Friday, July 17, 2009

posted by Jeff at
What is wrong with the modern American workplace? Let's discuss.

I work a terrible day job. I'm aware of this. I make $12/hour, with no chance of advancement. People that have worked there 20 years haven't advanced. Many due to what appeared to be mild mental warts, but that's beside the point. I do put a fair deal of effort into my work. And, I have a lot of brain-trust. So out of the peons, I am in the upper tier. Magnificent, right?

Thus the "big boss" compliments me, saying that the place would be missing a key ingredient without me around. Then his sub-ordinate, my direct supervisor, quips: "Ah, don't fill his head with compliments. He'll start to think he's got some power. He's just a grunt like the rest of 'em."

Dunnit sound like dialogue out of a bad syndicated television program? Yes. He actually said that. And all I can think is, "Um. So, wanna drag employee morale through the mud alone or should I help you along?"

"Maybe you'll give me one of those 25-cent raises everybody's always gossiping about."

Innit he a real piece of work? No wonder his employees are the most apathetic workers I've ever encountered. But! I won't drag my boss through the mud. He's a nice, normal guy. I have good enough intuition to notice why he's got this attitude. He has to deal primarily with people that either barely speak English, or won't be working there for that long. This makes the tone of our interactions interesting to say the least. He talks to me in a strange, almost ambivalent way. It's as if... yes. Yes! He can talk to me. I speak his language. You know, English.

Plus! I know the company, I know the job, I know everything I need to. I care. But I'm also very unorthodox and generally avoid getting fucked by insipid policies and procedures. Which makes him want to fire me! Hah. So much for small perks going to high-quality workers.

See, I think outside the box. I subscribe to the universal doctrines that I need to, but I have the mindset that we all view the world differently and thus respond to the stimuli of our environment in different ways. I'm a big proponent of "do as I say, not as I do" when the person stating it has an intimate knowledge of what they're doing. There's more than one way to skin a cat.

What I'm describing is individuality. Having your own identity. This is a troublesome thought for corporate America and their many workplaces. Individuals don't receive a lot of accolades anymore. They used to. These days getting a permanent gig at a job of this kind is rare. They don't hire. In fact, they want to squeeze as much out of you as a temp before they're legally forced to set you free. Without having to pay any additional benefits, of course!

One big thing is that they sincerely don't want a word of advice from the peanut gallery. In fact, I get the distinct sense that the combination of my working this shit job and caring enough to know how badly they're fucking me and having the intellectual means to change things... makes me weird. To them. "Holy shit! He's smart enough to run a company like this! But... he chooses to work on the ground floor for barely over minimum wage. Gotta have a screw loose."

Whenever I rant to my contemporaries, they don't have solutions. They're smart, they just don't care enough. They'll move on to the next low-level temporary job before they care about this one. So sometimes I take my thoughts to my temp agency, or Human Resources. Trust me, they're not that resourceful. They don't want to "handle" anything. They give false, bullshit answers to questions and concerns that they could answer truthfully to stop my ranting faster.

They could deliver satisfactory ends to their employees' problems. Conflict resolution. But instead they weave their way around the issues I have with their inane corporate dogma so that they can preserve my feelings. An attempt to keep me blissfully ignorant of the fact that we're all part of "the machine." Regardless of whose side my temp agency contact is supposed to be on (hint: it's me) they arbitrarily side with the company. On everything. And! If you catch them with their hand in the cookie jar i.e. they make several loosely-connected contradictions to policy in a row... they will talk you in circles to the point of massive awkwardness.

As if I'm impulsively teaching kids about the birds and the bees at an airport terminal when their parents are within earshot. Except instead of a beating from the father, I might get fired. If I'm really as much of a pawn as my superiors indicate... I must be expendable, right?

But wait! They can't fire me. They avoid conflict like the plague. There's a "culture of nice" in this country. People are afraid to deliver bad news, usually because they don't want to damage anybody's feeeeeelings. I see it in the creative world all the time. Some guy makes an awful comic strip and everybody starts sucking his dick to make him feel good. Unbeknown to him, he's the one who really sucks. Shit like this hinders people's development! I can understand holding back when dealing with children, but we're all adults here.

However, I'll admit, I get the sense that Human Resources departments opt to fire people over the phone for a different reason entirely: they don't want to die! That has to be it. This is America, after all, and we love our violence. I betcha that in the back of an employer's mind, every free thinker on-board could potentially have a shotgun hidden in their cubicle. Ready to go in case the boss wants to play a game of...

Who's Gonna Get Terminated First!

But hey, perhaps I'm being too morbid. We can change the subject. So, uh... when I'm brushing my teeth, I usually make it a point to brush my tongue. But sometimes, I brush too far back on the tongue and I activate my gag reflex. When this happens, I may even upchuck a little in my mouth! But you know what? I don't spit it out. Well, not usually. If I'm suddenly tasting something that conjures up the image of a week-old moose placenta dipped in fish oil that's been baking in the car for a few days, I might eject that post-haste! But what if it's chocolate? Sometimes you can squeeze a little more enjoyment out of your dessert by puking it out! And hey, they don't make chocolate toothpaste... do they? A minor setback, but this way you can you make your own!

Gives you a chance to be creative, y'know?

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