Aug 19, 2011

Beware, Beware of the Way You Get There

I'm at a "meeting" posting from my phone. The meeting haven't started because the person who summoned it is otherwise engaged in another meeting of an entirely different nature. She hasn't called off and rescheduled this one - as any sane person would - but instead "promised" to be here soon, leaving everybody enjoying the benefits of wireless internet and smartphones, which each of us could do anytime at our own offices/cubicles.

As I sit here, wishing to be somewhere else being productive - there's plenty of work on my "In" tray right now - I can't help but notice this guy next to me. Burried in his laptop, which isn't even one of the new ones, as it's sported by the young collegue in front of him, and I recognize him as a former head of department. But not any head of department, but The First Head of That Department. He's a guy who didn't have the background for the job, like an engineer leading the Accounting area, or a nurse as head of the I.T. unit, nor any type of knowledge, experience, hint, divine inspiration or anything to give him a direction, a light about what should he do. Others with a bit more sense to themselves, better survival instincts, honesty or whatever, would have declined as the offer landed on their desks, but he did not. His first steps were terrible, heaping up mistakes on mistakes with no one to turn to for help - or not knowing to whom to turn - then some of his subordinates openly saying it was his arrogance in the way of listening to the problems happening, accepting the offered aid or requesting it. He shouldered the job for many years, made mistakes, learned from them.

Now here he sits being "just one of us". Not a middle management, not even one of the lowest management position, but just another working ant with no one to give orders to, except when placing them at the local McDonald's. In his place sits now a rookie who has no experience on the matter. The guy has been the assistant of the current Mega-Boss who has. among his areas this Department. The guy haven't worked on this area before, started with little idea of the job, but he trusted his boss - he's an easy push over for his boss - and has taken the job of destroying all of his predecesor's job because it's "crap, doesn't work". All sorts of strong words were said about that First Head and his job, stopping short from calling him incompetent. He doesn't ask, doesn't question, but does as he's told, thus though he hammer-balls eight years of work but has not a clue what to put in its place.

The guy has had to face the many shenanigans of his superior, and his lack of preparation keeps him from making rational, smart decisions, which ends with him contradicting himself, contradicting his boss, even if his boss is the one going against what he said first. One day he wants a "continental breakfast", then he says it was not "continental" only a "regular breakfast". Then it wasn't even that, it was just the money for the breakfast, but then it isn't that, it's the continental. Then, really YOU understood wrong! It's not "continental", it's "consulting". As result, though his boss is a bully and people know better than to trust him, he himself, wrapped on the tricks of the boss, has lost his credibility.

They ignore it, but nothing they suggest will be accepted unless it's backed by someone who's trusted. (Not even in written are things accepted as they deny the very documents they write and sign.)

I look at the First Head, now just another John Doe, humbled if not dowright humiliated for the change in his position, and I remember the guy put on his place. One thing that hits me is how both First Head and Second Head have taken the position for the position, or taken it without having the proper background, thinking it's the natural way to progress in the company. In both of them I see the same: people who wanted the position, not the career. It's like in a movie, where cool thing is to be a boss, have the cool office, but there's nothing of substance about the job itself.

First Head is now relegated to a cubicle, stashing his presumptuous paintings of picturesque huts of white walls and red roofs, and his souvenirs from providers and nameplates and office decoration in a cardboard box, but here's Second Head, trying to be a good sport, a useful element for the boss who put him there, and as result, just like George Bush's disgraceful A.G., he's soiling his image, trashing his own principles, walking back and forth, for how long, for what? He's not there because he knows, because he's the one, he's there because he was put there and could just easily be removed for someone more "purposeful". And then what?

One could say that this is the "way of the office", and you "must take the challenges if you want to get somewhere", but there are a few of us - Dragonfly is one of them - who work to forge a career, to grow within a career, not within a company, next to a boss that will put you here or there. Is refusing a promotion to a position you have no preparation for a good thing or a bad thing? Shall you be open and take the challenge, or shall you be honest, know what you are capable of and act accordingly?

First and Second Head show the case of the people who work for the money, or work for the status. Those can be lost, and are often lost. As result, you become a failure by default. It's not something you can hold into, and it's void as your whole job is to just ditch the bads and try not to sink instead of building - because you are not qualified to build or develop - knowing that any moment you can lose your position, your "achievement", for which you weren't really responsible and thus you have no power over it. This sort of labor-behaving puts you on a position where you are subject to the whims of others, accepting arbitrary behavior and decisions for others. You might concentrate on being friendly with the right people, neglecting your job because a) you don't really know how to do it, and b) that's not how you get your job.

In the light of this, doesn't this make you a person who shows up to a place for a wage? Always freithened of the chances you can't control? Hating your job?

The batch of John and Jane Does I know, and I proudly belong to, those who rather develop as professionals or scientists, who rather grow in our career and become better at what we do, regardless of where we are or the status we get. In this sense, we are inmune to the corporative failure, as our goal isn't to become a superior, but to be a better engineer, better accountant, better programmer or whatever. Being promoted or demoted doesn't affect us, the status, the wage or the size of the office is not our goal.

In society, we are taught to shy away from failure, inspite of all the "self-help" and "instant-richness" pseudo-literature available today. What is failure then? To lose face in front of your peers like First Head did, or to fuck it up while on the "top" like Second Head does? In my perception they are both a failure for putting their eggs on a basket they have no control of, when they could have put them in a more productive basket. Failure, real failure is when you betray yourself, when you sell out for an external ideal, instead of continuing with your personal project, to build and grow.

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