Then I quit my job in corporate world!

  • Post category:Office Office / Travel
  • Reading time:13 min(s) read
“Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye.” ~H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Today, it is common to see someone leaving the job. The world connected with internet has made it easy to spread inspiring stories. Be it Apple, Facebook etc from corporate world, kickstarters funding new ideas or saving the earth, people, society side of the anti-corporate initiatives. World of 7+ billion is giving plenty of choices and consumers to every type of new ideas. One side is bringing more and more pervasive computing into everyday life and others trying to leave this technology and live in nature. If one reads headlines today, seems like everyone is driven by some passion to improve or change the world. In last few years, I came across many stories about people who left their high paying jobs, corporate world to connect with their “passion”. A lot of books on leaders and entrepreneurs. Everyone is motivating the rest of the world to bring the best in them. However, I was still lost in all of this. I was questioning if everybody really know their passion. Seemed like I was the only one who did not know his “passion”.

I do not have very good long term memory. But, as far I remember, I hardly ever knew what I wanted to do. On the contrary, I almost always knew what I did not want to do. I knew I did not want to study biology in school, chemistry in high school and some economical or management courses in engineering. I knew I did not want to go to a certain college. I did not want to do management studies and become an MBA. I did not want to get into government job. Using concept of “selection by elimination” it looks fine. But the problem is there are millions of other options left to select as a “passion”. I also do not know, if one selects the passion by elimination. Unfortunately, I never woke up in my sleep or had some day dream or sudden break through about my passion also. This left with just flowing with the river, but still with a brain-bug searching for that “passion”.

As the river flowed, I found myself in corporate world. It was 11 years ago; It seems hard to believe so many years have passed. My 1st lesson was that what you would end up doing, is irrespective of what you have learned or what you wanted to do. Thanks to my lack of sense towards passion, it was easy to accept and I started working on things that came my way.

Then came 2nd lesson. I had a notion that private industry unlike government is work/deliverable/performance oriented and people are open to talk to each other. I learned soon that it is not the case. Hierarchy is not just in the government world due to their environment. It is everywhere as it has become part of our very blood and DNA. I am sure one of the threads in that spiral structure of genes and DNAs is about Hierarchy.  I do not know, if it was there in the beginning. But surely, with time and evolution it must have developed. Every person who happened to be born little earlier or join the system little earlier than you or happened in “senior” role demands a respect. Superiority (in
whichever form) is considered basic right to control or own people below in the system. Unfortunately, this was the subject also in my “elimination list” and I never studied. This started long list of arguments and debates between me and others; almost always it was with some “senior”. Problem is that if you start the argument at one layer, you need to fight that argument to all the above layers, till it is crushed or just ignored or dies it natural death. It is hard to find anyone in this layered structure who joins and support the idea of “wearing the red shirt”. If it supported then there is be some benefit for the senior first. It was not just in the first company I worked for. I changed companies, but Hierarchy was almost omnipresent. I was challenged, moved from teams or asked to be patient. As, I was a bad student always, I never able to learn this subject.

I also learned about Racism in special way. For sure, it is related to power structure and intra-company competitive business also. It is based on language you speak, region you come from, location you will work. You could be asked to move to different location or not allocated to projects or project itself will not trigger from different location. In outsourcing world a special form of racism exists. It is about onsite vs offshore consultant. It has difference faces and used in different ways.

  • Onsite guy is better than offshore guy. Only the better ones are sent onsite. Only losers live offshore.
  • You are sent onsite. It is special gift or even an honor to you. So you do as I say so.
  • You are onsite, you are expected to work long hours (despite labor laws of the country). If not then you will be sent back.
  • You are onsite, getting foreign currency, what else you need. So, leave promotions for offshore people.

Like any other racism, it has its own twists and turns. Once I came to onsite and I had to book tickets for my wife. I was told that my contract is not done properly and it needs to be re-done. I moved like a football from person to person to get an answer about contract document. It went on for more than a month. As the visa expiry date approached I pressed for update. I was told then that I am actually in some way illegally onsite due to wrong paper work and in fact I can be sent back. It sounded like a threat and a subtle message that keep your voice and noise low otherwise your “wings” will be cut-off.  When I asked to provide me the notice to go back or pay the lease breakage as needed , manager was surprised. I learned later that people are not used to such responses and normally others just wait. Anyways this was just one example. I also found the normal color based racism or west vs east based racism prevalent. This is clear in itself and does not need any special notes. Nevertheless it was interesting to experience this first hand.

Apart from all that usual things, few other things that kept on bothering me.

Performance cycles 

A major game triggered by HR and played between managers with lower levels employees being the toys. One can see all the politics, tug-of-war, mud-fights, power game, show-off happening all at the same time. Time of the work-life when suddenly employee thinks he is the best employee and manager otherwise. However manager tries to show that his reportees are the best. This gets complicated, when the person who talk to you for evaluation and the person who represents you in discussion have never even been involved in your work. But by same magic you are performance rated. At the same time people who knows the game, plays by rules and tricks also get “performance rated”.

Employee Or Resource

When I learned about HR my idea was that “resources” is just a word used. With time I realized that people are really treated just as “resources”. You can treat a person the same way as any “resource”. You move them, shout at them, misbehave, manipulate, strangle them or anything that you like do without giving any thought that there is a human behind. I have been involved in discussions, not just political but purely simple ones where one guy can start shouting at anybody at his will. Unfortunately, no body in the hierarchical line shouts back or atleast respond. It made some people do not like me in the process of rebellion, but I feel better without them in my life. After all there are other 7 billion people to be find new friends.

Sales

This is also one thing that was in my “exclusion list”. There was no way I could sell anything as most of the time it is about lying and licking. I could not do both. It was mentally impossible to convince myself to go to a customer with a proposal with knowledge that I/company do not have people/skills to do it, not to mention the quoted price. I could not let it be the problem of delivery person, who will then end up managing escalations, treating people badly, making them overtime, over-exhausted employees.

Employees/People expectations

This is a special one. Most of the time when articles are written they are about wrong managers, wrong leaders etc. Somehow it seems like all the juniors are the right ones. Efficient, effective, ethical, moral people who are only there to work at their best. Problem is everyone feels that he should be the best employee when he keeps on hating the performance cycles. everyone wants a promotion when they also know that is is going only by the bell curve distribution (even if all other parts fair and transparent). I talked to many of such people and found they genuinely believe they are better than they actually are. I am not an expert myself, but I can do a little bit of assessment. most of them do not stand for themselves or keep on accommodating the demands or wishlists. When it hits back they complain. Some find other tricky ways to fake around. Once a video came about being the only “expert” being in the room full of managers. I talked openly about that with many of colleagues. I was not surprised when everybody felt that they were like that “expert” tortured by not-so-intelligent managers. However, when I saw that video, I found myself asking do I behave like those managers when I go to any meeting; may be something wrong with me.

Apart from the last one amazingly, everyone is aware of the other things. Most would like to complain about the manager, company and threat to leave. However, most of them still stay at the same place. Some do it for comfort, some because of some constraints e.g. family, location, money, debts, kids education etc. Some leave the company to gain some temporary benefit and repeat the same at next “stop”.

I had many discussions with various people. It has gone so bad at some places that people are afraid of talking to their seniors/bosses. It has almost become like situation of those trained animals, who were beaten till they start to dance or perform on music. This is repeated till the time animal start to dance just on the sound of music and does not need beating anymore. In corporate world situation has become almost like that. Major difference is that in human circus of corporate world a lot of them has option to stand against it. But it seems like knowingly they have chosen to dance. When the boss comes his shouts and complains are listened to as music. You cannot reply to music, right? They may not like it, but they do not have this switch-off button. But, there is an option to lower the volume or leave the room. But for some reason they either ignore to take those options or even worse they learn this game, go out to the next room and repeat the same session to their juniors and so on.

I struggled with these points for many years. Not knowing what else can I do if I leave was another road block. Sure, the standard anxiety and fear of unknown world, no income situation was present too. However, one beautiful, sunny morning on a winter day of December 2014, when I was slowly walking to my office, it just happened to me. Within a flash it was clear that I am going to quit my job. Yes, I am afraid of the unknown, I am not sure what to do without any income, I do not know how to spend my days, I do not know what domain can I work again, I do not know who will give me some work when I leave, I do not know how my family, friends and people will react, I do not know how long can I survive like that, I do not know if I will be able to manage and cope with it, I do not know what will happen when my savings will run-off. There is a lot of unknown. Thanks to those beautiful sun rays that gave me that shine, that I need to get out of this uncomfortable situation. The situation that in some ways feel like a comfort zone. I need to break that and go into the wild. I may find some path for me or may not find it. But one thing will definitely happen that I will not regret on my last day that I did not try to find my path.

That flash of light brought a smile to my face that lasted almost full day. It was one of the most powerful and energetic feelings I had. 6 months later after some random decisions, giving notice, handing over my responsibilities and saying good bye to the old world, now I am trying to re-shape myself. I do not know what that shape will look like and it does not really matter (atleast for now). I have managed to break lose from the shore and jump into the river. Now, I need to trust the river to take me to different places, show me different worlds, different cultures. It might lead me finally to the ocean or find a beautiful sediment for me. I think both ways, I will be able to share smiles with people. Looking forward to take a walk in the unknown.

Love
Arundeep

Attention: Human Resources

Joe Smith, my assistant programmer, can always be found

hard at work in his cubicle. Joe works independently, without

wasting company time talking to colleagues. Joe never

thinks twice about assisting fellow employees, and he always

finishes given assignments on time. Often Joe takes extended

measures to complete his work, sometimes skipping

coffee breaks. Joe is an individual who has absolutely no

vanity in spite of his high accomplishments and profound

knowledge in his field. I firmly believe that Joe can be

classed as a high-calibre employee, the type which cannot be

dispensed with. Consequently, I duly recommend that Joe be

promoted to executive management, and a proposal will be

executed as soon as possible.

Regards,
Project Leader

e-mail two Attention: Human Resources

Joe Smith was reading over my shoulder while I wrote the report sent to you earlier today. Kindly read only the odd numbered lines [1, 3, 5, etc.] for my true assessment of his ability.
Regards,
Project Leader


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