How People Become Corporate Automatons

Pulling Hair OutThis image is a good representation of myself after work today. That, and the fact I felt on the verge of tears until I finally said to myself, “For chrisssake, it’s only a job!”

Thankfully, the heat has come down in the last few days and I’ve recovered from a short summer cold most likely induced by my new air conditioner, so my concentration should be better now than the last two weeks. Alas, around 6:30 this morning, workmen started wrecking and rebuilding the deck on the apartment building in the alleyway just a few feet from my bedroom window. Missing out on my last hour of sleep and being molested by building sounds all day rendered me a basket case by early afternoon.

By that point, I got an e-mail that quite rightly but sternly pointed out the inappropriateness of an e-mail I sent a client last week. I never said I was perfect and this incident certainly proved it. But another unrelated e-mail from a colleague, which was appropriate in all respect and came in response to a short one I sent him minutes earlier, pushed my headache over the edge.

I now better understand how, after a while, people who work in big corporations turn into unquestioning automatons. Asking questions only leads to trouble, or to be seen as being a trouble-maker. I also now have a far greater appreciation of the courage of whistle blowers. It is truly hateful to be in a position where you are systematically excluded and not given any support despite witnessing glaring problems or, worse, very deliberate acts of petty-political sabotage by people just one level above you, whose agenda is impenetrable but suspect. Even worse is having no significant recourse when your rapport with your direct supervisor has fallen apart, in this case, very much because I’ve lost all respect for said supervisor.

Ironically, at a mid-afternoon meeting, one of the topics of discussion was the general feeling of lack of recognition among employees. And it would seem now that, just like good like kids coming back to school in September, those of us who are willing to participate are to write a little essay on “what rewards and recognition mean to me.” Except that, unlike the notorious “What I Did During My Summer Vacation” essay expected of school kids, I can’t help but feel that this exercise, in this case, is little more than a trap: If I write about what I think recognition is, I will be ignored at best or shut out even more at worse; but if I write the platitudes expected of an automaton, I will get a pat on the head and still be ignored.

People like me become automatons because we need the job. We need to eat, pay rent, …live. And we are able to live with ourselves only because we understand that the “wrongs” we’re suffering aren’t downright evil or injurious to others. We understand that what we do, or no matter WHAT we do, will not matter in a few months or a few years, let alone when we’re good and dead.

But the thinking and creative humans that continue to live inside those automatons feel sad and mortified. And, tragically, they begin to wish that the ideas that roam through their head and are never heard would simply silence themselves. Leading, sadly, to those thinking and creative humans to become even more hopeless automatons.