Newest Post on SOL

Poison
(Life in the American Corporation)

You drink some every day. At first it isn’t much and it doesn’t taste too bad.

“Here, do this task,” you’re told.

Hey, that’s what you’re there for, right? To work?

But well, what you’ve been asked to do isn’t what you got your degree in, and it really isn’t something you know how to do. It’s not even why you were hired. It’s not what you have a passion for and it’s not in your job description.

But you do it. Because hey, they’re paying you.

A year passes. Maybe two. You think, wow, I have all these things that I have to do each day. They really have nothing to do with the skills that I’m trying to build. The skills that will allow me to compete in the arena that is the American Corporate World. But well, they’re paying me, right? And they say that I’ll get ‘training’ to keep up my skills.

You get training. Diversity training. Sexual Harassment training. How not to take bribes. Why you shouldn’t use pirated software. Why you shouldn’t use the Internet.

Are these skills I need?

No. But they’re paying you.

Wow… look at this pile of work you have to do. It is odd though, as you look over these tasks. You’re an Engineer. You’re supposed to have a part in building something. But what is this? Paperwork. Forms. Plans. Schedules. Presentations. Ah… there it is on the schedule. In six months, you’ll get to be an Engineer again, to build something. Project planning will be over. Project Management has it all figured out.

Five months pass.

What do you mean there’s no money left? you think. Where did it all go?

You look around. Row after row of offices. Planners. Budget people. Managers. Project Managers. Directors. Where are the Engineers? What happened to our project?

Oh, you’re told, the customer cut back. It was getting too expensive. And by the way, you need to find another project, we’re out of money.

You move on, but the managers, planners, budget people, project managers and directors stay. Somehow, they are making money for the company. You wonder how, since they don’t seem to produce anything.

Five years pass.

Those skills you worked hard for in College. The ones you thought would allow you to earn a living. You haven’t used them for over a year — maybe two. Planning, paperwork, metrics, meetings, more powerpoint, more meetings.

When, you think, will you be able to actually use your skills on a project?

Ah… here it is! We’re finally at the work phase of the project.

There are three managers for every section, and one director. You walk by their offices; three times the size of your cube and in a much nicer area. Your cube is surrounded by more than a hundred other cubes. It’s not too bad, you think. I can cut out most of the noise with headphones.

You watch as new carpets are installed in the director’s office. An office so large that it has a ten person conference table in it. You watch as three of your coworkers have to scramble to transfer to other projects. There’s no money for them to stay on. Your workload doubles.

But they’re paying you, right? Don’t you owe them your best? That’s the contract: They pay you and you do whatever they tell you. No matter what it is.

You begin to speak up a little, point out problems and offer solutions. Many of your coworkers agree but well… no one will say anything too loudly. Cut backs could be just around the corner. No one wants to make waves.

There _are_ those who are doing well.

They thrive on the paperwork,the bureaucracy, the legalese and the impenetrable maze of rules and process you ‘need’ to do your work. They are the ones that never really wanted to build anything anyway — just get ahead. Hey, they say, you just don’t try hard enough. The opportunity is there, you just have to grab it! Stop whining!

You try to see what they’re talking about, but you can’t. You look around, feeling like you’re a loser. After all, they’re making it. Why can’t you?

They get promoted. They begin to make decisions.

You must work faster, they say. Do more with less.

But you know that working faster isn’t the answer because you’re already working as fast as you can. And things are beginning to slip. The project doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. Parts of it just aren’t right, and you have to let people know.

You’re told you’re causing problems. You have a bad attitude. Just do what you’re told, and if the product doesn’t meet spec, no one’s going to care.

Well, the customer will care, you think.

By the time the customer understands the product doesn’t work, the people responsible for creating the problems are gone. They’re successful. They’ve been promoted. Again. You look around and wonder what happened.

And what’s more, ‘they’ were right. The people who ordered the product are also gone and the customer knows they can advertise it using only the barest of truth and people will buy it, realizing only too late that it doesn’t work. By the time it gets out that the product is horrible, the money’s been made. The stock holders are happy.

You’re not. You’ve made something that’s awful. Your name is attached to it. Yours, not the names of the managers who caused the problems.

But they’re paying you, right? So just do your job. What was your job again?

Another three years pass. You have not used the skills you tried to build a career on in that entire time. You fear you cannot compete on the open market any longer. You ask for training.

You are told: There is no money in the training budget for that kind of training!

There is plenty of money for other types of training though.

Information Protection training. Ergonomics training. Ethics training. New types of Diversity training. More sexual harassment training.

Your project is overdue, and it’s full of problems. You now have to work mandatory overtime. You were never consulted about the schedule, never asked if it was remotely realistic. You are still responsible to it though.

You roll over and look at the clock. It’s just after midnight. There are five hours left before you have to start your ten hour day. You will only get paid for eight of those hours though. The other two are ‘free’. They are called ‘professional overtime’.

More than ten years have passed. You have choices to make. Do you continue to drink the poison?

They are, after all, paying you.

You know you can no longer compete in the work place. What’s more, the thing you loved to do, that you wanted to do out of college? you hate the thought of it now. You were never really allowed to do it anyway and now it comes with so much extra paperwork that the thought makes you ill.

Total Quality Management. Capability Maturity Model Integration. CORE Values. Quality. Metrics. Process.

You watch as the parade of paperwork inducing initiatives trample your ability to do work. You still define quality as something that means the product is good. You go to meetings with managers, those same people who, years ago, Made It, and listen to what they say. Their words have nothing to do with building a product that is good. One that works. They have everything to do with schedule and cost. You meet the knowing eyes of others who can translate, as you have, what the manager is saying.

Just do what you’re told. The produce will be fine. Everything will be fine.

They’re paying you, right? And now, it would take you years of hard work and energy to make up the skills your company has kept you from using.

More years pass. You’ve given up trying to change things. You realize there is no point. What you need, you think, is to find something else to fulfill your life. You have hobbies, a wife, perhaps a child. You have a house and a car, and some years the money’s good enough that you can forget the bitter taste of the poison you drink more of every day.

It’s enough, you think.

The people who ‘got ahead’, they are now CEOs, CFO’s COOs. Directors, VPs — movers and shakers. They make Important Decisions. They are rich and powerful.

They have no skills other than the ability to climb the ladder. They cannot build or design, but they don’t have to. Their skills command literally hundreds of times the money you make. They have power, and they use it to make sure they stay in power. That their money keeps coming in, that their jobs are secure.

You look at the news, read the papers.

Companies folds — but the men responsible aren’t hurt. While hundreds lose their houses and families are crushed under the burdens of medical bills and taxes, these men have Golden Parachutes. They are protected. They Made It.

People cry out. YOU cry out. You are not heard. Not by your managers, not by your government. Only by those who, like you, have not Made It. Didn’t have What It Took to Get Ahead. Who are inferior.

You didn’t try hard enough. You didn’t work hard enough. That’s why they made it and you didn’t.

Besides, they’re still paying you, aren’t they?

The decisions of these Movers and Shakers, of the Captains and Moguls of Industry, those who run the government, these decisions have consequences. The people making them are insulated from the results. You are not. You weren’t smart enough. You weren’t good enough. Didn’t have enough of that American Spirit.

The money you though would be there as a cushion, the money you were forced to put aside because the company you’ve worked for for twenty years got rid of your pension, it disappears almost over night.

You lay in your bed. The clock changes from one am, to two, then three…

Costs are too high, your company cries. You must pay more for your medical insurance. Oh, and we can’t give you a raise this year. And now, you must work at least five hours overtime, and of course, it’s Professional Overtime so you don’t get paid.

I’m sorry, we’re going to have to cut back on our work force. Must pay the share holders, you know. We’re responsible to them.

But there’s work! You think. A lot of it! Why can’t we keep people?

Can’t keep ’em because it’s not profitable.

But letting them go means the project will surely fail!

No it won’t, they say. We have the paperwork to prove it won’t fail. Stop complaining. And find another project — you’re no longer needed on this one.

There is no next project. Not unless you’re a manager, and you’re not. You wanted to build something. To produce something. But it’s too late.

You misunderstood the new American Dream.

You didn’t understand that what you were really producing were profits reaped by those far above your lowly status. Those people that Made It.

They are people who made the decisions that crashed the economy, that destroyed the industrial complexes, decimated industries that your country was once proud of. They are the people who decided that you cost too much, and foreign workers must be brought in so the Company can remain Profitable. So they can continue to make hundreds of times what you make per year. So they can get bonuses each year that you could live off for a life time.

There are no projects left. After twenty years, your skills cannot compete with a college kid who has no mortgage, no wife, no children. You feel you are still young enough to contribute, to do good work, but are being told you cannot.

Your health is bad — stress and over-work have taken a toll.

With no project, you have no job. With no job you have no insurance, and you fear your health will get worse. Perhaps your spouse or child will suffer as well.

You wanted to work. You wanted to build. You wanted to contribute to the American Dream. You feel as if you are a failure.

But they paid you, right?

Right?

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About Dark Pen

I am Dark Pen. I write BDSM stories, almost always with plot and consider myself a Soldier in the battle against America's war on sex.
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13 Responses to Newest Post on SOL

  1. Anonymous says:

    Depressingly true, and people wonder why escapist media is so popular…

  2. Anonymous says:

    It’s not like that everywhere. There are good companies, and they are hiring. It sounds like even a lesser position at a better employer would be a big improvement. I don’t know how degraded your resume has gotten, but how much could it cost to try? There’s potential for a big win.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Yeah it sucks
    I hear you dude, the system is pretty much fucked up and about to collapse imho, the first wave of mortgages are only the start imo.
    On the plus side with the massive shakeup that’s coming your skills will still be worthwhile. Heck, I could go on for hours on this topic and I occasionally do, if you are interested I can post links and such you might find interesting

  4. Anonymous says:

    yes
    you hit it right on the head.
    first to market sucks but wins.. :/

  5. Anonymous says:

    your right even i’m having trouble finding work

  6. Anonymous says:

    Corporate Poison
    Yeah, Dark Pen I’m also an engineer and my experiences are very similar to yours. The corporate world is just plain evil. Try to do a good job and you’ll be crushed by the work load. Dump on others, lie, and kiss ass and you’ll climb the corporate ladder.
    But remember that you work to live and not the other way around. Don’t make the mistake (as I did) of defining your life by the jobs you do. If you can make enough to get by consider a civil service job – somewhat lower pay but more vacation and usually less stress than industry.
    Also note that giving you the impression that you’re about to lose your job is often a management tactic. I fell for this once when I was younger. After working hard on a tough project, instead of a raise or promotion I was lead to believe that my days were numbered. So when a crappy job became available I accepted it. Big mistake on my part.
    But if you really think there is a pink slip in your future (if other engineers have been let go it quite possible) spend some time getting your things in order so it will be easier when the day comes.
    Good luck Dark Pen – I’m sure it will work out for you in the long term.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know what to say. I have no experience with the corporate world, and from reading this, I think I’m thrilled that I don’t. I could say lots of encouraging things, but I don’t want to lie. So therefore, all I will say is:
    The best of luck, I hope you find a new job, because I think you need a better environment. And please remember that you have us, we believe in you.
    Treiss

  8. Anonymous says:

    If you’ve got a degree, join the Navy as an Officer. Sign a five year contract bank some cash, go back to school upgrade your degree (Masters or PhD maybe?) then get some work that isn’t as soul sucking.
    The military is kinda crappy sometimes but better than what your describing there.

    • Dark Pen says:

      Ummm… Already been in the military. I’m far too old to go back and my health is far too bad to join up even if I wanted to. And, not for nothing, but I’d go back into my old service : The USAF 🙂

  9. Anonymous says:

    Great Essay
    I have just finished reading “Poison”, and enjoyed the essay immensely. You have described the “Corporate” life very well. But we don’t know that when we start, Do we????

  10. Anonymous says:

    How many people’s lives have you written out in this one post… Depressing! I was in a great career, I spoke up. I was fired. My next job, cut backs came fast. I was told to not only do my office job, but do the warehouse heavy packing. I ended up with a back injury, and was fired….
    Today is the one month anniversary of my nature Blog, ‘My Waking Path.’ Come see, comment. Love your writing

  11. Anonymous says:

    Northern Poison
    I wish I could say that we were different up here in Canada, but a notable case has proven that not to be true.
    Nortel Networks was a rather successful electronics and technology business based in Canada. At one point, Nortel was the pride of industry in Ontario.
    Now, however, the company faces bankruptcy. Its most recent action was to terminate payment on all pensions and disability payments, because they “simply did not have the money”. However, at the same time, the company’s managerial board gave themselves INCREASES in their yearly bonuses. Why?
    According to the reports, the board did so because, if they did not, the members of the board would leave for another company and Nortel would be left completely worthless.
    So… the most important parts of the company are not the products that the company makes, or the people who have spent lifetimes working honorably for the company, but the greedy bastards at the top. Without them, the company is worthless.
    I wonder if the real reason the board members needed the extra money was to pay for bodyguards to protect them from their own employees.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Corporate training
    Your description of corporate training sounds like my experience at a former employer. I took the sexual harassment course, but it was all for naught. I never got harassed. Bummer.
    I took the business ethics class. I think that they started offering that one after a former CEO resigned in disgrace after almost putting the company in bankruptcy and still got an obscene golden parachute. Only at the upper echelons do they reward you for phucking up royally. I’m sure the former CEO has retired to some tropical island and is sipping drinks with little umbrellas in them.
    The upper echelon management kept encouraging employees to think outside the box and innovate, but middle management stomped on every idea that was new that grandpa hadn’t previously considered.
    They had policies and procedures established for damn near everything and if they didn’t cover something in one policy they would establish a committee to come up with some in 5 years or more.
    It was a company that I would have never voluntarily submitted a resume to, but I just fell into it when the company that I was contracting with outsourced a project in which I was working. They managed to turn a profession I loved into a boring drag. I managed to stick it out until an early retirement offer came around and I lunged for it and never looked back.

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