Friday, April 16, 2010

Don't Want In!

Eons, of time ago, I used to have a 'career' or to be precise, I worked for money. It was corporate life, a nine to five routine, doing a task that neither excited nor captivated me. I slogged, like a donkey, doing something I did not really care about. It was fun, for a bit because I was fresh out of college, doing office, was a new and thrilling experience, and definitely earning my own money had a great thrill attached to it. But I think a year down the line, the newness wore off and the drudgery and stress began to set in. Five hours of daily travel in public transport, which involved, supremely packed local trains at rush hour, doing something that did not make me happy, in an environment that pretty much numbed my mind, and senses, left me with little joy, besides my paycheck.

Its been a long time now, I quit when I still had something left within to survive, and that was followed by motherhood, and it has been a long vacation ever since. But for a while now, I have been itching to get back to a working life, doing something that would be fulfilling and satisfying, I am feeling the need to get out, and add some more to my days. And while these thoughts are rumbling in my mind, I read a post by LiveOnImpulse, and it brings back to me all my corporate nightmares, vividly. And suddenly, my resolve to not go back into the crazy corporate jungle is strengthened yet again. Just as I was ready to just get on the bandwagon yet again, I remembered, exactly why I had left, and why I never can go back again. I am not suitable to work in on office, that is just the way I am. I connect with people as people, and I cannot spend most of my waking hours with some, who I can neither like, nor trust. Its a dog eat dog world out there, and being quite incapable of clever manipulations, I end up being all bitter, angry and frustrated. I was at work for just over three years, in an IT firm, as a fresher, and even then I can say, I saw it all. Groupism, male bonding, excessive bitching, young girls pretending to flirt to get a senior's favour, men trying to score with their female colleagues one way or another, cheap, dirty politics, using the communal angle to gain the boss' favour, ganging up against people, pretending to work, and ofcourse blatantly flattering and sweet talking the boss, using connections to get an foreign onsite posting, even blackmailing for the same. A great example of flattering the boss, was when a rather senior member of our team, ordered a cake for our project manager, to commemorate the day they found her lost passport in UK. All I could think was...... WOW! I cannot do it, I just cannot. I will move mountains for you, if I really bond and connect, but otherwise, I just cannot pretend. I can maintain professional relationships with people, but it has to be a two way thing, and that is the only way it works for me.

Coming back, reading the post brought back to me, a particular thing we worked for in our project, which probably became the bane of my corporate existence. I worked on a project that managed a billing software for a telecom giant. Now the client being an old company had various discount schemes in place, and wanted to simplify the process, by forming one simple discount scheme, that would be applicable to all its customers. It was called UDS (Unified Discount Scheme) or VDS (Volume Discount Scheme). The concept was simple enough, the more you spend, or commit to spend, the greater is your discount. And that is all it was. There were slabs(quite like the income tax ones) and depending on which slab the customer belonged to, his discount was calculated. I hope I have not lost anyone here, but to make it clearer, each of the telecom customers, had to commit to a certain amount, say x, that they would spend. Now based on where x, fit into the discount table, his discount percentage would be fixed too. Suppose the table gives 5% to anyone who spends upto 30, 7.5% to anyone who spends between 31 and 60 and 10% to anyone who spends above 60, so if x is 43, the discount for the customer would be 7.5%. That is all this scheme was about. I read about it the first time, and thought this is so straight forward and simple, and left it that. That possibly was my biggest mistake.

There were conference room meetings to explain this to the team every couple of days. I used to sit through them silent, because I did not think it complicated at all. But then at one point I started wondering if I was over simplifying something, that was actually not quite that easy. I went through the documents again, and they just reinforced my understanding of the scheme. But the way the rest of my colleagues pretended to be solving a very complex problem, it just left me surprised. I say pretended, because if I can understand it, it should be nothing to someone, who has been working in that field for over 13 years right? But that did not seem to be the case. The girl who had joined with me, F, joined the bandwagon, pretended to be all indepth into it, something that did not have much depth if you ask me, she was shifted to a more 'important' subgroup, I guess because she was so enthusiastic and committed. Some of my senior colleagues, came and praised her abilities and understanding to me, and I still remained dumb, because the thing still looked so damn simple to me, that I did not understand what was so difficult to understand in it, by trained professionals, what was the damn fuss all about? And it was then that I realised, that working in an office, is not just about doing your job, doing it well or efficiently, but a hell lot about showing, possibly showing, more than actually doing the work. I could not deal with it, more because it hurt to see a project manager, who had spent years in her job, not being able to distinguish between true efficiency and pretense of dedication. When we had started on our project, F and I were given the same work, I would finish mine in half a day, and she would take 2 days to do the same. And trust me it was basic simple testing work, nothing that needed loads of time. But completing the job well in time, did not get labeled as efficiency, instead staying late on the day of the deadline, and doing it was termed as dedication. And that kind of pretense is just not my cup of tea.

I had two options, if I planned to continue to work there, either to give up, join them, and do what they all did, or accept my fate, and learn to live with bitterness and disgust. Since I could not deal with either, and I was fortunate enough to have the option of doing it, I quit. And believe me the first few months after I left, I could feel my irritation, anger and bitterness gradually dissolving, restoring me to my former self. And that is one of the reasons, I never ever want to go back to corporate life, where I need to fight and compete, and my efficiency alone,is not good enough for me to make my mark. Ofcourse, IT is not really my cup of tea either, and I don't want to fill my days doing that either. And when these memories come back to me, I feel happy and content being at home, not fulfilling my day maybe, but atleast away from negative influence.

[This is in no way to demean IT professionals, who work really hard and well, and more importantly enjoy their work. I have many a friend in the field, I should know! And maybe not every office or group is this way. And it is my personality because of which I cannot deal with the situation in an assertive way, and I really admire all the people, who manage their careers positively without getting overwhelmed.]

Addendum - Would really like to know if you get the UDS/VDS concept or does it really seem complicated to anyone???


Anonymous said...

They say : There is greater strength in letting go than holding on ;after reading your experience I can see that you displayed that courage to let go which most of us including me can not muster.Kudos to you GM !!
Pretending, sucking up to bosses..making cows eyes at seniors and working at odd hours to display 'dedication' I've seen it all as I come close to completing 3 years in this corporate jungle.. I know it isn't meant for me...The only reason I hold on is cause I don't want to be a quitter ,therefore I retain my sanity by blogging off and on...

The Soul of Alec Smart said...

Hey GM, you know what? You could surprise yourself this time around. If you go in with a list of unnegotiables and stick to it, you can have a good time, trust me! I'm being a bit of a hypocrite, because I have a bad 2 years behind me during which I couldn't really do this. Still, I can say that the second year has been better than the first. You always write about how much more assertive, wiser and confident you've become over the past few years - so you will be a different person at work this time too. Take what you like, leave what you don't. I also think that the fact that you're working outside India is going to be another positive point. Indian corporate culture is still very nascent, and concepts of personal life in work, professionally dealing with seniors and juniors etc. are yet to settle. I might be wrong, but whatever little I've interacted with colleagues/clients abroad has led me to believe this. Good luck!

Mama - Mia said...

oh well. i am at a point where i want to get out because i will never grow simply because i am not in the head office. i have had similar frustrations because the intangibles i bring to my job dont seem to matter. it IS a fairly dumb job, but still i do it efficiently and make sure it gets done.

but when there is no measurement of that, you really dont know how to prove a point.

at the time i cannot imagine myself being completely out of a working outside home life. right now i am trying to strike a balance! to find something i like and hope to do better while at it!



MRC said...


The more I read your autobiographical posts, the more I am convinced that we think alike. I too gave up after three years of being in a job I never wanted to be in the first place.The only reason I was there was because I had convinced myself that to quit would be worse.Thankfully as things turned out , it has been a better life. After quitting, I too have slowly felt myself shed the hard shell that I had acquired to survive in that world.

Passionate Goof said...

Liveonimpulse - Wow! You give me way too much credit, I think I turned my back and ran away. I had become someone I did not like, full of angst, bitchy and bitter. It started telling on my health too! You don't have to be a quitter, just need to be strong, and hold on to your values. I am a pushover, and so assertion is not one of my qualities.

Soul Of Alec Smart - Maybe I would, but i have seen, when I am in a negative environment, basically meaning, around people or places, that constantly induce negativity into me, I get sucked in. My simple solution is staying away! About it being different out of India, I have no experience, so can't really say. people here are definitely a lot more courteous, but does that mean they will not be political at the work place? I don't know!

Mama - Mia - All the best, I hope you get a better offer, or a change that is needed. And I completely understand your frustration!

MRC - You too? my my. I did not develop a shell as much as I became all bitter, and angry! But no doubt I am happy to be away!

Piper .. said...

:):) firstly, I completely understood the UDS/VDS concept and I`m not even "qualified" enough to understand :) It seems simple enough. You get a discount, depending on how much you`re willing to shell out. More discounts for those who spend more. That`s it, right? :):):):)
So it`s horrible that inefficiency and pigheadedness should be labeled as 'dedication'!
Secondly, your description of the corporate world scares me, Goof! :) Because I`m slowly making my way in there. I`ve never worked in the corporate world. But it isnt very different in the army either. The ones who suck up, get posted to good places or good annual reports or foreign postings. I remember one girl always sucking up to my commanding officer and in the bargain, she never got sent to the far flung posts, where life was primitive! So I guess, it`s almost the same everywhere.
That said, I`m also hoping(fervently) that things aren't that bad here in healthcare. It is very competitive, I know. A dog eat dog world, like you say. But I`m hoping(from what I hear from friends) that hard work gets rewarded and sycophancy not entertained. Is it too much to ask for, really??

Btw, I`m back. Hoping to catch up with you online in the evening(which should be your morning). How have you been? I hope you`re feeling much better than before.