindarajan, a professor at Dartmouth University’s Tuck School of Business who served as GE’s professor-in-residence in 2008 and 2009.

Some investors may be throwing in the towel, but Govindarajan isn’t giving up. “I will put my bet that GE will weather this and come back,” he said.

    Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-10/ge-s-100-billion-wipeout-heralds-reckoning-for-an-american-icon

    Demanding a Bachelors Degree for a Middle-Skill Job Is Just Plain Dumb

    Ever wonder why employers demand advanced credentials for jobs that don’t seem to require them? So did Joseph Fuller, a professor of management practice at Harvard Business School. He co-led a study that found it’s “a substantive and widespread phenomenon that is making the U.S. labor market more inefficient.” To take one egregious example, two-thirds of job postings for production supervisors require a four-year college degree—even though only 1 in 6 people already doing the job has that credential.

    Credentialism obviously harms job applicants. What’s less obvious is that employers suffer, too. They miss out on new hires who—the study found—work hard, cost less, are easier to hire, and are less likely to quit. In other words, companies are deliberately bypassing a deep pool of talent. At many human resources departments, “Everyone’s strategy is to row as close as they can to the other boats and fish there,” says Fuller.

    What was excusable myopia in a time of high unemployment has become inexcusable at a time when the pool of college grads is severely overfished. The unemployment rate for people with bachelor’s degrees was just 2.3 percent in September, the lowest in nine years.

    The study, released on Oct. 24 by Harvard Business School, Accenture, and Grads of Life, is called . Says the report: “Over time, employers defaulted to using college degrees as a proxy for a candidate’s range and depth of skills. That caused degree inflation to spread to more and more middle-skills jobs.” It adds: “Most employers incur substantial, often hidden, costs by inflating degree requirements, while enjoying few of the benefits they were seeking.”

    The study is based on a survey of 600 business and HR executives, as well as 26 million job postings from 2015 parsed by Burning Glass Technologies, a job-market-analysis company that earlier published its own report on the topic. It found that 70 percent of postings for supervisors of office workers asked for a bachelor’s degree, even though only 34 percent of the people doing the job have one.

    Some major employers have figured out that this doesn’t make sense now, if it ever did. The study says that at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., 75 percent of store managers joined as entry-level employees, and the company has trained more than 225,000 associates through its Wal-Mart Academies. A January article by Bloomberg BNA quotes David Scott, the company’s senior vice president for talent and organizational effectiveness, as saying store managers can earn $170,000 a year without a college degree. “I started out at Wal-Mart as a stock boy myself,” Scott said.

    The report also cites Swiss Post International Holding AG, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Barclays Plc, CVS Health Corp., Expeditors International of Washington Inc., Hasbro Inc., State Street Corp., LifePoint Health Inc., and Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., among others, for recognizing the value of applicants who lack a four-year degree.

    A few governors have taken the lead in addressing the problem in their states, Fuller says in an interview, citing John Hickenlooper of Colorado, Bill Haslam of Tennessee, and former Governor Jack Markell of Delaware. 

    People without a bachelor’s degree may need more training before digging into the job, but the cost of training is quickly recovered, and the training period itself can be a useful tryout, Fuller says, if it’s in the form of a paid internship, apprenticeship, or work-study program. “Asking for a bachelor’s degree is kind of a lazy man’s way of stipulating what you’re looking for,” he says. “When I witness the person doing the work, I’m making a hiring decision based on seeing a person over time, vs. looking at a résumé. The leading cause of failed hires for this type of job is a soft-skills deficit. For that, observation is invaluable.”

    Say what you want about American health care, but it’s ahead of many other sectors in suppressing credentialism. Nurse practitioners now perform many functions once reserved for physicians—including, in some states, writing prescriptions and even setting up their own practices. This is partly of necessity: There simply aren’t enough doctors to go around. But there’s nothing second-class about the care of a nurse practitioner. “I prefer being treated by them. Because they take their time. They might see me for 20 minutes, 30 minutes. If it’s something that’s complex, they’ll call in a physician,” says John Washlick, a Philadelphia lawyer who specializes in health care. His firm is Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney, based in Pittsburgh. 

    I also spoke with Gerald Chertavian, the founder and chief executive officer of Year Up, which trains urban young adults and places them in six-month internships that lead to jobs in finance and tech. Typical trainees go in earning $5,000 a year and come out earning $40,000 a year, Chertavian says. State Street alone has employed more than 500 of them. Employers find that hires from Year Up are staying three or four times as long as conventional hires out of four-year colleges—a major advantage given the high cost of recruiting and filling empty positions. 

    Chertavian says he came out of college with an economics major but no special skills. “I was a Chemical Bank trainee 30 years ago,” he says. “I benefited from at least eight to nine months of full-time classroom training that Chemical put into me.” Companies dropped a lot of their training programs to save money, but now the enlightened ones are reinstating them, he says.

    Harvard’s Fuller is right to focus on the folly of credentialism, Chertavian says. “These young people have the engines in the wings. They come as fully intact planes. But they’ve never been afforded the luxury of a runway.”

      Peter Coy
      Bloomberg Businessweek Columnist

      Peter Coy is the economics editor for Bloomberg Businessweek and covers a wide range of economic issues. He also holds the position of senior writer. Coy joined the magazine in December 1989 as telecommunications editor, then became technology editor in October 1992 and held that position until joining the economics staff. He came to BusinessWeek from the Associated Press in New York, where he had served as a business news writer since 1985.

      Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-25/demanding-a-bachelor-s-degree-for-a-middle-skill-job-is-just-plain-dumb

      Catalonias Split With Spain Is About Identity, Not Just Money

      As recently as July, secessionists in Catalonia seemed to be in retreat. Spain was the fastest-growing of continental Europe’s big four economies, creating jobs at a rapid clip. A poll that month by the Catalan government showed that support for independence had fallen to 35 percent, its lowest level since 2012. It appeared that Enric Millo, the Spanish government’s representative in Catalonia, might have been right when he predicted in 2012 that once removed from the flame of financial crisis, “separatism would sink like a soufflé.”

      What’s sinking instead is the reputation of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Acting on his orders, Spanish police used batons and rubber bullets against those who took part in an Oct. 1 referendum on independence that Spain’s constitutional court had declared illegal. Hundreds were injured in the melees.

      The Catalan government claimed that despite Madrid’s attempts at suppression, 2.3 million people voted—about 42 percent of the total electorate—and about 90 percent of them chose to separate from Spain. The Spanish government cast doubt on the result, pointing out that the referendum, in addition to being illegal, lacked certified voter lists and wasn’t overseen by an official election board. And many of those who opposed secession heeded Madrid’s reminder that the vote was illegal. Spain’s King Felipe VI said in a televised address that separatist leaders showed “unacceptable” disloyalty.

      Featured in , Oct. 9, 2017. Subscribe now.
      Photographer: Juan Teixeira/Redux

      The groundswell of separatist sentiment in Catalonia has shown Spain and the world that money isn’t everything. A strengthening economy may have quelled Catalan nationalism a bit, but the desire many have for independence had deeper sources and never went away. Then Rajoy, playing to his conservative base, badly miscalculated. He thought a show of force would keep voters at home. But his attempt to stop the vote just pushed more Catalans into the separatist camp. “In the longer term, the divisions in Spain become more entrenched,” says Antonio Barroso, a political risk analyst at Teneo Intelligence in London.

      Economics probably did matter in Catalonia, just not in the way that Spanish optimists were thinking. The reality is that the region hasn’t fully recovered from the global financial crisis, which pushed the economy into a double-dip recession and sent unemployment in the so-called autonomous community as high as 24 percent. (It’s still more than 13 percent.) “The financial crisis brought to the fore the fact that so much of our money is transferred” to the central government, says Jordi Galí of Barcelona’s Center for Research in International Economics, known by its initials in the Catalan language, CREI. “In a context of high growth and prosperity, this may be more easily forgotten. But during the crisis the Catalan government had to undertake huge cuts in services: health, education.”

      The transfers issue might not have been enough to stir secessionism all by itself. After all, there’s little call in Connecticut to break away from the U.S. even though the state gives more than it gets. The difference is that the northeastern corner of Spain has its own language, traditions, and aspirations to national greatness. Its history is a seesaw of autonomy and what some see as subjugation. Catalans still commemorate the fall of Barcelona to King Philip V of Spain on Sept. 11, 1714. In 1939 the city fell to the Nationalist forces of Francisco Franco, who suppressed Catalan culture during his 36-year rule.

      In recent years, independence-minded Catalans have focused their anger on a 2010 ruling by Spain’s constitutional court that erased parts of a legislative deal that accorded the region broad autonomy. In 2012 the Catalan economist Xavier Sala-I-Martin likened Spain to a possessive husband who reacts wildly when his wife asks for a divorce. “We Catalans have tried to explain during 30 years that we were uncomfortable and the replies have been no’s, scorn, indifference, and contempt. And now they’re surprised!” the Columbia University professor wrote on his blog.

      The marriage is far worse now. “People are extremely disappointed, and I would say shocked, by the activities of the Spanish police,” says Giacomo Ponzetto, an Italian who teaches at CREI in Barcelona. “It was absurd, unacceptable behavior, and I would add extremely stupid.” Stupid as in self-defeating, he says. “The Catalan government was looking for this. It’s very obvious. They wanted to provoke a response.”

      Like it or not, Catalonia has been very much part of Spain—not least because it’s a fifth of the national economy. It exports more to the neighboring region of Aragon than to France, and more to Madrid than to Germany or Italy, says Pankaj Ghemawat, who teaches at the New York City branch of IESE Business School, which also has campuses in Madrid and Barcelona.

      Many economists think Catalonia would be worse off economically on its own. The outcome hinges on whether it would assume a share of Spain’s national debt, whether it would be permitted to join the European Union and adopt the euro, and how much it would cost to replicate services—such as defense—it gets from Madrid. Further complicating matters, Spain could throw up legal obstacles to secession. One reason many Catalans have shied from independence in the past is that they weren’t ready to take a leap into the unknown.

      But the violence that marred the Oct. 1 vote has focused Catalans’ minds on issues other than euros. “At some point the economic considerations start to be irrelevant and identity becomes paramount,” says Ghemawat. On Oct. 1, he says, “we took a giant step in that direction.”

        BOTTOM LINE – A long and painful downturn fanned separatist sentiment in Catalonia, which, contrary to predictions, didn’t die down with the recovery.

        Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-05/anatomy-of-a-bad-marriage

        You Lied Your Way Into A Job As A Surgeon! Can You Avoid Killing Anyone Long Enough To Collect Your First Paycheck?

        Surgeons. The masters of the flesh. The gatekeepers of the organs. The doctors who get to shave patients.

        These are the green-wearing gods who know that the human body is but a chessboard, and that the nipples are the king and queen, and the belly button is the opposing king or queen.

        Today, finally, you are beginning your journey as one of them.

        You have already gone through the arduous process of becoming a surgeon. After calling the hospital over and over every day for three weeks straight and praising Tylenol in the deepest voice you could muster to whoever picked up, being hung up on by countless doctors and nurses, you finally hit the big time.

        Yesterday, you managed to get the chief of medicine on the line, who offered you a job after a mere 50 minutes of you bellowing to her about the white-and-red pill. Congratulations!

        Okay. Being a surgeon is sweet as hell. You get to wear patients’ clothes around a hospital once the chemicals put them to sleep, you can eat as many tortilla chips as you want, and you can hide all of your favorite DVDs and family heirlooms inside toxic waste bins, the one place thieving pricks are too grossed out by to steal from.

        Cool. But the best part of being a surgeon, bar none, is that incredible surgeon paycheck.

        It’s no secret that surgeons are paid well, as every single day at 8 p.m., hardworking surgeons all over the world reap the fruits of their labor: a plastic bag filled with $600, given to them by their chief of medicine on their way out the door, in addition to a goodnight kiss on the forehead.

        Exactly. So now that you’re a surgeon, you better do everything in your power to make it your $600 payday, because there is one universal stipulation that could jam you up: If a surgeon kills someone, everything completely goes to shit.

        1) For starters, once a surgeon kills someone, they are NEVER allowed back in a hospital, ever. Even if you just want to go to hang out or to meet new lovers.

        2) Your professional reference completely goes out the window. If a new job calls to ask about you, instead of a recommendation, the HR department hands the phone off to the absolute sickest pervert patient they have, and lets them air out whatever they’ve got kickin’ around up in their minds.

        3) Lastly—and this one is the worst of all—you don’t get paid a dime, which would mean all of your efforts to become a surgeon were for NOTHING.

        So, if you want to get to that sweet paycheck, you’re going to have to make it through one entire day as a surgeon without killing someone.

        The hospital. The place where people come when they are bored to take off their pants and scream. This will be your new surgeon home, and today is your first day of work. As far as anyone inside is concerned, you are now a fully qualified surgeon, so if you want those 600 clams, you’re going to have to hold your own and stay off everyone’s radar.

        “Please give me a surgery.”

        Ah, shit. A sick kid is waiting for you right inside the lobby, and he looks all kinds of fucked up.

        “I need a surgery pronto. I am dying, and it feels like none of my bones are connected to my other bones. I also have a rash that comes and goes. Please do surgery to me with your other doctor friends.”

        “If you don’t give me a surgery right now, I will scream. I will scream so loud and for so long, and I will point at you the whole time. It will go on for so long that the rest of the doctors here will have no choice but to send you to jail.”

        That was close. You’ve pissed your pants real good, and now you’re in the bathroom splashing your pants with water, the best way to clean pants that you’ve urinated in.

        “You sure know your way around cleaning a pair of pissed pants, sport. Not bad at all.”

        You look over and see that it’s the hospital’s janitor talking to you. He somehow opened the door in perfect silence while you were inside splashing your pants, and has been watching you for upwards of 90 full seconds.

        “I’ve been watching you for upwards of 90 full seconds, and I can tell just by looking at you, you’re no surgeon.”

        “Easy, easy. I’m not gonna rat you out. I’m gonna help you.

        I take it that you’re in here lying to be a surgeon, hoping to get ‘The $600 Bag Treatment,’ huh? Well, you’ve got a friend in me. I’ve seen it before, and I’ll see it again. All you gotta do is make it until 8 p.m. without killing a soul and you’re in the clear. So whadya say you come lay low with me for the rest of the day, spend some time hanging with a new bud so you don’t end up killin’ no one before you get that money?”

        “I, uh, how do you mean?” he says, visibly becoming self-conscious about the entire interaction so far. “I’m just tired today, so if I’m acting weird, that’s what that’s about, probably. Allergies are being weird, too.”

        “Follow me!” the janitor says before sprinting down the hallway. You do your best to keep up with him as he weaves in and out of patients and doctors before you finally arrive at a huge metal door. He slides open the rusty door to reveal a set of long, winding stairs that lead to a dark, desolate basement, and turns to you with a half smile.

        “It’s not delivery, it’s DiGiorno,” he says before letting out a quick, uncertain laugh, looking over his shoulder at you to kind of check in and see if you’re laughing or anything at what must have been some sort of joke.

        “That was dumb, never mind,” the janitor says, shaking his head as his shoulders slump, trying to explain his joke before slowly progressing into full-blown self-deprecation. “I was thinking, like, how in the old commercials, I’d be the delivery guy and you’re the pizza—I don’t know, forget it. It was dumb. Sorry.”

        You follow the janitor down the stairs and into the basement of the hospital, and lo and behold, it’s a full-blown bachelor’s pad! The janitor has stocked the place with some of the best things: a ping-pong table, a “Forever 27” poster, an old-timey popcorn machine, and a bunch of orange pill bottles filled with Frosted Cheerios.

        “This is my chill zone. I’m down here almost all the time, which is why the hospital is filthy and patients always seem to get sick immediately after they get better.”

        “We got all day, brother, so we could either sit down and talk about that important-looking guitar I have mounted on the wall over there, or we could stand near the stairs and wonder if Slash has ever signed a guitar and sold it for $20,000 online before, or maybe we could lay down on the ground and trade stories about the most expensive thing we’ve ever mounted on a wall. Your call.”

        “I can’t lift my arms above my waist because of a power-washer accident.”

        “You got a good eye, kid,” he says as though you brought it up completely unprompted, proudly looking up at the guitar he somehow mounted unnecessarily high on his wall.

        “Believe it or not, Slash signed that guitar, and I was lucky enough to spend all of the money I have on it. I usually don’t do this for anyone, but for you, I’ll climb all the way up there and get it if you want to hold it.”

        “I’d climb anywhere for one of my boys.”

        “I’ll put a very wet towel over them. I’m sure that will be fine.”

        You’ve killed! You’ve killed!

        You put the janitor in grave danger by selfishly asking him to grab his Slash guitar off the wall. After the janitor put a soaking-wet towel on top of his countless basement wires in order to walk over to the wall and begin his climb, he was immediately electrocuted and fell crashing to the ground without the ability to raise his arms and break his fall. It’s unclear if it was the electricity surging through his body that did him in, or if it was the way his neck snapped on a nearby stool because of the horrible, unnatural way he fell. But either way, he is definitely dead, and it is your fault.

        You’re no longer a surgeon, and you can kiss that bag of $600 goodbye.

        As you go back up the stairs and start heading toward the lobby, you can hear that he starts to follow you, but then locks himself in the bathroom you were in earlier and begins screaming at himself in the mirror for messing up what could’ve been a nice day. His screaming gets louder and louder before it comes to a halt after you hear the sound of him snapping his mop over his knee in fury.

        “I need you to give me a surgery right now.”

        Ah, damn. It’s the sick kid from earlier.

        “I feel like I’m on a boat at all hours of the day, and my elbows are dry. I need you to cut me open and drain me out, if that’s what it takes, and to please get me home by later today.”

        You pick the kid up, throw him over your shoulder, and walk through the hospital looking for a good room to cut him open in. After 20 minutes, you finally find the room with all of the surgeons in it, and you slam the kid down on the empty table they’re all staring at.

        Now all eyes are on you. You’re going to have to step up and say something pretty incredible to get all of these surgeons on your side.

        You’ve killed! You’ve killed!

        After you said that ridiculous, dumbass comment, every surgeon in the room became furious at you and began hammering you with questions about your qualifications. You tried mumbling through more Tylenol facts, which went much worse in person than it did on the phone, and somewhere during your 25-minute verbal beatdown from the other surgeons, the kid died on the table.

        You are no longer a surgeon, and you will never get a plastic bag filled with $600.

        Share Your Results

        Everyone starts nodding and smiling and patting each other on the back. Good shit.

        “Ha, nice,” a woman says, whose voice you recognize from the phone as the chief of medicine at the hospital. She quickly anesthetizes the patient to finally stop him from grabbing and clawing at everyone’s surgical masks, and within seconds the little spaz is sleeping.

        At that moment, the tallest doctor you’ve ever seen walks into the door wearing a backwards hat and confidently drinking Barq’s Root Beer out of a 2-liter bottle.

        “I’ve never seen you around here,” he says after putting the root beer down firmly into the lap of the unconscious kid and eyeing you up and down suspiciously. “Enlighten us, fresh meat. Now, what surgery are we performing on this little man, exactly?”

        Ah, this guy is onto you. Need something big here to throw everyone off your tracks.

        “Doctors, you two can be mean to each other in the parking lot all day long if you want to, but that’ll be enough fighting in my hospital,” says the chief of medicine after banging her fist down onto the kid’s chest like a gavel to get everyone’s attention.

        “This little boy is in dire need of a heart transplant. We need to start immediately.”

        “Doctors, that’ll be enough talk about whether or not there are actually types of surgeries or not, because there simply is not a correct answer,” says the chief of medicine after banging her fist down onto the kid’s chest like a gavel to get everyone’s attention.

        “This little boy is in dire need of a heart transplant. We need to start immediately.”

        “Doctors, please stop winking at each other,” says the chief of medicine after banging her fist down onto the kid’s chest like a gavel to get everyone’s attention.

        “This little boy is in dire need of a heart transplant. We need to start immediately.”

        After noticing that no one is reacting to you pissing yourself, you look around and realize that every surgeon in the room has also already pissed themselves. Then you remember that surgeons are constantly pissing themselves during surgery, like bicyclists during races, for reasons completely unknown.

        The chief of medicine takes out a toolbox from underneath the surgery-room sink and hands each surgeon a tool. She takes each tool out one by one and starts passing them down the line. One doctor gets a small shovel, one gets a large knife, another gets a pickax, and on and on it goes, until you finally end up with the flashlight!

        “Um, yeah, that’s my flashlight, pal. I’m always the flashlight man around here,” says the root-beer doctor.

        “No,” interjects the chief. “New guy can hold the flashlight today. I have a good feeling about this.”

        Your new rival is stunned. He shoots you a dirty look, threateningly crosses his thumb over his neck, and then does it again with his other thumb, but slower. Then he quietly mouths something that you didn’t really get a good read on, but from what you did see, your best guess is that he was saying something like “Fracking mountains,” or “Simply delicious.” Then he is handed the worst tool: the blood napkin, the tool that wipes up all the loose goo and pus.

        “Ah, c’mon, man. Quit it. What the hell.”

        The surgery is now well under way. The chief is slicing and dicing and moving parts around left and right. It’s pretty much a one-woman show.

        Most of the other doctors are using their tools just to kind of scrape some bones and stuff when they feel like they should get in the mix, usually after not doing anything for a couple minutes straight and getting nervous that someone will notice how they’re not really that crucial to the operation.

        You’re getting bored by the whole thing at this point, but at least you’re holding your own with these docs and, most importantly, haven’t killed anyone yet.

        Surgery still going. Getting kind of repetitive. A couple doctors shuffled out for a minute and came back with crackers, but the crackers are all gone now. You didn’t even notice they had crackers until there were only, like, four left in the sleeve, so at that point, asking for some really wouldn’t have been cool.

        Surgery is getting boring.

        Surgery is boring as hell.Your arms got tired from holding the flashlight up, so you put it down for a minute and no one seemed to notice. You’re back up now.

        Kid woke up and started screaming LOUD, but now he’s sleeping again.

        “You were scared!” “No, you were scared!” “I wasn’t scared, you were scared!” The surgeons are all ragging on each other and having fun again. Finally got some juice in the room. Whole crew got a good laugh out of that one.

        Woah, wait a minute. Oh, man. You see something inside the kid’s body. Wedged deep in between his rib cage and his liver, there looks to be something shining and throbbing, and you’re pretty sure you’re the only one who sees it.

        Two doctors broke away from the surgery about 15 minutes ago to arm wrestle on a nearby stool, and the rest of the surgeons have all one-by-one walked over to form a circle around them so they can gamble. Meanwhile, the chief is still hacking away at this kid’s organs with all of her might, and seems way too dialed-in to notice the game changer you’ve found.

        You’ve killed! You’ve killed!

        You thought you were being a hero by yanking out what you thought were some sort of wet, shining metals, but were actually the poor kid’s veins. You are no longer a surgeon, and can go ahead and kiss that sweet paycheck goodbye.

        “Those are veins. They are not ‘evil copper and metals sticking out of this poor bastard’s guts.’ Do not call them that.”

        Damn. Misread that one. The chief is totally onto you now.

        “But I appreciate you speaking your mind when you think something is amiss,” she continues, looking up and making eye contact with you for the first time. “That takes a commitment to the job that some of my other doctors lack at times,” she says, motioning to the doctors across the room who are now attempting to disguise their arm-wrestling gambling ring by draping a hospital gown over the two meaty, dueling arms.

        The chief reciprocates your unblinking eye contact and begins nodding in perfect unison with your nodding. This goes on for a good 20 seconds or so, the grunts of the two arm wrestlers and the slaps of cold, hard cash hitting the tile becoming the only sounds in the room.

        At that moment, you and the chief simultaneously feel a romantic charge between you, and it feels beautiful and right. But that romantic feeling is immediately followed by a simultaneous paternal feeling, but it’s unclear who is the parent and who is the child. Then the two feelings of physical attraction and familial protectiveness fuse together into one singular emotion, and it feels disgusting to both of you.

        “Yeah, yeah, go catch up with them. I’ll hold it down over here, cool,” the chief kind of half-mutters to herself and to you while shaking her head and getting back to surgery.

        You walk over to the gambling circle and see the two exhausted surgeons pulling and pushing as hard as they can to win. The two doctors are so evenly matched that their arms aren’t moving or shaking in the slightest. If it weren’t for the veins about to explode out of their temples and the tears streaming down their faces, you’d have no idea how intense the duel was.

        All of the other surgeons are quietly going apeshit. Almost all of them are either gently pounding their chests, gingerly slapping the ground, or shaking their fists in the air, all the while whispering bad arm-wrestling advice like “Win the skin!” or “Make him smooth!”

        It’s definitely a pretty sweet scene, and you decide that you want to get in the mix.

        As you go to ask the doctor next to you, your rival doctor steps in front and interrupts:

        “Looking to get in on the action but lacking the funds, newbie? Don’t worry, fresh meat. I got you covered. Also, we’re rival doctors, just in case that wasn’t clear.”

        Whoa, pretty cool to get a rival doctor on your first day on the job. That probably usually takes years.

        “That’s my coat over there,” he says, pointing to a white lab coat being worn by one of the arm-wrestling surgeons. “Go ahead and take my wallet out of the pocket and take out as much money as you want.”

        He then lets out a weird little laugh and looks around to see if anyone else is laughing. One other doctor did laugh, but he’s in the middle of a conversation with another surgeon, so you’re pretty sure the laugh had nothing to do with your rival.

        “I have coats all over this hospital that you wouldn’t know a thing about,” he says, raising his fist up to your chin real quick, trying to get you to flinch. You stand your ground and don’t flinch at all, though, and he sheepishly brings his fist back down to his side.

        You’ve killed! You’ve killed!

        In a brilliantly executed scheme, your rival tricked you into reaching into the coat of one of the doctors who is arm wrestling. When the arm wrestler saw you trying to steal his wallet, his mix of adrenaline and dangerously high blood pressure caused his heart to explode.

        Your misconduct has resulted in a death, meaning you can no longer be a surgeon, and you will never see that sweet, sweet bag o’ cash.

        The top 5 most over-the-top employee benefits from tech companies

        Image: Shutterstock / Rawpixel.com

        Ive seen my fair share of company benefits after 10+ years recruiting for tech companies.Tech Startups in San Francisco are known for having extensive benefits from daily lunchesto paid gym memberships or free monthly massages. Before I share some of the coolest benefits Ive come across, I have a word of advice for new companies

        Before offering

        Ive learned from experience working withsmall startupsand fromfounding Bettsthat benefits can become a tricky subject.

        When you are deciding which benefits to offer, keep in mind that as a company scales, the cost of benefits will increase too.Covering the cost of gym memberships for10 employees becomes a drastically different cost when your team grows to 100.

        Also, be sure to think through the benefits you are offering. Asfun as Summer Fridays sound, theycan set your team up for a rough wake-up call come fall.

        Looking for some benefit inspiration? These tech companies go above and beyond.

        1.Elevated benefits

        Weve heard of companies paying for their gym membership. Weve seen Instagrams of a friends team working at a food bank for an annualvolunteering day. But having a $100 Wellness Credit to spend on whicheverself-care tacticfeels most personally effective? Now thats interesting.

        SalesforceIQ knows that people have different ways of relaxing, whether its a round of golf, a Zumba class at the gym, or hiking in the National Parks.SalesforceIQtakes a similar approach to their volunteering program, and letsemployees pick the cause theyd like to spend their time on.

        They offer6 paid volunteering days annually, and a monthly $100 stipend for wellness. Though Idobelievethat spending a day volunteeringor running a 5kcan be a great team building activity, being able to choose the specifics within a broader benefitis a great way to ensureindividual satisfaction.

        2.Need a day? Take a day.

        Have you heard of unlimited PTO?Its atrend in benefitsthatsbecoming increasingly popular in the benefits suiteoffered bytech companies.

        Atlassians versionis calledVacay Your Way.Instead of watching your hours painstakingly accrue, unlimited PTO plans allow employees take time off when they need it.The theory behind thisis that life happens, and usually not at the exact time you have accrued the perfect amount of PTO.

        If you need to take time off to care for family, recover from an injury, or just plain need a mental health day, these plans allow for that. The expectation is that work will be handled appropriately before taking an extended vacation, but it truly is the kind of benefit that treats employees as the responsible adults they are ( or should be!).

        3.Health, handled

        Though insurance may notseem like the most exciting benefit, having extensive coverage can be a literal lifesaver.

        Indeed offers emergency insurance that sendsanairambulance anywhere in the world.While its not something you would necessarily plan for, having a speedy pick-up afterfalling on a hike in the Australian Outback couldabsolutelybe a lifesaver.

        Want to have children, but not quite ready yet?Google, LinkedIn, Intel, Spotify, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and Wayfair areall reportedto offer fully paid coverage for IVF and egg freezing.The initial process can cost upwards of $10k, withan annual storage fee of $800.

        While the ideasounds great to empower womens choices about having children, a scrappy start up may want to think twice before offering this as it would be extremely costly to scale.

        4.The list goes on and on!

        Imagine working in an office with a Zen room for meditating and receiving complimentary massages. What if I told you that same company would also send you to one conference of your choice annually, and keep your bookshelf stocked with the help of Amazon book gift cards?Not to mention the onsite OctoDojo gymGithubs benefit suitetruly does goabove and beyond.

        5.Beach house

        Perhaps one of the more creative benefits Ive seen,YMediarecentlyannounced thatit rented ahomein Hawaiiindefinitelyforallemployees to use.

        With 10 bedrooms, and similar homes going for $10k a week on Airbnb, this beach house seems like a luxurious getaway. Every employee, no matter their title or length of tenure at Y Media, can book a week vacation there.Talk about vacation envy!

        Having major FOMO?

        Glamorous trips and company Zen gardens aside,not all benefits have to be encrusted in gold to feel plentiful.

        Some of the best perks turn out to be relatively inexpensive. Recently at Betts Recruiting, we had a beer pong tournament to celebratethe team crushingtheir quotasatthe end of the quarter.The officeended up hustlingmore foraBP tournament thanforaSpiff with awesome seats at aChance the Rapper concert!

        Having random partners and a bracketon a whiteboardturned out to be the perfectway for people to get to know each other better, and definitely raised some healthy competition.

        Carolyn Betts Fleming is the Founder and CEO of Betts Recruiting, the leading global recruitment firm specializing in matching revenue-generating talent with the worlds most innovative companies.

        Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/06/08/the-top-5-most-over-the-top-employee-benefits/