Friday, December 16, 2011

The Office Paradigm

It was beginning to get a little colder in November of 2010. My day job was beginning to feel like prison. That the only purpose for even waking up in the mornings were so that I could get a head start on updating my Facebook status. And even then, that only killed five seconds of boredom.

It wasn't so much that the job was boring, but it was that I'd been there for almost seven years already. The job, despite several promotions (which were actually more like "advancements by default"), was actually quite decent. My co-workers were in fact good people albeit perhaps too civil... too plastic. You see, what I've come to realize in office culture, is that people are excruciatingly diplomatic, overly concerned with keeping the peace, that you don't feel like you actually really KNOW anyone. It's like being reprimanded by your boss, but you leave their office feeling strangely motivated to "do better". Like there's a balancing force that enslaves employees, motivating them just enough with a healthy splash of demoralization. This strange phenomenon is what I like to call "The Office Paradigm". It's experienced by nearly all nine-to-fivers, with people from all over the corporate world who can testify to this at some point in their careers.

Many who are caught in this paradigm shift, may never get out. Perpetually subjected to meaningless performance appraisals, and forever trapped in a space-time paradox where each passing year feels just a little bit shorter than the last. The sickening feeling that you may not get the raise you needed to keep pace with inflation and the rising cost of just about everything. Expectations are misunderstood as entitlement, and you find yourself constantly hitting the proverbial glass ceiling. A rat race where only those with just the right social skills stand a chance, and those who do not, fall short. It's a harsh reality that I have since come to accept about the corporate world. It didn't feel comfortable any more.

When it finally came time for me to resign from my day job the following March, I was a nervous wreck. I didn't sleep much the night before I told my boss, and I remember going into the office that morning aware of the fact that nothing I was doing truly mattered. There was the usual exchange of "good mornings" (which, by my third year there, had turned into a simple "mornin'", then subsequently, if not eloquently, became just "hey" in my final years). It was something that I needed to do, and I didn't know if I could pretend to be civil any more. People started becoming offended with my honesty. Others started feeling like I had run over their cat, or their kids, or grandma the night before. My patience was wearing thin, and I felt that my university degree was being used for things like: changing font colours, and saving as... Something akin to using my academic papers to fix an uneven chair.

I just didn't belong in a place like this. And it was time to find greener pastures elsewhere. The resignation was quick and precise. I didn't hold back, but also felt that I should at least do this one last thing the right way. I kept it diplomatic, and didn't burn my bridge.

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