Monday, August 30, 2010

Corporate America

(image from

Well, folks, I have worked for various forms of Corporate America now for about thirteen years. In bold are some of the principles I have learned about how to succeed in such an arena. Below each item is an alternate version of reality I have learned at the same time - in other words, what I know to be true about life itself. You will see my obvious dilemma...

1. Shut the fuck up and smile while doing it.
~ Use direct communication and conflict resolution, say what you mean, do not use false words, and be honest.

2. Put your head down and do your work.
~ Try to be engaged with your work and enjoy the learning process. After all, this is where you spend the majority of your waking time.

3. Don't do anyone else's work. [And if you do, you will suddenly be under a pile so big you will never get out!]
~ Pitch in where needed, help out, and do not let work go undone - have pride in your product!

4. Leadership qualities are simply overrated characteristics that will not get you to the top but rather piss people off.
~ Step up, show what you're made of, come up with new ideas and better business strategies. Be your best self and this will inspire others to rise to the occasion and become better themselves. Expect the best from yourself and everyone with whom you work. This motivates people!

5. Innovation and improvement ideas are not welcomed. [There is no such thing as a real open-door-policy.]
~ Life is short and you should streamline and improve whenever possible. Do your best work - double check and ensure that it is perfect. Everything you touch represents your company and its mission. Make sure you are contributing to excellence. Put your best foot forward and the company will prosper.

6. Accept whatever your boss says.
~ Offer ideas, be creative, and think outside the box. Many problems are solved by looking at the problem from a new perspective, taking time to "sleep on it," and offering multiple solutions from which to choose. Everyone can learn from each other.

7. Be on time. In many ways, this is more important than anything.
~ Well, you know how I feel about this one. There are so many things in life that are more important than an on-the-dot schedule. And yes, folks, being a harp about time and not being considerate about the chaotic lives people rush to leave in order to get to work is just as disrespectful as being five minutes late. Get a life!

8. Come in early; stay late. [There is no such thing as too much work.]
~ Cultivate balance in your life. Nurture friendships and family relationships. Pursue hobbies, artistic endeavors, culture, and self betterment through active, lifelong learning. Work on getting and staying in shape. Get your sleep and take vitamins. Your health and happiness is all you've really got.

9. Those at the top do the least work and can be the most badly behaved and disrespectful of others.
~ It is vitally important to treat others with respect. Every level of the company is comprised of valid, contributing employees who are doing their best to promote the company's goals. Each human deserves your undivided attention, active listening skills, kindness, and respect. No one needs to be the brunt of your personal problems, emotional upsets, or lack of digestive balance. In addition, those at the top should be leaders, beyond reproach, motivating and inspiring others through their goals, wisdom, knowledge, and strong moral character. Lead by example.

10. Managers make their own rules. Schmucks do the work and will never rise up.
~ There must be reward somewhere, somehow, for those who work hard. Having a strong and determined work ethic has inherent as well as outward value. Hard work pays off and helps you attain your goals. Doesn't it?...

11. Nice is not appropriate or necessary in the workplace.
~ EVERYONE deserves your kindness. Flexibility is a good thing, as well as patience, human caring, and general decency. No one will remember the report you stayed up all night completing, but they may remember that you asked how their son was doing in the hospital.

12. Work is not supposed to be meaningful. Some of what we do is to satisfy arcane regulations or simply keep you looking productive. When we don't know what to do with you, we'll throw a fun new title your way!
~ Meaningful work will keep you happy, productive, and living a long, fulfilling life. Humans were meant to work hard and to pursue goals of innovation, help build communities, and support beauty in all its forms. A major life goal of mine is to wake up in the morning happy to do what work is laid before me, pleased to apply myself to achieve something and leave a lasting impression on this earth. [Meanwhile, if one more jerk says, "Do work you love and you'll love your work," I will punch them in the face. Smug Happy Careerists are equal to Smug Marrieds. Try buying groceries on work you love, buddy. Unfortunately, some of us don't love the stock market.]

13. Attend lots of meetings and sign up for committees, even if you won't have time to complete your own work.
~ Your primary job is to master your job responsibilities and be the best at that work. As time allows, support others and continue learning new skills by participating in work-related education and joining associations. But these should not take away from the job you were hired to do.

14. Delegate whenever possible.
~ Share the load and bear your brother's burden when need arises - he will in turn bear yours when you need it. Show that you are working as hard as those who report to you. Take personal responsibility for the outcome of your tasks and the quality of your work. Live in such a way that you can be proud of what you contributed and your family can be proud of what you do.

15. Be prepared for changing rules.
~ Above all, flexibility and smooth work flow are worth seeking, both for your own personal growth and for the overall health of your workplace. Show a patient, bending attitude and learn to go with the flow. Allow goals and priorities to change, as this reflects true scientific learning. There is no reason to cling to "what we've always done." How then can one improve? That said, there is such a thing as too much change and sometimes you have to try one idea for a few minutes to see if it will really work. Allow people time to learn and adjust and you may be pleased with the results!

16. Whoever told you the computer age will eliminate paperwork was selling something.
~ You will never get away from paperwork, phone calls, follow up, and task lists. Even if you do most of them on your Blackberry. There is a reason for the paper-trail (I learned that in HR). Embrace the mundane and move on.

17. If you are looking for self-improvement or career enhancement, you've come to the wrong place.
~ Your job should be a stepping stone to greater self awareness as well as providing good for your community (on any scale). At the end of the day, you want to look back and see how far you've come. This will urge you onward and build momentum. Be honest about your mistakes, learn from them, and listen to constructive criticism. This is your one life. No one can take away your spirit or your combined experiences. Jobs will end, bosses will get re-orged, tasks will change; but your character and attitude will remain with you throughout the rest of your life.

18. Corporate America is not for the weak. Appreciation as well as monetary raises are not to be expected. Do your job and be grateful you have one (peon).
~ Make sure to actively and verbally appreciate the hard work people do each day. Take a moment to notice that the well-oiled machine not only got oiled, but also at some point got repaired, restructured, and improved. Every single person at your company contributed something. Noticing and praising these contributions help people develop pride in their work and strive to do better the next day. Every single person deserves to be noticed for showing up. Without them, the entire project would fail.

19. You will never be truly happy until you are working for yourself or are the CEO.
~ There will ALWAYS be another asshole boss, a demeaning and selfish employee, a slacker co-worker, and someone who makes everyone else routinely feel like shit. Absolutely the only way to try to avoid this is to quit the rat-race and work for yourself. But be aware, you will always have customers, contacts, vendors, and associates. There is an asshole around every corner! Learning to be your best self and deal with the conflicts and personality issues now will help you immensely down the road, no matter what you do. Even if you quit the world and stay in your basement until the end of your life...guess what, there's an asshole lurking right inside your own self!! So get used to it and rise above, honey.

20. I hate Corporate America and am not cut out for this type of work.
~ Being a creative, life-loving soul who wants meaningful work AND enough money to live on AND time for family and outside activities...does NOT a successful Corporate American make. I have been and will continue to be frustrated with the politics, endless meetings, mindless labor, bad decisions of bosses, and really disgraceful behavior of others in the workplace. I can envision working for myself, or being the (best) boss (ever). But for now, I have to look within and find the strength to change what I can about myself, learn the life lessons presented to me, give up worrying what everyone else thinks of me, and become my best self in my current job.

That said, if some venture capitalist wants to back me...I could really make some changes in this world of ours!

Thoughts, ideas, reactions?


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

a poem for today

by Dan Chiasson

I lack the rigor of a lightning bolt,
the weight of an anchor. I am
frayed where it would be highly useful—
and this I feel perpetually—to make a point.

I think if I can concentrate I might turn sharp.
Only, I don't know how to concentrate—
I know only the look of someone concentrating,
indistinguishable from nearsightedness.

It is hard for you to be near me,
my silly intensity shuffling
all the insignia of interiority.
Knowing me never made anyone a needle.