In this issue we once again celebrate the 100 Best Companies to Work For. Some will be delighted by their inclusion. Others—the excluded—will wonder at their absence from this annual honorific. In cogitating over this matter, it occurred to me that there were a few key qualities that would earn a company a Best from me. So I asked my associates at the National Association for Serious Studies® to make an especially serious study of what, precisely, those qualities might be. These are their findings, followed by my winner, based on their research.
Our findings show that the Best Company to Work For must have:
A strong leader. The alternative is a festering stewpot of politics and inefficient group blather resulting in diddly-squat.
A strong hierarchy with a clear reporting structure under the leader. Great business organizations also have a cadre of powerful viziers under the Grand Padano, each of whom is empowered to do what is necessary in the name of the organization. They, in turn, imbue powerful underlings. Thus fear and loyalty in equal measure flow down and create a comforting sense of structure to every individual.
Clear goals that everybody in the organization understands and buys into. Where are we going? What can each of us do to get there? Does each man and woman feel nonfungible?
Accountability for assigned tasks, with clear rewards and punishments for performance. Believe it or not, people like to feel that when they do good, it’s noticed—and also when they don’t. The punishment of failure (in others) produces happy workers.
Victory always defined and within reach. Honest organizations offer their people targets that can be met, and interesting rewards for those who help meet them. In the old days they called it booty. Today, incentives. Same thing.
A conviction of “rightness.” We are doing battle against the forces of [INSERT THING YOU HATE HERE]. Defeating those mothers is what we eat for breakfast!
Camaraderie. One for all and all for one. A common uniform doesn’t hurt either. Mine: tie on the East Coast, open collar on the West.
An open-office plan, to facilitate communication and democracy. Hey, working in a big, undefined space without any privacy is nothing new, hipsters. Galley slaves shared benches.
Good food provided on location so that people can keep on with the job. I know a guy who used to rejoice in his 90-minute, two-martini lunches. Now a generous corporate buffet has whittled down his midday meal to 10 minutes at his desk. Think of how happy he must be to be so much more productive.
Plenty of exercise. Many of the Best Companies support healthful pastimes like rooftop field hockey, walks or runs for or against something, etc. Those that can no longer afford to offer executives getaways to exotic locations encourage attendance at boondoggles masquerading as serious conferences.
High stakes, with even a hint of danger. The Best Companies are firing with live ammo.
Money. We all know it’s not about the money. But it’s not not about the money, either.
Now … drumroll, please! … Our winner for my Best Company to Work For is an organization that enjoys a strong leader, very clear goals, a truly disruptive vision focused on growth, with high stakes, and when the day is done, it’s Stoli time. That’s right. I’m talking about Vladimir Putin’s team in Ukraine. Congratulations, guys. You should be a case study at Harvard. Runner-up: Google (GOOG), for the snacks.
This story is from the March 15, 2015 issue of Fortune.