You become a corporate slave with little freedom or control over what you do all day.
Working Nine To Five
This post is an extract from my book The BreakingOut Guide To Quitting Corporate Slavery
“Working Nine to Five – What A Way To Earn A Living” – Dolly Parton
Whether you’re a new graduate recruit, a middle manager or specialist professional, work in the typical office of a large corporation gives you little chance to express yourself creatively or to act as an entrepreneur.
Your days get taken up with endless meetings, reports, and emails full of corporate jargon.
Being required to achieve meaningless “KPI” targets. Subjected to demeaning “employee reviews”. Having to work with layers of management and supervision, yet no-one wanting to be responsible for making a decision.
The tedium of brain-numbed colleagues trotting to the staff canteen for lunch and back every day. The pseudo-motivation you’re expected to bring with you.
Believe me, I’ve been there.
I’ve seen the inside of many large corporations, mostly as a self-employed contractor, but in some cases also as a permanent employee.
And the remarkable thing is that most of these companies have all been pretty much the same.
Too Many Jobs With Large Corporates Do Not Deliver What They Promise
Too many jobs in the corporate sector just do not deliver what they promise.
People become trapped in an impersonal hell of grumpy disinterested people and office miseries, “KPI”-pressure, internal office politics, and micro-management.
You might say your particular job is different. You have challenges, responsibilities, which make your work interesting and stimulating.
But more often than not it’s self-denial.
The Disconnect Between Work and End Product
What’s struck me most of all is the disconnect between most employees and the work they carry out every day.
For many employees of large companies, loyalty, dedication to serving customer needs, and identification with the corporate mission statement only goes as far as their monthly pay cheque.
The whole thing is a farce no-one really believes in or has any passion for. In many cases not even the CEO as he or she is most often also just another hired hand and usually one of relatively short duration at that.
The only result or output which matters for your work is some intangible “KPI” or “key performance indicator” – a cold and impersonal statistic thought up by someone else, not the actual product or service the company provides. And with a little talk in a glass-walled office at the side waiting for you if your KPIs should ever “slip”.
Most People are Indifferent to their Work and the Company
It’s easy to understand why this is so. Most people working nine to five don’t get see the result of their labor, or any real meaning in what they are doing every day.
It’s just not humanly possible for most people to have enthusiasm for work in these kind of environments. As a result, most employees no matter what their salary or position, are not dedicated to their jobs or the companies where they work.
In that popular TV comedy satire series “The Office” we hardly ever got to hear anything about the actual product the company produced.
As it happened, it was paper and stationery items. But it might just as well have been baked beans, cat food, or industrial rivets for all the relevance and connection it had with the actual daily working lives of the people employed there.
That series was a world-wide success. The reason being that many people saw themselves and their own situation reflected in the comedy and were able to relate to it only too well.
In the large companies that I’ve seen the inside of, most of the employees were just going through the motions every day. They had internally switched off and were reduced to clock-watching and waiting for lunchtime and the daily trot to the canteen to come around.
Some even found it hard to wait until lunchtime. In the headquarters of one large bank in Brussels where I once contracted, a permanent member of their IT staff opposite me would while away the hours every day mousing with one hand, whilst absent-mindedly picking his nose and eating the harvest with the other. He’d done it for so long I doubt he was even aware he was doing it. I quickly learned to avert my gaze.
While his colleague to my left would be sneakily surfing the Internet with his browser reduced to the size of a letterbox slit. As well as checking his Outlook calendar to see how many public holidays and other vacation days were left for that year – and how it compared with last year.
By the way, these were not for the most part people doing low level tasks, but staff with graduate degrees.
Does a Job Give You Experience?
Most nine to five jobs actually don’t.
Your job is part of a limited and restricted systematized process. The tasks that make up your working day have been identified, isolated, codified and packaged up into a “job”. Which takes x number of hours per month to carry out, and for which someone is then hired.
That’s basically it. A job only gives you experience working in that job. The problem with that is that is you mostly just repeat the same limited experience over and over again.
At the beginning there is a learning curve which makes it interesting. But after that it’s just repetition and you stagnate and become bored. This is the case with the majority of employee jobs out there, even the so-called “graduate” jobs.
Which brings me to the whole issue of graduate employment in these companies.
The Graduate Recruitment Program – A Ticket To The Office Cubicle
Graduates are led to believe there’s an exciting and stimulating future waiting for them in the corporate world after they quit college. Once loaded up with student debt, new graduates are ideal fodder for the corporate machine.
The truth is that having a degree no longer offers any protection from corporate office horror. In fact, it’s graduates who often fare the worst.
Forget the glossy corporate brochures showing smiling staff peering over each others shoulders looking happily transfixed at a computer or laptop screen. The reality of daily working life in most large offices is very different to the recruitment brochure fantasy.
The positions graduates are nowadays offered are often just the equivalent of low-grade clerical jobs – which 20 or 30 years ago were filled by high school leavers. This is the wonderful world of graduate employment that awaits after college.
Graduate recruitment programs are heaven-sent low-cost ways for corporate employers to net large numbers of naive young graduates before they become aware of what they are getting locked into.
I know. It happened to me as well. We’re only wise after the event.
Do you really want to resign yourself to a “career” of corporate stupor with Kiss of Death Inc? In which you find yourself sitting alongside colleagues who relieve the nine to five tedium by surfing the Web through a slit-sized Web browser in case the boss looks over their shoulder with one hand, whilst picking their nose with the other?
The plain fact is that this is the kind of corporate office horror lying in store as the ultimate fate and final “graduate career destination” for many college and university leavers.
Doesn’t bear thinking about, does it?
“Human Resources” is one of those corporate weasel words that big companies love.
Human Resources used to known as Personnel, which sounds much more human and respecting.
I always disliked being regarded simply as a “resource”. It suggests something to be used and exploited, and then discarded and replaced, according to requirements.
Human resources people also tend to be some of the most anti-entrepreneurial people you can encounter. The true representatives of the daily plod.
In my experience of “human resources” departments, most of them wouldn’t recognize a real human resource even if it was lying right on top of them.
Despite HR recruitment and mission statement baloney most big companies couldn’t care a monkey’s for their staff.
And most employees for their part return the compliment by not giving a monkey for the company.
Individualists Need Not Apply
Even worse is the fake enthusiasm you are expected to bring to work with you everyday.
Despite the glossy recruitment brochures, advertisements and “corporate mission statements”, individuality is the last thing corporations want to encourage.
What they really want for their organizations are docile, obedient house pets.
Both your CV and yourself at interviews with “Human Resources” are expected to quack the correct corporate recruitment bla-bla and to kowtow to the corporate ideology.
The classic and most notorious example of this corporate dehumanization process is of course the “Salaryman” phenomena of Japan with its millions of white-shirted “Mitsubishi Man” automatons.
A life not lived authentically, in a job or organization which doesn’t allow your full potential to thrive, is a life wasted. The nine-to-five all too often turns out to be a living death spent amongst the living dead.
Thank God it’s Friday
Once in, it’s then a question of switching off and holding on.
You grumble about your 9-to-5, the company, your colleagues, the boss – and the work.
The only relief many find is living for TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday), annual vacations and maybe taking “sickies” when you’re really desperate.
I’ve worked for companies both as an average and above-average salaried employee as well as highly paid contractor. It made me realize it isn’t a question of the money.
Satisfying work is never about money.
In fact, the lure of money can lead you do things or accept things that you don’t actually want.
This was the case with me. I move into IT contracting with big corporates because of the lure of money. I did enjoy a high income from it and I was in the top tax bracket, but it blinded me into accepting a work situation and lifestyle which I did not really want and which did nothing for me.
But it made me realize that working for big corporates is not for me. It also led me to realize first hand that money is of no major importance in lifestyle and career choice decisions. There are far more important aspects and issues to consider.
Corporate Hell PLC
I’ve come to the conclusion that many of these large corporations in these big office blocks are the enemy of ordinary people.
Some could almost be described as evil. Even if as in some cases, the corporate mission statement actually includes the very words “Don’t be evil”.
Partly it’s because of their large size, the layers of management and control that are required, and the disconnect between work and output which results.
Not only do many big corporates have little respect for the people that work for them, but they also have scant regard for the people they are supposed to be serving.
Customer service for many large corporates is all too often out-sourced to call-centers overseas. In some cases the staff in these locations are even told to pretend to be based in the home country of the customers when talking to them on the phone.
The sheer size of many large companies practically by definition makes them remote and impersonal for their customers just as much as for their employees.
The dominance of these large corporations with their towering impersonal office blocks, their bureaucratized management and their disconnected nine to five factory-farm working environments has become the Great Malaise Of Our Age.
We might have freed ourselves from the poverty and drudgery of the old blue collar factory and industrial mill, but we have replaced it with something just as demoralizing and just as poverty-stricken if only in a different way.
We all have to earn a living.
And what’s crucial to our happiness and self-fulfillment is how we spend our working lives in order to earn it.
This post is an extract from my book The BreakingOut Guide To Quitting Corporate Slavery available now.
Click Here to find out more about The BreakingOut Guide To Quitting Corporate Slavery.
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