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It's been six months since I was laid off from a long career in corporate America. I don't miss it much, but when I do, I only have to listen in to one of my husband's corporate conference calls to restore my sense of relief at being on the "outside".

Today, he was on an early morning "leadership" call, the sort where self-absorbed corporate officers blather on and on and on about the "exciting" new "programs" that they're "rolling out" while admonishing the listeners that the real "heavy lift" will be meeting the aggressive financial goals for the quarter. Short version: we need to make our Wall Street numbers. All the rest of this is just lip service. If "you" don't make these numbers, "we" don't get our bonuses.

The lady from "Human Resources" (HR) took up way more time than anybody else, and way more time than her presentation warranted. We used to play a little game back at the dysfunctional place I worked (let's call it "DysCo") when trapped on these eye-gougingly tedious conference calls. For the HR portion, we'd time how long it took before the word "people" was used. Today, it was about 8 minutes, pretty good, but hardly world class. Alternate terms used to refer to "people" include "talent", "levels", and "roles".

She did, however, use the word "exciting" about a dozen times to describe the various "tools", "programs", and "processes" being rolled out to help people the thousands of employees squashed together by the recent merger with "change management". The basic premise of "change management" is that, whatever you were used to in your pre-merger company, you can kiss that sh*t goodbye. We're a Borg Collective big company now, and the watchword going forward is "standardization".

Everyone's position will be revisited in light of the new "classifications". Benefits and terms of employment will be "normalized". People mindless interchangeable drones will be reassigned across geographies and business units to reduce redundancy. Those unwilling to accept their new classification will be offered outplacement services. The new structure going forward will enable us to... sorry. I dozed off for a bit here.

Best news of the whole call: exciting Webinars will be rolled out for all employees explaining the new structure, and laying out the new "development plans" that will be prepared for each role. Not each "person" mind you. It's the role that's important. People Role-fillers are a dime a dozen. No sense getting too attached to them since, if the company doesn't make its numbers, those HR folks will be returning to their core competency: explaining the layoff process.

It all sounded very "exciting", in the way that waiting in line at the DMV is "exciting". Mr. Carolina reported that people began dropping off the call shortly after the HR Dragon Lady began her presentation. Maybe because they've heard all this crap before. Maybe because she's a conference call diva known for turning a five-minute update into a 15-minute self-aggrandizing performance.

With virtually no time left on the call, the "question and answer" portion included only one question. Hopefully, everyone was scurrying back to their desk, grinding out more sales and cutting costs so that the big bosses could get their all-important bonuses. Even if it was a trip to the rest room, it would have been a better use of time than this call.

My friends in Europe get six weeks of paid vacation, while we at DysCo typically got two to four weeks at most. Here's my modest proposal: a quick calculation shows that, if we could cut out these frequent and interminable conference calls, we could give everyone another week or two of vacation Personal Time Off (PTO) And Do Not Get Me Started About That.

The employees would return refreshed and productive, families would enjoy precious time together, and corporate America would once again be humming with profitability. No productivity would be lost, since the time is already wasted consumed by these insipid calls.  Seems like this might be a way to energize the workforce and solve a major complaint of staff at companies across the country. Who's with me on this. Anyone? Hello?

One last thing: a shout out to the real heroes of HR, the folks who pursued this career to help their fellow employees make the most of their time with a company. The folks who expanded benefits, provided true career paths, removed obstacles, and helped everyone reach their potential. I knew a few of these folks. Most left DysCo on their own when they realized that their job was to corral and terminate, not to empower and elevate.

Sadly, that leaves us with people like the vapid young man who presided at my layoff, asking whether he could help find me some empty boxes to pack up my stuff. After more than three decades in corporate America, I knew where to find boxes: the copy room. At least he could check the box saying he'd asked. Apparently that's all that matters now.

Originally posted to cassandracarolina's fossil record on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 05:44 AM PST.

Also republished by Retail and Workplace Pragmatists - Members and Editors, In Support of Labor and Unions, and Community Spotlight.

Poll

Do you have to endure tedious conference calls in your job?

22%43 votes
27%54 votes
16%31 votes
4%9 votes
4%8 votes
3%6 votes
2%5 votes
13%27 votes
5%10 votes

| 193 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Corporations are people, my friends.... (17+ / 0-)

    who are enslaved within a mindless, soul crushing matrix of profit seeing directives.  

    If cats could blog, they wouldn't

    by crystal eyes on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 06:08:25 AM PST

  •  Your experience perfectly (14+ / 0-)

    describes one I had in the corporate world. My time with that structure was only a third of yours and from age 55-62. Before that it was small companies or self employment. The new corp. kept me on with the same pay and ~50% less benefits.
    I left after three months, staying mainly to observe the workings you describe so well. Glad I don't suffer PTSD.

  •  It sounds all very familiar. Such a BS (16+ / 0-)

    environment where people seemed scared.  I worked for a large corporation for over 26 years and made it to the level of Director in their R&D Division.  I recall their annual meetings when the CEO, after he finished his presentation, would ask if anyone had any questions.  Now there were Directors and VPs from various divisions of the company along with lower level employees who normally had plenty to say but not one of them would ask a question.  Either they were afraid they would ask the wrong question, or seem dumb by not already knowing the answer, or they were afraid they would be seen as a show off by asking a question of the CEO.  I'm not sure, it sort of struck me as strange. So, if some question came to my mind I would ask a question of the CEO.  I assumed by everyone else's behavior it was probably not the smartest thing to do.  But I have always been the kind of person who is willing to take a risk where others fear to tread, especially if some convention rubs me the wrong way.  And this went on for a few years. The CEO answered my questions politely and that was it.  No one ever said anything about it to me  I just thought it a bit weird like so many things in corporate America.
    Anyway, when I did retire from that company it wasn't on very good terms but that is a story for another day.

    •  Some people do ask questions that are (10+ / 0-)

      a bit ill-advised. I recall an in-person meeting where one brash young woman in a bright red sweater asked something like "Why do we still have 47 VPs if we're trying to cut costs?"

      Nowadays, people fear any action that might keep them from remaining "under the radar". It's too bad, because, some CEOs and other officers take their silence for lack of engagement, or lack of interest. Good for you for speaking up. I wouldn't be surprised if others wanted to ask those questions, but didn't dare.

      Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it... in summer school.

      by cassandracarolina on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 07:24:39 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I used to work for a company like this (19+ / 0-)

    Let's call it "Retina".  I started there as a temp right out of college.  They had just consolidated five offices into one, and needed bodies.  I was offered a job within a month, and spent the next ten years thinking of it as a temp job.  Conference calls, consultants, visits from poobahs, the whole nine yards.  I remember when the new Chairman came by on his papal tour, and proceeded to describe the company as an aircraft carrier, that needed to be reformed into a bunch of more nimble destroyers.  Talk about writing on the wall.

    I was offered a job at the new "super-office" in Syracuse, but declined, and went in another career direction.  Two years later, the division I was a part of there was sold to another company.  

    The good thing that came out of it is that I became less afraid of being entrepeneurial.  I had stayed for ten years out of a sense that, yes, I would make less money, but that I would have a secure future.  When I realized that wasn't true, I became more willing to work for myself.

    Ancora Impara--Michelangelo

    by aravir on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 07:23:29 AM PST

  •  You missed a poll option.... (25+ / 0-)

    I am currently on a conference call right now. That's right, that's how I roll.

    Visit Lacking All Conviction, your patch of grey on those too-sunny days.

    by eataTREE on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 09:07:44 AM PST

  •  In my experience with corporate HR (19+ / 0-)

    HR exists to ensure the company doesn't get sued.

    Yes, it also handles benefits, but primarily it's a cover our asses function.

    We get what we want - or what we fail to refuse. - Muhammad Yunus

    by nightsweat on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 09:14:36 AM PST

    •  Definitely! (11+ / 0-)

      Years back, we had an attorney take over as our Senior VP of HR. She was obsessed with the many ways in which employees exposed the company to liability.

      They might screw up on a project!
      They might be here illegally!
      They might get into an accident! Drinking! Doing drugs!
      They might violate one of our countless policies and procedures!
      They might file some kind of complaint when they're harassed or bullied!

      You know that when they post platitudes about employees being the company's primary concern, this is really what it's about.

      Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it... in summer school.

      by cassandracarolina on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 09:20:38 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  that's the way it works (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jabney, Noddy

        When it comes to conflicts and problems, HR is there to protect the company from the employees. More specifically, it’s to protect the executive officers from the employees. HR is about the last place you want to go with your work-related problems. At the same time they are addressing your issue they are sizing up what sort of threat you represent to the company.

        Speaking of wacky HR directors: For a few months in 2009 I was working part-time at a corporate client’s site so I was sort of treated as a contract employee and I would get all-company emails and so forth. One email was introducing their new Director of HR – who had recently left his previous position as commander of an Army special operations airborne regiment. We henceforth referred to him as Greatest Badass HR Director of All Time.

        Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. - Groucho Marx

        by Joe Bob on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 10:18:00 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Trust levels are really low out there (4+ / 0-)

        One company I know of calls their HR dept the "Hitler Youth Squad"

  •  Blessed retirement (12+ / 0-)

    I am retired now, but my favorite meetings and briefings were the ones with HR and PowerPoint involved. The HR Lady would always have slides with lots of microscopic text and incomprehensible flowcharts, and she would read every word to us and ask if there were any questions before moving on to the next one. In a theater format I could sleep, but sitting around a desk was horrible.

    •  My term for those presentations is (8+ / 0-)

      "bingo calling". The numbers are up there for everyone to read, but someone still insists on telling the listeners what's on the slides. Most all of the numbers presented were about things already gone by, with nothing we could do to change those numbers. The development of Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations will be viewed by future MBA students as the beginning of the end of corporate productivity.

      Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it... in summer school.

      by cassandracarolina on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 09:44:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think every dysfunctional company (5+ / 0-)

        must have bingo charts circulating among the employees. The last one I worked for did.

        I'm waiting for one where people actually jump up and shout "BINGO!" during meetings.

        The thing about quotes on the internet is you cannot confirm their validity. ~Abraham Lincoln

        by raboof on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 09:48:24 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  There's that famous little book by Edward Tufte: (5+ / 0-)

        "The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within". It's only $7.00 at Amazon, but its examples of bad PowerPoint presentations and how not to use PowerPoint are what make it so well-known. Tufte gives a few general rules on making good PowerPoints, but the primary use of this little book is to showcase some really bad examples. However you can still learn from, and laugh at, these really bad PowerPoints (and disastrous too, since some refer to NASA's PowerPoints on the Challenger disaster, when Richard Feynman clearly demonstrated the problem using simply a cup of ice water, the O-ring, and a C-clamp).

        These are troubling times. Corporations are treated like people. People are treated like things. ... If we ever needed to vote we sure do need to vote now. — Rev. Dr. William Barber, II to the NAACP, July 11, 2012

        by dewtx on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 10:28:43 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Tufte is great... Large corporations... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cassandracarolina, dewtx

          probbly don't understand him.

          Or maybe it's the CEOs that don't listen, who don't understand the points he is making.

          That's because, for the most part, the former C-student "suits" are doing runarounds around the designers and former A-students and instead going directly to the technocrats...

          Yeah.

          Ugh. --UB.

          "Daddy, every time a bell rings, a Libertaria­n picks up his Pan Am tickets for the Libertaria­n Paradise of East Somalia!"

          by unclebucky on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 11:57:39 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Tufte's PowerPoint version of... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            lirtydies, Thestral

            Lincoln's Gettysburg Address (and the accompanying graphs) in his little book borders on the Theatre of the Absurd. My sympathies to all those who have had to endure the all-too-numerous mind-numbingly-bad and lengthy PowerPoint presentations--I have felt your pain (I'm retired now, so no more PowerPoints, bad or otherwise, for me).

            These are troubling times. Corporations are treated like people. People are treated like things. ... If we ever needed to vote we sure do need to vote now. — Rev. Dr. William Barber, II to the NAACP, July 11, 2012

            by dewtx on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 02:39:45 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Pre-power Point (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cassandracarolina

      Don't forget that before PowerPoint there were overhead projectors. The early presentations were hand-made, but soon technology allowed printing on the transparent sheets, and we were off!

      I have already told my wife and friends to kill me quickly if I ever talk about about how nice it would be if I could go back to work.

      •  You don't know boredom (0+ / 0-)

        until you endure an 8-hour training session with black-on-white overhead transparency word slides! With PowerPoint, we could add graphics and color so any tedium was the fault of the presenter.

        Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it... in summer school.

        by cassandracarolina on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 09:47:26 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Parrots. (12+ / 0-)

    The HR Department is.... basically just parrots to repeat whatever lie the CEO tells them to repeat.    

    And the CEO always wants to gut benefits, or cut salaries, or have a massive layoff, or outsource your job to China.    Perhaps all of the above.   Perhaps all at the same time.

    It's the American way, you know.   Nothing personal.   You just need to live in a cardboard box from now on.    HR can point you to the nearest soup kitchen, but, really, we need you to get out of here immediately so we can get you off the payroll.   Your salary is one of many preventing the CEO from getting a record bonus this year.

  •  I have always felt that the title says it all... (10+ / 0-)

    human RESOURCES....as though the humans are simply items to be used and replaced, not people, workers, talented, hardworking PEOPLE that can be trained, motivated and encouraged to thrive in their work/career....people are simply one more line item to be crossed off in the great Wall Street Numbers Game.

    Corporate America sucks. Small business America...now that is where the real humans are.

    But Corporate America has already stolen the wealth of the nation.  How to right this floundering ship?

    I do like your diary series, btw.

    "one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress" -- John Adams

    by blue armadillo on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 09:51:00 AM PST

    •  They're now calling it "Talent Management" (10+ / 0-)

      which to me sounds like an agent that books dancing dogs and clowns and accordian players.

      Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it... in summer school.

      by cassandracarolina on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 10:00:01 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Long ago, when they dropped "Personnel" (2+ / 0-)

      for "Human Resources", I mentioned to someone "probably because they want to exploit them like they do natural resources."

      And it's happening everywhere, not just the corporate world. From hospitals encouraging staff to reference their patients as "clients." to Burger King having their cashiers call out, when the bag of grease is ready "Guest number 40!" (Whooeey--I am a guest of Burger King--I feel SO important!), we are being PowerPoked in the eye. Most "learning opportunities" where I work involve someone going through a PowerPoint presentation with an LCD projector that has some horrid color-scheme that the presenter is incapable of fine-tuning. As one goes through the xerox copy they are given of the PP, the presenter reads along.

      And we used to talk about how those Communists indoctrinated people.

      In addition, we seem to be veering from Corporatist to MICist. The PR point person where I work loves to label any sort of upswing/increase as a "Surge."

      Pointless re-naming of things. I work with someone who constantly uses the bullshit/redundant phrase "Moving forward..."

  •  I have ... a headset. That's how many (6+ / 0-)

    conference calls I'm in. Probably 3 or 4 per day.

    With Livemeeting and Webex so we can watch exciting Powerpoint presentations.

    OTOH, it beats flying to Houston in the summer.

    Economics is a social *science*. Can we base future economic decisions on math?

    by blue aardvark on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 09:53:18 AM PST

  •  Thus solidifying my resolve to quit n/t (4+ / 0-)
  •  I got laid off 6 weeks ago. (6+ / 0-)

    It's scary being unemployed, but I have a little rainy-day fund and that place was slowly killing me.

    It wasn't a big corporation, but the CEO was a Stanford MBA who would hold 4-hour meetings over who signed what form and not give a moment's thought about increasing sales, which is what we needed since there was hardly any work.

    They have an ad on Craigslist for yet another manager. I give them 18 months.

    •  I left a job in the 1980's (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jck, FindingMyVoice, mrkvica, Dr Stankus

      where I was managing a small office, working 70+ hours a week, and completely burning myself out. My boss went through three other managers for my position in 18 months after I left. You would think that a level of turnover like that would invite some scrutiny. Instead, he was promoted to senior VP. Sometimes those facts help you get over your sense of separation, whether your departure is voluntary or involuntary. Good luck in finding a situation where your talents are appreciated. It can happen!

      Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it... in summer school.

      by cassandracarolina on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 10:15:14 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is a game a few of us used to play.... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    unclebucky, mrkvica, lirtydies, FrankSpoke

    back when I was gainfully employed and had a "career".  We would just crack up.  Try it, if you are still employed, it will really help the time go by faster.

    http://www.bullshitbingo.net/...

    "A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered." Ralph Waldo Emerson

    by Yo Bubba on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 10:06:32 AM PST

  •  Our head HR guy is nicknamed (8+ / 0-)

    "Satan"--partly because of the close resemblance, but mostly because of the unabashed glee he gets from firing people. I've seen him come out of the conference room laughing, while the newly terminated lady left in tears.

    He's the same guy behing elimimating our sick time ("Too much sick is being used," he said--like people are conspiring to get sick so they can bilk the company), as well as implementing a new attendance policy designed to get rid of people in about two years or so.

    He also utilizes his HR team to spy and narc on fellow employees. They come out to the floor under the pretense of doing something else, strike up a conversation with someone, then report back everything that was said. Fortunately, folks around around here are starting to catch on.

    He IS pure evil, and his nickname is well deserved.

    There are two types of Republicans: millionaires and suckers.

    by Phil T Duck on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 10:13:39 AM PST

    •  Good grief! (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Noddy, mrkvica, Lefty Coaster, Chi, Creosote

      This man sounds horrible. I don't care what the circumstances; terminating people is always painful and as my Best Boss Ever used to say "it's a failure on our part as managers".

      Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it... in summer school.

      by cassandracarolina on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 10:21:42 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I think his brother worked at my old company. (5+ / 0-)

      There's not a whole lot of people that I consider truly evil, but this HR guy was one.  He once went off berating a group whose department was being dissolved.  Their offence?  Asking if they could have the opportunity to make a lateral move to another position in the company, instead of losing their jobs.  Unfortunately (for him), he forgot a Benefits advisor was present, and so could (and, suprisingly, did) back up the complaint that the Satan's brother had crossed the line.  

      And when I was laid me off, he was the guy that gave me the news.  I could tell that he just loved the power kick it gave him.  

  •  Another excellent installment in this series, (4+ / 0-)

    cassandracarolina.  Re-published, along with the rest, to
    Retail and Workplace Pragmatists.

    A lot of people don't like to hear this, but the conditions you describe go hand-in-hand with the decline of the labor movement.  What is needed is some sort of a broad-based "workers' lobby".

    I might add that not all HR people are ogres.  It's the system that almost makes them act this way, as many are afraid for their own behinds.

    “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

    by brae70 on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 10:17:47 AM PST

  •  Gee, to think I worked all those years at DysCo (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cassandracarolina, mrkvica, lirtydies, Chi

    and never ran into you! ;0)

    Being a Humanist means trying to behave decently without expectation of rewards or punishment after you are dead. ~K. Vonnegut

    by Greek Goddess on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 10:23:10 AM PST

  •  We the Unwilling... (5+ / 0-)

    Led by the unknowing...
    Are about to embark on labors...
    Which hopefully will result in a profit...
    Which may result in a decent paycheck...

    As long as the incompetent ones...
    The greedy ones...

    Stay the hell out of my way!

    "Do you realize the responsibility I carry?
    I'm the only person standing between Richard Nixon and the White House."
    ~John F. Kennedy~

    -7.5,-5.8

    by Oldestsonofasailor on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 10:24:24 AM PST

    •  For years I had a sticker on my tool box at work (5+ / 0-)

      that read:

                                        We The Unwilling
                                   Led By The Incompetent  
                                  Are Doing The Impossible
                                      For The Ungrateful

      “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.” ~ John Kenneth Galbraith

      by Lefty Coaster on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 04:03:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  "Change management" has a different meaning (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cassandracarolina, mrkvica, Creosote

    in my world -- it refers to the process whereby you submit any proposed change, patch, modification, or improvement to the production systems to others for review and approval, before it is allowed to take place. Good change management procedures are the difference between a rock-solid service and one that's flaky and always going down. "Coping with the fact that the company is crashing down around your ears and gets re-organized daily" is an entirely different take on "change management" -- I think I like our version better!

    Visit Lacking All Conviction, your patch of grey on those too-sunny days.

    by eataTREE on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 10:26:36 AM PST

    •  I agree - change management is used on (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      eataTREE, Abelia, Creosote

      engineering design/construction project to control scope and cost creep and ensure that all parties understand the implications of changes to schedule, scope, and process. It's intelligent, proactive, systematic.

      The kind of "change management" practiced by HR is panic-driven, reactive, and a day late and a dollar short.

      Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it... in summer school.

      by cassandracarolina on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 10:30:54 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Except when certain people in the pipeline (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      eataTREE, cassandracarolina, Creosote

      don't understand what "change management" of the sort you describe actually entails.

      "You say the webserver serving up our internal web application that is in use by approximately 15 of the company's 5,000 employees, only a few of whom actually use it simultaneously at any given time, has crashed and needs to be restarted? Use Remedy to File an Emergency Change Control Ticket and wait for the Manager's Approval, and by the way he has to wait for the IT Change Management Director's Approval. Don't forget to notify all the Stakeholders that there may be an interruption in the application's functionality, and tell them the time you will restart the server and approximately how long it will take. Also report this to the Problem and Change Management Meeting Committee so they can decide whether you need to show up and justify doing what you did."

      "Change Management" is a buzzword and nothing more to me anymore, in any context. I appreciate when it's applied properly, but I have rarely seen it.

  •  "Run it like a business!!!" (15+ / 0-)

    Anyone who has ever said, “Run government like a business and it will be more efficient.” has probably never worked for a Fortune 100 company. If you want to talk about mind-numbing bureaucracy, the government has nothing over these corporations.

    You know things have gone off the rails when the question about your work is not, “Did you get a good result?” it’s “Did you follow procedure?”

    Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. - Groucho Marx

    by Joe Bob on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 10:34:38 AM PST

    •  Very true, Joe Bob (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      eataTREE, Lefty Coaster, Chi, Abelia, Creosote

      In their efforts to "standardize" procedures, corporations are spending millions on "programs" and "systems" and "processes" that make it all but impossible to actually produce anything. At DysCo, opening up a new client account could involve as many as 15 people at each stage of the process. If it was a small initial order, this effort wiped out any possibility of making a profit.

      Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it... in summer school.

      by cassandracarolina on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 10:37:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Good news for the small business (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cassandracarolina

        then if you are successful you get bigger, add layers of managements, and the circle of life repeats itself.

        If there's a better way I haven't found it, but hope to get to :)

        I am an electrical engineer, run a reasonably high traffic server, and build autopilots and drones for a living. If you have technical questions, ask away and I will try to give a cogent answer.

        by spiritplumber on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 11:12:22 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Yeah, run it like a top-down dictatorship (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cassandracarolina, mrkvica, lirtydies

      operated entirely for the benefit of a third party (the shareholders/board). Sounds like just what I wanted from my democratically elected government! (No.)

      Visit Lacking All Conviction, your patch of grey on those too-sunny days.

      by eataTREE on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 10:56:55 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Or you could have the worst of both (3+ / 0-)

      Work for a big company that contracts to the government. That way, you have stovepiped organizations and egotistical HR "specialists," plus government bureaucracy and spineless leadership preventing you from doing the job you were hired to do. Or you could work for a smaller company that you have to pry information out of just to find out if the contract has been renewed and you still have a job.

      To be fair, I've worked for contractors and government organizations that were better than the above


      + + + That crazy neighbor, you know, the one with all those cats

      by cvannatta on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 11:44:14 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  When I play contractor, my deal specifies (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cassandracarolina, chimene, mrkvica, Chi

    that if I cannot complete a job, I impose upon myself a fine that is generally more than the agreed-upon payment. It also specifies that I will not allow anything or anyone to get in the way of completing my job. This has on at least one occasion, resulted in me escorting a security guy from the building. That was fun :)

    Sometimes if you like your job, you have to make it clear that you're not going to let internal politics interfering with it.

    On the flip side, some of the NASA stuff I did ended up being awkward for everyone involved because I was brought into a project that was not expected to be completed (I think they even told me as much, I was too excited about working for NASA and completed it anyway).

    I am an electrical engineer, run a reasonably high traffic server, and build autopilots and drones for a living. If you have technical questions, ask away and I will try to give a cogent answer.

    by spiritplumber on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 11:02:42 AM PST

  •  So sad, so true... (8+ / 0-)

    I am 6 weeks away from "retiring" for the second time from the same organization, and I can't wait.  I was just forced to attend an entire day of "Leadership" training - even though I am leaving in 6 weeks, even though I have attended countless days of similar useless training, because the new VP of HR wanted everyone to attend his version.  And this was only Day 1 of 6 "modules".  

    Regarding the conference calls - the real reason I bought an iPad was so I could spend time on DK during those calls without the IT Police being able to track my Internet site visits.

    "I'll be more enthusiastic about encouraging thinking outside the box when there's evidence of any thinking going on inside it." Terry Pratchett

    by kiwiheart on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 12:21:23 PM PST

    •  Wow - I thought it was bad when I gave notice (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      peregrine kate, lirtydies, Creosote

      at a company in the '80s and during the weeks before my departure, I was told I had to attend a big sales meeting, even though I would be going to work for a competitor. I was only staying on to meet a major project deadline I'd commited to as the manager. This was back in the day when you could give notice without being escorted out that same day.

      Having an iPad is a great help as you say for these meetings. People should resist having the IT department set up their iPad for company e-mail, though. Once they've done that, everything else is "discoverable".

      Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it... in summer school.

      by cassandracarolina on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 01:09:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  When I was trying to decide what to do (8+ / 0-)

    after I retired from the Army and wanting to try something different, I took a couple of masters courses in HR.
    My counseler told me that I didn't belong in HR. She said that my attitide wouldn't fit in corporate America. But she suggested union organizing. Her brothers were negotiators for the UAW.

    Intolerance betrays want of faith in one's cause. Mohandas Gandhi

    by onceasgt on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 01:14:25 PM PST

  •  what do you call a lawyer without a soul (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lefty Coaster, cassandracarolina

    the head of HR...props to Dilbert

  •  No conference calls for me (3+ / 0-)

    but I confess in the job I used to have conference calls by video tainted my enjoyment of the format so much I don't even like Skype with my kids....

    LBJ, Lady Bird, Anne Richards, Barbara Jordan, Sully Sullenberger, Ike, Drew Brees, Molly Ivins --Texas is no Bush league! -7.50,-5.59

    by BlackSheep1 on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 02:24:54 PM PST

  •  At a Company I Consulted to a While Back (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cassandracarolina, Creosote

    HR requested a squad car from local law enforcement to sit in the parking lot while they conducted the layoffs.

    It was ... awesome, the cruelty and humiliation of marching employees past a couple of armed police officers to their cars with all their work possessions.

    I was working from home that day, but people inside the prison office were giving me blow-by-blows on instant messenger.

    "I'll believe that corporations are people when I see Rick Perry execute one."

    by bink on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 02:37:56 PM PST

  •  I have been assimilated. What's wrong with PTO? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cassandracarolina

    I'm perfectly happy working for MegaCorpCo, but since my "role" is "crazy-haired Einstein in R&D", the rest of the company pretty much leaves me alone.

    Yes, it's a role. Yes, I play it up. What fun!

    Since the financial meltdown in 2008-2009, our motto has been,

                    MegaCorpCo: The Titanic sinks the slowest!
    MegaCorpCo is vastly better than my previous employer, Lying Weasels, LLC.

    What's wrong with PTO? We switched to PTO this year. Since I am a healthy person and never need sick days, to me it's an extra 10 days vacation every year. That's a big f'ing deal! So far, I like PTO!

    “Americans are fighters. We're tough, resourceful and creative, and if we have the chance to fight on a level playing field, where everyone pays a fair share and everyone has a real shot, then no one - no one - can stop us. ”-- Elizabeth Warren

    by Positronicus on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 02:51:53 PM PST

    •  You're a healthy person, so PTO (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Positronicus, Creosote

      may work out fine for you. But try being a mother of a sick kid... or someone who needs time off for their own medical appointments. That's now coming out of your vacation time. By the way, where I worked, it wasn't additive. It was essentially like losing your sick time altogether.

      Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it... in summer school.

      by cassandracarolina on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 04:18:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  If it's not additive, it's a swindle. Agreed. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cassandracarolina

        The way my beloved MegaCorpCo did it,

        old vacation time + old sick time = new PTO.
        So to me, it's plus.
         

        “Americans are fighters. We're tough, resourceful and creative, and if we have the chance to fight on a level playing field, where everyone pays a fair share and everyone has a real shot, then no one - no one - can stop us. ”-- Elizabeth Warren

        by Positronicus on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 07:19:21 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Not conference calls (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lefty Coaster, cassandracarolina

    but meetings. In person is even worse. At least you can do something else while you're on the phone and no one will be any wiser.

  •  Mrs. Wheeldog worked in HR for years. (3+ / 0-)

    Unfortunately during those years the emphasis shifted from employees being a valued part of the team to employees being a liability--you know, you have to pay them and things like that.

    HR is NOT your friend; HR is the sharp swordedge of management, where executive incompetence is imposed on the workforce.

    Over my career I've come to call the current style of corporatism 'Sandbag Management.' Employees are nothing more than sandbags--they're all alike and they're there to be tossed in randomly to plug a hole in the dike as the floodwaters rise, to head off some disaster.

    Mrs. Wheeldog worked at one of those places that kept repeating the mantra that 'our employees are our most valuable asset,' which everyone knew was total BS.

    She was the #2 in the department and, in fact, held the place together for three months during an ugly period when the bosses first suspended, then fired the HR Director. Bosses were continually telling her what a great job she was doing, how much they appreciated her, and repeatedly told her that her job was not in danger, no sir, not at all.

    Two weeks after they hired a new HR director, she called Mrs. Wheeldog into her office at 5 minutes to 5, handed her an empty cardboard box, and told her she was terminated. The new director had a friend that she wanted to bring in instead.

    It's all worked out, though. She took a month off to recoup, then had a newer and better job a month after that.  

    When atlatls are outlawed, only outlaws will have atlatls.

    by wheeldog on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 03:27:38 PM PST

    •  That's the only bright light in this dark (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Creosote

      corporate world. Getting out, and finding a job where one's hard work and dedication are appreciated. Hope things have been working out for Mrs. Wheeldog.

      Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it... in summer school.

      by cassandracarolina on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 04:16:45 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  No conferences call to we Union Scum (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lefty Coaster, cassandracarolina

    One of the perks of Membership...

    Just your average every day Autistic hillbilly/biker/activist/union steward with an engineering degree.

    by Mentatmark on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 03:28:47 PM PST

  •  HR's dirty little secret: they're not there to (5+ / 0-)

    defend employees or help them advance. They're there to keep the corporate employer from being sued by its employees.

    I used to think that HR was on the side of the employees. When I expressed my naivete to someone who'd once worked in HR, she (somewhat) patiently asked me, "Do you really think that the company pays a whole team of HR generalists and specialists to protect you against the company?"

    She then detailed some of the tasks she'd had to perform, like listening sympathetically to an employee's tale of managerial malfeasance or workplace hostility, and then putting every negative comment possible into the employee's file. Stuff like "employee wouldn't look me in the eye," "one statement contradicted another," and other disclaimer-type stuff that could be used to defend the company against the employee in case of a lawsuit. She called some of her former colleagues "bloodsuckers" who pretended to side with the employee, then collected promotions and bonuses for defending the company against its own employees. She said that although the work was "very lucrative," it was also incredibly stressful to someone whose good intentions ended up benefiting some very bad business practices.

    I'm a Democrat - I believe that government has a positive role to play in the lives of ordinary people.

    by 1BQ on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 03:33:45 PM PST

    •  This is why the good HR people end up leaving (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      1BQ, Creosote

      an organization. They just can't stand having to screw over the employees in order to keep their jobs and advance.

      I once made the mistake of filing a complaint against an employee who made some extremely crass sexual remarks to me in front of a group. All "HR" wanted to do was have me sit down with the offender and agree that it was all a thing of the past and we could have some "Kumbaya" moment. Useless. Utterly useless.

      Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it... in summer school.

      by cassandracarolina on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 04:14:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  "Modern" Corporations are anti-humanist at core (3+ / 0-)

    They'd buy and sell slaves to make their bonuses if it were still permissible.

    “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.” ~ John Kenneth Galbraith

    by Lefty Coaster on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 03:45:05 PM PST

  •  Dilbert and Boxes (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cassandracarolina

    Not that long ago, Dilbert's boss had a person drone fired as redundant, but told him he could help himself to empty boxes to clean out his cubicle.

    Except they screwed up - they forgot to hide the good boxes.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 04:23:41 PM PST

  •  This is why I like being a consultant (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cassandracarolina

    They don't invite you to the motivational speeches, because you'll be gone in less than a year, usually. And you don't worry about where they are slotting you in the corporate pecking order, for the same reason.

  •  Nice diary cc . . . (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cassandracarolina

    . . . and hauntingly familiar.

    Corporate officers are merely ordinary business people with ordinary business skills who have had the luck to last long enough (read "made the right corporate political alliances") to make it to the corporate officer level. The good ones (and they are few and far between) are the "visionaries" you hear about in the so called "leadership" training sessions that are so popular in corporate America (so popular they are a corporate industry unto themselves!).

    They surround themselves with loyal "lieutenants" who are able to translate the hand waving, slogan spewing, passion of the  visionary (read "hitting the numbers") into goals and strategies and actions that can make the vision a reality. If the visionary is able to find lieutenants who can perform this magic trick while putting up with the corporate bullshit the visionary is successful. If not, the visionary is promoted. If a visionary does institute some change he is rarely around long enough to see if the change worked. Change is fodder for promotion!

    The company I work for is the quintessential DysCo, where, as you move down through the most current incarnation of the organization chart, you reach a level at which there is a distinct change from "playing businessman" to "doing business". The corporation is very different above and below the line.

    Above the playing/doing line you're really not aware of what the company does. It could be any corporation in the world. At this level it's unclear what business purpose a particular person serves, as titles are purposely obtuse and job descriptions are non-existent.

    But it is important for that person to have a staff to carry out the vague but most certainly vital purpose. Our "above the line" organization is so (self) important that they rent office space in an international airport so they can fly around the globe at a moments notice! Limos to the airport to catch a flight are so 20th century. In the 21st century we take limos to the airport to go to the office!

    For those below the line, it really doesn't matter what happens above the line, because the "business" still has to get done regardless of what "program" or "initiative" or "focus" or "core competency" is de rigueur. And, sadly, below the line is the only place to realize anything that can possibly move the numbers, and also the only place to look for heads to chop when "personnel counts are not aligned with revenues". We had our last realignment in 2009.

    It's very disheartening, but I feel that there is an "optimal" size for a corporation, above which the corporate level ceases to be effective at the "business" of the corporation and is merely in the business of business. My DysCo is orders of magnitude above that size. But it pays the bills.


    - Politics is the entertainment branch of industry.
    - Frank Zappa


    by rudyblues on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 06:08:52 PM PST

    •  Very apt description, rudyblues (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rudyblues, Creosote

      At my DysCo, execs tooled around in Cadillac Escalades to expensive clubs while the riffraff employees were told to pay for their [company mandated] cell phone plans. Such disconnects pervaded all aspects of work, making us well aware of class divisions.

      Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it... in summer school.

      by cassandracarolina on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 06:14:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  We have a goofy "corporate mandated" . . . (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cassandracarolina

        . . . program to get the riffraff to generate ideas for the mukkity mucks to take credit for. If you come up with an idea that proves to save money or increases profits by some provable amount you get some invisibly small percentage of that as an incentive. They have periodic drawings for trinkets and trifles that "you people" seem to like (TV's, chromed plastic bonbon trays and such).

        One of the ideas was to make people pay $20 per month for texting on their company cell phones, since the person who submitted the idea never used his/her phone and didn't know how to text. Annual savings of a few hundred dollars.

        Naturally, it was implemented. Arrgh!


        - Politics is the entertainment branch of industry.
        - Frank Zappa


        by rudyblues on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 06:39:05 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  take me to (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cassandracarolina

    your Leader my Replacement;

    So that I can train them,

    in the most efficient, productive way possible.


    Boy, does my Replacement have energy;

    they're quick learners, hey?


    They just aren't quick earners.  Dooh!

    Now that's progress.


    Isn't it time to fix the Filibuster?
    -- Here's how.

    by jamess on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 06:10:01 PM PST

  •  Gosh, having read this, I ponder many moons ago (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cassandracarolina

    when I was in college, and told my major would probably land me an HR job. After hearing all the horror stories and reading this, I can say that even though my life now isn't what I expected, it's a damn sight better than that bullshit.

    I think I would have to take pills to suffer being in that position of kissing ass and alternating with firing people. Sounds like hell to me, only without the story problems or the accordions.

    I  rather re-enlist and that my friend is saying something.  

    I am glad you are out too.

  •  As a contractor, I'm too low on the (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Creosote, cassandracarolina

    totem pole to endure them any more.

    My previous employer outsourced HR after they laid me off.  I had to endure a phone exit interview.  Girl wasn't sure of my name, didn't know how long I'd been there, and didn't have my address.  She asked a bunch of "aim't management great' questions and got a bunch of non-committal answers.  I was nice to my boss, but I crapped on the rest of the chain as best I could.  At lease she spoke English as a first language.  Well, I guess they got what they paid for.

    “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

    by markdd on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 07:48:32 PM PST

  •  No. I was fired two weeks ago. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cassandracarolina

    If... the machine of government... is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. ~Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobediance, 1849

    by shigeru on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 11:29:42 PM PST

  •  I've worked for the government or major (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Creosote, cassandracarolina

    corporations for many many years, nearly 4 decades now (sadly).

    Some of the worst people I've met have usually been HR people. Maybe I should say, "the most inhuman have been HR people."

    I keep hearing that there are wonderful HR folks out there who care about employees and stand up for company ideals, etc, but I haven't found them yet.  Instead, they perpetuate racist and homophobic attitudes, won't talk to you if you're not "Christian" and many other strange sets of behaviors.

    Of course, that sort of thing often comes from up-tight, backward, poorly led companies, which is usually most huge corporations these days.

    The greed at the top necessitates stomping down the people below.

    "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

    by YucatanMan on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 12:22:06 AM PST

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