by Dark Pen

Copyright© 2009 by Dark Pen

True Story: Very depressing short story of what it's like in corporate America. How people are really treated and what really happens. Shouldn't be anything new to most grown ups.

Tags: True Story   Horror   Caution  

(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 budged 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 each day. 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.

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