Category Archives: Management Stupidity

Burning Bridges

“Burning bridges” is a tired metaphor that corporate shitheads like to throw around in order to maintain control and some semblance of order over the drones.  It’s designed to instill fear, that if an underling “burns a bridge,” his name will forever be carved in stone as persona non grata.  For example, you might hear this bit of advice:  “When the HR drone and your manager tell you that you’re being laid off, simply smile and thank them for the opportunity to work with their wonderful company.  Sign the documents you’re presented with, walk away, and only say good things about the people who eliminated your position.  You don’t want to burn any bridges!”

What a bunch of shit.

More often than not, bridges are torched from the other direction.  At my first full-time job, I had an awful micromanager who was also a completely repellant human being.  Just by way of example, she cornered one of my coworkers and demanded to know why he spent “so much time away” from his work station.  “You’re away from your desk at least every hour!  Why?  What are you doing?”  He turned about 3 shades of red and explained that he drank a lot of water, and therefore, had to get up to use the bathroom frequently, as well as to refill his bottle.  “Well try to coordinate your trips!”  [The entire company was crazy.  There was one time, in the era before email, that the management team had an emergency meeting to decide if they should go to Staples to buy more fax paper, because there was none in the office, and the Big Boss wasn’t there to tell them what to do.]  She kept a steno pad in her Sanford & Son cubicle, and wrote down the arrival, lunch, and departure times of all of her reports.  If you were traveling on company business, you had to call her three times per day to “check in.”  She was pedantic and condescending, and she sucked in general.

One day, a few years back, I received a call from a head hunter about an “exciting new opportunity.” I sent over my C.V., and received a call from the corporate recruiter.  The conversation went something like this:

Recruiter:  I see that you worked at XYZ Crappy Company from 1995-1997.  I don’t know if you worked directly with Madame Assclown Manager while you were there, but I need to inform you that she is the hiring manager for this position.

Corporate Drone:  I would rather rifle through a dumpster for food than to be subject to her insane micromanagement again.  Thanks, but no thanks.

Recruiter:  I understand.

Corporate Drone:  I’m sure you do understand.  If you would, could you please relay a message for me?  Please tell her that I said “I still hate you, you overbearing, intrusive, bad bleach job, no-talent.”  

Recruiter:  Uh.  Well.  Yeah.  Well.  I can’t really say that, but I get where you’re coming from.

Corporate Drone:  Best of luck in your recruiting efforts!

This idea of bridge burning is always being presented in terms of you, the underling, not pissing off the overlords because some day you might need something from them.  Well, some day, the former overlord might need something from you too.  Someone told me that Madame Assclown Manager has been underemployed for the past five years, and is presently working as a medical billing coder or something.  There’s probably lots to micromanage there–she is in her element, and she finally has a position that is in line with her own incompetence.

Dear Corporate Drone

Dear Corporate Drone:

I have been looking for a new job for a few months now, and I’m confused.  I’ve been on a few interviews where I know I have all the qualifications that they’re looking for, and yet I don’t get the offer.  More often than not, I don’t even get a follow-up telling me that I’ve been excluded from candidacy?  What gives?  

Signed,

Frustrated Job Seeker

Dear Frustrated Job Seeker:

The first thing you need to do is to banish from your mind the idea that employers hire the most qualified candidate.  That is a myth.  Employers hire the person they think is the best “fit” for the job.  How they determine fit?  Who the hell knows.  It’s one of these intangible things that is total bullshit.

Now, as for why you didn’t get the job, the reasons are many and varied.  Here is a sampling of some real reasons that you might not be getting hired:

  1. Hiring manager doesn’t like your alma mater.
  2. No degree/you have an advanced degree/you hold too many degrees.
  3. You express irritation at stupid, irrelevant questions such as “if you were a tree, what kind would you be, and why?”
  4. You remind one of the interviewers of his Uncle Jim, who was a mean drunk who could never hold down a job.
  5. You are a man.
  6. You are a woman.
  7. You haven’t spent the last five years doing the exact same job at a direct competitor.
  8. You’re too well known in the industry.
  9. You are unknown in the industry.
  10. Hiring manager recognizes that you are smarter than she is, and she perceives this as a threat.
  11. You refused to disclose your current employer’s proprietary information, and, therefore, you must not be a “team player.”
  12. You are openly gay.
  13. You are openly straight.
  14. Employer prefers to hire someone who has 500+ contacts in the industry, an MBA, CPA, and JD, and who is fluent in both Cantonese and Latvian.  Working knowledge of Sanskrit a plus.  You do not meet these minimum qualifications.  Commence whining on the part of the employer about not being able to find qualified candidates.
  15. Employer doesn’t like where you live, thinks it’s too far, too close, not fashionable enough.
  16. You remind the interviewer of the Mean Girl from high school.
  17. You are a woman who has children still at home.
  18. You are over age 50/”overqualified.”
  19. You dressed too fashionably for the interview.
  20. You dressed to casually for the interview.

This represents just a few of the reasons that you may be disqualified and kicked to the “thanks, but no thanks” pile.  Notice that none of them have anything to do with your ability to perform the job, because that is pretty irrelevant when it comes to hiring.  It is a numbers game, and eventually you will get an offer.  But when you do get an offer, think carefully about whether or not you want to accept one from a company that would ask you to name a song that best describes you, or some other such nonsense.  Ridiculous, inane interview tactics are a strong indication that incompetency runs amuck.

Weirdest Interview Ever

I know a lot of Drones are out of work right now, and these are tough times for many. Employers hold the cards, and the stories I’m hearing from friends, colleagues, and people I don’t even like indicate that employers feel that they can abuse, infantilize, and demean prospective employees. The tales range from the ridiculous, to the petty, to the offensive.

However, the most bizarre interview I’ve ever had was in 2005, so this was before the economy, and the job market, crashed. I received an email inviting me for a phone screen with the HR drone of a small, boutique consulting firm (translation: no recognition in the marketplace, and no one has ever heard of them). I had spent a number of years at a huge, ginormous consulting firm that everyone knows of, so I figured I knew the drill.

I remember that the HR drone portion of this story went on for an exceedingly long time–maybe close to an hour–and that one of her “questions” was, “talk to me about teams.” I must have come up with some kind of bullshit response to her line of bullshit pseudo-interviewing because at the end of this non-conversation, she asked me if I’d like to come in, not for an “interview,” but for “career day.” WTF is career day, you ask? Well, I asked the same thing. Career day is when potential recruits come in and spend half a day with the team, and ostensibly learn about this fine organization, and vice versa. Ok, what the hell, I’ll come in for your career day.

I was then informed that I would need to prepare and to deliver a presentation to the first group I’d be meeting with. I merely updated some existing slides I had, threw in some management bullshit, because consultants live for that kind of crap, and, most importantly, made sure that my slides had animation. Animation is key to the success of any presentation. People like pictures. Think of it as Corporate Cave Drawings.

I show up, meet with the first group, who seem to be the type who really enjoy a good PowerPoint deck. I’m thinking this whole thing is a bit hokey, but I’m here, so WTF.

Now here comes the pinnacle of the day. After the PPT session, I’m placed in a little room where I’m instructed to read a faux case study, draft a plan, and come back and present it to the group. At this point, my ire is beginning to flare. (Here’s a hint employers: you’re going to piss off good candidates if you make them do academic work as a trial during the interview. I don’t care what your b-school professors told you. This is a bad idea on your part.) I read the case study, and now I’m wondering if this is for real, or if this is a joke. The case study is about a fictional nation called Trevonia (so named because one of the managing directors had a kid named Trevor–the name itself was so stupid that I had to inquire). Trevonia is plagued with problems. It has a high rate of illiteracy. There is poor infrastructure, and roads are crumbling and public transportation sucks. It’s also been at war with a neighboring country, of an equally stupid name which I now forget, for years. Trevonia’s GDP is in the shitter. However, Trevonia is strategically located and is rich in natural resources. If I were advising the Trevonian government, what would my top-level plan of action to turn around the GDP be?

Luckily, I have much experience in creating effective solutions for these types of problems, because when I was an undergrad, I had a philosophy professor who was a huge Star Trek nut. He would make us watch episodes of The Next Generation and then discuss the ethical issues faced by Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise. Substitute “Trevonian” for “Cardassian” and it’s all pretty much the same thing. Don’t violate the Prime Directive; you’re only here to observe.

Good little Drone that I was, I came up with some tripe about investing in education because with an illiterate populace, you’re pretty much screwed. In retrospect, I should have said that the Borg was coming, resistance is futile, and the Trevonians will be assimilated!

I never heard back from these clowns, which was a relief. Don’t waste people’s time with your nonsense. Don’t ask them why manhole covers are round or what kind of tree they would like to be. Treat them with respect and courtesy. Most importantly, do not expect that candidates are going to respond favorably to your little “tests.” We won’t. We will be pissed off, and will be telling the story of how ridiculous you are some ten years later. And if, at some point, we might have occasion to hire a firm like yours, we will make sure that the engagement is awarded to Anyone But You.

Well aren’t you so smart?

We are taught to believe that it’s good to be smart, and that the smart people are the ones who get ahead, and who make a difference.  All of you Drones know that this is just simply not the case.  It’s not the smart people who are valued; it’s the ones who play the game.

Years ago, I had a boss who had a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia.  She was/is a brilliant writer, a no-BS type of person, and really funny to boot.  Her boss had a bachelor’s degree in nonsense from Big Football University in the south.  You know, that part of the country where “SEC” doesn’t refer to the Securities Exchange Commission; it means South East Conference.  This guy was as dumb as a bag of hair, which is slightly ironic because he was also completely bald.  I would often hear my boss shrieking when she would read his emails, wherein he would display his shaky grasp on the language through his interchangeable use of “to,” “too,” and “two,”, or “than” and “then.”

“He is incapable of writing a proper sentence in the English language!  Where is my Xanax?!?!?!”

My boss was obviously frustrated by working for someone who was so apparently stupid.  But how did he get to be the Big Boss?  Our group was tasked with writing and rewriting anything that came from him, so that it would be coherent–how did he even write a resume to send in, when he applied for the job?  How could he possibly give a lucid presentation, when he used “irregardless” and “conversate” as if they are actual words?  (As an aside, I find it very disturbing that the non-word “irregardless” does not render with a red squiggly line under it, both here, and in any Microsoft products.)  He said things like, “we need to market these products acrosst multiple line of businesses and get them in front of clients irregardless of their industry.”

Although the Drones saw him as a complete fuckwit, and in this case, my boss was one of the Drones, he seemed to have Management snowed.  How did this happen?  For starters, he had a wife, who was obviously the brains of the operation, and who took care of things like writing his resume, cover letter, and his emails.  So this created the initial appearance of intelligence.  However, his true skill was in being able to talk Big Ten Football with the Big Important Uber Boss.  Yes, it was as simple as that.

Because, my fellow Drones, to a large extent, the workplace is one big fraternity party.  My undergraduate institution had no Greek system, but I can spot the frat boys immediately.  The only thing that is missing is the keg and the red plastic Solo cups.  You will notice that there is also a sorority sister contingent alive and well.  These are usually thin, pretty, low or mid-level managers who cheer on the frat boys.  They do things for them like create their PowerPoints, or run special reports for them.  They’re Super Excited to be a part of the team!  The frat boys don’t really value their contributions, but like to use those contributions and pass them off as their own.

My boss was too smart.  She wasn’t a sorority sister, and she refused to dumb herself down in order to fit in.  She wouldn’t play their juvenile game, so she wasn’t part of the Popular Crowd.

The point I’m trying to make is that, as you’ve no doubt figured out already, being smart can be a burden at best, and a liability at worst.  Smart Drones need to lower their expectations and find creative outlets for their intelligence, because it is not valued at the Hive.  What a smart Drone should never, ever do is let an incompetent manager know that you know he’s a fool.  That is  a bad “strategic” move.  Always make the incompetent manager feel super smart and and the top of his game.  Remember, the mission of the Drone is survival, the continued collection of the paycheck, and the middle class lifestyle.  All Drones, including your author, should make an effort to play the game.  After all, there are few things Management loves as much as “enthusiastic team players”!

The Lies They Tell the Young

I saw this article in the Huffington Post a few days ago.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/10/employers-college-graduates-educated_n_3054028.html

When I read it, my immediate thought was, “now that’s a pile of shit.”

I say that as a Drone who holds an M.A. in a humanities discipline, and who has been at the Hive for nearly 20 years. Back in the early 90s, there were companies who looked to hire young grads who were smart and well rounded.  That has all changed. What employers want now is an army of automatons that can “hit the ground running” and who require no training or investment.  They whine about the nonexistent “skills gap,” in which they want that elusive purple unicorn candidate–the one who is a finance whiz, who can work in Dream Weaver, has a great presentation style, can write technical specs, can deliver new products, comes to the job with a following of 500 accounts, and can speak Mandarin and Latvian.  In other words, they want one person who can do everything.

What this means for liberal arts grads is that the deck is stacked against you, more so now than ever before.  The skills you bring to the job–clear communication, research skills, critical thinking–mean nothing to them.  It will be incumbent upon you to help show them the money.   First, you’re going to need more than just a one-semester internship.  You’ll need at least two semesters of internship, and those done full time at a recognized company are the best.  Yes, this might mean having to suck it up and miss a full semester of liver damaging binge drinking, but it will be worth it in the long term.  Second, you need to think about where you plan to live/work after graduation.  If you want to move to New York and work in advertising, then you need to go to New York and do an internship in advertising.  Don’t do your internship with an ad agency in Harrisburg.  Madison Avenue won’t care about that, and they will have other applicants who have more impressive internships.  Third, get some kind of crappy job while you are in school and use it to your advantage.  I worked part time in an office for 2 years while I was going to graduate school, and that experience, not my degrees, led to me being hired into my first full time position.  Yes, employers now want experience even for entry level candidates.  A friend’s daughter finished her M.A. in French last May, and still has no job prospects.  No experience, no job.

Think about how your skills, internship, and job experience relate to the position for which you are interviewing.  Whatever you do, DO NOT go to an interview and talk about something like the content of your thesis.  Yes, we know you are proud.  We know you spent a lot of time on it, and that it is your opus.  But you don’t go into the interview and discuss Goethe, the Boer War, or gender based poetics.  No one cares.

Most importantly, you need to lower your expectations.  Your first job is going to suck.  You’re going to be doing stuff that you don’t want to do.  You might find it demeaning.  You will be paid crap.  You’re going to be bored.  You’re going to think that maybe you should go to law school.  Get over it.  This is how it is.  You do not need a degree of any type in order to do most corporate jobs.  Most jobs  could be performed by a trained circus monkey.  But the degree is a filter that an employer applies to screen people out.

Not only are articles like this one from the Huffington Post irresponsible in that they are giving young people false hope, they are patently offensive!  A fellow Drone pointed out that, immediately following the article, there’s a slideshow about the most sought-after college majors.  There are no humanities disciplines listed at all.  In fact, when I first saw the title of the article, I thought that it must be from The Onion. 

Passion

Most of us have something which inspires us, and motivates us to strive to improve ourselves in some (often intangible) way.  We relentlessly pursue it.  It is our dream, our passion.

Passion is not missing from the life of the Corporate Drone; it’s simply that we drones find our passions outside of the walls of our cubicles.  Management types, however, love to go on and on about “passion,” and how “passionate” they are.  Let me make this very clear:  when someone tells you that she is passionate about branding, sales enablement, IT infrastructure, data analytics, financial modeling, project management, digital hierarchies, or any related topic, that is your proof that you are talking to a total fraud who also has a high likelihood of being a complete asshole.   “This increased functionality is very exciting!”  No, it’s really not.  But the fact that you just uttered that line of bullshit makes it perfectly clear to everyone that you are a jackass.

Can you find passion in your work?  Absolutely.  Some people who are passionate about their work include actors, artists, carpenters, chefs, hair stylists, massage therapists, glassblowers, scholars, museum curators, research scientists. . . .because these people have jobs that matter to the universe.  Do you notice what’s missing?  Corporate functions.

For drones, I suggest dismissing the idea of being passionate about your work.  It will only lead to disappointment.  Instead, pursue your passions elsewhere, because your employment really has no karmic purpose other than providing for you and your family.  I am passionate about clear communication and good grammar.  I’m passionate about lying around on the couch and reading novels.  I’m passionate about going for a walk with my dog.  None of this translates into bottom-line strategy, and that’s just fine.