My blog considers the superficiality of corporate work because Mike’s got terminal cancer.
Mike posted on linkdin with his status changed to ‘retired’. I quote”
No longer considering contracts as concentrating on fighting what I am told is terminal cancer.
When I met him nearly twenty years ago, he could have retired then. But out of some strange work ethic, he moved to West Berkshire to start a job at Vodafone, doing Business Continuity. We worked in the same team writing a disaster recovery plan and doing risk assessment work. It was bullshit.
Mike was no different to any of the other colleagues in our team. Performing respect and humanity towards each other, happened if really necessary. Passive-aggressive behaviour was rife in our team.
As a ‘just out of university’ graduate in the late 1990’s, I fell into the trap that if people are friendly to you, they are your friend. What I later discovered is that people are superficial, they put on a friendly front because their job role expects that. Indeed, this front extends to any by-chance meeting outside work or a works social event. The terminology for this is ‘being professional.’
For many of us the primary reason doing a corporate job is the pay the bills. I know there is a lot of talk about careers and vocations, but in a coporate job you can more or less forget about that. A slow realisation takes place once years have past, that you are no more that a serf. Some people, like Mike, work for so long in the corporate field that they get institutionalised. They persist in working long after they can retire. It’s a kind of Stockholm syndrome.
David Graeber in his book ‘Bullshit Jobs’ talks about spiritual violence. This is when the hours spent at work are so demoralising, that it challenges your whole reason for existence. I hated by job at Vodafone.
Let’s go through some of the personality traits of this disfunctional team:
John the manager, very nice man but delusional that all was well with his staff.
Chris slowly became an alcoholic. He came to work looking rough and occassionaly there was a whif of vodka on his breath. His marriage fell apart.
Years later I heard the story that he tried to attend a meeting of senior managers. Work colleagues intervened a half-cut Chris giving a presentation. He was sacked.
Suzanne also with a drink problem, and came to work with temours. Scarily thin and in her forties, and referred to as ‘sticky’ behind her back. Keys skills included, ‘talking a good job’ and manipulating situations so others to do her work.
Nonetheless, playing the job ‘role’ and having to ‘perform’, must be toxic for home life. Unable to be their authentic selves during the work day, probably lead to using alcohol as a form of self-soothing.
Hyper-aggressive Alpha Male
A body builder with a flash car, Andy played the role as the alpha-male team leader. He’s relatively short and slight-framed but he remedied he stature by pursuing body-building. People pointed out the similarity of him to Buzz Lightyear.
Aggression was his fuel, although he might describe it as assertiveness. Andy’s secret is machine mentality: remembering things by rote; regurgitating technical jargon to impress, and going to the gym four times a week to pump iron.
Bullied as a child, he transformed himself through bodybuilding and turned into the bully:- Do as I say. No discussion. I know it all and I know better. Get it done!
I received his special manipulative conference room chats.
Yet, sweetness and light to his superiors.
The superficiality of corporate work continues tomorrow.
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