Unsightly Graffiti

Thoughts by Paul M. Delaney

This “Employee Engagement” thing


Employee engagement. You better be engaged. If you’re not engaged you better get engaged. You had better feel this gig deep in your heart and your bones and your sinews.

That’s what this beaten down man heard over and over in six years at a major wireless provider. What the hell is it? According to Forbes magazine employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals. This means the job is more than a paycheck. This means the employee isn’t just there to climb the corporate ladder so he or she can drive people to suicide some day instead of being driven there. Every multinational corporation is obsessed with this concept. The logic is this leads to increased profits and increased returns for shareholders. There are other reasons for the obsession but those just have to be the main ones. Companies ain’t in business to provide satisfying emotional experiences. The top officers in your company may be in some sort of seminar with a speaker with more caffeine in their veins than blood and who quotes the great Vince Lombardis of industry like they were the words of holy prophets. This may be happening right now and trust me dear reader you will hear about it. They will try to get you engaged. They will try to twist your brain and your insides into sweet pretzels so that the goals of the organization are yours and the mission of the company is buried deep in your heart. Touching, ain’t it? Maybe the Jerry Sandusky kind of touching.

I could be completely wrong but for the most part this insidiousness fails. The numbers on this nonsense would seem to back this scumbag of a writer up. I’m not a numbers man however. Why? Why is this nonsense? Well… why in the hell should any of us have an emotional investment in our company’s goals? Why should any of us be in it for anything more than a pay check? I can only speak as a lowly, dirty cubicle prole. I was no engineer or project manager or computer programmer. This is a great country but it can be tough to get by in. Many of us are doing what we have to do. Not all of us can be project managers or computer programmers. We don’t need to be assaulted with propaganda about why you need more than our bodies 8 hours a day or 10 hours a day. Its positively insulting. Does it occur to them how much they are really asking? Does it occur to them the cost to us of carving out a space for the company’s goals in our emotional lives? What it means for sons and daughters and husbands and wives and boyfriends and girlfriends? I suspect this has not been factored into this amoral mathematics.

Its bad enough many of us find ourselves in wage slavery. Work is an unfortunate and lamentable reality. It does harm. There needs to be a focus on harm reduction. Yes, I just used a term associated with needle exchanges for heroin. 8 to 10 hours of our day is enough. Hands off our emotional lives.


I Quit my Job

I woke up this morning wanting to do IT. I did IT about an hour ago. I hear Norah Jones playing faintly. I best drown that out with some Ramones. I want to bask and frolic in what remains of my youth. The youth drained by IT. The youth that is still on its soulless,foul breath while it devours us all without remorse.

I did IT? Am I writing openly of kinky, loud sex with a killer clown? The kind that not even Prince would sing about? No. I quit my job. Yes, I am making myself unemployed in the midst of The Great Recession or as some call it The Great Economic Recovery. Sensible people told me,”Delaney, you are playing Russian Roulette with a semiautomatic pistol.” Yeah. It stands to reason I just built the gallows, ascended the steps and put the rope around my own neck. I suppose its sound logic. Its sound and sad logic. We are told we better work or we end up homeless, with bad credit or possibly dead when we get a visit from the cancer fairy when we’ve got no health insurance. That’s brilliant. That’s the shining city on a hill. That’s a thousand points of light. The American Dream is nearly all of us getting held hostage by a private company for wages and benefits. I have to tell you that I see a better world. Its a world where 8 hours of our time isn’t traded for an amount of a dying currency. 8 hours is quite a bit. It would horrify to me add it all up and determine the percentage of an average life that is spent doing God knows what.

I nod my head as I write this and realize I won’t live to see that world.

I worked for a large wireless provider. I came in wanting to be a company man. I wanted to get promoted, maybe find myself a woman to marry and buy a house. I got myself promoted. I worked hard. I didn’t get my woman. I got me a condo and a mortgage though. You wonder why anyone does that. You wonder why you sign on the dotted line and sign tons more than cash away. That Hallmark Channel TV series life never happened. I question whether I ever truly wanted it. I wonder how many of my desires are truly mine. How many of my dreams are actually my own and weren’t planted there by some wannabe Don Draper on the other coast. I stared at computer screens. I filled out forms. I listened to my co-workers bitch and bitch and bitch. I heard them admit they prayed to get laid off. Internal company surveys indicated low employee morale and a rate of employee disengagement far greater than 50%. The suits were out of touch. Hell, they didn’t give a flying fuck. Why in the hell should they? The company was rolling in bread. Their bonuses were big enough to buy Hell and Heaven and all the souls contained there. We got rah-rah sessions. We got video presentations about record iPhone sales and record profits. What? Were we expected to brag to our friends and family about that? What did it matter to us? We bled. We gave up our time. We shortened our lives. We got ulcers for those profits. There we were the work force drowning and our millionaire masters just laughed, sipped some cognac and had another blow job.

I suspect this lamentable state of affairs is the same all over America just with different names and different faces. They tell me be a climber man. They tell me be Jobs or Zuckerberg. I ain’t no Jobs or Zuckerberg. I don’t admire that sort of ambition. I don’t want to be a conqueror to one day do the same that was done to me. Yeah. They tell us to admire the conquerors. They try rallying us with quotes by generals and robber barons. Forget that boys and girls. Your people are greater.

Ask yourselves American worker. What is it you really do every day? What would happen if you stopped? Do you think the McCompany that gets to own your ass for 8 hours a day would collapse? I suspect many of our jobs are pointless. They do not add to the businesses we work for at all. I suspect this is most true of work that takes place in a cubicle farm. Some of the enterprises we work in are gargantuan. It would not surprise me if there are entire departments in companies that have been forgotten. We find ourselves adrift in a corporate expanse. We forget who we are. We forget each other. We forget time. The Reaper sneaks up on us.

What do I do? I dream of a different and better world. I dream but I live here. Its likely I’ll find myself another hell hole that’s a bit more tolerable. Maybe I find a way to do something I enjoy and get some green for it to keep bad credit at bay. The warnings echo in my ears. The warnings that I’ve done something very unwise. I shrug them away. Bad credit and homelessness know where to find me.