I am sitting on the 10th floor of my company’s swank corporate headquarters. Amidst our cube farm I have one of the nicer locations, somewhat out of the way and with a decent window view. None of the noise around me is filtered at all: day in and day out I can listen in on coworkers ineffectively whispering hurried instructions to their children on cell phones, overhear poorly muffled gossip, or get a close up soundscape of the next cube over where someone is chewing gum astonishingly loudly. In the cube directly across from me sits a project manager. He’s a good guy, but he often either has stand-up meetings at his desk, 5 feet away, or is hosting conference calls with his overly loud PM voice. Mentioning this to any of these people only causes brief apologies and a short term 2 decibel drop in the noise, which generally abates inside of 24 hours. As a result, it’s intensely difficult to concentrate on a damn thing. It will become moreso if the company renovates our office to go full open-plan, as is often rumored.
My nice set of folding Sennheiser headphones are my most cherished possession, at least of those I bring to the office.
But I didn’t start bashing all of this out to complain about the same shit that every cube-worker suffers throughout the first world. These aggravations are so common as to be an expected part of the work life. I complain I can’t get any work done, but, ultimately, I couldn’t anyway.
You see, I don’t know what my job is.
I mean, sure, I have a title. I get tasks, sort of. And generally I know what projects I’m *supposed* to be working on, and in what capacity. But most of the tasks are irrelevant to that stated title, and those tasks tend to trump the importance of any of those projects. And I can half-ass the tasks, and half-ass the involvement in the projects (I say “half” but as much as my boss bounces me from effort to effort, I’m lucky to get a tenth of an ass on any given item), and this is apparently enough to keep them moving. And I am praised for my effectiveness, and spoken of in hushed tones as if I feature in some kind of corporate prophecy. I’ve gotten the same glowing review (and identical, irrelevant criticism) from my boss all three years I’ve worked for him, and glowing reviews (though actually differing now and then) from my other boss in another department before I switched.
Then I end up back at my desk, unable to focus on anything, unsure of what my job is, and ultimately, deeply loathing myself for not giving a shit. I show up, I do thing, I get paid and go home. And I’m grateful to have a job here, because at the macro level, it’s a pretty great company. At the micromanagement level, not so much.
And I drink, because that’s what people in IT do.
I’d *like* to be doing something more in line with my title. I speak with my boss about this often. He makes the right noises and agrees, and shortly thereafter he’s tasking me with different roles again. Yes, to be clear, he’s a large part of the problem. I maintain a wholly separate, unidentifiable blog to catalogue his shit specifically. Going over his head or trying to switch teams laterally hasn’t worked out yet.
But I’m also not missing out on anything. Our organization is so top-heavy with Boomers that refuse to retire that there’s no opportunity for advancement at all. And as a side effect of that, they don’t want to rock the boat and risk their cushy gigs, so they won’t be fostering positive change. I gave up a long time ago on offering ideas in that regard. There’s no shortage of suggestions, but willingness outside of myself to make change is in critically short supply. I spend time now and then wondering how we still function. But at any company over… oh, let’s say 500 people, that’s just how it works.
Day after day, this is my job. Not doing what I want to be doing, unable to find a suitable position in the city that IS doing what I’m doing, and just tackling whatever minor panic comes along.
I find myself unable to give a shit.