The Things I Won’t Miss About Corporate Life

things wont miss corporate life

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.

Me: What?

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.

 

Meaningless Metrics

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.

Image source: xkcd.com. Shared under the NonCommercial 2.5 Generic license.

The Yes-Men

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.

 

Meetings

Enough said.

 

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?

Ugh.

Image credit: Bonkers World

IT support

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:

  • Never
  • 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?

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20 thoughts on “The Things I Won’t Miss About Corporate Life”

  1. I can relate so much to this sentiment! I’ve got it pretty great as far as office jobs go. Heck, as long as I work my 40 hours a week, they don’t really care too much about when or where — I can wake up and just decide to work from home, which is awesome.

    Lately my frustrations have been with integrating with another project/system that keeps going down and is just horribly designed. So…much…angst right now. O.o

    1. Your job sounds like the bees knees. Except for that other project. And that right there is the problem. There is always an ‘except’ lurking in the corner, and you never know when it is going to leap out and say ‘Boo!’.

  2. Oh, these are some entertaining stories (unless you’re the unfortunate one experiencing them personally)! No corporate stories here, but I used to have to pump in my classroom during my plan period because the only other option would have been a bathroom. I had to cover up windows daily because they couldn’t be covered when students were present. Then of course I locked the door. However, one day my boss, the principal, tried to come in, found it locked, and naturally used his key to get in (rather than knocking). He was rather flustered when he immediately noticed what I was doing and got the heck outta there!

    And IT…ugh. Our IT guys thought we were all totally incompetent and would ask us things like, “is your computer plugged in?” as the first solution to an issue.

    1. I don’t know who I feel worse for in that story – you or that poor red-faced principal! He must have been so embarrassed. I loved breastfeeding but I was so very glad when I got to stop pumping. Pumping, even with a double electric state of the art pump, gets old very fast.

      Your IT guys must be related to ours. “Did you reboot your machine?” “But ….” “No buts, you must first reboot your machine”. Now I just say yes, sit around for a couple of minutes twiddling my thumbs, and then tell them I did it so that we can move on and attempt to fix the actual problem.

  3. Where i once worked, in steerings, the boss who needs to make final calls often brought the little boss, the baby boss and the worker boss. As there were many bosses, steerings often were 40 plus meetings… That helps the decision making a lot.

    1. Hahahahahahahah. Decision by committee – scientifically proven to be the best way ever to make a decision. Oh and if you believe that my Nigerian aunt has a bridge she would like to sell you.

  4. Um wooooow the breastfeeding thing is so boorish. People can be so clueless when they’re thinking about themselves and their agenda. Oooh man do I HATE meetings. I used to be okay with them, but at my current job they often go over time by 30 – 60 minutes because people want to have weird philosophical debates about gray lines around text. It’s …. infuriating. But instead of letting it get to me, I just look at my bank account and smile. 🙂

    1. Go over by what now? Fuck. That would drive me up the wall. I have long thought that there should be a word limit per person per meeting. Everyone gets, oh I don’t know, say 10,000 words at the start of a meeting. As soon as you’ve said your 10,000th word, you have to stop talking. No exceptions. I think if it cost people a bit more to say stuff, they would say a lot less.

  5. I agree–the guy in the breastfeeding story needed to get a clue. I’ve never worked in a big corporation, but people are always my biggest thorn in the side at work. Good coworkers make work better, but not to the extent that they can make up for difficult coworkers who make a job so much work. I can imagine that being on your own schedule will be a huge boon when you retire, as well.

    1. “Good coworkers make work better, but not to the extent that they can make up for difficult coworkers who make a job so much work.”

      This. So much this.

    1. You didn’t have a drink in hand did you? My goal is make every reader of this blog snort liquid out of their nose at least one time. Well that and achieving FIRE. Oh well, maybe next time.

      And don’t get me started on core values. Want to know what my core value is? It is to not stick you in the eye with this fork in the next 20 minutes, no matter what comes out of your mouth.

  6. Genius to start a pumping schedule!

    I have quite a few things I won’t miss and have been documenting them for the past year via twitter. Here is a small sampling… Things I won’t miss when I’m FI: 3am wake ups, 4+ flights a day, people clipping toe nails on the plane, drunk bachelorette parties, drunk bachelor parties, and ANY flight into Vegas, Cancun, or any other tropical vacation destination I could go on and on! I DO love my job and my company but I will love it more when I will stop having to be there and instead choose to be there. Perhaps then the toe nail clippings won’t bother me so much…

    1. I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that no matter how much on FIRE you find yourself the toe nails are still going to bother you. Every. Damn. Time.

  7. Oh man, the meetings… Our new VP had 1.5 hr long meeting to tell us that from now on we should have no meetings last longer than 20 minutes, they should be concise, and only have the people needed invited to them. He could’ve said all that in ~15 minutes… Then we spent almost 8 months last year undergoing a reorg, so for ~6 months it was a cluster because noone knew who they’d be reporting to and what we actually needed to do – so unproductive. Then it comes around and I shit you not, it was even worse than the prior structure. It was essentially a caste system so that was great for morale… I went from having my lone supervisor and his 2 bosses to report to, to having 2 (currently 3) immediate supervisors and their 4 bosses to report to. I felt like Office Space, “Well Bob, I’ve got 6 bosses so when I mess up, I ehar about it from 6 different people.” More common isn’t me messing up, but one of the 7 above me wanting something changed that goes counter to prior changes made by one of the other 7…

    That being said, it still beats the crap out of my last company. Oh yeah, it was that bad. Like you, this is no salt mine, I get paid and compensated very well, and I still like working here 3 yrs into the gig. 🙂 I don’t get the amazing amounts of vacation you have holy hell, that’s awesome, but I still get 20 days a year, 21 this year because Good Friday was on our Friday off, so they didn’t want to hose us out of getting “double dipped” on a day off. 🙂 Oh yeah, and 9/80’s OMG I love 9/80’s. This week is only a 4 day week, thank goodness!

    I lucked out at this company and have loved almost all of it, but like you, I’d rather be doing something else. Until that time comes, I can’t think of a better place to be spending it in. We’re pretty lucky, that’s for sure. 🙂

    1. Upper management needs meetings more than they do oxygen. One of our VPs optimistically tried to institute no-meetings Tuesdays. A more dismal failure of policy would be hard to find. 6 bosses huh. That could be very, very bad……or very good, if you can successfully play them off each other and none of them has any idea what you are up to and you go can go ahead and just do the right thing.

      If it makes you feel better I am about as jealous of your 9/80 as you are of my extra vacation days.

  8. Some folks are definitely annoying at work.

    The biggest thing I don’t miss, and that I LOVE to not have to do anymore is COMMUTE! OMG Bay Area commute is the worst. I moved out west to get away from the crowds. Yet, the crowds are now coming to my neighborhood and buying everything up.

    I love just waking up and working online and then done. So much more efficient!

    Sam

    1. The Bay Area commute is nuts and would drive one insane, unless, like me, one has lived through a Bangalore commute. In Bangalore I lived about 4 miles from work, and that commute could easily take an hour each way. I now live about 15 miles from work and my commute can take up to 45 minutes.

      I will be glad when I’m done battling traffic for good though.

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