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August 15, 2011

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August 15, 2011

The Checking-Out Series: The Big Problem with Big Corporations

August 15, 2011
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This latest post in The Checking-Out Series comes from FailedAtForty – a friend and blogger who is a bit outside the 20-Nothings age-range. Her thoughts come from being in the corporate world for her entire career, but the feelings are the same as many of us who have just started. Enjoy her story below, and please keep the submissions coming to 20Nothings@gmail.com.


Several months ago, I dropped out of corporate America…again. I couldn’t take the dissonance any longer. There was just something about the experience that felt demeaning, degrading or, at the very least, demoralizing. It no longer nurtured my passions nor valued the tremendous experience, creativity and strategy I brought to my work. A short list of my frustrations might include peeing in a cup, blocked websites, row after row of grey cubicles, stiff business attire, and the constant sense of urgency that seems to fall always on the individual contributors. Let me go on…

  • In order to be successful, big corporations need operational excellence. Everyone’s an executor, even up to some surprisingly high levels. The larger the corporation, the narrower the role and set of skills. Conversely, my mind wants lateral movement and a wide creative berth.
  • Further, corporations are now set up to make it difficult to add full-time employees (FTEs) — thus, if one is able to get permission to hire a new FTE, that hiring leader will most certainly try for the highest possible title or pay grade, meanwhile expecting the person who fills it to think strategically, tactically and do an enormous amount of administrative work. In other words, job dissatisfaction is surely only months away.
  • The quarterly drive for profits in public companies can lead to mixed messages, inconsistent policies and self-defeating decisions.
  • Finally, companies issue laptops and data phones, all in an effort to make workers more efficient (read: hook up the IV and suck out as much of one’s life as possible).
These conditions work for some people; in fact, some thrive under such conditions. I am not one of them. I hated that feeling that I was going to have to be someone other than who I am to be successful, that soul-sucking sensation that — as a friend so eloquently put it — “my personality was too big for the room”…er, cubicle.
There were things about my role that I loved! I loved engaging my creative and problem-solving skills, doing amazing work and wowwing my clients. Still, too often, it seemed success had more to do with politics or kissing ass than doing great work or pleasing clients.
I worked in a place where there were reviews twice a year, where one could labor for months under the false assumption that one’s work was noticed, appreciated and respected. Yet in a “development” culture, reviews mean that one is essentially told how much one sucks.
I remember once responding dejectedly to a friend’s question about how work was going. When I described the current office situation, she began using technical psychological terms that she uses in her practice as a licensed therapist. “Wow,” she exclaimed, “you’re working in an environment where triangulation is encouraged and they ‘kitchen sink’ any issues they have with you. That’s not a healthy culture.” You can imagine how validating it was to hear that from an objective professional!
It’s been more than six months since I dropped out. I’ve spent time with my family, done some soul searching, researched opportunities, networked my ass off and, at present, I’m back at work as a contractor at a major corporation.

Therein lies the conundrum: I don’t want to do it for long, but I know this world and it’s easy money for me… So this time it’s on my terms: I clock in and out, work just forty hours per week — and, perhaps more importantly, I leave my laptop at the office and don’t give coworkers my mobile number. I don’t think about this job outside of the office. I’m still searching for the right role or opportunity for me. It’s not in the corporate world but, right now, I’ve managed to find work that feels natural for me, at which I perform well and that allows me the work-life balance a single mother needs.

Just don’t count on me to stay too long!

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