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Category Archives: Questioning the Status Quo

How to survive in the corporate world

I have worked in the corporate environment for the past 10 years and I felt I should share some tips on how to survive and succeed in this environment.

Before we move on to the specifics, I should point out that I have failed miserably in the corporate context and I have been a complete disaster in playing the corporate game so please bear that in mind as you read on.

1. Kindness

There is no room for kindness in corporate world so if you live by the principle of treating people how you would like to be treated you will need to park that until you leave the office. In corporate world you will need to display selfishness, narcissism and a willingness to walk all over whoever you can in your attempt to climb up the corporate ladder.

2. Crystal Ball

Having a crystal ball will come in very handy because in sales you are expected to know exactly what you will be selling weeks in advance. The ability to look into the future is not something that corporations will teach you so you’d better pull your socks up and learn it for yourself!!

3. Doing tasks to keep your boss in a job.

This is probably one of the most important aspects of survival in corporate world! If you want to be successful in the corporate hierarchy, you will need to spend a large proportion of your working time completing work created by your boss so that he/she can justify their own existence within the corporation. This work is usually completely irrelevant to the larger good of the company but is a perfect way of killing time you could have spent in more productive ways. It is, however, important to do this work as if it was more important than what you were employed to do and if you can do it with a smile on your face, even better!

4. Smile or Die!

Ok I stole the title of this from Barbara Ehrenreich’s book (which in my view is a must read) but if you want to succeed and survive in the corporate context you are required to remain positive at all times. In fact this is far more important than skills and intelligence! You may actually be better off if you were to park your intelligence at home, because questioning the status quo is a big no no in the corporate world. You were not employed to think, you were employed to do whatever you were asked to do! Trust me on this, I have been forced to listen to phrases like “I want to see lots of energy and positive attitude” on a daily basis!!

5. Stab your colleagues in the back.

This is a very useful skill to have in your ascent up the corporate ladder. You may lose some self respect in the process but surely that is a price well paid for a job title that your ego can be proud of. There are various ways of doing this;

You will need to be alert and on the lookout for colleagues making mistakes and when they do, you email them pointing out the mistake and copy their boss in on the email. This is the perfect way of earning brownie points from your peers! Don’t worry about the consequences of your back stabbing efforts because in corporate world “failure is not an option!” and if you can help your boss weeding out these failures, you are on your way!

6. Making a difference.

This is of no importance whatsoever unless making a difference translates into more sales. If you are in a client facing role, your job is not to listen to what the client wants. Your job is to sell them as many products as possible and if you fail at that task then you will be required to pester them on a regular basis until they finally sign on the dotted line.

7. Work – Life Balance.

If you really want to succeed then you will have to forget about the life part of the work-life balance, there is no balance! Your contract may state that you are required to work during the hours of 9-5 but you need to understand that this is just a technicality! In reality, there are no limits to the number of hours you work. In fact you could boost your climb up the corporate ladder by demonstrating your willingness to give up on life altogether for the greater good of the company. A good way of doing this is by sending emails from home, preferably late at night and on weekends. The best time to do this is between the hours of 10-11pm, which shows dedication, but more importantly, make sure you copy your boss in on the emails.

As I mentioned earlier, I have been a complete failure at playing the corporate game and as a result of that I was asked to resign from my position which I did last Tuesday.

I may have failed at playing the corporate game but at least I have stayed true my own beliefs and I can go to sleep at the end of every day, safe in the knowledge that my focus remained on the needs of my clients instead of the desire to satisfy a sales target!

work-life balance

work-life balance

Pretty much every organisation in the UK seems to promote a healthy work-life balance for their employees. At least on the surface! My experience of the past 4 years doesn’t exactly reflect this though. I have worked for two large organisations within the financial/banking sector both of which claim to support and encourage work/life balance with the HR policies to back up these claims. I am not trying to suggest that this is not the case. Both did have policies and procedures in place (at least on paper) to support this. However, once you get down to the level at which a large proportion of people are employed, the reality is somewhat different. At this level the balance is very much tipped in favour of work at the expense of life!

Trying to tip the balance in the other direction will be frowned upon by middle management and will earn you a reputation of not being a team player, being inflexible, not willing to go the extra mile! How many miles do I have to fucking go before someone is satisfied!!!

I am entitled to an hours lunch break which I rarely take. I get in early every morning and don’t always leave on time and yet on the few occasions I decide to take some time back by leaving early or starting late I am met with a look of disapproval! However, it doesn’t stop there. I still have clients who seem to think that I should be available 24/7 to deal with their every problem. If I don’t switch my work mobile/cell phone off I can guarantee that it will ring even late at night.

I have come to the conclusion that working in this kind of environment is no longer for me. I have sacrificed enough of my time and life. It has had a very negative impact on my home life to the extent that I now find it extremely difficult to switch off. I am constantly thinking about what kind of problems I am going to have to deal with tomorrow, whether or not I have forgotten to complete any of the pointless tasks imposed on me by line managers to ensure they can justify their own existence.

It is getting to the point where I am beginning to doubt my abilities to even do my job. When I do take a step back and list down all the things that are expected of me by line managers, colleagues, clients and the company as a whole, I start to realise that, unless I acquire some kind of super power that will enable me to work 24 hours a day, I will never fulfil their expectations nor would I want to! Secondly, I am beginning to feel that the reward (salary) I get for doing this job does not reflect what I am expected to do and once I include the responsibility and risk that’s placed on my shoulders it looks even less appealing.

I know that I accepted the job knowing what the reward would be, but the responsibilities and tasks seems to have now grown out of all proportion.

I know that the obvious thing to do would be to find another job, which I am actively doing. But years of pressure, consequence/micro management and what I can best describe as corporate bullying has resulted in a fairly large dose of self doubt when it comes to job hunting. I have looked through countless job ads only to find that I start telling myself that I would be no good at it or that I wouldn’t be qualified to do it, even when I know I am. This is then followed by a degree of desperation, which I suspect is because I start to fear that I will be trapped in this kind of corporate prison for the rest of my life, which can lead to nothing other than severe depression and despair.

From there I move on to thinking that perhaps I am the problem or the one causing the problem(s)!  That perhaps I am too weak and that I don’t possess the strength it takes to do this kind of job. Whether or not this is the case is really irrelevant because either way I don’t want to be part of this kind of environment anymore. There has to be a better way. There has to be a an environment in which I am allowed to work without the never ending demands that I am currently bombarded with from all angles. I have also come to the conclusion that I will never again want to work in an advisory capacity when it comes to people and their money. It doesn’t matter how much you have done for them or how hard you have worked for them, the slightest setback gets thrown back in your face as bad advice and countless other threats. I have experienced people behaving as if they had lost everything over loss of interest to the value of a few pounds/dollars despite the fact that they have more money than most people could even hope to earn in a lifetime!

Most of the time it is not directed personally at me but there’s a limit to how much of this I am prepared to take and I have reached it.

I have never sold anyone anything for the sake of personal gain and have always focused my attention on what my clients wanted. This, of course, also means that I have always been seen as a mediocre sales person in the eyes of middle management whose job it is to squeeze as much out of me as possible by constantly pushing me to do better and more. Even more frustrating is the fact that I actually like my direct boss who when on a one to one basis is caring and encouraging, but she in turn is pushed by her boss to put more pressure on us. When will they wake up and understand that a happy work force is a productive work force?

As I see it, I have two options; stay and continue to fight a system that clearly does not work or run away again in the hope that a place exists where I am allowed and trusted to do the job while being treated with respect and dignity. A place where I can start tipping the scales further towards real work/life balance.

why some people want to protect the flaws of corporate hierarchies

The more time I spend in the corporate world the more I think it is polluted with morons!

Let me explain;

Perhaps morons is a harsh term to use, although in my experience I have seen more than enough examples to justify the term. However, I’d like to believe that at certain levels there is a degree of intelligence and common sense which unfortunately disappears down the ranks as we get to the middle management level where the morons are most densely populated!

The typical hierarchy within larger organisations typically looks something like this:

[Board of Directors]

|

[CEO/President]

|

[Executive Directors]

(these are usually divided into different business functions)

|

[Divisional Directors]

(For each business function)

|

[Regional Directors]

|

[Area Directors]

|

[Area Managers]

|

And finally;

[Pond Life – aka the people on the floor generating money for the organisation!!]

It’s when we get to the Regional Director level and below the morons start to surface, each level creating pointless and time wasting work for everyone else below them in the corporate food chain, in an attempt to hide the fact that any company or corporation could function so much better (at least in my opinion) if some of these levels were cut out of the system.

The majority of their time is spent in meetings, (perhaps due to a degree of loneliness!!) compiling sales figures, and performance reports on the people below them, neither of which create anything of value or contribute to increased performance or productivity. In fact these control measures waste time and reduce productivity and performance as well as employee morale! Why did these people forget the fact that happy people are productive people?

I struggled for a long time to understand how these middle management roles remained such a firm part of the corporate structure when in natural fact they are not really serving much of a purpose other than to force some level of control on the unfortunate people beneath them and create tension and unnecessary pressure as a way of proving to their equally pointless boss that they are doing something of value!!

That in itself is not the reason for me to refer to them as morons, nor do I blame them for being trapped in a flawed system. We all need a roof over our heads, food on the table and the means to provide for our families.

It’s when hey start to pass on their “golden nuggets” of wisdom that their lack of intelligence becomes abundantly clear. The only conclusion I can draw from this, is that their training (brainwashing) involves the act of memorizing certain phrases and quotes, most of which are re-hashed versions of some management self help book they half heartedly read a few pages from!

Let me give you a few examples starting with the one that makes me cringe the most:

“What are you going to do differently next time?”

Whenever I am asked that question I get an incredible urge to stab myself with a pen or whatever else is in close proximity!! Why show your team how to do better when you can simply pass the blame onto them?? Why lead from the front??

“It takes 21 days to change a habit”

I don’t really know why this is such a particular favourite of middle managers but I have yet to see any evidence of this fact and I doubt I ever will, simply because that statement is yet another example of the “one size fits all” approach used in the majority of the self help/personal development arena. Even more frustrating is the fact that they never offer any advice on how to change a habit (21 days or not) but instead just rattle off the statement and move on to the next one!!!

I have countless examples of these..

The real reason they are able to hide their incompetence behind this bizarre language of management speak, which at the best of times can best be described as meaningless drivel, is because the pond life (that includes me) below them are either too brainwashed or too stupid to see what’s going on or because they are too afraid to challenge or question this out of fear of being outcast for not conforming to the rules or out of fear of losing a desperately needed income!

I fall into the latter category, although I am sure that some people may want to put me into the first category too!

A more important point to factor into this, is the fact that, assuming that the middle management have some degree of intelligence, they must know that they do not serve much of a purpose and with that realisation they have to work very hard to protect the flaws of the corporate hierarchy in order to keep their job. That obviously means that whenever someone challenges the flaws of the system they are often seen as a threat which is when the bullying tactics are employed until the “threat” either resigns or conforms to the system. Resignation is the most common result!

I have spent the best part of four years fighting against a system I naïvely thought I could change for the better as long as I could get other people to see the flaws of the corporate hierarchy. What I failed to understand until now is the amount of work that goes into protecting these flaws, which leaves me very little choice;

I can either get out of of the corporate world or find a way of playing the corporate game while staying true to my values.

Wish me luck……..I have a feeling I may need it!!

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