14 The Unbearable Pleasure of the Crappy Company

This is a paean to the shitty enterprise. You know the sort. The ones with 3.1 stars on Glassdoor. The reviews that sniffle how “you learn a lot.” The owners whose visions never translate into strategy, which never gels with execution, that never fails too miserably to kill the damned thing off.

They come in all shapes and sizes, from the glorious megacorporations with seven-point-three layers of management and the four-month decision dendrogram for new junior hires, to the scrappy startup simpering about disruption while whipping developers to hack faster, move fast, but don’t break our codebase too much, thanks, so we can keep selling it to clients.

And, you know what, we’re too harsh on them. Seriously. These horribly inefficient organizations teetering on the edge of utter dysfunction are, in fact, a source of joy.

Ho! I see the look in your eye. “Sarcasm!” you think, “Luka stoops to low sarcasm and a sardonic laugh.”

I shall disabuse you of this misapprehension.

Imaginationing hat.

It’s five pm, end of the day. You’re about to close your laptop. The boss dumps a pile of promotional emails on you to write, then goes off to have a loud conversation with his Dr. med. wife about the right color for the company website.

Seven pm, you wrap up and you feel like shit. Your eyes are dry. Your back hurts. That feels like carpal tunnel syndrome in your left thumb. You missed the post office, so that’s another thing for tomorrow.

You stop by your favorite bar. You’ve missed happy hour. Damn. Still, one cold beer never hurt anybody. Whatsisname. Bob? Rob? The new guy’s there. He looks like the three glasses in front of him. Empty. Oh, yeah. Jason. Grab him a pint, too.

Jason nods, smiles, “Thanks, mate! You’re the best.”

You feel better.

Jason asks how you were. You’re honest: not so good. The boss is a basterd, the work is a waste. Jason agrees. He’s not so good either. You commiserate. You have another round. You both feel better.

Head to work with a hangover next day. Slight. Manageable. HR’s brought over a consultant with an 11pt Times New Roman wall-of-text powerpoint about employee engagement to talk about the importance of “leaning in” and “identifying with the company.”

Hat off.

I still see the skepticism in your glance. There’s no joy.

With respect, efendi, you are wrong. I’ll hazard to say that most of us have our good days and our bad. Sometimes I feel great, sometimes my back hurts something awful, sometimes I sing along to the Yellow Submarine, other times I’m more of a Moody Blues sort of guy. Ok, that’s a lie, it’ll probably be Electric Wizard, but that’s not a band I bring up in polite company, just between you and me.

You nod. You have also experienced the sinusoid of life.

And that is where the joy of the copro-corporation comes in. Feeling down? Hey, it must be because of the boss. Back hurts? Yeah, those chairs at the office are the pits. Want to go on a trip around the world, but are also kind of scared of what that would entail and worried about the food and I heard something about fish that swim up the … you know … and, hey, but I can’t do it anyway, not enough vacation days, y’know. That’s the only thing stopping me, totally.

And then Jason and whatsername and I go to the pub together and realize that the cause of all our woes is the same! It’s that office with the peeling orange carpets and the manager who thinks he looks thinner if he wears his belt really tight!

And the next day you really don’t want to repeat the same old crap, but hey, we are all in this together, right? Bonding through adversity! With bosses like this, who needs teambuilding activities, amirite? And the others are counting on me to keep from going mad. I matter. Totally.

See, there is joy. It’s the joy of a comforting excuse. It’s the joy of hating together. It’s the joy of being needed by a heartless narcissistic corporation.

Whitesnake asked, “is this love I’m feeling?” Nope. Wasted days and sleepless nights, though, I could explain those just fine with a shitty company.

Oh, you still pish-posh my paean? You say, “that is still sarcasm?”

Guilty. This post was sarcastic. But the kernel is there. After all, without a shitty company or a shitty relationship or a shitty school or a shitty church or a shitty family or a shitty marathon … what’s left?

Who could I blame when I felt blue or when my knees hurt or when nothing went right and I threw eight hours of work in the bin?

Who’d be crappy then?

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