Thursday, July 06, 2006

Corporate America a.k.a. Working on a Nighttime Soap Opera

If you’re fresh out of college or graduate school and are beginning your first job, you’ll realize something very quickly—the childishness, mean-spiritedness, bullying, and popularity-based cliques associated with academic life don’t cease to exist simply because people have supposedly matured outside of the classroom environment.

In fact, the opposite is true. Too many employees, supervisors, and executives are just as juvenile and socially dysfunctional as they were when they were in grade school. The same idiots you were glad to get away from after high school or college are the same idiots who will be working side-by-side with you at the office. The only difference is that the idiots will be better dressed and may hold a position of power over you.

HARSH REALITY: The people you work with will be self-serving, ruthless, backstabbing, and conniving. Even the most low-level employees may behave as if they own 99% of your company’s stock or will act as though they are full partners in the corporate firm.

We’ve all got baggage. But, when you enter the workplace, you see just how much baggage people are carrying around. Regardless of a person’s intelligence level, the number of degrees they possess or their job title, they may truly be socially incompetent and offensive to those working with them. When you begin to work in corporate America, don’t be surprised if you start wondering about whether or not someone was abused as a child, is an alcoholic, is a perpetrator of domestic violence, is on a mind-altering drug, etc. A good percentage of folks on your job will be plain crazy or neurotic!

If you are decent, moral, ethical, honest, fair, likeable, sincere, non-judgmental, patient, and team-oriented, be prepared to be outnumbered at work by those who live a life contrary to those values.

Corporate America is not like a daytime soap opera. No, the level of sex, deceit, and other shenanigans are strictly made for primetime. In fact, you may wonder when Alexis Carrington is going to punch the clock and strut her stuff all the way to the executive office.

Don’t get me wrong. You will have lifelong friendships that will develop with people you’ve worked with. But, (and “but” is a big word) those are not the people that make you want to vomit on your commute to work. And, they are not the people who cause you to have violent fantasies about all the ways to kick someone’s butt with a stapler and a pack of highlighters.

From talking to people I’ve worked with and through personal experience and observation, I believe that many problems people have at work are actually not work-related—they’re people related. That’s why I’d like to caution you against believing the people you will work with and work for are going to be any different than those you’ve already met throughout your life. People will have personality disorders...and that's before you throw racism into the mix!

In tomorrow’s post, I’ll discuss the different types of characters found at work and strategies for dealing with over-the-top personalities.


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