Category Archives: Dronedom

The Chazz Bono Effect

Not too long ago, I was speaking with a fellow Drone about the sense of not belonging that I often feel when I’m sitting in meetings and people are discussing things that, though relevant to the business, I just can’t get myself to care about.  I likened it to that Sesame Street interlude, where “one of these things is not like the others.  One of these things doesn’t belong.”  My colleague said that she felt the same, and that this must be what it’s like to be transgendered and stuck in the wrong body.  Like Chastity/Chazz Bono.

Oh, how many times I’ve endured the torment of a Chazz Bono meeting!  Whether the topic being discussed was cost segregation models, tax structures, digital marketing, or client issues, my gut level reaction is always the same:  Oh my God, who gives a shit, can you please stop talking so I can be spared this torture.  

The Chazz Bono Effect is not limited to meetings, although that is where it is most prominent.  You will also notice the CBE at industry conferences, seminars, or when reading various pieces of “thought leadership,” such as white papers.  You might also feel the CBE at play when you’re at a social event, and a group of people is busy talking about Very Important Business Things. The CBE is ubiquitous and pervasive.  It has neither functional nor industry boundaries.

You can either pretend to be interested and fake adding something relevant to the discussion, or you can allow your mind to wander off to more pressing matters, such as your dog’s upcoming appointment for teeth cleaning.  Because a key part of being a successful Drone lies in your ability to fake it, the best course of action is to have something canned that you memorize and can add to the conversation.

I suspect that if you asked for candid responses, most people would be more genuinely interested in your dog’s oral hygiene than in the Strategic Initiatives That Will Help Move the Company Forward This Quarter.  But you need to play the game.

*Props to Drone PM, for coining the term “Chazz Bono Effect.” 

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Dear Corporate Drone

Dear Corporate Drone:

I graduated from college three years ago, so I’m relatively new to the world of the Hive.  One thing that I find particularly confusing is the lack of clear, concise direction and communication that I get from Management.  For example, during my recent performance review, my manager told me that I need to be a proactive self-starter, who is motivated and works well under pressure.  I asked my manager to give me some examples of what she meant.  She did a lot of talking, and she was speaking English, but I still have no idea what she wants.

Thanks for your help,

Entry-Level Drone

Dear Entry-Level Drone:

If you have come to the Hive in search of clear direction and lucidly articulated performance expectations, you are sure to be disappointed and disenchanted.  I take pity upon you because you are young and still idealistic.  Do not fear; in a few more years, any idealism you had will be drained from you.  Anyway, back to your question.  What does your boss mean when she spits out this nonsense?  Well, let’s take a look at the specific terms she used.

Proactive.  This means that Management will provide virtually no direction to you, and you will have to divine what they want.  A synonym for this is “psychic.”

Self-starter.  This is very closely related to “proactive.”  Management will not only provide no direction, they will also not share with any Drones the vision or the big picture strategy, assuming that either exist outside of the world of a PowerPoint deck.  You will have to figure everything out on your own, and when it crashes and burns, it will be your fault.  The only time your boss will talk to you is when she wants your monthly report, so that she can copy and paste it into her monthly report.  As an aside, providing your monthly report to your boss is known as “teamwork.”

Motivated.  “We value greedy bastards around here.”

Works well under pressure.  This one could have several meanings, depending upon the context of the particular Hive and its Queen.

  1. Because Management provides no direction, every project is a top priority.
  2. We have a skeletal staff, having laid off many other Drones over the last five years.  Most Drones now do the work of three.  See also, “overworked.”
  3. Your Management saves everything for the last minute.  For example, an RFP comes in on March 15, with a response date of May 1.  Think of the  RFP is like a fine wine or a stinky cheese; it must be properly aged on someone’s desk before it can be addressed.  On April 29, someone hands you the RFP, and compiling the 200 page response in 48 hours becomes a YP (Your Problem).
  4. We treat our employees like shit, and we have upwards of 50% turnover.  This place is a pressure cooker.

I hope this clears things up.  Welcome to the machine.  Resistance is futile.

You’re not Working on a Cure

There is a fellow drone at my workplace who gets very upset over things like managerial and operational inefficiencies and ineptitude. This drone takes such things to heart. I’ve had to remind her, on several occasions, that what we do at Acme Widgets, Inc., has little inherent value in the universe. It’s not like we’re working on a cure.

You’re not working on a cure either. Sting isn’t calling you up, asking you to help him save the rainforest. You’re not spending your day being a fierce and fearless advocate for the poor, marginalized, or downtrodden.

You either work for a big company whose shareholders want increased profits (dubbed “shareholder value” by Management) and aren’t particularly concerned how the numbers on the bottom or top are achieved, just that they are achieved. Or, you work for a smaller company that helps big companies maximize their profits by saving time or money.

Neither has any impact on the world, humanity, or history. In fact, when I’m in my Existential Crisis Mode, I will assert that the very idea of corporations, business, and profit is false. It’s all papier mache. Even companies who purport to be working on the cure are not working on the cure. Those companies are working on treatments that prolong the disease so that consumers can continue to spend money on their treatments.

Why do we drones do it, if we know it’s all bullshit? Very simply, most drones desire to live a middle class lifestyle. Maybe we share a collective unconscious idea about the American Dream and the middle class existence is part of that. Drones don’t go off to cubicle land each morning feeling like they’re making the world a better place. Drones go off to cubicle farms because we need to pay the electricity bill, the orthodontist, and the mortgage.

Dronedom

Most of us are drones.  Management types like to call us “team members,” but we’re really just cogs in the wheel.

I sometimes feel like I’m trapped in that Talking Heads song, and I say to myself, “My God, how did I get here?”  But I know how I got here.  It’s no mystery, and the story isn’t particularly heartbreaking or unique.

In the early 90s, I was a liberal arts major, working on a liberal arts graduate degree, at what was, at best, a second rate university.  (To my credit, I only went there because I was awarded an assistantship!)  I never had any money, and when friends with great, $25K/year jobs would want to go out and do things, I would have to decline.  But who cared about money?  I was going to have a career in academia, and I was going to do what I loved.

The department advertised an opening for a tenure-track assistant professor position.  The curricula vitae (nearly 600 of them) poured in from all over the world.  One day, I rifled through the stack of C.V.s that was sitting on the secretary’s desk.  This was the “thanks, but no thanks” pile, and the credentials were way more impressive than those I had at that point, and way more impressive than what I could expect from myself.  These candidates had Ph.D.s from places like UC Berkeley, Cambridge, Yale, Oxford, and they were all vying for one position at one crappy university.

I realized that I did not want to spend the next six years of my life holed up in some university, conducting esoteric research on a topic that, when all was said and done, no one really cared about.  What I did want was to be able to get new brakes for my beater car without having to go to the bank of M&D, yet again.  I decided that I would complete my M.A., and then sell out and get a job in business.

Twenty years later, here I am.  Cubicle dweller, PowerPoint producer, widget maker.  I still sometimes feel like a sellout, but I’ve come to realize that it’s important not to take any of it too seriously.

One thing I’ve learned is that it’s preferable to be a drone, because most drones retain their humanity and have interests outside of the world of work.  We read novels, not management books.   In our free time, we see plays instead of watching webcasts on product development.  We definitely don’t work phrases like “proactive synergies” or “boil the ocean” into our conversation.

Everyone has a story.  Embrace the dronedom.