It’s been almost a year since I posted here. Life has been the wildest roller coaster ride I’ve ever experienced. I’m a bit more settled now, so maybe I’ll have more time to post here.
Tonight I want to write about Corporate America. Its just my opinion, but I believe corporate america to be the biggest narcissist. Period. My life has been a series of encounters with narcissistic men, and somehow, I never thought to put the criteria for narcissism to work defining Corporate America. It may seem like a broad statement to make, since I’m sweeping all large (and many small) corporate entities with the same broom. Oh well. They can all bite me.
This post results from more than 30 years experience in corporate environments, as well as anecdotal information I’ve gathered in the four years since I was downsized by…Corporate America.
I started thinking about it after a brief chat with my neighbor this evening as I was carrying groceries toward my home. This individual had worked for the same corporate entity for more than 15 years. She was the go-to person at work, had worked her way up to senior management and then life grabbed her by the tail, swung her around and flung her hard against a wall. She gave a huge portion of her adult life to this company, worked long hours without compensation beyond her designated salary, made it to work during blizzards and hurricanes when few others would venture out and never brought her personal life to work. Sick leave was an extreme rarity, but she did take her vacation leave annually. She loved her job.
Her job didn’t love her back. Earlier this year, she experienced several of life’s biggest stressors, including the death of a loved one. This woman, who had given so much of herself, her time, energy and LOYALTY, to her work home, found herself placed under the corporate microscope as soon as HR was informed of her bereavement leave. She, the former “wonder woman” was now being micromanaged and her every decision and movement was heavily scrutinized beneath the all-seeing eye of corporate Big Brother.
Instead of extending the hand of compassion to this loyal employee of 15 years, the company she had loved so much took her to task for not being able to give more than she was currently giving. They poured the stress on her, criticized her, and ultimately demanded that she rise immediately back to her level of performance prior to the death of her loved one, just two months prior.
She not only cracked, she broke. In the middle of a work day she simply broke with reality, walked off the job and didn’t return. No one cared. When she called HR to explain what happened the response was affirmative noises, immediate severance of her benefits and a terse comment that when prospective employers called to verify her employment and asked if the company would hire her again, the answer would be no.
15 years of energetic loyalty got her exactly nothing. Does anyone besides me see the problem with this?
When I started working in 1980, I was a secretary for a global corporation. The company expected a work/life balance, and provided the means for its employees to practice this balance. If an employee was sick, they were expected to stay home until completely well, for their own health and the health of their coworkers. We were never docked pay for being sick. We also had 15 days sick leave, with more available if it was deemed necessary by a doctor. We had 12 days vacation the FIRST year of hire. We had a lunchroom with a cook and lunch was free and nutritious. Breakfast was also provided for those who came in earlier. Fridays during the summers we were given a paid half day off. The CEO believed that all employees should have the same luxury as the sales team, who all left to play golf each Friday at noon. There was an in-house doctor. There were contented, loyal and secure employees.
Fast forward to the 90s. This was the decade of massive yuppie boom. The economy was fine, everyone was making money, and all of a sudden it became vogue for corporate America to create automatons in its own image. All but senior level management were moved into cubes, ostensibly to make supervisors and mid level management more accessible to the worker bees. Do ya believe that? I drank the kool aid. Did you?
I believe the dehumanization of the American workplace as I knew it began in the 80s when Ronald Reagan hopped into bed with Big Industry. That’s a post of its own. I was a fairly happy employee until 1994. I was 33 and had been working for 13 years in corporate, white collar environments. In 1994, the company I worked for was bought by a huge conglomerate which promptly divested itself of most of the employees who worked for the company it had just swallowed. I found a new job very quickly and was just as quickly divested of any illusion I had that I could have any kind of work/life balance. I soon learned this new philosophy of corporate entitlement in my life was pandemic.
During my seventh month with this company I wound up with a whopping case of salmonella poisoning. I was hospitalized for a week. When I returned to work I was immediately called into HR and made to understand that I had no business getting so sick I had to miss 5 consecutive days of work, and because I hadn’t planned the time in advance, I was not going to be allowed to use my sick time; rather, I would be docked a weeks pay! No one asked about my health. No concern was shown for anything but the corporate bottom line and I was sent, post HR meeting, directly to the president’s office to be told exactly how much I’d inconvenienced him and how badly I’d made him look during two meetings by being unavailable to him. Translation: “I have no clue what you do and I don’t want to know. Your job is to make me look good and you failed to do that because you took 5 days unscheduled leave.”
I spent the next five months either looking for new work or trying to get fired for poor performance so I could get away from this awfulness and still file for unemployment. I succeeded in getting fired when one of the companies with which I had recently interviewed called my boss, against my expressed LACK of permission to do so, and informed him I was job hunting. I was fired on the spot. Thus began my real education in corporate America. That education had nothing to do with learning or getting ahead. It was all about survival of the fittest. My former employer attempted to block my unemployment claim, but was (thankfully) all but laughed at by the unemployment office. Seems its illegal to deny unemployment to an employee terminated for seeking employment elsewhere.
1994 ended with being fired and 1995 began with a new job and…a drug test. This new employer was ahead of the times. Most employers weren’t yet drug testing new hires. So I was hired and tossed to the wolves in cube land.
Think about cube land for a moment. Walk onto the floor of any major corporation and you will see cubes stretching out toward infinity. It seems an optical illusion to the novice, but it is a very real and dangerous world.
The corporate party line at this company was that cubes “leveled the playing field” and made managers and supervisors accessible to the staff. That’s a lie, and it’s a lie told, with a straight face, to every employee of every large corporation. Newbies believe it unless they’ve been working for a few years.
Cube land is Orwellian by its very nature. All vestiges of privacy are removed, and the leveled playing field is nothing more than corporate double speak for the implementation of total annihilation of individuality. How many of you have been told that the company welcomes innovative thinking and a spirit of initiative? How many believed it? I did, the first time I heard it. I had all kinds of ideas. I articulated them. I got shot down every time, only to look up a month later to find my manager had taken my idea and presented it as his own. I was still so naive at this point that I thought I could actually reason with my manager. Lessons learned: Never put forth a good idea unless you are an executive. All ideas presented by executives are stolen from their staff and no acknowledgement of such theft will ever be forthcoming. Expecting credit for one’s ideas in Big Industry is tantamount to expecting one’s next fart will smell like gardenias.
Fast forward to 2014. Here I am, aged 53, with a killer skill set and no buyers. The first year of rejection confused me. Then I met an HR director who became friendly with me. You know that silly little EEOC law that prohibits corporations from discrimination for, among other things, AGE? Yea, you’re familiar. Well, it turns out that I was doing everything I could to find work, but I was being immediately disqualified because of my age. How can that be??!! Don’t look so shocked. Unfurrow that brow. This is America, land of many loopholes for corporations.
How many of you have filled out an application for employment that required the date you graduated high school? If you’ve filled out any in the past ten years, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Yes, it is illegal in America to discriminate against someone seeking employment because you feel they are too old or too young. It happens many times a day, despite the legalities involved. That little enforced year of high school graduation field on the application tells them all they need to know about your age, and if you graduated prior to a year they have secretly specified, you are guaranteed not to be considered for the position. Why do you think that is?
It’s because people of a certain age have been deemed undesirable not only because their benefit packages might be more expensive than for a younger individual, but also because once you’ve reached a certain age bracket, thus changing your demographic, the odds are very good that you understand corporate speak, that you know how to translate it for the younger set, and it has been deemed that we of a certain age will not be a good and positive influence on the new corporate hatchlings.
What does all this have to do with narcissism ? Connect the dots. It’s pretty obvious. Corporate America wants a workforce comprised of well-programmed mirrors. Stop reflecting what you are told to reflect and you are immediately devalued. Do it again, or fail to toe the corporate line again, at all, and you will be immediately discarded. Next morning you will wake up and find you have become the latest addition to the corporate slag heap, and you may spend much time wondering what you did to deserve this. Odds are very good you didn’t deserve it and did nothing wrong. You simply got sick of the lies, manipulation, grandiosity, and deflection of accountability.
Corporate America is allowed to ruin the lives of Americans with impunity. They are rarely held accountable, and the few times they are taken to task, the immediate response is denial and deflection.
Amen. I’m going to bed. It’s Sunday already!