I don’t work in the salt mines. Far from it. I do interesting work. I get to solve hard problems. I work with smart people. My company treats me well and pays me handsomely. My wanting to reach financial independence and then quit my 9-5 has less to do with how much I hate my job and more to do with all the other things I want to do and try and be before my short stint on this planet is up.
Here is an example of how nice they are. We are allowed to accrue 240 hours (30 days) of vacation. Once you hit 240 hours, you stop gaining more vacation days until you use some of it. I accrue at the rate of nearly 8 hours per pay period (I get 25 days off per year). At the end of April of this year I realized that I had hit the 240 hour maximum. So, in the first week of May, I logged into our system and applied for some time off that I was planning to take in September. I happened to log into the vacation tracking system again in June and discovered that even though my September vacation was on the books, it didn’t deduct from the 240 hours – I would be stuck at 240 until September rolled around. That would mean nearly 8 days of wasted vacation time! So off I toodled to my manager.
Me: (complain, moan, bitch, whine)
Manager: Well obviously what you should do is cancel the September vacation and take that time off starting tomorrow. I mean, put it in the system as starting tomorrow, but actually take the time off in September instead. Just send me email reminding me of the swapped dates, and that way you will immediately start accruing vacation days again.
Me (pleased as punch): Great idea, thanks.
Manager: Oh and don’t forget to compute and deduct the days you’ve already lost.
Manager: Account for the days you did not accrue in April, May and June, because you didn’t notice that you had hit the max, and book that many days less of vacation time.
Me: (Jaw drops on the floor. It did not even occur to me to try and recover my lost days.)
See what I mean? I work with some genuinely nice people. I get to work from home a few times a month. If I have errands that I need to run in the middle of the work day, I am free to do so, and they trust me to make up the time, and deliver what I need to on schedule.
But there is something magical about a corporation. Take a whole bunch of otherwise unobjectionable, nay, even smart people, form a corporation and suddenly a ton of stupid and annoying shit starts to happen. Like a mob, a corporation sinks to the lowest common denominator. So, even though I have it pretty damn good, there are very many things about corporate life that I will not miss once I turn in my papers.
Management sure do love their metrics. Unfortunately, nothing transforms a harmless imbecile into a raving, slathering moron faster than a few metrics and a pretty dashboard. Metrics are to management what a bauble is to a magpie. Irresistible. Sadly, every time management finds themselves a new bauble to play with, it throws the larger organization into chaos. Everyone tries to start optimizing for the latest and greatest metric that has grabbed management eyeballs and imagination. The result ain’t pretty.
I once heard someone remark that a fool with a tool is a still a fool. I will miss neither these fools nor their tools when I finally hang up my gloves.
Every large company is cursed with a cohort of yes-men. The folks whose response to Jump! is a never-failing ever-annoying How High? If you have ever thought that one of these jellyfish had your back only to be left standing naked, shivering and alone before upper management, you know what I’m talking about. These slimy creatures slither through the cracks of large organizations, noses stuck firmly to the arses just above them. So eager are they to please that they allow the very worst ideas to be birthed, the most deformed, doomed projects to come to life. An articulate coworker of mine once described what they facilitate as emasculate conception.
Will I miss these brown nosed invertebrates? I’ll give you a hint. The answer rhymes with Duck Go.
The Chicken Littles
I have lost count of the number of times I have had to work nights and weekends because of a super duper important, five alarm fire that had to be extinguished yesterday. If you most cruelly lopped off some of my digits, I would still be able to count on the fingers of one hand how many of those situations were, in hindsight, actually emergencies that would have negatively impacted the business.
The guy who wanted to know when I would stop breastfeeding
When I returned to work after the birth of Toddler BITA I was still breastfeeding her, so I needed to pump 3 times a day at work. We had one designated mother’s room in my building and at the time there were 5 of us breastfeeding, so the room was nearly always busy. The five of us came up with a schedule and booked slots when each of us had access to the room. If you missed your slot, you would be SOL. I blocked off my pumping slots in my work calendar so that people attempting to schedule meetings with me would know to avoid those times, because I would show up as unavailable.
One of the teams I was working with closely at the time had a fairly inexperienced manager. The team, their manager, and I were in a meeting and the manager wanted to schedule the next meeting. Remember that this whole conversation took place in a group setting with a team of five developers as an audience.
Manager: Let’s meet tomorrow again at X o’ clock.
Me: I’m afraid X does not work for me; I have another appointment at that time. My calendar is up to date, so we can use that to schedule a time that works.
Manager: Oh, but I wanted to meet at X. Can you move your other thing?
Me: I’m sorry, but I can’t.
Manager: What is this other meeting that can’t move?
Me: It isn’t a meeting, it is my pumping slot in the mother’s room.
Manager: Oh. Well how long do you think you’re going to keep breastfeeding?
Remember when I said earlier that I work with some really smart people? Well notably missing from that group are the fine folks from our IT support department.
Here is one example of their stellar work ethic: They launched a new “secure” computing environment for the developers. Everything about this new environment was a complete shit show. Productivity dropped enough for the highest echelons of management to be concerned. What did IT do? Send out a multiple choice survey to the engineering teams. One of the questions on the survey was: How often does your new environment crash? The choices were:
- Infrequently (once a week)
- Often (once a day)
I ask you: who in their right mind would characterize a once a week collapse of the development environment to be an infrequent event?
Here is another anecdote: It is the night before I go on vacation. I login to my work email and attempt to turn on my Out Of Office auto responder that will tell folks who try to contact me how long I will be out and who they should talk to in my stead. It doesn’t work. I open a ticket with the support staff and explain the situation and the problem. No response from IT (I’m checking my work email a couple of times a day while I’m on vacation to monitor the status of my open ticket). Finally I update the ticket asking what’s up. The response? “We called you at your desk to attempt to resolve the issue, but you were not available”. No shit Sherlock.
What are your stories from the corporate battlefield?
I could rant on and on. There is much to be said about pointless processes, mission statements, team building events, performance reviews and mandatory ethics training. I’m choosing not to say it though, because this is a blog post and not a novel trying to compete with War and Peace.
I don’t work in the salt mines but I will be happy as a fucking clam to leave behind the minefield of corporate bullshit.
What about you? What war stories do you have to tell from the corporate battlefield?