In the past couple of weeks at my soulless job in a major corporation I have experienced the shame and the drugged complacency of corporate America.
I attended a two-day conference where the chair punished tardiness (yes, he called it “tardiness”) by forcing the tardy participant to sing and dance in front of the group. This sadistic policy was enforced without mercy (bear in mind that those who were on time were being punished as well) despite the fact that several of us were not even invited to the conference until the week before, making it difficult to cancel conflicting meetings or arrange coverage for ongoing projects. The funniest thing was that even if you weren’t tardy you were required to participate in several humiliating “teambuilding” exercises, like one in which everyone was lined up and had to perform a noise and action in concert with the person ahead of you in line. I think it was supposed to demonstrate something about cooperation. To me, it demonstrated that some people long for a social hierarchy that runs on humiliation, and that if they are deprived of such an environment, they will produce one in your workplace.
But recovery is possible. I attended a meeting this morning at 7 a.m. (I know, it’s hardly cruel and unusual punishment, but honestly, I still haven’t had breakfast). The meeting included a survey of our business and our performance. It then moved on to a presentation exhorting us to use Work Life Effectiveness tools to achieve Work Life Balance. And truly, I am Borg, because I believed the presentation. Yes, I believe that my employer wants me to work from home so that I may enjoy my life more fully. No, I don’t remember drinking any Kool Aid. This morning’s meeting ended with a game wherein we identified members of senior management by their baby photos. I think that would have been fun if I’d been sufficiently caffeinated—further evidence that I’ve been assimilated. At one point during the presentation, the microphone wigged out and an echo started feeding the presenter’s words back on a ten-second delay. The strategic group’s manager looked at me and said, “I think that’s the most annoying thing I’ve heard in my whole life.” I looked at him fondly and thought, “You should have seen the tardy people performing `I am a little teapot’ at my last big meeting.”