Working Enemies

If you’re experiencing problems at work, here are your 2 best courses of action:

  • Deal with it.
  • Get the hell out of the company.

Sometimes, the latter choice is the best, especially if the organization’s culture seems so incredibly corrupt that nothing will change for you.  Eventually, those companies self-destruct under the weight of their own arrogance.  It happens all the time.

You actually have a third choice: complain to the human resources division.  But, I’ve learned this can actually backfire and makes things worse for you.  Business news flash: HR is not your friend.  Their purpose is to ensure the company functions smoothly, which means simply making a profit for their shareholders.  If said company perceives an individual to be part of a problem, they’ll do everything short of murder to get rid of that person.  Filing a complaint of some sort – any sort – means something has gone awry.  Managers and supervisors can easily twist things around to make it look like you’re the source of the trouble.  Yes, sometimes they really do target people.  If you’re shocked, then you either haven’t been around long enough, or you live in a fantasy world.  Get over your denial and wake up.

Corporations don’t care about people.  As stated above, they’re only concern is to earn revenue.  That’s why companies rarely do things out of the goodness of their own heart.  They don’t have a heart.  It’s a company.  Mitt Romney may think corporations are people, too, but he’s as clueless as his trophy wife when it comes to the realities average people face every damn day of their lives.  Companies will only make things right, when their profits are threatened.  Then, they’ll jump through hoops and do cartwheels, especially if things have been documented, and an employee or former employee has stuff in writing; i.e. emails.  Believe me – I’ve experienced and seen this firsthand.

I know I was targeted several years ago, when I worked in the wire transfer division of a large bank.  One day in August of 1995, the entire system collapsed, and hundreds of transfers didn’t get sent.  They had to be printed up and dispatched manually; not surprisingly, a few got duplicated.  The largest was in excess of $200,000.  When the account officer called the unit in which I worked late one afternoon, the associate who answered the phone couldn’t handle her.  So, I talked to the account officer and took on the responsibility of contacting the receiving bank to get the second transfer back.  It looked simple on paper.  But then, my supervisor and manager decided to write me up over it; saying I hadn’t acted on it quickly enough.  I tried protesting, but was afraid to lose my job.  In retrospect, it probably would have been best, as I realized later they did everything they could to get me to resign.  But, I didn’t.  I made it through that period and stayed on at the bank until I got laid off in 2001.

That particular manager – who literally walked around with his nose stuck up in the air – resigned his position in early 1996 to work for an insurance company.  Only one year later, however, he lost his job at that company and then tried to return to the bank.  But, they didn’t have a spot for him.  My immediate supervisor – who turned out to be a mentally unstable hypocrite – didn’t fare much better.  She got transferred to another unit at the end of 1995, then booted out of the department altogether because of poor performance.  She came very close to losing her job.  When I saw her a few years later, she told me she was an administrative assistant; a step down for her.  I was an executive administrative assistant by then.  I emphasized the word “executive,” and I think she got the hint.  I don’t know what happened to either of them afterwards and I never gave a damn.  What goes around comes around.  Both those fuckers got what they deserved.  It was my only consolation.

That ordeal was nothing, however, in comparison to what a friend of mine endured around the same time.  He was a CPA for a large software firm and had become the butt of crass jokes by coworkers, which happened to me on a few occasions.  And, as in my situation, it seemed his managers had targeted him.  But, unlike me, he filed complaints with HR; thinking, as do most people, they would help him out and ease the situation.  That’s when things worsened, he told me back then.  But, something else was happening; something that ultimately would turn things around in his favor.  He suspected his superiors were deliberately sabotaging his work just to make him look bad.  I almost didn’t believe him.  In my infinite naivety back then, I didn’t think that would actually happen.  One manager tried to make a game out of it, he said, rejecting his work with coy notes and sad attempts at humor.  They didn’t think it was funny, though, when he walked into the office one Friday – and then, left at noon.  He’d resigned without the requisite two weeks’ notice – on the last business day of the third quarter in 1996.  He contemplated suing the company for harassment, but didn’t have the energy for it.  He was just glad to leave.  But, he said, they paid the price.  He learned from a former colleague that all the work his managers had mutilated simply to make him look incompetent and lazy ended up causing more damage for the company.  They had to spend time and money correcting those alleged “mistakes.”  Heads rolled, he told me with an evil glint in his eye.  What goes around, comes around.

There was more drama at the engineering company where I last worked than in an entire season of The Guiding Light.  And, just like the show, it was perpetual; it just went on and on, over and over; the same crap.  Much of it was self-induced, but other concerns were legitimate.  It was during my 8-year tenure at that company that I realized the truth about so-called human resources.  Because the company handled a multitude of government contracts, they were allegedly concerned about employees’ ethical behavior on the job.  Therefore, some of my colleagues tried to make use of the company’s much-heralded ethics committee, which turned out merely to be an extension of HR.  Every single person I knew who filed a well-meaning grievance with the ethics committee either resigned or got fired.

In the spring of 2008, three women took a leave of absence; one after another.  The first two resigned while still on leave.  The third managed to make it back and eventually became my supervisor; a hyperactive, emotionally-distraught creature who reminded me of that one perpetually-menopausal bitch at the bank in 1995.  But, I learned later that those first two women filed harassment suits against the company after submitting their resignations – and settled.  I also found out that other former employees had sued the company.  It doesn’t look good when a company that boasts high ethical standards finds itself in court, combating harassment allegations.

But, a company’s human resources division is much like a city’s police force.  Both are there to maintain a sense of order and discipline, but they really won’t help you.  You can respect them to a certain degree and work with them when absolutely necessary.  But, you just can’t trust them.  They’re not your friend.  That’s not their purpose.

One of my coworkers at the engineering company was a proverbial good old boy from Louisiana.  He didn’t have any college education, had spent 4 years in the Air Force and had a penchant for daiquiris, cheese and big-breasted women.  But, he was smarter than most people with a string of letters at the end of their surname.  He predicted some of us would get laid off before the end of 2010; months after we lost the prime contract with a government agency, but were kept on as sub-contractors.  He had dealt with the same people and endured the same level of stress and frustration the rest of us did.  But, he never felt compelled to complain to HR about anything – not even an ethical issue.  “HR is not our friend,” he told me, after one of those women who’d gone on sick leave had resigned.

Yes, I knew that; deep down inside, I’d always been aware of it.  But – in my past efforts to hope for the best – I guess I just didn’t want to admit it out loud.  In the cold, brutal world of 21st century business, though, things are much like medieval Europe.  We each have to figure out a way to survive.  We’re all left unto our own devices.  And, sometimes the best device is a resignation letter.

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