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Regarding the Corporate World

Feb 26, 1997 02:44 PM
by Thoa Tran

Talk to any young person around you living in it.  Ask them about the
physical stresses they are under in terms of physical working conditions
which often look good but are really damaging to the health -
air-conditioning, sick buildings, unnatural lighting, banks of computers,
denuded fast foods etc), and the hours they work including commuting time.
The 40 hour week is long gone.  Ask them about the emotional conditions such
as, smile sweetly while you are required to kill someone or lose your job,
concentrate on the politics not the job or you lose your job, grovel to the
hierarchy in ways you wouldn't imagine or lose your job, rip off  the client
or lose your job, cover up for the bosses disasters or you lose your job.
Then ask them about the intellectual conditions.  Most may be too young to
know that they are all using, and some are stressing, their intellectual
muscle (the brain) as never before, and short term memory problems are
becoming rife wherever high level computer usage is prevalent.

Then ask them what devices they use to cope.  How they are endeavoring to
keep their bodies in any way healthy and what ends they are having to go to
to do so?  Then ask them how they are caring for themselves emotionally and
how they reconcile their private ethics with what they are required to do on
behalf of the employer.  And ask them how close to their own limits they
feel all the time, and whether they fear falling over the edge. Look at the
nervous breakdown statistics around you and see how rapidly they are
climbing.  These aren't false claims - no-one is idiot enough to get
themselves classified for nothing.  Then ask them what is happening to their
brain - this one is pretty unrecognized yet - early days, but I'll make a
prediction that there will be a new area of work related injury claim in the
next few years.  At the moment the victims of brain burn out are simply
having to drop out and take menial work, or are being classified as nervous
breakdown cases, but soon it will be recognised.
It's true.  The corporate world has gotten to the point where working the 40
hours a week is no longer considered adequate.  Also, modern technology have
only made things worse.  It has raised expectations that results will be
received quickly and accurately.  Thus, there is no excuse for not meeting a
deadline.  If your computer breaks down or you have to go home, go to your
lap top.  If your e-mail system crashes, there is the regular fax machine.
If those things fail, there is always overnight or same day mail for your
finished documentation.  If everything in your office fails, there is your
neighbor in the building.  And if the whole building fails, well, everyone's
home is now equipped with fax, e-mail, and a computer (myself and everyone I
know, anyway).  Records are stored in the disks, in hard copies, and in home
computers. You can be reached by phone, by e-mail, by fax, by beeper, and by
snail mail (but who uses that anymore?).    Some people are required to
travel often without consideration of their weekend or family times.  The
line between work and home life have completely blurred.

With all these stresses, no wonder people are at each other's throats and
feel that in order to survive, they need to rip other people's throats.
Since people feel paranoid that they will get blamed for things, they become
controlling and aggressive.  I've been, off and on, in the corporate
environment since my student days, when I had to work my way through school.
At my previous employment for a giant Japanese company, nobody leaves before
8:00 p.m., and they are expected to arrive to work on time.  The
supervisors, managers and programmers are all expected to have lap tops so
that they can work through the weekend for those crunch times, which is most
times.  Tons of unnecessary paperwork were done to check and doublecheck
results so that the parent company would not scold the American section for
any mistakes.  Everyone has multi duties in order to curb back on the amount
of people hired and paid.  Gossip and political maneuvers were rife.

The way I dealt with this awful atmosphere (for I myself had tons of
paperwork to do), was to organize everything.  I had my files and the
computer to help me organize.  I had a list of to dos on my desk.  For very
urgent things, I placed a sticky on the front of my computer screen.
Instead of running around all over the place, I relied on the phone and the
e-mail to communicate throughout the company, and when the boss wasn't
looking, a paper airplane.  When the boss placed something on my desk to do,
I asked about the urgency of it.  Was it more important than the 10 other
stuff she put on my desk?  I stood my ground when an unreasonable time frame
was given to me.  She knew that I am a very competent person and backed off
when I told her about the unreasonableness of the time frame.  I learned
that standing my ground in a friendly and reasonable way was not going to
make me lose my job.  In fact, working myself to death and accepting
everything given to me only created more work and stress for me.  There was
always more work that can be given to me.  I have to control the flow.

Several other things I've learned.  One is to not indulge in gossip.  Gossip
only increases your malice toward the person you have to work with.  If
you're going to spend most of your day with that person, why make yourself
feel bad?  Also, gossip will spread around and will reach the person you're
talking about's ear.  Boy, you wouldn't want that!  Also, people who are
complainers (though I always listen to them with patience and a nod), give a
far worse off impression of themselves than the person they're gossiping
about.  When I listen to those people (and I listen because people need to
vent), my thought was that I would not trust this person with my
confidential stuff, nor would I trust them to be good friends.  I see them
more as cowards trying to do malice behind someone's back instead of being
upfront with their source of problems.

Another, always go out for lunch, even if it's just sitting in your car.
Get out of that environment, even if only for an hour!  Listen to spiritual
tapes as you're wolfing down your sandwich (meat or whatever).  Be assertive
about having your lunch hour.

Make a sacred time for you to do relaxation exercises.  Yoga is great for
this.  After yoga, my body feels loosy goosy.

A sense of humor is CRITICAL.  It helps distance you from the situation, and
is a great tool for making people like you.  And in a corporation, people
liking you makes a difference between you having an ulcer or not.  Also,
when people like you, they're more willing to listen to what you have to
say, and are more protective of you, instead of acting against you.  This
also helps you to see the humanity in everyone.  I get a good laugh at my
boss' mole like ways and how she gets all subservient when the President
calls on her.  I get along great with her while everyone else can't stand
her.  That is because I see her as a human being with quirky habits, and am
able to treat her as a human being.  When you treat people with decency,
they will eventually treat you with decency.  Again, this doesn't mean you
let people step all over you.  Assertiveness not aggressiveness.

I know I have a more relaxed point of view toward corporations because I
never consider myself to be a part of them.  I think of myself as one
artist, one human being.  However, the tips above have helped me in
corporations.  When I gave my boss my resignation, she tried to get me to
come in 2 days a week, I said no.  She then tried to get me to come in on
weekends, I said no.  She then asked about consultation work, I said no.  On
my last week at work, I was taken out every day of the week and given
presents by each department.  That is because while everyone else was
serious and complaining, I was e-mailing funny statements to everyone but
the Japanese managers.  Everyone who walked by my desk, I smiled at and
joked with.  My boss, who usually reprimands everyone else for talking,
would not reprimand me.  When people complain, I just patiently listen to
them.  One smiling and kind person can make a big difference in the work

And lastly, if you are working in a very demanding job and would like to be
a vegetarian, my ex-boss has a way of having a macrobiotic diet, and yet
still works from 9-9 every day, and weekends.  That woman is hardly ever
sick while the rest of us cough up slimy stuff.  She goes to an
acupuncturist who prescribes packaged food for her.  The food is simply
prepared every morning before work, and is a balanced mixture of legumes,
brown rice, seaweed, and whatever else.  When she feels an uneasiness in her
body due to stress, she goes to her acupuncturist and feels wonderful
afterward.  Granted, this is expensive, but is a way of dealing with
vegetarianism and a heavy schedule.  Before she had that diet, she said, she
was overweight, tired

Anyway, this was my experience, "your mileage and direction may vary."



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