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Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Corporate Agenda


I moved to Florida in 2001 after being outsourced by my employer of 14 years. My career success has been marginal at best, but my dream of fleeing corporate America and becoming a low-income beach bum has at last been realized. Hey, I’m 50, gay, and don’t have to pay for anyone’s tuition, cars, rehab, health insurance, or wedding, so why should I weave myself into a heart attack between the rungs of the corporate ladder? Corporate BS is the number one killer of men in my age bracket.

If success is measured not by financial gain, but rather, by doing what you want to do, or in my case, doing as little as I can do to get by, then I am leaps and bounds ahead of the success stories of my high school graduating class. Our class reunion is coming up, but I doubt that I'll be able to convince any of the millionaires there that I'm as successful as they are. Mainly because I'm not going to the reunion.

In my former corporate job in Virginia, I spent 14 years carrying a pager, cell phone, laptop, and a 50 gallon drum of Pepcid AC wherever I went. I worked in the information technology department for a leading beer manufacturer. As a tech support answer man and problem solver, I was frequently roused from sleep at 3 am by wet production line employees who forgot their passwords and needed to get to their e-mail so they could show everybody the new pictures of the new grandbaby. Some people find outsourcing to be dehumanizing and un-American. To me, coupled with a decent severance package, outsourcing was a sweet taste of the nectar of freedom.

After that nectar was digested, the corporate world left me with a bad taste in my mouth, not unlike stale beer. In our time management pie chart in beer land, a third of the pie would identify time lost in pointless, out-of-control meetings; another third complying with insane, unfounded ideas spearheaded by good-old-boy, beer-drinking heterexecutives. Twenty percent of the average day was wasted discussing layoff and outsourcing rumors; eight percent for lunch. That left about seven minutes per day to delete spam.

Arriving in Florida, I decided to take some time off and relax before starting the job hunt. I changed that strategy two weeks later on September 11, 2001, and I decided to take the first thing offered, which has turned out to be great. The stress level is equivalent to a sunrise at the beach. I do my job well and have been recompensed time and again with gratitude and an employee of the year award. Needless to say, I don't work for a private corporation. If public companies ever recognize anyone, they recognize a team, not individual effort. So if one of you sucks, you all suck. And without fail, there is always a suckoff on every team.

Recently, after spending too much time in the sun, I deluded myself into thinking it was time to get off this merry-go-round of satisfying, low-paying underemployment and start interviewing for higher income positions back in the necktie-wearing, Pepcid-popping world.

To prepare for the interview I finally scored, I flipped through some old resumes and other paperwork. I wanted to see if I had ever written down what my goals and objectives ought to be, just in case that turned out to be an interview question. Rather ironically, I never found that, but I did locate an old agenda from a staff meeting from my old company.

IT Staff Meeting Agenda, Monday, December 25, 2000

8:00-8:05: Remind staff of penalties for falling asleep during meetings. Project photograph of former programmer who received Mohawk haircut and Marks-a-Lot moustache while she napped.

8:05-8:15: Ice breaker: Pin the Bug on the Programmer.

8:15-8:30: PowerPoint presentation. Side-by-side comparison of CEO's total compensation package vs. Gross National Product. CEO wins again!

8:30-9:00: Discuss complaints lodged by internal customers. Send accused staff members through spanking machine.

9:00-9:05: Deny requests to go potty.

9:05-10:00: Explanation of how corporate acquisition of aircraft carrier will keep us competitive, grow beer market share, and enable male senior management members to exclaim, "Sweet!" Distribute blueprints of aircraft carrier's orgy room. Reassure staff they'll never have to go there.

10:00-10:15: Discuss Five Year Reduction Plan of Employee Benefits. Distribute printouts of mandatory employee financial sacrifices required to fund corporate aircraft carrier.

10:15-11:00: Presentation: How to research, write, and prepare a superlative business case for project funding.

11:00-11:15: Presentation: How to recruit, hire, and retain a dangerous mental case for project decimation.

11:15-11:20: All rise to see if anyone has peed their pants yet.

11:20-12:00: Accuse each other of policy infractions, insubordi-nation, laziness, and sleeping with the boss to obtain lion's share of the raise pool money.

12:00-12:01: Check to see who's asleep. Assign them to be the leader of latest corporate technology initiative, but don't tell them so you can blame them later for its failure.

12:01-12:30: Torture United Way non-contributors with rechargeable power tools.

12:30-12:31: Lunch on your own. United Way non-contributors skip lunch to obtain first aid.

12:31-1:30: Name calling and ridicule one-on-one breakout session.

1:30-3:30: Start worrying that there might be Y2K+1 disasters that have been lurking in operational software for a year. Find someone to blame for not thinking about this sooner. Plan on round-the-clock staffing Dec. 31 through Jan. 2.

3:30-4:30: Team building games: Who Wants to be Outsourced and Shot-put Dodgeball.

4:30-5:00: Gather up team building survivors to play Musical Chairs. Last six seated gets to keep their jobs. Merry Christmas!

So I go to the interview, and keywords from the interviewer bring unwelcome physical responses. Scary words and phrases are verbalized, such as: exempt position, weekly meeting, mandatory overtime, nine-to-five, on call 24/7, laptop, pager, login from home, and wet production workers.

At first there's rapid eye blinking, followed by mild head twitching. The growling and churning in my stomach that's been absent for years resurfaces. Next comes the sweating. Nausea and vomiting ensue, and for my finale, a grand mal seizure. I'm rushed to the emergency room. My present boss is summoned and arrives, takes my hand and says, "It's all right. You're with us now. Stay with us, and we'll never lay you off." The seizing stops and the fog lifts. Oh, Auntie Em, there's no place like home.

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