Sunday, January 13, 2013

Talking Business

First, I'd like to congratulate the winner of the contest from my last blog post. Ruth Berge answered all three questions correctly and won an autographed copy of the award-winning Protecting the Cittern.  The questions and answers are:

1) How many grandchildren do I have? Two

2) How many cups of tea did I (allegedly) drink? 17 - I really didn't drink that much tea, but that's what I wrote!

3) What college did my daughter go to? Richard Stockton College

After having survived thirty-plus years in the corporate world, one of the things that struck me during that time is how companies use words and phrases as euphemisms to make their employees' situations seem better than they are, or for their functions to seem more important, with the goal of getting as much work out of them for as little pay as possible. Many of these words and phrases have become annoying cliches, which writers are taught to avoid as much as possible.

For example, I used the word "employees" in the paragraph above. In actuality, they are now almost universally called "associates", as if they really have a stake in the fortunes of the company they work for, or that they are all equals. In reality there's a vast difference between the associate in the corner office and the associate in the mail room.

Associates are always urged to "think outside the box". Apparently it's too dark inside the box to come up with any new ideas. With some of the news in the recent past of management decisions in the field of banking, oil exploration, and elsewhere, management should be advised, very simply, to just think.

These associates are all told, usually during their performance reviews, that they need to "give 110%", sometimes even 1,000%, over the next period in order to justify their 1.5% raise. Obviously management needs a crash course in math. If 100% doesn't "cut the mustard", unless they have a cloning lab in the back office, good luck getting the rest.

The Human Resources department - at least they tacitly acknowledge that the employee / associate is human - gives lip service to making sure said employee / associate strikes the proper "work / life" balance. Which I guess means to give 110% to the office and −10% to your life. Unless you're really committed to your job and go for the 1,000% you'd have to give −900% to your home life. I see a divorce in the future, or at best a nervous breakdown. Anyone who strikes a 50/50 work / life balance will soon have no job to go to.

Occasionally, some slacker will be found to be giving only 90% of their time to work, letting down his co-workers who have set up cots in the break room. This person is obviously not a "team player". Management arranges for "team building exercises" in an idyllic setting in the country, on the weekend so no work time is lost. So instead of being home mowing the lawn or cleaning the gutters, people spend the weekend falling backwards into the waiting arms of their co-workers, making a contraption out of random materials that will catch an egg dropped from two stories up without breaking, having a group hug, telling each other a personal secret no one knows, and other exciting activities. The only people getting anything out of all this are the people who run these team building retreats and collect a large fee. The associates go back to work Monday ashamed that now everyone knows they wet the bed until they were seventeen.

After all this, the company still is not making enough money. Not only can they not afford to give the associate a 1.5% raise, they need to cut back, or "right-size" the company. Some associates are now doomed to be ex-associates and will have much more time in the "life" side of the balance than the "work' side. The "lucky" associates who will remain employed must now pick up the slack for the former associates, and as a result give approximately one million percent. Because of the right-sizing, the team building exercises were in vain. There is no one left on the team to work with.