In Part I of this 2 part series, I did not mention what it was that I had going on the side. The Blackberry and unauthorized work computer use was not for the purpose of just chatting with friends. Far from it. About a year prior to my departure date from Corporate Cubicle Hell, I found something I was actually passionate about: Grass Roots Political Action.
In fact, I was so passionate about it, that the group had handed over much responsibility to me, including a lot of the blog writing. I was now a big creative force behind this volunteer-driven public awareness campaign. There’s no need to mention much more about it here, but if you spend about 2 minutes searching my website, you’ll easily figure out who it is and what I’ve done for them. Social media started as my focus, but my ability to write is now seen by thousands of people daily. I question why I was working in finance/investing just about every day.
In an attempt to push me out the door, a new manager had been assigned to my team of highly skilled phone jockeys. He was commissioned to really “clamp down” on a group of adults that worked very hard for what amounted to very little money. On any given day, $100,000,000’s in investment portfolios would flash in front of us. The irony was that many of my peers were getting in to credit card debt, simply to afford a meager living. This is no exaggeration. Even a person without kids who was good at budgeting could not afford to save more than about $4,000/year for retirement, working at my firm. That’s pathetic. With little to no chance to move up, it’s a wonder the turnover wasn’t higher, but people are just afraid of trying something on their own, plain and simple. Well, most people.
I arrived one day at work to see an email from a front line employee whom I had done some training with. He had attached his picture to the official corporate template that’s only reserved for Presidents and VPs, etc. Hilarious! He was on his way out and had sent a resignation letter to the entire company. Even more hilarious. Here’s a little exerpt:
“Dear Respected Colleagues,
In these turbulent times many of our clients have rushed to islands of perceived security, whether it be government securities, CDs, or simply FDIC insured cash. This movement, though pragmatic, is is normally motivated by fear. I fear that this move is often made manifest in other sectors of our financial fitness. The perceived health of the economy has become a central theme of our employment choices. Workers are reminded daily of how difficult it would be to get a new job if they loss their current one. This in turn makes them more risk adverse. They will hunker down until this economic storm passes, letting opportunity and injustice pass unmarked.
I for one have never been much for pragmatic risk aversion. So, it is with both regret and with no small amount of eagerness that I inform you that this is my final day with XXXXX XXXXX. This decision has been a long time coming. I have come to the opinion that there is not a future for me with this company, and rather than “hunkering down” I am simply leaving. I won’t be going across the street, I will be leaving the street all together. I am starting my own vineyard and winery …”
Now that took some guts. What if his winery failed and he needed a job? He didn’t care because in his mind it wasn’t going to fail. I corresponded with him before writing this piece and can tell you he’s doing very well. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me telling anyone who’s interested what the name of his winery is. Please ask if you’d like to look it up, sample the product or even take a visit.
Not too long after, another much longer letter appeared in the same fashion, again sent to the entire company. This one was even more telling. It came from a former call center manager in the field of finance. This is a person who had been a micro-manager. His career was built on metrics and corporate non-sense. Well, even he could only take so much. Micro managing is like government, it only expands unrelenting until people have had enough of it and shake up the entire system or just head for the hills. He, of course, was on his way out:
“It hit me about 4 weeks ago, one week after having been put on “final written warning” for failing to maintain an 80% compliance rate in the usage of an appropriate “Ownership Statement,”(robotic response to a question) as defined by the Powers That Be. My manager, who is a good man faced with the unenviable task of bending my will, was spot-checking my calls and keeping a tally of (irrelevant, non-sales statistics) for the time period since the final warning was delivered vs. the period before that. He was trying to help me, but it really felt like I was back in the 2nd grade.
This type of obsession with minutiae – and the dogmatic assertion that only certain minutiae will serve a particular purpose – has bled into internal non-regulated components of the job as well, such as Quality Assurance(Dept of Corporate Big Brother Call Monitoring). I now realize that I’m just too tired and too old to put up with this kind of crap.
I have never before been at a company where everyone’s behavior is focused more upon internal benchmarks than what are ostensibly the overall company goals. Hopefully I will never have the misfortune of encountering one again.”
Again, this took some guts! I don’t know where this person went after writing this message, because I didn’t know him. However, I can tell you he wasn’t real concerned about getting a “good reference” from his previous employer.
If these two individuals were just willing to jump head first in to their future, why couldn’t I? The answer was that I could.
Someone very close to me who understood the situation I was in, found a business in need of incorporating social media in to their outreach. I put together a proposal and it was found to be acceptable and a needed service. So I think you can guess what I did next.
It was quittin’ time. I gave notice and said goodbye to the cubicle that was now being watched so closely by middle management that any time I spent more than the corporately allotted time in the potty or even dared to LOOK at my Blackberry, an alarm went off.
I have not looked back for even a second. I remember less and less about that job every day. I will always remember how to make or lose someone a lot of money with investing, but doubt I will ever use those skills professionally again. I’ve always been a communicator, not a desk jockey, so here I am. Thanks for all the desk jockeys out there, because I know what you go through once that headset goes on and the Office Space cliche of a manager walks down your aisle looking for something to nitpick.
Since then I have met with and planned events with several politicians, my work has been featured on local/national media and will be appearing in a spot coming up on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Most importantly I found happiness in creativity that simply does not exist in the Corporate world any more. Cheers to that!