It’s feelin’ just a little bit like Office Space around here these days

When I was eight and playing pine-cone wars with my buds back in Lower Alabama (LA), I never would have dreamed that one day, I’d be doing what I do, or that I’d do some of the things that I’ve done in my life; like working in the DoD and…yeah, that’s pretty much it for the cool stuff.

But also, growing up, I never would have thought I’d end up married to a woman who works full time and we’d be putting our kids in a daycare to be raised by perfect strangers.

I’m not sure where I thought my life would take me, but I’m sure it wasn’t a house in the burbs of Atlanta and exotic family vacations to…the beach.

Looking back, it’s amazing how far off I’ve drifted from “The Plan.” Granted, I didn’t have much of a plan, but I had dreams man! I was gonna do things! I’m not sure what, but THINGS!

I had ambition too. Money…oh! I always wanted to make lots of money, but that was just Alex P. Keaton talking and truthfully, I never completely got that out of my system.

But it’s funny how time changes you isn’t it? The things that you thought were important to you then, are now just footnotes at the bottom of the page, “***Chris was going to do so and so, but then kids came along…”

For the most part, I don’t have regrets. I mean, I did things. Sure, maybe I didn’t travel the world, but knowing what I know now about hygiene and bathrooms in other countries, I’m not so sure it was a loss. But, there is one thing that has changed about me though and perhaps it’s the most surprising since it’s really the one thing that I could still have–the one thing that my life hasn’t thrown up a bar against–ambition!

Do you remember when you started your first REAL job? Do you remember being on the bottom of the totem pole and just grinding your teeth every day and thinking to yourself, “Just wait, one day I’ll be the boss, you just wait and see.” I had that once. I still do–sorta–but now it comes with conditions, such as:but it now comes with conditions. Such as:

  • I want to be the boss, AND still be able to walk away from work at the end of the day without having to spend hours upon hours checking e-mail in the wee hours of the night while my family sleeps
  • I want the money, but I don’t want to spend all my time in useless meetings talking about “high level overviews” and “program guidance.”
  • I want the vacation house and all the perks, but I don’t want to have to have an “office” at my vacation house so I can stay in touch with work

Basically, I want my cake, and of course I want to eat it. What else would you do with cake?

So I find myself at war with…myself…over work. As it is with most companies, at my job, I’m expected to constantly grow in my career. I’m supposed to WANT to get out and get involved in new things, which inevitably means adding more work onto my existing work load, which screws with my aforementioned “wants.” It’s expected that I want to climb the corporate ladder and I do; no really I do. I just don’t want all that other crap that comes with it.

To put it plainly, I’ve lost my ambition. Maybe that’s not quite right, I still have my ambition, but I don’t want all the strings that seem to come attached with it. Does that make sense?

Sometimes I look at my mom up in rural PA and think, “Dang, that’s the life. It’s simple and it’s beautiful up there, and she doesn’t have a care in the world (as she snorts loudly while reading this).”  But then, I realize that it too has its problems. Everyone’s life has its problems…we all just hide it behind happy faces and platitudes. Man, what a crappy way to go through life. I’m really working on this whole acceptance thing. Hey, don’t sugar coat it–I’m not getting any younger and the things that I dreamt of as a young man, are by and large never gonna happen if they haven’t happened yet, so I just need to suck it up and “accept” that things are the way they are and try to make the best of it.

(This sounds like a mid-life crisis I know.)

It can’t be just me right? Did you have a Plan? Have you accomplished it? If not, why? I’m curious how many people’s lives actually worked out the way they thought it would.

Picture Phone Phriday – HR Hilarity!

CareerMom works for a health-focused company. It is full of intelligent and supposedly responsible people. Each year, usually twice a year, these intelligent and responsible people gather in various locales to discuss managerial things and whatnot. Their days and evenings are spent crowded together brainstorming strategies and initiatives for the coming months.

As you can imagine, like monkeys in the zoo, when they are free to do as they please, it gets a little crazy sometimes.

In the last few years, at least three fairly high-placed managers have been fired over HR issues resulting from something that happened at one of these meetings. To quell such instances, the company has tried different approaches:

  • conference calls
  • ethics training
  • A “How to conduct yourself in a business setting” seminar
  • and more

Recently however, CareerMom received the following mailer at home from her company. If you’re like me, you’ll find this more amusing than informative.
Why, there are all kinds of situations where I could apply this advice and “technically” still be within the limits of acceptability according to HR. I also find its simplicity just hilarious. As if, it’s THIS SIMPLE, even when you’re drunk, to realize that you shouldn’t hit on your bosses’ wife.

Lastly, what do you do if you get to “I don’t know”? Well, you’re supposed to go ask your boss.

Love it! Enjoy!


“I can’t stand it…I know ya planned it…”

image Every egocentrist feels that the cosmos are out to get him or her. There’s always some grand plan by “The Gods” to screw up whatever it is that person has going on. And while I don’t believe myself to be terribly egocentric, nor do I feel that my plans have been thwarted at every turn, the older I get, the more I realize how unfair the world really is.

Of course I’ll explain.

I am not the most patient person. Most people don’t see it, but when I was 14, I put my fist through a door in our house and told my dad I fell down the stairs. I’m not sure he bought it…in fact, knowing how wise I am now about kids, I KNOW he didn’t buy it. But all my life I’ve struggled with letting things go. I’m very competitive and I think the fact that for many years I struggled to make a name for myself in the corporate world, without a college degree, caused me to square off against others–especially when I felt they were supposedly “smarter” than me.

I was penalized for that, a lot.

My last two months of the military, while working swing shift one evening, I told my duty officer that I was NOT going to do something to the network that he told me to do. It was a ridiculous order, born out of his lack of understanding of the system, and also, he didn’t know a T1 from his ass. I, on the other hand, had taught myself the ins and outs of this new technology and knew that doing what he was ordering me to do, would shut down a major comm line between the Pentagon and one of our satellite broadcasting stations. I argued with him in front of everyone else.

Predictably, I lost. My commanding officer called me into his office and said (I have a very good memory for conversations): “Chris, I know you did what you felt was right, but regardless of whether it was right or wrong, you can’t just piss on the chain of command. It’s there for a reason.”

He was a cool dude and after hinting that he too thought my duty office was an idiot, sent me home. I think it helped that I only had two months of service left, but still. There were several such instances while I was in the military, but I never had anything permanent on my record and I still received a Meritorious Service Medal when I separated (nyah, nyah, nyah nyah nyah!)

My first job out of the military was with a medium-sized global telecom company. I was the youngest guy on the team, made up primarily of guys who were perfectly happy working graveyard shift into their retirement. They were also lazy, which pissed me off. I remember another meeting with my boss:
“Chris, you have got to learn to control your temper. You’d be managing a shift already if you didn’t piss off your teammates so badly.”

The word “piss” seems to come up frequently in my life.

I say all this to illustrate that I have been penalized time and again for being outspoken. Sure, I’m not the most politically correct guy on the block. I know this. Despite being a professional wordsmith, when it comes time to suck up in an e-mail, I just can’t find the words. Recognizing my shortcoming in this area, nowadays I’ll just take the crap thrown at me, rather than poke back at the pitcher. So I’ve learned. I’ve learned that I’m either not good looking enough, or rich enough or whatever enough to get away with being a smartass. And so I put my head down, and I do what I’m supposed to do and I try not to rock the boat (too much).

But there are other people who seem to be rewarded for such behavior. The excuse always seems to be, “Oh, it’s just their personality.”


If I have to play nice, they should too.

I still have a temper…oh yes I do. But I’ve learned to refocus that anger (usually) in other directions (the Internet has helped). That doesn’t stop me from soliloquizing in my head these long drawn out scenarios where I excoriate the other person in front of their peers. It helps though, that I have a family.

I think rudeness and anger are the purview of those who don’t
have others relying on them.

But can someone explain to me why doctors say that stress, which raises your blood pressure, is so bad for you; yet, exercise, which also raises your blood pressure, is said to prolong your life? Aren’t they the same function really?

“Good luck with your layoffs, all right? I hope your firings go really well.”

image I’m not sure which activity I find most distasteful this time of year–taxes, or my annual review at work.

I guess at least with taxes, I can determine when I do it and how much of its crap I’m willing to put up with at any given time.

Not so with personal reviews.

Both CareerMom and I have reviews at the same time each year, so I would imagine that it’s nearly the same for other companies. For my company, imagine that there’s this big pool of cash (or not so big, depending) that they have to divy out in the form of bonuses. There’s also a scale running from…I dunno…like 4, 3, 2, 2+, 1, or something like that. I don’t claim to understand it; all’s I know is the closer to “1” you get, the better you are and supposedly, the more money you get. (psst…I happen to think it’s all a bunch of crap. I mean, if the company as a whole, has posted sucky numbers, then how can you give anyone an excellent rating?)

For two years now, I have gotten a “2,” which my company defines as:

Solid Contributor
Consistently meets job responsibilities; is reliable in doing job; demonstrates appropriate levels of knowledge, skill, effectiveness and initiative.

Doesn’t sound too bad right? Considering the next step is someone who:

Goes above and beyond job responsibilities; outperforms most peers; finds ways to grow scope and impact

…I can live with it. But I think what grates me though, is that I’m the only person who does what I do in my entire wing of the company. So, even if I were only skating by, which I’m not, there’s no one around who is qualified to say whether or not my work is up to par with others doing my same job. And considering these ratings are looked at when you apply for another position in the company, it’s kinda a big deal.

Anyway, a rather curious outcome of my review recently was that my Director stated, “The only negative I have about you, is that you’re not assertive enough.”

*I’ll wait for all of the snorting and guffawing to die down before continuing…*

Yes folks, I apparently let people walk all over me.

A colleague of mine postulated that in fact, I was assertive, just not in the right way, no doubt referring to an outburst I had year before last after being transferred to my 6th manager in 12 month’s time. But no, there’s been no such outburst this year and if I’m honest, my Director might be right. I have been quieter this year, but only because I have gotten so tired of beating my head against the wall trying to get things done, that I just sort of shut down.

In my manager’s advice to me, he told me I shouldn’t let people of a lower band (our jobs are given “bands” based on pay scales and duties) dictate to me what I can and can’t do. I’ll agree with that, except there’s a flaw in his advice. He, as a Director, is privy to other people’s bands; I am not. All I can go by is a person’s title, and here at my company, a person can pretty much give him or herself whatever title they please. So it’s hard to know if little Suzy Blowhard is a band 10, or a band 6.

But this all has me considering new job titles for the new year. Feel free to vote on your favorite:

  • Super-duper Writer Man
  • Editor of all things relating to stuff my company sells
  • Manager of everything I touch
  • The guy who just wants to do his job and go home
  • Head Word Czar
  • suggestions?

(P.S. Yes, I know. I am VERY grateful I have a job at all, much less one that pays bonuses. In fact, this is my first company, in nearly 17 years of work, that does.)