Snowy Sunday Reflections

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When I first open my browser, it pops up three stories from various sources that might be of interest. This is very bad for those of us who tend to like to wander from place to place. Well at least I like to do that online – sometimes I’ll wander in the real world but normally I have somewhere I need to go. Today it was snowing and we weren’t going anywhere, so I saw something that seemed interesting.

It was an article from a random guy in the corporate world and the title was something to the effect that everyone should have a hobby and the tone of the article was that you shouldn’t let work get in the way of your hobby. He happened to be a guitar player and he talked about all the ways playing the guitar made him feel and his point was that by taking time to do that, he’s actually better at work.

Its anecdotal and who knows if it is true or not. I suspect there is some truth to it though. How many times have you really focused on some problem and then the answer came to you later when you were doing something completely different. Maybe it only works for certain people. If you buy into Myers/Briggs, maybe it is best for people with intuition as a strength. Sometimes, I think of my mind as a random processor where I jump to seemingly unrelated ideas but there is always something in my head that links them together. (Like I’m about to do here)

It wasn’t really the theme of the article but it did touch on that wonderful concept of work/life balance. At one point, he talked about the trap of being online and available and how that sucked you into the trap of spending way more time at work. And I think there are many corporations that pay some amount of lip service to that idea. They talk a good game about balance but they don’t really do anything if you work for someone who thinks 40 hours is a minimum and you aren’t really working if that’s all you do.

And it got me to think a little more about the realities of corporate life. OK, I should really say these are my experiences since I clearly can’t survey a large number of people who work for big companies. But I suspect a lot of this would be relatively common.

Just for fun, I did a quick search on “empathy in the workplace” and there are several articles from various sources talking about what a good idea this is. There was one that surveyed various CEO’s and found that they think empathy is important and that they think they could do more but they really don’t.

You could probably do similar searches for other topics and anything that came to “soft” or “people” skills would probably come back with lots of similar articles. Oh yes, it is very important. Oh yes, it is part of our corporate culture. See we have training we make everyone go through. We value our people. Blah, blah, blah.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, in the good times, I’m sure they do. The company I work for has generous benefits including the on site fitness center so I’m not about to argue that they don’t. But those are just “things”. Do they really believe some of the things they espouse. Like most big corporations, we do a lot of puffing up and talk about all the good we do and all the great things we stand for. Everyone wear red to support heart awareness. Stuff like that which all big companies kind of have to do to show that they care.

And our new head guy in charge likes to say things like “together we win as a team”. In the good times, this is all well and good but it is the bad times that really tell the story. For all the feel good puff pieces and signs about how valued employees are, if the company isn’t making enough money, then some of you won’t be a part of the team anymore. We’ll win but without you. Sorry, sucks to be you.

Now, I’m not saying that a company should never fire anyone. It is a business. It has to make money. My real issue is always that they use the fluffy stuff to pretend that they aren’t and then they “make the tough business decision” and cut away. Sometimes you do cut people who need to be cut. Let’s be honest, some people basically don’t produce. But, once you’ve gone through the process a few times, you start to get into the people who’ve basically been good workers all their lives. People who may even believe all the wonderful things the corporation says about itself. And then they get the call to come to room and someone drops the bomb on them. Sorry, but we no longer need you.

This was a long way around and I’ve played with these themes before but it is really my own response to the guy’s article about hobbies. You should have a hobby and you should invest time in it. Not because it makes you better at work but because it makes you a better person. If you work for a big corporation, you are expendable. That doesn’t mean you should slack off and do nothing. But it means you ought to think twice before putting in those 60 hour weeks. The company certainly appreciates it but won’t offer you much in return.

And, the other reason I was thinking about this and I brought up empathy is that a group of “leaders” started having little discussion sessions. Naturally, the big topic was the upcoming reductions and, from my source, they were short on answers and long on jargon and buzzwords. Someone asked a question about what people could do and the answer from one of the “leaders” was “Get engaged or get out”. Guess that guy failed Empathy 101.

As I said, in the good times, it is easy to do the right things. You start to see people’s true colors in the not so good times.

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