It has occurred to me…

that one of the big differences between working in a mom and pop setting and working for a huge corporation is that your boss in a huge corporation is really sort of a “compliance manager.” His main gig is to satisfy the requirements of the corporation, immutable edicts often handed down by faceless officers in another city whom he will never meet. They say what they want. He has to get it done for them.

Thus, he turns to his people, whoever works for him, and, if he’s good, makes them do whatever the hell the corporation thinks it wants that month. He will be held accountable if the job isn’t done. Knowing that, he can’t waste any time or pleasantries in handing out the chores. Explaining things would take too long, and failure will bring harsh consequences – for him. His fear is transmitted to the staff, who don’t know exactly what’s going on or why. They grow restive and crabby.

The owner or manager in a small operation must take care of his workers, because they are the ones who take care of him. He sees them as coworkers, and they really are. The orders don’t come in emails or bulletins from a distant land. They usually come from down the hall, or the next cubicle. There is a chance to discuss how a program should be implemented, if it should be modified or even if it should be dumped altogether. The people who must carry out the orders are actually involved in the reasoning behind them, or at the very least they are there to observe first hand their genesis. The workers have a sense of being at least a little bit in control, so, to the extent one can feel good about trading their precious time for money, they feel good.

My office has a new manager, one sent from The Corporation to replace the one who retired. The retiree had fifty years of experience in the industry and had done every job. She was efficient but not brutally so, and she cared for her workers like a stern but loving great aunt. The new guy is in his thirties, with The Corporation for 18 months, an advanced degree in accounting. He takes literally the orders from headquarters, does not not understand passive resistance, thinks everybody who works for him has equal abilities and aptitudes and so anybody should be able to handle any task handed them. In his effort to comply with corporate mandates he has made abrupt changes, giving only cursory explanations or none at all. They are turning out balance sheets and reports as required, and morale has never been worse.

Virtually everyone is looking for a new job somewhere else.

Most of this affects me only peripherally, since for some time I have been gradually reducing the amount of actual work I do around there, and at this point I am down to about thirty-five minutes per hour. Plus, I have been there longer than all the bosses, and all of them think I work for someone else. So I can stay under the radar pretty much. although I know The Corporation will find me eventually, and fire me or give me something to do and, God forbid, someone to report to.

In the meantime, I am watching the show with some alarm. The Corporation has no clue how to manage people or what to do to correct course when things aren’t going well. This disruption in the office, caused by them, is likely to be dealt with through some ham-handed management school method, which, taken to it’s extreme, could spell the end of my job.

To paraphrase another blogger ” I don’t want to get fired, but I don’t want to be there, either.”

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9 Replies to “Compliance”

  1. Heya hun

    I really enjoyed this piece..I love analysing the office dynamics as I’m quite a new player. It just constantly amazes me that so many people are employed to paper shuffle, are we that important to the world? I think I have to blog about this.. you have stirred me up.
    Thanks for your comments and particpation on my blog. I really appreciate our little friendship xx

    Thanks again

  2. I take my hat off to you for your avoiding enforced participation in unworldly schemes (aka ‘work’). What do you spend the other 25 mins doing, though?

  3. Which reminds me that I got into a discussion w/ a recent college graduate today, about Marx, of all things, whom he’s never read. His ignorance was woeful. (He, like my old boss, has taken to calling me “Doc” since he learned I have a doctorate.) but back to the point, Emma . . . which is that, in the bakery, the owner is likely to be right there next to me, and he’s as likely to be doing some kind of shit work as anyone else. Definitely different from your situation, which is grimly amusing.

  4. Larry, you have amazing survival skills.
    I work in the same place … with a different name and different people in a different city …
    Our faceless nameless bosses, decided to send half our jobs to India, where people with Master’s degrees will do the job for 4K per year. The rest of us are wondering when the other half of the jobs will go.

  5. Ugh, what a disheartening turn of events. Under the radar…just like Milt in Office Space, only not as pathetic. I feel very fortunate right now to be working at a mom and pop joint.

  6. Ron – Hoping to stop the clock, or at least slow it down.

    HeroineGirl – If you work for a big company, the thing to keep in mind is that “they” don’t care about you. But you also have to bear in mind that it’s nothing personal.

    JonnyNoStars – During the other 25 minutes, I monitor the listening devices I have planted in all the executive suites.

    Goldie – As a PhD who works in a bakery, you deserve a better nickname. How about “Doctor Buns?” Then they’d listen to your Marxist diatribes. (I know I would.)

    L – Have you figured out how to get into that center cube? I feel like we should pay our respects.

    Theresa – Survival of the laziest, babe. I hope they don’t send my job to India. I don’t know my way around there at all.

    Steph – I’m not familiar with U.S. Office Space, but I have a feeling I should thank you for the “…not as pathetic” disclaimer, so thanks!

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