Buzzards Gathering on eBay – A Sure Sign Your Company Is Dead…

Kris Dunn Culture, Kris Dunn

By now, you’ve heard the news of Wall Street firm Lehman Brothers going belly up and insurer AIG requiring a $85 billion dollar buyout from Uncle Sam to remain in business.  Checked your 401k recently?  Don’t…

I’d love to write something cool about the markets figuring it out over time, but with all the governmentLehman buyouts, it doesn’t feel like that’s the case.  Is that good or bad?  Not sure…

Here’s one thing I do know – employees with Internet access and a jaded feeling (the kind that can only be achieved by finding out your company is filing for bankruptcy at the same as the rest of the world) equals one thing – an instant roadkill buzz courtesy of the flash markets provided by sites like eBay.  From the Washington Post:

"Hundreds of pieces of Lehman Brothers merchandise have gone up for auction since the 158-year-old investment bank filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday. Disgruntled employees, as well as a few quick-thinking entrepreneurs, posted coffee mugs, T-shirts, duffel bags, pens, stuffed animals, along with other assorted memorabilia.

By late afternoon Tuesday, men’s large T-shirts were selling for as much $73. Bids for a tie decorated in hundreds of tiny Lehman logos reached $102, more than doubling the initial asking price of $49.99. A plethora of Lehman-related domain names, including LehmanCasualty.com and LehmanPlunge.com, had gone without buyers.

Bids for a piece of toast with Lehman’s and Bear Stearns’s initials scratched onto either side climbed to $6.50."

So you know the buzzards aren’t circling anymore (they’ve landed) when your company gear starts being peddled on eBay and the market is bidding up used t-shirts.  It’s the new ’employee confidence index" for the internet age.

On a serious note, employees at places like Lehman often wonder if their personal brands will be harmed by their stints at companies widely associated with fraud, mismanagement and recklessness.

I don’t think the Lehman folks will have to worry about that.  From a branding standpoint, the market heavily penalized folks who matriculated from places like Enron and HealthSouth earlier this decade.  Brands like Enron become synonymous with fraud and mismanagement, and thousands of employees who had to find other jobs felt the sting of the past association.

The mushroom cloud/media frenzy that was Enron has matured recruiters and hiring managers alike.  We’re more used to spectacular failures, often with the stench of mismanagement and fraud.  Because we’re used to it, we now understand that only a micro-fraction of employees actually held decision making authority in the areas that brought those companies down.

And that, as former inmate Martha Stewart would say, is a good thing.

As for me?  I’ve got my eyes on some Lehman swag right now, specifically this mission statement cube… Wish me luck…