Thursday, June 30, 2011

...On Disappointment and Knowing better

This was an odd day. On one side, I learned that I suffer from osteoarthritis in my knees. Treatable, manageable without surgery. YAY! On the other side, I learned that the application I placed for a new position within my firm, one which boasts an actually career path and advancement opportunities, was filled the end of last week and my application wasn’t even considered. I cannot begin to tell you how much – at the risk of sounding vulgar – that pisses me off!

Here’s my problem. I am good at what I do. In my “day job”, when I’m given a task, I do it right the first time. That’s not me boasting, that’s actually written in my annual reviews. Consistently, even. Goody for me! I’m a good, sometimes great, and conscientious employee. But, I’m more than my job description and title alludes.

My official “day job” title is “Executive Assistant, but I never add “Executive Assistant” to my business cards. I can do that because I order business cards for everyone in my office. I have that much power. I know that I am more than an ‘executive assistant’; I’m more of an office manager. “Office Mommy” is the term I’ve coined for my position. The one who maintains calendars and schedules appointments and lays in supplies and tends boo-boo’s and, on occasion, wipes asses. I do do it all, and the earth-mother, Capricorn that I am comes by this very naturally. But…the “conducting-implementer” that my DISC assessment labels me balks at this pigeon-holing.

DISC assessment tests, the secret weapon of today’s Human Resource department. That random, algorithmic determination of one’s natural vs. adapted behaviors test which funnels you into one predetermined life lot over another. The track system, defined, redefined and employed by the American public school system since its inception in the 1920’s. If, for example, an employee like me - intelligent, willing, ambitious and with a demonstrated acumen for management and advancement, is hired into a subservient role, like the title "Executive Assistant" denotes, he or she is destined to languish in a life of career stagnation. Whether or not that employee takes it upon him or herself to further his or her education, to accomplish corporate training and skills advancement protocols, or pursue non-firm sponsored training programs is moot. Once an "EA", always an "EA", with the obligatory, five second “stand-and-be-recognized” moment at the annual meeting.

I’m sorry, Mr. and Ms. Corporate Executive, but just because I lassoed my personal career ambitions to balance my work/life dynamic and support my single-parented offspring does in no way mean that I am inherently complacent, or malleable, or devoid of independent logic and thought, and, thereby, a happy and willing supplicant in the role of blind subservient to you, or your wife or your children. I certainly didn’t put myself $50,000 in student loan debt to spend the rest of my working life kowtowing to your every rational or otherwise whim.

No. No, indeed. When, during the annual review, one is asked what one’s personal career goals are and one explicitly outlines two or three possible, not to mention heavily experienced and well-qualified for lateral advancement options, and is told (and I quote) “I’ve got your back”, only to learn that viable opportunities are not mentioned and one’s applications are not even reviewed, much less considered despite following the rules of the game, one tends to get, shall we say, bitchy. Embittered and demoralized are probably the more politically correct terms, but what does corporate America care. Another wide-eyed idealist will come along and subject him or herself to this continued abject humiliation and abuse perpetrated by the egomaniacal and self-serviant career overlords until the disillusionment manifests itself in a drastic measure, like quitting without alternative prospects and sucking the unemployment coffers dry.  Or something involving firearms.

Once upon a time, this country prospered and grew, thrived even, on the opportunities afforded to the diligent, hard-working, rule-abiding, imaginative populace. Those of us who bled and sweated to attain the dreams bred and nurtured by our forefathers. Unfortunately, the world today is rife with “haves and have nots”, “achievers and achievement –challenged”, “rainmakers” and the drowned corpses of the proletariat.

When will I ever learn that the least qualified, most lackadaisical and unmotivated are destined to advance beyond their talents and capabilities while the rest of us, we sparse few, the unsung, conscientious, do-gooder, suffocate beneath the stampeding herd of valid or not privileged ambition? It’s been fifty plus years, and I’ve yet to divine an answer.

Meanwhile, I’ll follow doctor’s orders, take my glucosamine, and keep trudging one foot before another praying to whatever deity may be out there that my knees don’t give out.

1 comment:

  1. If you are looking for a explanation for your boss's behavior it's called the Peter Principle (not to be confused with the far more benign Dilbert Principle) whilst an evolutionary explanation that possibly mirrors your present circumstances may be found in the Red Queen Hypothesis (you know, it takes all the running you can do.....)

    Rest assured this problem has been reported, discussed, studied, analyzed, and many's the head that has shook, many's the tongue that has wagged over it and many's the head that should have rolled. The workplace is still too often a place of almost Darwinian struggle in which the definition of "fitness" evolves with each new change in management.

    No easy resolutions exist. Our choices still, are just as plain as Alice's were - to move in a different direction, to instigate change or to smile and embrace the status quo.

    Tea anyone?