Monday, May 25, 2009

Missing Genes, the final part

Finally, the gene that appears time and again in others, but not in me...the lack of which I’ve finally had to surrender to, once, for all, forever:

The “Corporate Maven.”
This final gap in my internal chemistry has probably cost me untold wealth (at least that’s what many executive-types will tell you) over the years; the battle to “acquire” it after the fact—or “act as if” in the meantime—is one I’ve waged for much of my adult working life. You see, I know that Proving Oneself to the Mighty Corporation is the way that leads to advancement, and advancement is always a Good Thing…right?

Well, for me, the answer to that is, “Not necessarily.”

I probably cooked my goose several times over, in different situations over the years, simply by being very upfront and honest with potential employers instead of speaking “corporatese” at the proper times. I remember interviewing for a job as a legal secretary in which I said that I didn’t see any particular reason why most legal secretarial work couldn’t be done in a normal eight-hour day. The lawyer I was interviewing with said, “Interesting,” which I took at face value…until I learned that he was probably trying not to laugh that my unbelievable naïveté. He was probably in the midst of billing a 70- or 80-hour week, more than likely had secretaries there from early in the morning until well past five, and he probably found it terribly amusing that I thought that legal work would, in the course of ordinary business, fit into a neat 40-hour-week time frame.

And yet…I had a reason for saying what I did. The law firm in question, as I recall, dealt primarily in commercial and residential real estate. Contracts. Closings. Yanno…all the things you normally do during a customary business day? As in…a nine-to-five schedule? So, while my statement may have sounded really stupid to him—I still believe at its heart, it was actually saying, “If this office learns how to use their time rather than wasting it, you can send everybody home at 5 and still get everything done that you need to do.”

I didn’t say it that way, at least not to my recollection. (Maybe I did. Maybe that’s why he thought it was interesting. :-)) All I do know is, following that interview, the placement person at the agency seemed almost angry with me…only she never really told me why. (!) Looking back on it now, I know I probably violated the laws of Corporate Speak, costing me a great job and an employer a great employee (and the agency person a great commission). I know it’s happened before that, and I know it will happen again, as long as I’m placed in the position of feeling like I need to “take a side” and “make a stand.”

Because, you see, at heart I am not corporate.
I never have been.
And, despite repeated attempts to tell myself I could be, inevitably I end up speaking or acting in a way that, while it’s very honest and straightforward, probably shoots the tips of my corporate toes off…and I can’t stop myself from doing it.

I know. I’ve tried.

So I’m in that unenviable position of discovering, indeed, that I do want advancement and recognition and promotion and the corner office, for the prestige’s (and, let’s face it, money’s) sake of them. But when the chips are down, apparently, I’m not wired to be on the management side of the desk. Not because I can’t handle people…but because I can’t handle the personal sacrifices and compromises necessary to get there.

I’m not talking about hard-work sacrifices. Those, I can do. I’ve already proven beyond the shadow of any conceivable doubt that I’m willing to work hard. So if working hard were all there was to getting ahead, heck, I’d already have the corner office of corner offices.

No, the sacrifices I’m talking about are more like enduring a zillion little paper cuts…or swallowing many bitter pills along the way of getting the presidencies or even the managerships in the corporate culture; problem is, I’ve never been able to swallow pills—literally or figuratively. They just don’t go down, and I have to find ways to punt.

This isn’t an easy thing to come to this point and realize. But it’s a true thing. It’s an honest thing. When the rubber hits the road, I side with individuals: the worker bees, the authors, writers, artists, and/or their agents. And, as an individual, I cannot, no matter how I try, countenance the notion that a company “owns” me. No one owns me but Jesus, thank you very much. But, while yes, that is a healthy psychological attitude to have, it’s not the mindset one needs in order to progress to increasingly bigger “individual” rewards in your average company. In the end, if my possible promotion will depend on the company being able to have me at their beck and call...I’ll be a worker bee forever. Because I simply can’t do otherwise. Not without paying far too high an emotional price.

I can only conclude that the many people who can do what I cannot—can look the other way when a company stiffs a friend, can compromise, can shrug their shoulders, make cynical jokes, and get on with stuff—with seemingly no ill effects at all, have a hidden (and really useful) gene that renders them able to see what’s really happening, yet ignore it; hear things they don’t like, yet give a benefit of the doubt that would choke a horse; and act “as if” they neither heard nor saw nor experienced any of the things that, bit by bit, chip away at my soul until I want to scream.

Funny thing is, in the mental health field, ignoring what you see, telling yourself you didn’t “really” hear what you actually heard, and pretending that reality is different from your actual experience, is the definition of codependency.

And that’s a bad thing…right?

But the inability to consider a company as more important than any individual leads to…no advancement, no promotions, and the wary eye of a supervisor who may end up considering you a “loose cannon.”
Also a bad thing.
(Kinda shoots the old corporate buzz-term of “win-win” right in the foot, though, doesn’t it?)


So, the end result of all this navel-gazing?

I’ve got some deficiencies in areas I wish I didn’t have…for the sake of just being able to live with a bit less emotional upheaval in my heart of hearts. I wish I could run around dispensing the most positive slant on everything and everyone; I’m not made that way. I wish I could be the “it” girl in an office, not worry about whom I could or couldn’t trust, willingly gossip and chatter and flatter; I simply can’t. And I do wish, and have wished, that just once I could perfectly align my values, my gut instincts, and my beliefs about how to treat people and their work with some corporate entity that would see me as the gem I am and make me the boss, as in yesterday. :-) But that ain’t gonna happen.
So what to do?

Well, there is a silver lining here. It’s called acceptance.
Real acceptance.
Not the kind that says, “Well, I’ll work on these things,” but the kind that says, “Yanno what? Working on these things is lot of hooey. It gives me a headache, and I’m at the point in my life where it’s just too dang much work to keep trying to be something I’m not.”

In short, I’m sick of trying to mold myself, improve myself, build myself or grow myself so that I fit someone else’s idea of what success looks like. I’m at the point where I need to just be myself—and let the chips fall where they may. They’re going to anyway, even if I play all the games right. Because we all know people who played every game right, all their lives…and all they ended up with was regrets in the end.

I don’t want to be there.

I don’t want to regret what I think I don’t have. I just want to enjoy, and cultivate, and start really having fun and blessing the world with what I do.

I’ve often decided this, and then gone right back to trying to remake myself. Whether I “should” or not. But I’m just too tired to do that anymore.

That, in itself, is probably a blessing in disguise, and one I will endeavor to make the most of.

So if I’m missing a few genes, oh, well. I’m a pretty resourceful woman; I’ll cope.
(I can always stop and buy K-Mart. Right?)



Deb said...

I see this as an asset, not a liability. Let me 'splain. I've worked in healthcare all my adult life, and there are moments when "care" is the LAST thing on our minds. The reason? A corporate mindset. As much and as often as we can break out of that mindset, we can humanize the hospital experience. We can deal with people, if we choose, as human-to-human and not just healthcare worker and "just another patient." This can't be legislated or ruled into being. It's in the hands of individuals to bring it about, and I've tried whenever possible to be one of those people.

Corporate speak, pah. Give me the old "I know where you are coming from" attitude any day.

Janny said...

I did actually make a hospital admissions person laugh on one memorable occasion, when I asked her a question--probably to translate hospital-ese for me--and capped it with, "Hey, we're lay people. We don't deal with this every day like you do, OK? We have no idea what you're talking about."

She cracked up at the "lay people" line, went back and 'splained things more clearly. So occasionally, the trick works. But if a customer has to REMIND you to slow down and cut the jargon...that's not all good, either!