Thursday, 30 May 2013

Administrative Ass Covering

Every company does it to a greater or lesser extent. I think it stems from this culture of "I'll sue you if I don't get my way or if there's a chance my suffering can be remotely your fault, or just'cause." But every company hedges their bets, gives non-answers to most important questions and basically, leaves employees guessing.

And lots of companies don't even hire actual employees any more. They hire contract workers. All you're guaranteed is a contract from this date to this date. Which would be great if you could count on start and end dates actually being what's stipulated, but part of the ass covering covers that, too. "According to our business needs" covers a lot of corporate ass, because in the end, one or two people have the final decision on if they are going to extend that contract or even honour the original one, and numbers can be made to do some pretty funky dances. Work inventories can disappear into thin air, budgets can inflate or deflate instantly, staff vacation and overtime can and often are mutually exclusive, no matter what arrangements you'd already made with them. It's amazing how little control a contract worker has over their own life.  It's amazing how many pieces of paper you sign that mean nothing. They don't give you contracts to sign to protect you. Those are to protect them. They don't give a crap about you. You're not even an employee.

Oh how I miss the days of small companies where you sat down every day and ate lunch with your boss and your co-worker because there were only three of you in the room and it would be uber rude not to. How I long for that time, back in the day when I was allowed some creative latitude in my job. When I was given the power to make decisions that might actually affect the bottom line. When I had a stake in making good decisions because bad ones that cost money would get me fired, not because I'd made a bad decision, but because the company couldn't afford me. I could see the direct relation of cause and effect. I could look into my boss's eyes and admit, yes, I screwed up, or she could look into mine and say that was a great decision. Thank you. I'm glad you work for me and not the other guy.

Was it stressful to have that kind of responsibility? Well hell yes, Of course it was. Was it rewarding? Damn right. And I think that's a huge part of the problem with the big-box, centralization mentality of the world these days. No one has a real stake in their own job or the company they work for.

Even kids these days, don't get to see the bottom line in their lives.

By removing the stress of things like winning or losing, we remove their drive to do better, to improve. We deprive them of the chance to feel they've accomplished something grand. Are we saving them a bit of disappointment when they screw up? Well of course. But the corollary is that we also steal their joy when they do good because now it doesn't mean anything any more. Everyone succeeds, so really, no one does.

In my job, I'm measured by two numbers: How many units I move and how accurately I get them done. I think there must be people out there who can look at those numbers and feel a sense of completion and satisfaction when they are high. For me. Not so much. Don't get me wrong. My numbers are decent. I do what I have to do. But gone is the day when I could come home from the day's work and feel like I actually accomplished something. Maybe that's why I write like a fiend. Yes, I count my words and measure some progress by how many I got down on the page that day, but I can also see more than that number. I can look at what I've achieved and say I created something that wasn't in the world before I sat down. I think, something beautiful. Something that matters.

Also, I can count my own bottom line. When I take my royalty check this weekend and go buy my son his first electric guitar, there is no force on earth that will convince me those two little numbers at my day job are even remotely as important as the book I just sold that lets me help my son find his dream. Just sayin'. (And that the last book I released just happens to be about rock stars is icing on that In-Your-Face-Corporatlandia cake I'm feasting on.)


Valerie Mann said...

We definitely live in a different corporate world. I remember when I worked in a law firm with about 10 other women and when the clock hit 10:15 a.m., the pitter patter of high heels would start toward the break room and everyone was expected to be there. The gossip about the lawyers and their cases would commence. Fast forward to today - most workplaces don't have a set "break" time, and if they do, staff sits and answers emails and texts on their phones.
I like working from home, setting my schedule, interacting with people and not having to answer (too much) to anyone but myself. As long as the job gets done, everyone's happy.

Jaime Samms said...

The world changes constantly, it's true. I hope my kids see the difference in what I do for a living and what I live to do. And understand why it takes longer to get the things they want because of the difference. I hope they appreciate there is a difference.

Valerie Mann said...

It's hard for kids to understand how very much life has changed in the space of one generation. None of my children remember a time without internet or cell phones (except maybe my eldest, but she was only 8 when we got our first cell). They don't understand that at one time, a "job" was a career that you sought after. I don't know many young adults who think about careers any longer, but a job is something you do to make money to pay for the stuff you want. I know there are exceptions, but they aren't being taught to look at work the same way we did, a way to find satisfaction and feel like you're making a difference in your world. Hopefully, they'll find something else to have the satisfaction they need to feel fulfilled.
Yikes...that sounded judgmental and negative and it wasn't meant to be. I homeschool, so I see the vast potential and amazing intelligence of today's generation, so it wasn't meant to sound like I was on my soapbox :-)

Jaime Samms said...

LOL! I home school too, Val, and I know what yo mean. I think--hope--my kids are lucky to see the difference between how I do and feel about my day job and how I do and feel about my 'career' of writing. I'm sure they understand the monetary practicalities of needing the day job so I can have the career, but I also hope they understand how almost soul-destroying it is to go and do something for eight hours a day that brings no light or joy to my life. A paycheck just isn't enough.