Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Job, part 3

I'm not one to sugar coat my expectations of corporate behavior. I don't expect the best of people who run companies. They're in it to make money, for themselves and their owners. Everything else is a variable to be reckoned with.

Namely, employees are necessary, except when they're not (viz., outsourcing). Customers are a requirement, but often a pain in the ass and are to be so treated (read The Consumerist if you don't agree).

So, I feel the 'You Never Know' is a key to survival. That translates to: you never know what will happen next, so you'd best be always prepared. And what does it mean to 'be always prepared'?

To me, the first step is to always be emotionally prepared. In one job I had some years ago, someone I knew had a habit of saying, 'don't fall in love with a job, because it will never love you back.' (This person, who worked in marketing, once remarked after a product was completed, said: 'I got what I asked for, not what I wanted.')

Now, I'd be the first to admit that being emotionally prepared for everything and anything in the job world is pretty close to impossible. What I aim for is not to be too surprised, as there is no limit to what people or organizations will do.

Maybe always being prepared might mean keeping one's resume up to date, one's contacts recent, and desktop links to job sites. It might be necessary, but not always.

It does mean, however, to always keep in mind who and what I am. While I endeavor to do a good job, and be an asset and worth my salary, when it comes to the inconsistencies and contradictions of corporate life, one needs to know where one stands.

More than ten years back, I was in a situation where the president of the company came to our location, with a large retinue of corporate officers, and called a meeting of all managers of which I was one. This president then proceeded to speak in enough corporatese that I could not make sense of what was being conveyed to us.

So when he asked if there were any questions, I asked about his message. More cluttered corporate-speak. So I asked again. He then began: 'Let me try again...'

I must admit that at this date years later I do not recall what he said, not what I asked. Fortunately, I did have the presence of mind to not say, 'I can't understand what you are saying, can you repeat in regular English'. And later my then-manager told me to avoid CLQs*, and that to any answer I ever get from upper management I should say 'Thank you very much.' I assume he (my manager at the time) meant his comments to me as all tongue-in-cheek.

* CLQ= career limiting questions. Questions you ask that kill your career.

I wonder sometimes if my coming from New York, where cynicism and sarcasm are the lingua franca of survival, have colored my view of the world. Probably. And that's OK. But it cuts both ways.

My radar is always up. And the reasons for that go beyond the city that I grew up in. It arises from the cultural environment and the family dynamics of my upbringing as well.

Which brings me back to the job.