Stages of Your Alleged Career – Entering The Triangle of Apathy

Career
That triangle above Disillusionment – that’s the Triangle of Apathy (trademark pending) 

Anyone who has read my book, Business Rules – a Cynic’s Guidebook to the Corporate Overlords, knows I am not a fan of the use of the word “career.”  While it applies in some specialty fields, in others it is a self-perpetuating myth.  People have jobs.  They desperately try and string jobs together to tell a story, but often it is a hot mess more than something that is cohesive.  Many people want careers, but in the real world, they have a job.

I have not mapped years to this because it varies for people.  Some people might burn through all of the stages in a matter of five years – some twenty.  Your results may vary.

So what are the stages of this mythical beast called a career?  Here’s my summary, for your reading entertainment.

Idealistic Stage.  You are young(er) with a twinkle in your eye and a bounce in your step. You believe that your long hours of hard work will be recognized and rewarded.  You go above and beyond to kick ass and takes names later.  Initially, it seems to work, encouraging more of this behavior.  Your first promotion or two creates the illusion that you are doing the right things to get ahead.  You confuse management with leadership at this stage.  Hell, it doesn’t matter, you are just happy to do your job.  There are a few older bitter employees, and you mock them openly because you see yourself smarter and more energetic than them.  Your “career” is not just about the paycheck, it’s about the challenge and the thrill you get as your learn new things.  The money is just as way for you to measure how well you are doing, like a ranking in a video game.

You find a specialty at work that intrigues you, and you become an expert in it.  It excites you to become the master of something.

When you go on business travel, it’s a party paid for by the company.  Your interests outside of work are limited because work seems awesome.  In fact, the things that make you happy and the relationships that seem to matter are all tied to your job and you don’t care. You identify mentors who you respect and they give you useful advice.  It is hard to imagine working anywhere else because the values of your organization seem to align with yours personally.

You are building your network in the organization…meaning you engage with many peers and form relationships that may help you in the future.  It is easy to do since many of you are just starting out.

Life is good because you can manage it.  Work and life get blurred, but that’s okay. You have a lifetime to sort that out.

Questioning State.  As you move higher in the organization, you notice that the behaviors that got you rewarded are taken for granted.  Upper management simply expects you to work long hours, they expect it from everyone.  You notice that some people that are promoted don’t share your work ethics or values.  Some advance because they are talented brown-nosers who kiss ass more than work.  You see people who advance based on technical skill rather than leadership capabilities.  Adding to this, the pace of promotions begins to slow down.

The company makes changes to your benefits and compensation and for the first time you question those changes. You notice that some people you respect either move on to other companies, or lose their jobs in one of the many reorganizations you start to experience/feel.  You see entire teams gutted, seemingly for no reason.  Still, you want to believe that the organization you work for cares about you – so you overlook most of these indiscretions, but a nagging voice in your head makes you wonder if you are a valuable member of a team, or merely a commodity.  You begin to ponder what your value is from the company’s perspective.

That thing you became an expert in…you realize you need more.  So you reinvent yourself, becoming an expert in another field.  For a short time that fulfills your joy, but it seems to fade fairly quickly.

The corporate rules becomes blurry and confusing as to what is expected of you as ambiguity becomes a competency.  You are confused by what you see, but cannot fully articulate what is happening.  You begin to question how the organization is run and who is leading it.

Money means a lot more at this stage of your career because you are more settled, have more responsibilities, and want/need more stuff.  You begin to notice that some people are treated better financially those others with bonuses and other incentives, and it bothers you because they are not distributed equitably.  It was probably always this way, but now you start to notice it more and ask, “Why?”  It’s not an overriding concern…yet.

You get to go to training, but much less often than earlier in your career.  It’s not for lack of desire, but there are always budget and timing questions that seem to block you.  You are hit with counters to your request like, “If you think you can afford to take three days to go to training in the middle of this critical stage of the project, go ahead.”  You become the bad person for even suggesting to take time off.

You still are working just as hard as you did, cranking up the long hours, but you are beginning to question if it is worth it.  Work-life balance starts to creep in as an issue.  You still travel without questioning whether it is needed or not.  You begin to question the bureaucracy and rules that you ignored earlier in your career.  Your pool of friends at work is starting to drain and it is harder to bring new people into that dwindling circle.

Disillusionment Stage. You feel as if you are a marked man or woman.  Your manager cannot tell you how to advance or grow in the organization because they are fighting to save their own phony-baloney jobs.  You see long-time friends and colleagues lose their jobs to downsizing, rightsizing, outsourcing, etc. When the promotion list comes out, it is something that infuriates and frustrates you.  “How could that imbecile get promoted and I can’t?”  There doesn’t seem to be any rules to follow or path to walk that can get you promoted.

You want to change jobs but the tentacles of your life and organization hold you tightly.  You have debt in life, you need to keep your medical plan, you don’t want to sacrifice your retirement plan by starting over at a new company, or you are so much older that other organizations won’t bother to interview you. (If anyone out there believes that age discrimination isn’t real, you’re a fool.)  Where you used to be comfortable with work and life blending together, now you want them separated.  You hate going on business trips at this stage of your corporate life because you have started to develop a life outside of work as a means of mental escape from the depressing grind that work has morphed into.

Training you want to take is expensive and the company refuses to send you…after all, why train someone who may only use those skills for the few years remaining in your careers?  At the same time, they ding you for not having the right skills.

The publication of the annual promotions list is a source of frustration and anger.  “How could they promote her?  He couldn’t find his ass with a flashlight and both hands!” are typical comments.  You are no longer sure what to do to progress or grow in your role because the rules are constantly in flux.  Despite this, people come to you to ask career advice and you do your best to help them.

Money plays a role here at this stage too.  You begin to compare notes with others and can see how you are not earning what you feel you deserve.  It makes you angry, but leadership brushes it off when you raise it with them.  “I can’t talk to you about what another person is making.” At this stage, money has become less of a necessity (you make enough) but more of a way to gauge yourself against others.

That network you built back when you were idealistic…it is dwindling.  RIF’s, layoffs, and outsourcing have cost some of your work-friends their jobs.  Some make sense, others seem random, almost arbitrary.  This has you wondering what leadership in your organization is thinking, if anything.

Your days are filled with PowerPoint slide decks and meetings to plan other meetings.  You think and speak in bullet points, even at home.  Vacation and holidays are often rushed, squeezed in between work deliverables, but deeply cherished.  You still check email while off, doing it in secret from your significant other.

In this stage you start to question business travel.  “Do I really have to be there live for two hours of meetings?”  You have a ton of points for hotels and airlines, but don’t seem to have the time to use them.  Your personal life seems suddenly to be more important than, “working for the man.” The things that make you happy are outside the office.

You are in an emotional prison, unable to move up in the organization, living in fear of layoffs, watching incompetent and unskilled people pass you by.  Your last mentor is contemplating suicide and blaming the company in the farewell note. As your company plays with your benefits, you feel powerless and impotent.  You won’t work an hour of overtime at this point; why bother?  Distrust in the organization is your default setting, and with good reason.

Your use of Linkedin supersedes your use of other social media.

Office 3

Survival Mode or “Shawshank Redemption” Stage. Less-than-subtle comments to you like: “We could hire three kids of out college for what we pay you,” or “I can move your job to India for a quarter of the cost,” are your “inspiration” at this stage.  You feel as if you have given the organization so much that you merely want to see this ride through to the bitter end.  That and you still cling to some of the values you had when you first started there.  You want to be back at the early stages of your career when you understood the rules of the game and it was fun to play.  You keep hoping that the leaders will go back to those ideals you cling to.

It helps to know where the skeletons are buried, mostly because you dug a lot of the holes over the years.

Your decisions are always weighed against, “Can they use this as an excuse to let me go?”  You have become that older prick you used to joke about in the organization.  Everything becomes clinging to the thing you have grown to hate, simply because it is a paycheck.  Your moments of inspiration and glimmers of hope are quickly squashed by others in leadership.

Vacations and holidays are seen as sacred time where you completely disconnect from work.  Money means less at this stage of your “career.”  This is more about survival.  You have been complaining of your pay for so long your expectations are appropriately low.

The publication of the promotions list has you seeing people there that you have never heard of.  Your personal network can be counted on one hand.  Many show signs of PTSD, having barely survived countless layoffs and reorganizations.  They are, for the most part, institutionalized – apparently trapped in their roles.

Your mentors have been all laid off, fired, or escaped.  Your circle of friends at work has shriveled to a handful. You actively work to avoid business travel because you have come to hate airports, hotels and people.  Work is a prison where parole consists of reductions in force. Each time the axe is swung you secretly hope you are on the list.  You know the layoff packages in your organization as well as your pension plan.

When there’s a workplace shooting on TV and people say, “I don’t know how that could happen,” you find you possess the answers.

If you look at the chart above, mapping your disengagement increase, your engagement at work decrease, and your salary, you can see that the optimum period comes during the disillusionment period in the small triangle you see on the chart.  I name this little spot the Triangle of Apathy…where you still care about work, but realize the futility of that caring.

Things You Need to Get Answers on Before You Leave The Interview

Bobs

I hate fluff articles with similar titles that give you worthless tips for interviews like, “Tell me why you like working here”?”  Bah! No one cares because the answer to that question ls likely to be pure BS anyway.

At the risk of being blunt, there’s some things you need to get out of an interview, but usually don’t ask because they can seem edgy.  Still, getting this information is important.  How you get it in your line of questioning, that I leave to you.  Also you need to focus on the 2-3 questions that are most important to you personally.

What’s next in this process, and when?  Usually an interviewer will inform you of this as their way of saying, “we’re done with this interview.” If they don’t, you need to know what the next steps are and what the timing is for those steps. Timing can be important, because it tells you how important this role is.  If they want to fill it fast, it is more likely mission critical.

Who’s the decision maker? Organizations often have rounds of interviews, one with a recruiter, one with the hiring manager, sometimes a technical interview, sometimes team interviews, and so on.  Their belief is this ensures they get the best candidate; when in reality it spreads out the blame for hiring bad candidates to a larger group of people.  As such, it can get confusing as to who is the individual that actually is making the judgement call as to your joining the company.  If you don’t know this, ask!

Why didn’t this position get filled from within?  This tells you how important promotion from within is, if they provide training, etc. I asked this recently and got, “Oh, we have several in-house candidates that we like, but we always like looking in the external market.”  In other words, they may just be wasting your time because of a stupid policy. Probing at this can tell you a great deal about how the organization views their people.

What would be my career progression if I were offered this job?  In other words, how long until I can promoted and to what role or position?  Will I have freedom to change career directions, or is this seen as a niche role with little room for growth?   What I always want to know with this question is, “How much flexibility will I have with my career path?” What you want to find out is simple – is this a company that has an up-or-out approach to careers, or one that sees you as a long term asset they want to nurture and grow?

What does your company do to retain talent? Does this company even care enough to try and keep its best performers? The companies that really do care have program in place.  This is also a good question to determine if the organization you are interviewing with is one that cherishes experience, or promotes more of an “up-and-out,” mentality towards its people.

Does your company have any outsourcing initiatives or efforts to move jobs overseas?  I know of someone who hired into a job, only to find out that the seat was vacated because his predecessor had already been told the role was being moved to India.  You need to know if you are entering an environment that is harvesting jobs for outside vendors or to send overseas.  While this is not a deal-breaker on its own (the role you are interviewing for may not be impacted) it can tell you a great deal about the morale and focus of the staff.

What is your employee review process like?  The response to this question tells you something about how the tentative organization evaluates its people’s performance.   How you will be evaluated often drives the type of work you do.  Best to learn that before you are offered the position.

How many hours are there in a typical work week in this position?  Are you going to have time to have a life?  Is this place a sweat shop?  Chances are they will tell you, “it varies,” but you should probe a little further.  “So what is the high end and the low end?”

What is your turnover rate in this role?  You can give a recruiter an aneurism with this question, so I saved it for last.  This is how many people leave this job.  It tells you about the culture and the kind of longevity you can expect in this position.  If people are staying for a long time (a low turnover rate) then it is probably a pretty good place to work.

Bear in mind, the recruiter or the hiring manager may lie through their teeth in response to these kinds of questions. If nothing else, it can give you something to bitch and whine about when you discover the truth, “When I interviewed they told me I could have a career here…those bastards…”

I have been told that some recruiters might react negatively to one or more of these questions.  I try and not live my life around what upsets recruiters.  Well, do you really want to work at a place that won’t share this information with you up-front?  If nothing else, shame on you for not getting this information in your interview.

Office Humor – Things to never put on your resume’, CV, or cover letter

resume

Thinking these things is okay.  Putting them in writing…not so much.  Enjoy!

  • Meet with me and prepare to be dazzled.
  • If you have read my resume’ to this point, clearly you recognize the talent I can bring to you and your team.
  • I am loyal to a fault.  Please feel free to contact me at my current work email or phone number.
  • I am available for interviews after 10:30am.
  • While my availability could be interpreted as having been fired or laid off; I want to assure you, my departure was completely voluntary and even if it wasn’t, I was not the only one affected.
  • When I leave my current position I am sure productivity and morale will drop dramatically, but I am willing to take that risk to join your organization.
  • On Resume’:  Career Goals – Work for a company not as screwed up as the one I currently work for.
  • I am willing to relocate, but only if you pay for it.
  • My current company promised rapid advancement, but never delivered, despite my protests on the subject.
  • I am in high demand so you may want to extend an offer based on my resume’ alone.
  • I feel bad about looking for a new role since the place will fall apart without my leadership.
  • My attorney and I look forward to your offer letter.
  • You may reach out to my current manager as a reference.  She is the one that encouraged me to pursue other opportunities.
  • My reason for desiring a new position is that my current employer refuses to recognize the brilliance I bring to the table.
  • I am content in my current role, but they refuse to promote me, despite my acts of personal heroism in the office.
  • I don’t come cheap.
  • I take teamwork seriously, even after hours.  I have played a pivotal role (cleric) in a Dungeons and Dragons party for the last six years of our current campaign.  If that isn’t teamwork, I don’t know what is.
  • On Resume’:  Accomplishments:  Earned over 450,000 Marriott points in the last year alone.
  • My reason for leaving my current role is that my employer is asking me to work unreasonable hours, such as starting at 8am.
  • This is your lucky day because today you have discovered me!
  • While I may lack all of the skills and experience you are looking for, I make it up with a can-do attitude!
  • The following are sample comments from my last performance review…
  • I am not bragging, but I could probably do your job more effectively than you do.
  • I am pursuing other career options at the time because my current company undervalues my contributions and have restricted our expense policy.
  • You are so fortunate to be reading this resume’.  I am sure you will be promoted based on the offer you are about to tender me!
  • I am pursuing a new company because I was not promoted when others, who were clearly inferior, were.  (Note:  If this was a good excuse I would be changing jobs annually.)
  • I am the kind of person that is always growing.  Last year I took over 195 hours of learning alone!
  • According to Google, your company would be a perfect fit for my personality and work style.
  • The hours I work are not nearly as important as what I bring to the table…something my current employer simply doesn’t understand.
  • After reading my attached resume’, you will realize that I have made your decision to fill this role easy and quick.  When should I start?
  • I am willing to travel as part of this position, but I won’t go to the following countries…
  • Once your meet me face-to-face, I’m sure you will wonder, “How did we get along before she got here?”
  • On Resume’:  Career Goals:  Work for an organization that compensates me for the brilliance I bring to the team, rather than silly things like profitability, billable hours, or delivering tangible work product.
  • I feel sad in looking for another job because my current employer is bound to go out of business without me.
  • I look forward to your call.  I have several questions about your company’s mission statement.
  • If this position doesn’t pay at least (insert dollar amount) then you do not need to read further.
  • I assume your company is pet-friendly.
  • On Resume’:  Career Goals – A salary consummate with the lifestyle I so richly deserve.
  • My involvement on a recent engagement persuaded the client to add three more staff to our team, just to assist on my deliverable!  Imagine what I could do for your firm.
  • Because of the demand for me, I will need a written commitment in advance regarding promotion
  • Before we proceed with your inevitable offer, I need to know the details on your medical benefits.
  • I see my applying for this position as a chance for you to live up to your company’s value statement.
  • My division lost less money last year than the other divisions because of my leadership.
  • Please use this phone number, not the one on the resume’.  That line has been disconnected.
  • On Resume’:  Hobbies include political protests that are against key social issues, macramé, visiting serial killer murder locations.
  • I am moving on in my career because my mother feels my current employer undervalues my contributions.
  • The gaps in my resume’ are no reflection on my work performance, a lot of people were laid off during those periods.
  • My staff often referred to me as “The Head Honcho” which tells you how influential I am.
  • I am pursuing a position with your organization because my mentor suggested that I am a solid fit for your company.
  • One of my strengths is I won’t compromise my values, unless you pay me enough.
  • On a Resume’:  Words used to describe me – “Dynamic, Innovative, Challenges Authority, and Undervalued by Leadership.”
  • Your days of searching for a perfect candidate are over!
  • Just to clarify, any images you find of my on the internet were NOT put there with my expressed permission.  I am seeking legal action against those who posted those photos and please do not hold those images against me during the hiring process.
  • My mother asked me to ask you the following question…
  • On a Resume’:  My low GPA reflects instructors that were sub-par and unreasonably early class start times.
  • If you don’t hire me, I encourage you to contribute to my favorite charity _______________.
  • You don’t want to look back five years from now and say to yourself, “I had a chance to hire that guy and didn’t.”
  • I don’t want to say I walk on water, but I can cross a lake without getting wet.
  • I am excited to see what your signing bonuses are and how they compare to the rest of the industry.
  • Because of legal reasons I cannot travel out of state or be available on weekends…but other than that, I’m your new go-to-guy.
  • While my title seems rather ordinary, I have been called, “the glue that holds this place together.”  So consider that in your decision making.
  • If you were to Google me you would see the phrase, “Anti-Authoritative Risk Taker,” which just about sums up what I can bring to your company.
  • In search of perfection?  I’d say you’d found it with this attached resume’.
  • I suggest you keep this introduction letter, because my autograph is bound to be worth a lot in years to come.
  • I am unavailable on weekends for work due to court-required community service.
  • I can save your company a lot of money in terms of recruitment – simply hire me right now based on the attached resume’!
  • Before we get too far, what is your company’s expense and travel spending limits?
  • Frankly I should be much further in my career, but my manager leaves a great deal to be desired.
  • It should be noted that several of my references are leaders in our industry.
  • My anger management instructor said I am the most improved in her class, which should count for something.
  • I am seeking a new career trajectory because I was falsely accused of telling the truth about the incompetence of my manager to her supervisor.
  • My ratings have been a three for the last few years, but in fairness, a three at our company is a five at other companies (per what we have been told by our leadership.)  So I’m basically a five…
  • I feel it is time for a move, and your company was the least objectionable option.
  • Resume’ Personal Information:  Weight, 197lbs, Height, 6 ft.  Able to bench press 230lbs, highest ranking team member of the Red Cobras Squad on Call of Duty 4.
  • I am currently pursuing a degree, so I will need to know your tuition reimbursement plan in advance of accepting an offer with your company.
  • Think of it this way, you are hiring someone who is likely going to be your boss someday.
  • I hope you can be flexible with interviewing schedules, my father wants to take part in those discussions and he is quite busy.

Like these?  Check out my book:  Business Rules: The Cynic’s Guidebook to the Corporate Overlords

Work De-Motivators – Things That Sap Morale in the Workplace

Dwight5

I have learned over the years more about de-motivation than actual motivation.  Usually I obtain this knowledge while fulfilling the role of “whipping boy” for less-than-able managers (not at my current employer of course!)  What I have discovered is that when you look at what kills motivation you often can gain the important knowledge – what DOES help spur motivation.  Bear in mind I’m work in Information Technology, so my perspective can be slightly skewed – sometimes more than others.

So, in an effort to expand our knowledge, here are my big de-motivators list – in no particular order:

Seemingly random decisions by leadership.  The word “seemingly” is important here.  It’s actually pretty rare when a leader makes a totally random decision.  There’s almost always some reasoning behind it – some context for the decision.  Often times though, I’ve found, that the decision is communicated and not the reasoning or context of why the decision was made.  Without understanding “why” something is being done, the only conclusion I’m sometimes left with is that the decision was made by pulling it out of their collective asses.

Cutting back training. I worked in the auto industry – so I understand what tough economic times are.  Yes, you do have to cut expenses from time to time – and training is the proverbial victim of this.  Training is one area I am sensitive too.  Training is a pact between the organization and the individual. Training individuals says, “We see you being around here for a while and want to optimize you.”  When training is constricted to the point where it isn’t happening – the effects on many people is that they don’t believe that the organization cares about them as individuals.

Leap before you look leadership.  “Any jackass can burn down a barn,” or so the old saying goes.  Making a decision without all of the pertinent information can sap a team’s motivation.  I have seen current management buzzwords about “fail forward,” where people are willing to make mistakes to learn from them.  This kind of thinking creates the illusion of innovation, when in reality it is frustrating to the staff.

Analysis paralysis.  The opposite of leap before you look – this de-motivator is a lack of decisions making.  Sometimes the decisions are easy to make – but analysis paralysis is a major drain on the energy of an organization.  The quest for absolute perfect knowledge and buy-in is often the same as not taking a stand at all. Managers who constantly look for more data are often fearful of making the right decision.

Promotions that seem…well, crazy.  We’ve all been there when the promotion list comes out and we say, “What the hell?”  When promotions are given out to, well, morons of individuals whose only competency is killing senior leadership’s butt…it can be highly demotivating.

No apparent roadmap of where we are going.  I am most effective when I know what I am working towards.  I don’t need all of the details, but I like knowing a little bit of the end-state vision.  When I understand how my work gets us all further towards a goal – I get a sense of satisfaction.  Pretty simple really.  When I have no idea what the goal is I have no idea whether I am part of the problem or part of the solution.  Managers who say it is not about the destination, but the journey, are just deflecting that they don’t know where they are going.  Have you ever taken a family driving vacation, with the kids, in the summer, with no destination in mind?  In fact, a lack of vision can lead people to not take any steps at all out of fear they might be doing the wrong thing.

The Teflon Factor with leaders.  When presented with an issue or problem, a good leader will take an active role in resolving it.  A de-motivating leader will look to his or her team and say, “You people all have a problem.”  Accountability is a critical element of motivation of teams.   People look to managers/leaders to be in the same boat they are.  Managers that deflect issues down to their team erodes motivation of those teams.

Rewards and recognition applied unequally.  A messed up rewards and recognition system has the exact opposite of its intended purpose.

Conflict avoidance.  Some managers harbor the illusion that all conflict is bad.  That’s not true at all.  Conflict can often be protective.  Yes, it’s uncomfortable, but sometimes it forces people to deal with organizational or people issues that have to be resolved for the team(s) to grow.  Dodging conflict, ignoring conflict – these things drain organizational energy.

An attitude of, “You should be thankful you have a job…”  That’s odd, I thought I had a career?  When under pressure, some managers resort to the attitude of, “you’re lucky we keep you around.”  First off, let me tell you if I feel lucky.  Secondly, nine-times-out-of-ten when someone has told me I’m lucky I have a job – I feel quite the opposite.

Micromanagement.  There are times we all need a little direction…well, all of you…frankly I’m good.  Seriously though, some “leaders” think that leading means telling everyone how to do their job.  Most employees don’t need that.  They need a manager to run interference for them, remove obstacles, not tell them what color to make a Times Roman font in PowerPoint so that it stands out.

My purpose was not the come across negative…snarky, yes, negative, no.  If you look at this list you can see some gems on what provide motivation – the exact opposite of these:

  • Provide teams with concrete decisions and why they were made.
  • Invest in your people (train them).
  • Make informed decisions.
  • Make timely decisions to respond to the business.
  • Lay out a convincing and compelling vision of where the organization is going
  • Leaders need to hold themselves accountable to their teams.
  • Apply rewards and recognition fairly and proportionally to the value of the work being rewarded.
  • Employ constructive conflict techniques to resolve issues.
  • Let employees tell you (and the rest of the organization) that they are glad to be part of the team.
  • Tell your people the results you want and let them amaze you as to how they do it.

Thoughts?  Rebuttals?  Recriminations? Did you like this?  Go read my book, Business Rules, The Cynic’s Guidebook to the Corporate Overlords.  (Catchy title eh?)

Office Humor – The Business Trip – A True Story

Travel

In those wonderful days before 9-11, before United bought Continental, before full body scans – back when it took guts to travel.  This is a true story of a business trip gone bad. 

My flight to Washington Dulles (from luxurious Newark, New Jersey) was scheduled for 5:00pm so dutifully I got to the airport at 3:00pm. I had no idea why.  In the history of airports, no flight between Newark and Dulles, on a Friday afternoon, has ever flown within three hours of its designated time.  Showing up two hours early was simply a display of anal stupidity on my part.  Still, as a traveler, you harbor the hope that this might be the exception to the rule.  I heard there were weather delays due to fog, so I figured I might be able to catch the 3:00pm flight.  Experience has told me that all it takes is a car backfiring in a three state area to grind air traffic to a halt.  There’s a subtle art to navigating delay situations at Newark; one which I thought I’d mastered, but my experiences this particular Friday taught me I hadn’t.

I got my ticket for the 5:00pm flight and noticed that I was now on the 7:45pm flight.  That’s generally not a good sign…cancelling a flight and rescheduling me on another flight hours in advance.  I hoofed it down to C85 – at the extreme end of one of the three wings that make up concourse C.  I was determined to catch that 3:00pm Dulles flight(this was back in the days when you could simply switch flights before an upgrade fee.)  I had commitments, as did my wife, that required my physical body back home.

I saw the plane was there, jetway attached, jetway door opened.  The monitors showed it wasn’t even loading yet – in fact it wasn’t taking off for ten minutes.  Yes!  I asked the gate attendant, we’ll call her Jody for the sake of this story, if I can get on the flight.

“No sir, that flight already boarded,” this far-too-peppy Jody replied.

“I don’t want to burst your bubble, but it’s right there,” I pointed. I swear, the plane was there, door open, jetway still attached.  I could see the co-pilot chatting with the flight attendant.

“Sorry, we’ve closed out the flight.  It’s gone.  You can always catch the 5:00pm flight,” Jody replied.  Apparently the plane I saw wasn’t really there, some sort of new stealth technology that Continental was testing for the government.  Continental’s theory is that if you say it enough, it becomes reality…laws of physics be damned.

“No, I can’t.”

“Yes you can.”

“The 5:00pm flight is cancelled.  Listen I don’t want to argue or anything,” a lie, “but the plane door is still open.  You can key me in and I can get home.”

“Sorry sir, I can’t help you.”  Another lie.  It was her turn in the game we were playing. 

Lying was a competency that Continental displayed a lot this particular evening.  Yes, I had a fantasy moment of strangling Jody right then and there, but I let it pass.

So, my new flight was at C130 – the other far end of the extreme wing of the C concourse.  I slothed down there and had dinner.  Important tip here – never eat a burrito from a place advertising Hawaiian cuisine. I had time to kill, even if that was spent in a bathroom.  You know you are a pessimist when risk stomach cramping simply to kill time.  Thankfully I was spared the ordeal of time in the restroom.  I powered up my PC, did some work, read a book, worked on writing my new novel, killed time…I had a lot to kill.  Remember, don’t leave the gate area because information may change at any time.

At around 7:00pm, while at the gate, I noticed our 7:45pm flight was starting to move, not physically, but through time/space continuum..  Now it was 9:00pm flight – then five minutes later, it became a 9:33pm flight.  I cracked up.  Here’s an airline that can’t get you pinned down to what hour you’re leaving, somehow know you’re departing 33 minutes after the hour.  It was so precise it implied an intelligence I knew didn’t exist.  At that point I was still able to chuckle.  Anyway, it morphed into a 9:45pm flight a few minutes later.  Wow, that 12 minutes difference changed everything (read with extreme sarcasm)

At this point I was ready to switch to Washington National and fly there, catch a cab, and get to Dulles.  The board told me that the National flights were also being delayed due to a fog that frankly, didn’t look too bad outside.  Best to ride this one out. In the end this judgment call turned out to be the best choice.

At 10:20pm (for the record, our “on-time departure,” was still showing as 9:45pm), we got the word that we would be leaving at 11:00pm.  Now we were in the danger zone.  I went to the abandoned (at that time) Continental service desk and did some research.  The 9:00am flight to Dulles in the morning was already booked.  That meant if I flew on Saturday I was getting home sometime in the evening at this point. Options were dwindling.

At 11:12pm the word came down from Gary, a short red-sport-coated man of authority (that’s what the red coats mean, right?)  Our flight was cancelled.  “No problem.  We’re putting you on a flight to Reagan National airport.”  Swamped and alone, the other ticket agent working with Gary, seeing the angry mob, grabbed her purse and went home for the night.  Another agent working the gate, seeing his plight, abandoned him as well.  God bless the American work and customer satisfaction ethics.

I felt bad for Gary until I saw he couldn’t deal with the pressure, snapping at people, making up stuff as he went.  I began to see that the red jackets really didn’t mean much.  I think he stole his.

Okay, Gary couldn’t process everything at once.  Frankly he couldn’t process one thing at a time very well.  He finally cooked up a story that Continental would pay for the Washington Flyer bus service to take us to Dulles.  As a point of order, the Washington Flyer bus doesn’t run from National to Dulles – and hadn’t for months.  I pointed out this lie to him and told him that the luggage agent at National could issue us vouchers for cabs.  Suddenly, I became the “Gate Leader and Spokesperson for the Irritated Flyers,” a role I relished.  I think I deserve a red jacket, really. I wonder where Gary stole his from? Could I have one?

Gary struggled for 20 minutes processing one person for the next flight.  I staged a coup, rounded up all of the people, and we rush to the gate at the other end of the airport, leaving Gary dazed, confused, but happy we were leaving.  According to the monitors the National Flight was boarding at, yes, you guessed it, C-85 – the other end of the EWR universe and was going to board any minute.  I made a mental note; “next time steal a Cushman cart to help get there faster.”  This becomes important later on…

We got there en masse – sweaty- breathing hard, but still clinging to the hope we might actually fly.  Substantiating that hope we were all assigned seats.  There was a teeming and aromatic group already there.  I asked status and was told, by someone I’ll call, “Becky,” that, “the aircraft is here and we just finished fueling it.  We’re waiting on your crew and they’ll be here at 11:45pm.”

I point out to her that after midnight, jets cannot fly into Washington Reagan airport due to noise abatement restrictions. Yes, I’ve done this hop before, I know the rules. “Are we really going there tonight?”  I kept mentally telling myself that I didn’t want to go to that airport anyway.  “Most assuredly sir.” Her lie was cloaked in my belief that she didn’t know what noise abatement was.

At midnight, with no updates, I went to the counter along with a suite of bodyguards/other victims, ready to demand answers.  Now things started getting interesting. “We thought we had your plane but when we went down there, there wasn’t any aircraft there.  So now we’re waiting on your crew and an airplane.”

Blaine’s comment:  “So what were you putting fuel in a half an hour ago?”

Becky, “Huh?” She was a real Mensa Society member – this one.

“Never mind.”  Pardoe’s Law Number 227:  “Never get into a logic debate with an idiot.  It only gives you headaches.”

Five minutes passed and I think she realized that she was caught up in a lie because she seemed to want to get us out of there.  Suddenly Becky makes a furious phone call and announces, “Washington National passengers, your flight has been moved to Gate 103 (in the yet unexplored part of C-Concourse during this trip).  It departs in 15 minutes.  She’s a genius Becky.  This was a great way to get us out of there…another lie. I have no doubt she will go far in Continental.

We started to run, then I spotted it – our ride.  I commandeered a Cushman cart (those idiots should not have left it charging with the keys in it), and sped our way down to Gate 103 in caravan, (yes, I went with women and children first on the Cushman,) to find a ground crew sitting there eating their dinner, staring at us with confused expressions – confused because we (okay I) had obviously stolen the cart from somewhere in the terminal.  (My thoughts were simpler:  “I wouldn’t be eating with those fingers.”) Yes, there’s a plane here, I could see it out the window.  But no one has any idea why we’re there.  Heaven forbid that the staff there go off and get help.  As the duly elected spokesperson for the group, I take off and find, 20 minutes later, a red-coated man from Continental who taps the keyboard, then leaves without saying a word.  Ahh, this is the kind of service I would expect in, shall we say, a prison?  Or a Carnival Cruise ship?

Now at this point, we’re all tired, sweaty, cranky, and one woman has begun to paint her face with makeup as if she were stranded in the jungle.  I’m reminded of Lord of the Flies and realize by the time the next shift arrives, we’ll be in loincloths.  Two gentlemen (they owned suits) show up from Continental to assure us that there is indeed an aircraft outside (thank God it wasn’t a mirage), and that our crew is at Dulles, on the ground there.  They will be taking off in an hour or so and if they land, they’ll transfer to this aircraft, prep it, and we’ll take off for National – an airport you can’t fly into with a jet in the middle of the night.

Needless to say, this story wasn’t adding up.  They updated the departure to 1:45am, which was physically impossible given the flight time from Dulles to Newark (our current time was 1:10am).  I pointed this out to, we’ll call him, “Sparky,” who assured me that I didn’t understand the laws of physics as Continental airlines did.  I confirmed with Sparky at that point in time that the flight at Dulles was sitting on the ground, due to fog now at their end of the travel spectrum.  Our “on-time” departure was moved, by Sparky, to 2:00am.  I guess that was supposed to satisfy me. Oddly enough it didn’t.

After my carefully crafted lecture on the space time continuum from a kid that was younger than the pair of loafers I was wearing – I contacted our travel agency, the good old boys at American Express.  They wanted my emergency code, which I told them I was not going to dig out of my bag.  I couldn’t.  The guy next to me was dismantling his seat to make a spear.  Things were getting ugly.  In 10 seconds our Amex guy had my profile up.  “Options?”

“Not a lot.”  Train tomorrow, then a $100 cab ride to your car.  Estimated time home, 3:00pm.  Fly home at the whim of the idiot-brigade at Continental and I could be at my car at Dulles, at around 3:30pm.  I had family commitments, so I was feeling, well, screwed.

Solution – a rental car.  I told the guy at travel this, verbatim, “Dude, you have to get me home.  Get me a car that can do that.”

“I’m on it dude.”  I swear.  We called each other dude.  It was a very straight bonding moment in a night when nothing had gone right.

I took the monorail, which was down twenty-minutes for maintenance, to the Hertz rental car place. That trip normally would have frustrated me, but in reality, it was the smoothest part of my night since we were moving, albeit slowly.  I dashed into Hertz and standing there was, “Little Korean Hertz Guy”, keys in hand, paperwork ready, and sent me on my way, “You in spot 80 Mista Pardoe…you go now!”

The car – a brilliant orange, brand new Mustang, fully loaded – only missing a gun for signaling lane changes on the NJ portion of the turnpike.  A perfect completely non-discreet car when cruising at warp factor seven down the turnpike in the middle of the morning.  I’m sure no police will pay attention to me.  I would have been only slightly more conspicuous if I had a keg of beer and a stripper pole strapped to the roof.

You see a lot of strange things at rest stops on the turnpike system at 3:00am in the morning.  Who would have thought that a Maryland Rest Area was the kind of place to spawn amorous activity?  I have enough material for my next novel or two, tentatively titled, “Rest Area Romp.”  You know you’re in a Maryland rest area when you stop, get out, and a pair of naked butt cheeks slap up into the steamed up window a foot away from you. I can only wish that I was making this up.  That image is burned in my mind to this day.  Add in the rain, the damned fog, and countless police officers looking for suspicious vehicles – which an orange Mustang qualifies as, and you have the makings of a bad 1980’s movie.

To answer all of the obvious questions, I got to home at 6:30am Saturday, scaring the hell out of my wife who had almost given me up for dead.  Logistically, one tank of gas will do it; it takes three 20 ounce Diet Mountain Dews, a candy bar (Hersey’s) and a bag of Utz extra salty potato chips to travel at that hour with no sleep.  The cost was still significantly less than if I had gotten a hotel room at the airport Marriott.

I have long hoped over the years that when United and Continental merged that the characters at Newark Airport lost their jobs.  In reality, they probably were promoted.  While none of this could happen today with all of the airport security, I will always relish the thought of stealing and driving a Cushman cart of angry passengers around Newark.

Why Employees Stay With an Organization – A Question of Loyalty

Toby

Over the years I’ve read a lot of articles about why people leave companies. These often lack perspective.  They don’t explain at all why people remain at companies – which is an equally important way to gauge how well a company attends to its people.  You might think that the exact opposite of what forces employees to leave might be what compels others to stay.  In some cases that is right, but in others, it isn’t.

The easy answer as to why people remain in a company is loyalty. Where does loyalty come from?  Companies have been trying to crack that nut for some time.  Most never will because why they bemoan that they want/expect loyalty; they are, at the same time, sending jobs overseas or simply laying people off.  Welcome to the dichotomy of corporate culture!

Consider, if you will; having a job is the same as a personal relationship.  Over time, there is a give and take, a sense of trust, an understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses.  Some people have put in so much time and effort in their careers they feel they owe their organization something back.  That sense of obligation is loyalty – and it is often a powerful motivator for people to stay where they are at.

So where does loyalty come from.  Here are my suggested reasons that most employees stay at their organizations and what are the root causes of an employees’ concept of loyalty:

They believe their work makes a difference.  This is different than job satisfaction.  This is knowing that their contribution to the organization has impact.  It’s not about being happy with your work – It is about knowing you are moving the proverbial needle.

The rewards/recognition match the work contribution.  People tend to remain with companies where they are recognized for the work they do in proportion to the value of that work.  Recognition can come in a lot of different forms.  Nothing demoralizes people more when the rewards go to the wrong people or are disproportional to the contribution. Sometimes the rewards are a good salary, one that might make it difficult for you to consider moving to a new organization.

They have friends at work. The truth be told, if you have good dependable work friends, you are less likely to leave.  As much as I bitch about work, I have the distinction of working with some of the best people in the industry and that makes it far more tolerable.

They are comfortable with the work they do.  In this scenario, you know your job well and do it well.  Starting somewhere else will potentially change that.

Employees are recognized as experts in their field. Being at the top of your game in one organization does not necessarily transfer to another company should you move.  To your new colleagues, you are “the new person,” and you have to expend considerable time and effort to reestablish yourself.  It can be a daunting task that forces you to the easy choice – remain where you are.

Their manager doesn’t suck.  One of the top reasons people leave organizations is their manager is a dick/dickette.  You don’t need a stellar manager, just one that isn’t a micromanaging asshat.  There are those rare instances though where you get a manager who is solid, good, understands what motivates you and does those things, etc.  Going to another organization and you may be spinning the managerial roulette wheel and risking getting a complete and utter moron.

They can’t leave because of age, benefits, or life situation.  Anyone that believes there is no age discrimination in business is delusional.  Once you cross the threshold of 50 years of age, you are caught in a vice.  On one side, is the fact that companies won’t hire you because of your age.  On the other side is the concern that you might impact your pension, or change benefits that would be negative to your lifestyle.  What if you have workplace flexibility and can work for home X number of days a week?  Perhaps your new employer won’t support that – which necessitates a lifestyle change.  Employees are pinched to the point where you resist thoughts of changing jobs as a result of these factors.

They believe the organization does what it says it does. Companies claim they act and behave one way and often do quite the opposite.  That division between the public view and reality is often a contributing factor for employees the leave.  Counter to that, if your organization behaves in a manner consistent with what it says it is in business for, you tend to want to continue to be a part of that company.

Fear of not fitting in at a new company.  I liken this to “the devil you know vs. the one you don’t.”  I saw a job posting on Linkedin the other day and it immediately told me I would not fit in at their organization.  The images the company had on their ad and web site showed only people in their mid-20’s, dressed very casual, and a wide diversity – to the point where an older white male would significantly stand out in their company.  If those images realistically represented that company, I would never apply there because I know I won’t fit in. That sentiment is not that rare with people.  Every organization is like a country – it has its own culture, traditions, language, etc.  The fear of not being able to adapt to these is often enough to compel an employee to stay.

They harbor the illusion of advancement.  The classic carrot that management dangles before us at one point or another, “We are looking at you in terms of a possible promotion.”  This ever-elusive enticement is often just enough to compel people to remain in their job.  “If I can put in one more year, maybe this year I will get that job.”

Immunity to the hypocrisy/chaos.  There is a lot of bullshit that goes on in offices – reorgs, layoffs, outsourcing, etc.  If you get caught up in that chaos, it helps motivate you to look for employment elsewhere.  Likewise if you can tune out all of these threatening distractions and focus on what you love about your job, you are often more willing to remain.

Management leaves them alone. Sometimes flying under the radar makes your life easier.  If you are not motivated by advancement, just keeping your head down is an option.  Other times management just does the right thing, and lets people do their jobs with minimal interference. This behavior can foster a sense of loyalty. For many people, the fact that their management is not interfering permits them a chance to shine.

Obviously, if you like more of my mindless ramblings, you can check out my book, Business Rules: A Cynic’s Guide to the Corporate Overlords…or my other blog posts under business.

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Funny Employee Awards

Office humor
I should have added an award for passive aggressive note writer…damn it! 

Offices really need their own version of the Emmy’s, Golden Globes, or the Academy Awards.  Sure, leadership could hand out spot bonuses, but it is much cheaper and fun to provide awards to your leaders, team-members, and minions.  In an effort to lighten everyone’s mood at work, (especially this week, which is in need of some laughs,) I present to you my generic list of funny office awards. Enjoy and share!

Most Likely to Steal Office Supplies Even if They Don’t Need Them Award – given to the man or woman that pilfers office supplies as some sort of mental escape.  I am the proud winner of this three years running. I also have 11 pairs of scissors and six staplers if anyone wants them.

The Tunneling Out Award – provided to the employee spending the most time updating their Linkedin status in hopes of being recruited award. Ironically this person spends most of their working day trying to work somewhere else.

The White Rabbit Award – for the individual that shows up chronically late for every single damn meeting, even the ones they organize and ask for.

Person Most Likely to be Found Watching YouTube and Claiming it was “Self-Paced Training” – Given to that individual who watches movie trailers all day long.

The Deflector – Awarded to the person that takes their work and assigns it to others most effectively and consistently.

Mr. or Ms. Non-Committal – given to the “leader” that refuses to make a decision, even on the most basic thing.  No matter how much evidence you provide, the winner of this award will not land on a decision.

The Center of the Universe Award – It’s always all about them. Just ask them.

The Paper, Scissors, Rock Award – Given to the individual that makes arbitrary decisions based on sketchy criteria, just to move things forward.

The Useless Skills Trophy – Presented to the individual whose skill set has nothing to do with anything remotely related to work.  Planning an office retirement party is not the same as project management – trust me.

The Mouthpiece Award – Given to the person most likely to spread a rumor just for the fun of it.  (I am a three time winner of this myself)

Most Likely to Secretly Love the Annual Budgeting Process Award – Not much can be said here; this person has deep psychological issues.  Their punishment isn’t getting the award; it is liking budgeting.

The Stolen Valor Award – for the individual that consistently steals credit for other people’s hard work, claiming he did it, contributed to it, or led it.

Most Paranoid Employee Award – Provided to the individual that is positive that he/she is about to be the target of managerial abuse or a reduction in force.  It should be noted that this individual is often correct.

Most Likely to Use PowerPoint as a Primary Communications Tool – Presented to that person that cannot make a trip to the restroom without a 26 slide deck explaining their bowel movements (complete with graphs). Here’s a tip – Putting it in PowerPoint is not the same as actually communicating it.  Duh!

The Rebrander – Given to the manager that renames broken projects or products rather than fixes them.

The Terminator – Awarded to the manager that has fired of outsourced the most staff in the given year.  This is not something to be proud of.

Most Likely to Create a Spreadsheet to Try and Solve a Problem – Spreadsheets rarely solve problems, they do however, create the illusion of solving problems. This person has a spreadsheet tab set up for every contingency in their life.  So sad…

Buzzwordaholic – This honored person embraces anything new that can be described in a buzzword or phrase or, better yet, a catchy acronym.  It is their way of appearing well-informed and knowledgeable.  For the rest of us, well, we all know bullshit when we see it.

Most Likely to Spend More Time Explaining Why They Are Not Working Rather Than Getting The Work Done – A tad long worded, but that’s how this douchbag rolls.

Class Clown – For the individual that somehow takes every situation, no matter how dire, and manages to make it humorous, if only for a moment.

Hall Monitor – awarded to the individual that keeps track on when people come, go, and how long they spend in the bathroom. I knew one winner who kept a spreadsheet of this.

Most Likely to Throw a Co-Worker Under a Bus at the First Hint of Trouble – This person’s default setting when under pressure is to expose their peers to the underside of a bus transmission.

Points Whore – Awarded to the manager that arranges business trips just to harvest the frequent flyer and hotel points.

Sasquatch Award – Given to the employee that is almost impossible to find, even when they are in the office.

Head up the Ass Award – Bestowed to the employee that is so freaking oblivious that he/she is immune to the effects of reality.

Social Networker Award – This person sits in meetings and tweets and updates Facebook rather than paying attention.  Everyone in the office knows they are updating Facebook on company time, because they are guilty of it too.  This person just doesn’t even try to cover it up or lie about it.

Tragically Happy or the Most Medicated Award – given to the person in the office that, no matter what, has a sickening Joker-like smile on their face.  Even when faced with utter disaster and doom, this person has that dopy smile on their face.

The Office Squealer – Given to the office snitch, the person that will sell out their beloved co-workers in hopes it will advance their own career.

Where Angels Fear to Tread Award – Bestowed to the individual that has taken the biggest risk, regardless of the damage it could have caused to their career.

The Office Cheerleader – Awarded to the person who has consumed the Kool-Aid and believes every little lie that leadership tells him or her.  They sing praises to the almighty company and all who sail her.

The Closet Hero Award – Given to the person who has saved the day but never got formal acknowledgement for their sacrifice.

The Lemming Award – This team award is given to group that goes along with the crowd and does something insipidly stupid because they refused to think on their own.  (Note:  There’s usually a lot of competition for this award).

Most Offensive Smelling Lunch Eaten at a Desk Award – There’s always someone trying to reheat something that reeks as if it was taken off a garbage scow.  The complete lack of awareness or concern for the nostrils of their co-workers puts them in heated contention for this award.

The Inappropriate Attire Award – This is a fairly broad category that can cover everything from hooker-wear to Roy who showed up for a live meeting in a Speedo. As long as there have been groups of people working together, there have been people who didn’t dress appropriately for it.

The Rules Nazi – Awarded to the employee that quotes and lives by the rules, regardless if that makes any sense whatsoever.

Artful Dodger(s) – Presented to the individual or team that meets regularly, creates impressive PowerPoint decks, but accomplishes nothing (other than misleading management that they are progressing with their work.)  You know who you are…

Able to Turn Any Day into a Monday Award – This Debbie Downer is the person who sucks the life out of room and always goes to the worse-case scenario in their thinking.  Even when bonuses are handed out, they point out how much taxes take away.

Tin Cans and String Award – Given to the employee whose internet connection for meetings is so horrible that they are usually unable to hear or speak, yet are still allowed to work from home.

Eternal Keeper of the Stupid Employee Motivational Poster Award – There are always a handful of employees that believe that a catchy saying on a colorful poster inspired others.  This award is designed to remind them that we all secretly mock them behind their backs.

The Al Haig Award – Given to the person that assumes authority and power they simply do not have.  (It’s a historical reference, look up Alexander Haig after President Regan was shot…oh, never mind…)

Most Likely to Lick the Boss’s Boots in Order to Advance His/Her Career Certificate – Given to that spineless, selfish, blatantly kiss-ass employee that openly adores the boss to the point of making his or her coworkers vomit.

Ignorance is Bliss Award – Given to that person that ignores the obvious and when confronted with facts, turns tail and runs.  This person believes the best way to survive in the workplace it to not know or acknowledge what is going on.

Vastly Overqualified – Just Ask Them – Award – It is difficult to talk to this person because their head will not fit in most standard sized conference rooms.  They are SO smart and love telling everyone about how ingenious they are.  Oh my God, I wish I was as intelligent and insightful as they think they are.

Terminally Downtrodden – Given to the employee whose hopes have been squashed so many times they are a mere rifle perch away from extracting revenge on their co-workers and management.  Despite their ill treatment, they refuse to leave.

Looking for a Reason to be Offended Award – Given to the employee that believes they are being oppressed because they are part of an affinity group.  They believe they are being singled out for abuse.  In reality they are being oppressed just like the rest of the staff.

It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere Award – Given to the person most likely to lead a party of his or her coworkers to the bar after work to attempt to purge/drown their memories of the day.

The Sports Analogy Award – There’s always a weenie that thinks the best way to make people understand or get behind something is with a sports analogy. While this never works, there’s always someone who thinks they are in the movie Rudy and that some sort of sports reference is something everyone can get behind.

Couldn’t Find Their Ass with a Flashlight and Both Hands Award – Bestowed upon that individual who is so hopelessly clueless that they don’t understand that this award is not an honor.

Idiotic Saying or Metaphor Award – Given to the person that says things like, “When one door closes, another one opens,” These little catch-phrases are aimed to inspire, but miss their mark because, well, they are idiotic.  When a door closes, it just closes.

Running Out the Clock Award – Presented to that employee that is around 18 months away from retirement, who is doing everything he/she can to keep their head down and stay off of leadership’s radar.

The Teflon Trophy – Given to that individual who commits the equivalent of a war crime at work, but comes through it with their reputation perfectly intact.  (I hate that guy…)

Planny-Plan-Plan Award – Given to that one leader that insists on detailed plans for everything while, at the same time, never actually executes those plans.  Note:  This can be awarded to a project team that becomes so mired in their planning that they cannot actually move to the implementation phases of anything.

In It for the Stale Bagel (aka The Buzzard Award) – Bestowed to that individual who comes to work solely to mooch the leftover/abandoned food outside of conference rooms.  “Hey, this saves me $12 a week in breakfast alone!”

The Triumphant Flag Waver Trophy – Presented to that manager that declares a project is over and runs up the flag to declare victory, despite the fact that only half of the work actually complete.

Clearly I have missed some…so what are yours?  Add them to the comments.

Humorous Mission Statements for the Real World

missionstatement

I find the entire concept of mission statements to be one of those wonderful and pointless expenditures of time that organizations yearn to waste.  Anything written by more than two people is often so generic, so nebulous, so vague – that it means nothing.  Many have the same basic terms – “innovation,” “quality,” “customer,” “value,” which makes them essentially meaningless.  Some organizations strive to cram so much crap into their mission statement that it comes across like the ramblings of that guy who is panhandling at the Metro stop.  Mission statements are the definition of corporate white noise.

In my career I have never met anyone that was “inspired” by a mission statement.  If mission statements didn’t exist at all, nothing would change.  At best, they serve as a signposts for the employees to mock every time the organization violates them. At worst they are rambling paragraphs of gibberish created by a managerial committee.  Yet despite this, most departments and organizations as a whole spend considerable time crafting these garbled and confusing sentences that would cause your high school English teacher to suffer a mild stroke.

As a sidebar, those mission statements that capitalize certain words are written by a particular inbred, so-called leaders that lack two functioning brain cells.

So, I took it upon myself to craft a few of my own, aimed at being funny. These are not tied to any organization, fictional or real, and any similarities with real companies are coincidental (and funny).  Some are for companies – while others can be applied to departments.  Share and enjoy.

  • Our team’s function is to make ourselves look important by slowing down the work you do in a demonstration of the pseudo-authority we possess.
  • We are an assembly of random teams and staff with nothing in common who exist but whose value is not fully understood or appreciated – even by our own leadership.
  • Our mission is to make everyone else look bad by pointing out their mistakes and flaws so that we look better.
  • Our team exists to do all of the shit-work that no one else is willing to do.
  • The primary focus of our team is to get our leader promoted to another position of quasi-importance so that we hopefully will get someone sane to take his/her place.
  • The mission of our team is to be an example that you should NOT emulate.
  • Our team’s primary function is to produce PowerPoint slides that numb the senses and dull human thought, yet are strikingly beautiful.
  • Our shit doesn’t stink.  Chances are yours does.  We intend to make money off of that.
  • Our DNA is coded so that the customer comes first, well, right after all of our petty internal stuff.  Trust me, the customer is right up there in the top five…maybe ten, things we are focused on.
  • Our mission statement is to make sure leadership believes we are valuable, indispensable, unable to be outsourced, and critical to the survival of the organization.  We are none of these things, but we are relying on leadership incompetence to fill that void.
  • We put our customers first, unless of course they have their heads up their asses – in which case we will look for an appropriate scapegoat to blame.
  • Our organization believes that a fool and their money are soon parted.
  • Our mission is to be an industry leader so we can spend our time and effort fending off and overreacting to our competition who is squarely set on taking us down.
  • We innovate, collaborate, create, vacillate, procrastinate, pontificate, deliberate, guesstimate, and under-deliver daily to our clientele.
  • We put the “W” in Qwality.
  • We recognize that our people are the core of what we do and how we interact with customers – so we aim to make them as miserable as humanly possible.
  • Our mission is to provide you with technological solutions created in a foreign country by people who have no idea what you need, delivered on obsolete platforms with marginal support.  Note: This replaces our former mission statement, ‘Leader in rebooting the world’s hard drives.”
  • If you want it fast and high quality, you clearly aren’t dealing with us.
  • (From a HR department)  We are all about talent, and ensuring that the talent does not have a case that will stand up in court or arbitration.
  • Usability and the end-user experience is what we say it is.
  • We recruit the very best people in the world to service our clients…and crush their souls.
  • Our mission is to be paid on time or sooner if possible.
  • (From an information security department).  Our mission is to remove the human factor from technology, and the technology from the humans.  It’s the only way to be really secure.
  • We suck less than our competitors and much less than our market peers/colleagues.
  • Our mission is to not execute a major fu*k up that can be traced back to our team.
  • Our organization is dedicated to finding anyone in our target market who is a moron in a financial decision making capacity and exploiting their lack of intelligence.
    It is the mission of our team to survive the chaos, carnage, and catastrophic bad planning that is prevalent in our organization.
  • We believe that people are our most important asset…and that beating people makes them tougher and stronger.  Crushing their souls makes them invincible.
  • We start with bad data and go downhill from there.
  • To inspire our junior staff to seek opportunities elsewhere.
  • We make our money the old fashioned way, leveraging the horrific mistakes and outright paranoia of our customers.
  • We strive to under-promise and over-deliver – which means you cannot trust any estimates we give you.
  • Our mission is to innovate by taking other people’s ideas and repackaging them as our own.
  • When you think about us, you should only think of the propaganda we have pushed into the market.
  • We believe in whatever social causes will help us generate new revenue.
  • Our goal is to be the name most recognized with the least screw-ups in our industry segment.
  • We are experts in claiming to be experts.
  • Our mission is to complete the mind-numbing tasks that no one else is willing to undertake under the guise of “consulting.”
  • To connect our customers to innovative thoughts that we have artfully lifted from our competition.
  • We exist to be underappreciated, misunderstood, devalued, and often abused.  And we do it with a SMILE.
  • To empower people to connect to other more idiotic people and share their silly little ideas.
  • To share ideas without barriers…well, those ideas that legal has signed off on.
  • Our mission is to accelerate customers buying the stuff we sell.
  • To organize the world’s information and pimp it to you with a copious amount of advertisement.
  • Improving the lives of the people of the world by pushing products they don’t need or don’t work.
  • Creating perceived value from the insignificant for over 100 years.
  • If there is any fault in the services we provide, we will make it right or kill the scapegoat as an example to the others.
  • Our mission is to facilitate the transfer of money from your accounts to our back pockets with a minimal amount of resistance and the maximum amount of inspiration.
  • Attract and retain the best talent for our customers – until they make too much, then their jobs are off to India.
  • Provide the highest level of service for the least amount of effort.
  • We are a stiff and strict company with a casual dress code that assists in recruiting.
  • Our organization is dedicated to the proposition that our customers are less intelligent than we are.
  • Our operating principles are centered on the concept that employees should do what they are told and no one will get hurt.
  • Our mission is to open new markets that have not heard about our reputation for failure yet.
  • You will never pin it on us.
  • We are so greedy, we would sell meth if we thought we could get away with it.
  • Our mission is to create buzzwords and catch-phrases that sound important, then sell services aimed at correcting those same buzzwords in our client’s organizations.
  • If we could sell our employees’ souls we would do so for a solid revenue stream.
  • Our team’s mission is to have the most glamorous PowerPoint decks within the company.
  • We will pummel you about the head until you understand.
  • We tap the best minds in the business to attack your solutions…so if there’s a problem, we have someone else to blame.
  • Our goal is to change the world…into something that we can make more money on.
  • Our mission is to devise creative and complex solutions to make up for lack of leadership.
  • We take potentially dangerous chemicals and parts of animals, combine them in ungodly ways to sell them to consumers as food.  (From the fast food industry).
  • Ignorance on the part of our customers and insatiable greed on our part make for a potent combination of products and services.

And the winner:

We are rigidly focused on the following EIGHT ideals:

  1. We will DOMINATE the market with repackaged ideas and concepts.
  2. We CARE about the planet and recycling in all of the literature we print.
  3. We SPONSOR things to make us seem like good people.
  4. We believe in DIVERSITY so long as it does not upset our current management structure.
  5. We put our CUSTOMER’S FIRST; at least that what we tell them.
  6. We bring the highest QUALITY products and services to the market and support them with third world class service.
  7. We believe PEOPLE ARE OUR GREATEST ASSET and also our biggest liability, hence the way we treat them.

You can always check out my book – Business Rules for more snarky office humor.

Snarky Interpretations of Real Life Job Descriptions

Office space 2
Answer – I am the standing floor champion on World of Tanks.  So I’ve got that going or me…

Linkedin is constantly sending me jobs that they believe I am interested in or qualified for.  I look because, well, everyone should always be looking.  At the same time I cannot help but wonder, does Linkedin know something that I don’t?  The paranoia is very real. 

As I read many of these, you see patterns – certain phrases that turn up over and over.  As a veteran of the Cubicle Wars, I also know pure bullshit when I see it in a job description.  So the following is snippets from actual Linkedin job descriptions and my own snarky/funny/grim interpretations of those.  Enjoy!

“Some travel is to be expected.”  A LOT of inconvenient travel is expected.  We are going to send you to luxurious locales such as Newark, New Jersey to do your job.  PS.  We will force you to take these trips with no notice.  You didn’t really want a life outside of work did you?

“Must be a proficient multi-tasker.”  We are going to bury your ass in pointless work and unreasonable deadlines.  Then we will complain when you don’t get 46 hours of work done in 8 hours’ time.

“Candidate must be a self-starter. ” We have no functional leadership.  Zip, zero, nada.  We are going to give you no direction whatsoever. We’re counting on you to know what needs to be done (until it comes time to critique it.)

“Must be deadline driven.”  We expect you to work 24 x 7.  Don’t plan on any days off.

“You will be expected to partner with our people.”  We will provide you with an out of date org chart and you must then fend for yourself.

“Looking for an aggressive go-getter.”  1.  A certain amount of douchbaggery is acceptable in our culture and expected with this position.  2.  We expect you to crush as lot of careers and dash a lot of hopes in accepting this position.

“Candidate must have a great deal of flexibility.”  We will be giving you conflicting orders, deadlines, and priorities.  Moreover you are not allowed to complain about it. Good luck!

“You must have experience working in a matrixed organization.”  You will have multiple managers with conflicting objectives, expectations, and timelines.

“Creative work environment.”  We make stuff up as we go.

“You must have an established track record in (fill in the blank).” We anticipate you racked up a body count at your current employer while meeting your goals and expect more of the same.

“Must have in-depth industry knowledge.”  The ability to bullshit and drop industry buzzwords and acronyms will serve as a substitute for actual expertise in this job.

“Applicant must be self-directed.”  1.  No one is going to give you direction, guidance, assistance, or help as you are thrown to the wolves.   2.  We have no time for your  petty little questions.  3.  Our “leaders” couldn’t organize a good bowel movement.

“Experience in a collaborative environment a must.”  Everyone here will want to weigh in and criticize your work.  “Do you really think an Ariel 14 point font is the best to convey your message?”

“Seeking an eager candidate.”  We are looking to hire someone in their 20’s.  Older applicants will be completely ignored.

“Demonstrable ability to resolve complex system or business issues…”  You won’t believe how screwed up we are.  Don’t get me started on how bad our clients are either!  That’s okay, we expect you to come in and fix years’ worth of fu*k ups.  No pressure eh?

“Must be comfortable with public speaking and facilitating group discussions with senior executives.”  We want you to go and meet with our leaders and explain to them what business we are in, who are customers are, and why their ideas are wrong.  Good luck with that.

“Ability to work in a dynamic environment a plus.”  We are in a constant state of reorganization.  You’ve been warned.  PS.  That person that is hiring you is on the chopping block but doesn’t know it yet.

“Experience Managing People.”  Experience managing contractors.

“Candidate must be comfortable with public speaking to senior leaders.”  You will be preparing a lot of PowerPoint slides and reading them to people who are far too busy to take the time to read them on their own.”

“Ability to handle multiple priorities.”  We are going to dump a shitload of work on you – all due on the same day.

“Experience working with global teams.”  You will be expected to take phone calls at 4am and 11pm with people you cannot understand.

“Applying research and analytical skills to support thought leadership…”  You are allowed to use Google and Wikipedia to look up buzzwords we don’t fully understand.

“Candidate must have public sector experience.”  You will be working for a beltway bandit as a pitiless contractor in the Federal Government…may God have mercy on your soul.

“Experience working with human capital…”  You will be expected to work with actual people face-to-face rather than work remotely from home.

“Structuring approaches to solving discrete problems…”  We are hiring someone to fix our existing and future fu*k-ups.

“Use effective communication expertise to solicit feedback…”  You are to be the customer’s whipping boy (or gal) for every mistake that was made by our company.

“Ability to train and coach diverse teams in relation to governance, processes and best practice.”  You will be inheriting a team of broken souls and crushed dreams and are expected to fix them, despite the abuse that has been inflicted on them by your predecessor.

“Proven experience identifying and analyzing problems with the ability to make recommendations for solving these challenges.”  We don’t want to hear about your little problems; just fix it.

“You will be working in a challenging, complex and highly demanding environment.”  You will be experiencing chaos and mayhem starting on day one and it will not get any better.

“Enthusiastic individual sought…”  We expect you to be happy no matter how bad the abuse is.

“Develop and review complex spreadsheets to analyze data and develop specific recommendations.”  Maybe you can make some sense out of this data…we sure can’t.

“Coordinate with other organizations/teams to accomplish goals.”  Your success is dependent on your peers, which means you are screwed.

“Research, develop, and execute industry business plans…”  This is our way of saying, “We have no idea what we are in business for or how to deliver to our customers.  We’re counting on you figuring that out for us.”

“The ability to communicate respectfully and with tact.”  No yelling in the office.  That’s what got the last person that held this job fired.  We’re still paying on that lawsuit.

“Executive presentation skills a must.”  You will be using PowerPoint a lot.  A LOT.  Since your audience is executive-level, much of your work will be taking complex things and turning them into confusing graphics that look well-thought out.

“Become a thought leader in __________” We are counting on you figuring out what we are hiring you to do.

“…forward thinking…”  We need at least one person in our organization that knows which way is up and you could be him/her!

“Assist proposal managers and capture managers in developing/maintaining and communicating storylines, schedules, plans, outlines, assignments, baselines, and storyboards to the team.”  YOU will be doing all of the work while the proposal and capture managers criticize it and claim credit for your efforts.

“Must have deep analytical skills.”  We have a lot of data but have no idea what it all means.  You will be expected to tell us what it means, so we can then question the data’s validity.

“Experience in working in, or leading, dynamic global teams.”  To make your position more challenging, all of the people you must work with are scattered across the planet.  Don’t plan on getting any sleep once you hire on.

“Candidate must possess exceptional written communications skills.”  As your manager, I see myself as a much better writer than you will ever be.  No matter how perfect your work, I intend to slow it down with an endless series of markups and revisions that will slowly drive you insane.  Welcome aboard!

“Must possess certification in/by  ____________”  We don’t care if you can do it, we just want to know that your former employer spent the time and money to send you to training to learn how to do it.

“Other duties as assigned.”  We are SO going to bury your ass in work.  You won’t be seeing daylight for months.

“Translate and synthesize information from SMEs into a message that targeted audiences can understand, while maintaining the technical accuracy and completeness of the intended response.”  You will be forced to meet with highly technical people who cannot communicate, so that you can suck out of them their knowledge and turn it into something that is understandable.  All the while the highly technical people will criticize what you do, as will those that receive your work product.

“Ability to perform with grace and efficiency under pressure.”  Don’t you dare bitch about the crappy way we are going to treat you or I swear we will make your life a living hell for punishment.

“A wide degree of creativity and latitude is expected in performing analytics duties…”  You will be expected to make shit up on the fly.

“Experience in process improvement.”  We are so messed up that we need a fresh set of eyes to tell us what to fix.   Of course we will be ignoring your input, but we still expect it.”

“Participate in business development efforts…”  You will be expected to take orders from the sales and marketing teams and support any of their lies or deceptions to the customer, regardless of how ridiculous they may be.

“Take charge of company performance…”  We need a fall guy for our horrible sales numbers – and you’re applying to be that guy!

“Enhance our Business Development Lifecycle…”  You are going to be in sales.

“Define and visualize business strategy.”  You will need to figure out what we should be doing, then put it on a single PowerPoint slide.

“Re-engineer processes to improve delivery.”  Your role will be to unfu*k all of the stuff your predecessor screwed up.

“Must possess a strong sense of urgency about solving problems.”  When things go wrong, and they will, we will be yelling at you to fix them.

Hiring for Culture – The Case for Adaptability

FEARED OR LOVED

Last year a newly hired mid-level leader told me how he was frustrated with our organization along with, “I’m going to make some pretty big changes here, you wait and see.”  I’ve heard that before and warned him that his ideas might be good, but the key is how you implement them in our current culture.  He scoffed at me.  He was destined, in his mind, to (as my father would say) do wonders and shit blunders.  A year later his frustration is a little higher and the organization hasn’t changed in the least as a result of his efforts.  He thrust his bold and innovative ideas at our organization and found that his way of working didn’t mesh with how we work.  The root issue isn’t that we have problems as an organization…it’s that we hired someone that can’t adapt enough to our culture in order to influence change.

Corporate culture trumps individual leaders who desire to change.  It is the nature of the Corporate Overlords (All hail our Overlords!) to squash anything that might rock the proverbial boat.  Company culture is a big thing, lumbering, highly resistant to attacks and cries for transformation.  A deeply entrenched culture can easily smother and overpower the most ardent crusader seeking to change it.  People that come in with objectives of changing the company into something else often are found years later in a corner cubicle, drooling, rocking back and forth, sticky notes all over them and the floor, muttering to themselves.

When people hire they tend to look at experience and technical skills.  The unconsciously weigh the personality of the candidate as well.  In reality they need to explore a candidate’s adaptability.  Will this person be able to work in the culture of the organization – or will they try and make the culture change?

Adaptability is important with anyone coming in, yet most interviewers barely touch upon it.  They tend to see individuals that talk about driving cultural change as “go-getters.”  In reality, most people of this ilk end up bitter and disappointed or they simply pack up and move on, claiming, “My previous employer’s company was unwilling to adjust to my ideas.”

So what do you ask during an interview to root out a candidate’s willingness to adapt?  Here’s some samples:

  • Tell me about a time when you had a good idea but there was resistance – how did you overcome that resistance?
  • What kind of support do you expect from leadership or sponsors in making changes?
  • Having good ideas is important – tell me about how you successfully implemented changes at your previous employer.
  • How would you go about mapping stakeholders in our company in order to drive change?
  • Sometimes there are organizational barriers that prevent change.  Talk to me about how you overcame some barrier in the culture of your previous employer.
  • In your mind, what is the best way to deal with a culture that might not be ready for your ideas?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you had to bring together a lot of diverse stakeholders and get them on the same page?  How (exactly) did you do it?  What were some of the challenges you faced?
  • What role do you think this position has when it comes to our company’s culture?
  • Tell me what you think our organization’s culture is? (This one is very revealing, it tells you their preconceived notions should you hire them.)
  • How would you go about adapting what you did at your current employer to our unique environment here?

Champions that think they can inflict change to any organization’s culture can be powerful, but only if they can implement their changes.  What questions would you recommend adding to this interview list?