Monday, March 9, 2009

What I Deserve

Kelly Willis--"What I Deserve" (mp3)
John Hartford--"In Tall Buildings" (mp3)

If you work where I work, then you got your contract at the end of last week.

Yeah, I know they told us no raises and all of that, but we can hope, can't we? Contract time is that time when we throw the rest of world to the wolves and focus only on what we can hope to get. Friends? Yeah, we think, they've done pretty well and they're pretty valuable, but, hey, times are tough and we get into this mindset where, yeah, we know what the general conditions of the economy, the company, whatever, are, blah, blah, blah, but then we conveniently put those aside.

Instead, we think: "Yeah, I know most people are not getting raises, but that doesn't mean that they can't still recognize a valuable employee who has had a really good year, i.e., me."

And the best part is, it doesn't even have to be a "good year" to get us thinking. Of course, a good year is best, because it's hardest for our internal voice to refute. But we can easily find ourselves going with "tough year" (dealt with a lot of personal stuff) or "need to demonstrate that they want to keep me year" (I'm young and the world is my oyster) or even "fucked up early but got back on track year" (yeah, that was a bad decision, but that was way, way, way back in October). Potentially, there is a reward for anything. Potentially.

Hard Lessons of Life 1-101: If you work for something larger than yourself, then, ultimately, yes, you are a cog in a machine and they don't give a shit about you. They may smile, they may pat on the back, they may look you in the eye and tell you in all sincerity how much they value you. They may even believe it. They may be personal friends with you outside of the office. They may be Godfather to your children. They may have cried on your shoulder during a tough time they were having. They may confide in you more than anyone else. I'm here to tell you--none of it means shit. It isn't personal. It's just business.

Once, a long time ago, I was a business major, a management major more specifically, and though I didn't learn much, I did learn all 101 hard lessons of life and I will repeat them for your edification: if you work for something larger than yourself, then whoever you work for does not give a shit about you.

Here's how an introductory Management text would have put it: the first goal of any business, organization, or institution is self-preservation.

Once you work through that in your head, you know I'm not messing with you. If the primary goal is self-preservation, then everything else, and I mean everything (for anyone who is an idealistic liberal like me), is subservient. Yep, even you and your raise and your career and your life ambitions.

You can be sacrificed at the drop of a hat.

That is the truth, and the upside is, I truly believe, that the truth shall set you free. As Sean Connery said in The Untouchables, "Thus endeth the lesson." Now, sign your G-d contract and get back to work.

"What I Deserve" comes from Kelly Willis' first major CD of the same name. Hartford's "In Tall Buildings" comes from his John Hartford Anthology. Sadly, the man (who once played a brilliant solo show in our chapel) passed away many years ago. This song of his bears listening to with tears and recognition several times each year of your working life. Since I'm in the anti-Man mode tonight, I don't care if these songs are available at Itunes or not.


Billy said...

I guess in this particular realm I'm a glass-half-full guy.

But just because you'd push me out of the proverbial chair lift to save your daughters doesn't make you a bad friend. It just makes you a father first and foremost.

An organization can't do much right by any of its people if it doesn't first manage to maintain its own existence.

In other words, I think they give a shit. But maybe that just keeps me enslaved to The Man.

Bob said...

I understand your position, but the reason I don't agree is that you imply a chronology that isn't there (in my opinion): first, the organization must focus on maintaining its existence, and then it can do right by its employees.

The problem is that it isn't a first/then situation. The needs of the organization are always preeminent. In any situation where the goals of the organization and its employees come into conflict (which is every situation), the employees are going to lose out.

The history of this great country is built upon that very premise.

Billy said...

In any situation where the goals of the organization and its employees come into conflict (which is every situation)...

I'm going to live with disagreeing with you. Not so much because I'm confident you're wrong, but because I don't wish to develop enough of a drinking problem to live with your perspective.

It's one thing to acknowledge that everyone is replacable (which, well, we are), but another altogether to believe that no company or organization cares anything for anyone.

Is this a sign I'm a child of the '80s?

Bob said...

No, we're the same. I operate day to day under the same suspension of disbelief. We have to, to get by.

I'm just happy to be working at a place which has convinced us, simultaneously, how much it cares about us and how easily we can be replaced!