punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,
punkwalrus
punkwalrus

Play the Game

It's funny sometimes, how structure tries to follow art. If you were asked to "rank the effectiveness" of all 20th century authors, could you do it? Could you "prove" that J.D. Salinger was "better" than F. Scott Fitzgerald in a qualitative survey? How would it be measured? Quantity of books sold? Number of pages? How about number of books published as a ratio of articles and reviews they wrote on other authors?

I'd say it would be silly and pointless.

But you don't have to give them raises, now, do you? Corporations do, and while a lot of work is easily measured by quantity and quality in a factory environment, it gets difficult when you don't actually have hard core physical proof of what you do in white collar work. But all companies try, anyway, with buzzwords and funny titles like "Team Quality Analysis" and "Core Quotient Marks." But most people know it's all bullpoop anyway, as evidence how many of the processes change names and angles of attack. It all boils down to politics: who plays nice. All those acronyms and fancy words are so vague and subjective that they are more than often just an excuse to physically prove why you need to fire someone. These employee surveys and goals are easily manipulated to get down to what's really the case:

Is this employee likeable?

When I managed retail, I saw this first hand and even had to dish it out. Twice I had to fire someone because my boss simply didn't like them, and this was accomplished with forms in triplicate talking about employee goals, directions, and other meaningless words. In retail, hardly anyone is thinking about it as a career. They are doing the job because they need the money. One district manager put it thusly, "I can come into any store, and no matter how clean and straight-laced the other manager might be, I can find something that will justify getting them fired." You can't fire a guy because he's "irritating," but you can fire him because he didn't send in a fax cover letter for his TPS forms.

Of course this isn't fair. But what can you do? Well, "play the game," of course. Decide for yourself whether staying with the company and putting up with their Happy Wappy Mission Statement Du' jour is worth it. In my case, it is. But the stuff they try and sell us is VERY hard not to laugh at. A former company I worked for paid a guy, and independent contractor, $50,000 (yes, fifty THOUSAND dollars) to come up with a winning mission statement. What we got back was almost indecipherable to anyone below a college reading level, and so vague that those who did have that reading level would instantly recognize its vague statement. Even though we were forced to recite it from memory at the next sales meeting, I still don't recall it. It was something like, "Our due process of unforetold consumer enhancement shall here forth be rationalized to the most optimum efficiency of the marketing paradigm..." or something. Boiled down, it said, "We'll sell a lot of stuff to customers who want our stuff and, oh yeah, treat them nice." I said this at the sales meeting after-hours party, and it got the biggest laugh. "So THAT'S what we paid a guy fifty grand for? Man, I wondered what all those words meant." My district manager later told me that was not in "the team spirit interest to decipher the mission statement." You mean no one is allowed to know what it means? Keep in mind, I didn't disagree with what it said, only the choice of words, and the fact this guy got paid 250% of my annual salary to come up with it. "This is an official warning," she said.

"Play the game."

Back to the present. I got this warning today at work, although not from an official source. I watched my new department director treat programmers like children. "I am talking now," he said. "So turn off your cell phone, pagers, and close your laptops." And a shout out to his homeys in the crowd. All who looked like clones of him. He then went on about the new buzzword for employee reviews, which has changed twice since our last reviews. Let's say it's called, "The Compass of Totem Quality." Now you have to fill out online forms and go to a training class just to decipher how to get a review. Managers have to go to a three-day class to teach them how to do a review. And it will change again next year. They pay companies to "buy their system" for employee analysis, but it all boils down to whether you are liked or not. I even see asinine things, like the head of our training admitting she doesn't know what we do, or what any of the classes we want to take mean... but in the end, it never really matters.

I am past bitter, even past being numb. I understand the problems the companies face when they have so many middle managers and rule with employee-by-number, and I view such office politics are a random array of events that may or may not affect you. Like the weather to a sea captain. Some days it is stormy. Some days are sunny. You can bitch and suffer all you want, but it won't change a damn thing; you still have to steer your ship through it. Some storms you will remember, like when the storm pays some clown $50,000 to leave you with a doughy paragraph. Most you will forget. In the years ahead, you will look back and see the long-term patterns, and adjust how you sail through such storms in the future. Keep the sails intact, the rudder straight, and even if your ship ends up on the rocks, you'll live.

Play the game. You may not win, but you will at least learn how to take losing.
Play the game. Stop bitching. No one ever guaranteed anything would be fair.
Play the game. If you say life's unfair, what's your basis of comparison?
Play the game. If you beat them at their own rules, you have won.
Play the game.
Play the game...

This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000189.html
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