I am a dropout… a corporate dropout that is. I dropped out of the corporate rat race to take the road less traveled. I left a great job, a promising career and a cushy life to fulfill a promise I had made to myself, years prior. A promise to be there for someone who had stood by me, helped me, guided me and comforted me in the past when I need it the most. And now this person needed me. So I chose to become a corporate dropout.
The early years
I have always been a simple human being, with simple wants and needs. However, I always had a big dream—to see the world! Hence, I flew the coop at the first opportunity available. By dint of hard work, perseverance, dour determination, support from friends and families, and a lot of luck, I was able to overcome hurdles on the way up the corporate ladder and become very successful in my professional endeavors.
Along the way, just like any other human being, I made mistakes, erred, failed, fell, got bruised and battered, but I always picked myself up, dusted myself off and trudged forward. Most importantly, I always extracted some learning from those events to better myself. My personal encounters, struggles, mistakes, shortcomings, failures, successes, depressions and euphorias have made me a better person. I observe and learn… constantly. I review the past to plan for the future. I am forever curious.
During my days in the corporate world, I was recognized as a talented employee, a great manager and a wonderful leader by my peers, subordinates and my superiors alike. My management style elicited a blog post, and my team members thanked me for changing their lives. After my resignation, employees left the team and even the company because they were unwilling to work in the same team/company without me being their leader. My replacement acknowledged to me in person that he would be unable to fill my shoes, as I had set too high a bar for him to meet. While working as a contractor for a Fortune 100 company, my manager transferred FTEs to accommodate me in projects. And the highlight of all, the lady from a third-party firm who conducted my exit interview—whom I had never met before, never talked to before, never interacted with before—said before hanging up the phone that this is the first time she had spoken to anyone who had impressed her so much with the answers to the exit interview questions. The fact that I was quite successful in a cut-throat corporate world is a pretty fitting testament to my people management and technical skills, wouldn’t you say?
I have worked for multinational corporations and have had an inside look at the entrails of the corporate world. I was an insider, and often struggled to fit into the mold because empathy and conscience guided my actions, not the desire to climb the corporate ladder at any cost.
The inner voice
I was always guided by the belief, do what your heart tells you and your mind justifies—the tagline of this site—something that has stood me in good stead, all these years. I was successful at my job by following one simple rule—don’t repeat the behaviors of the bad managers/colleagues you had worked with, and you will be successful in your stint. I hope many of you are not surprised to know that the image projected by many companies to the outside world is incongruent with how it operates on the inside. The façade is magnificent; however, the bowels stink to high heavens.
Most of us are very ambitious and aspire to be extremely successful in the corporate world, and I would have to say that there is nothing wrong with that. We spend years in schools, colleges and universities to prepare ourselves for the moment in the spotlight.
Although our education, innumerable trainings and professional certifications imbue us with skills and technical knowledge to get the job done, nothing prepares us for the innumerable personal challenges we will invariably encounter at the workplace, such as:
- how to deal with abusive and condescending bosses;
- how to deal with know-it-all colleagues and managers who will second-guess you all the time;
- how to handle conniving coworkers;
- how to work with the lazy Joes;
- how to navigate the web of lies weaved by a colleague;
- how to manage competing assignments and conflicting schedules;
- how to satisfy client requests with insane deadlines, and the list goes on!
Last (wo)man standing
In many corporations, it is a dog-eat-dog world and, during my tenure, I observed that, many, if not most, of the new hires were ill-prepared to handle the demanding realities of the workplace. In my experience, quite a few new hires were overwhelmed by the demands of the role and were unprepared for the associated psychological cost it entailed; some started questioning their capabilities and became disillusioned, and a few even experienced emotional breakdown at work. Heck, seasoned executives were destroyed by the grinding wheel that is the corporate world.
The reality of the corporate world today is that some folks are burning out; the grueling hours destroy their health, and the long hours at work plus, in many cases, the long commute, affect their personal life as well. Some get to spend time with their kids only during the weekends, have no life outside of work, and a few get divorced. After dedicating so much of their life’s energy to work, they may one day find themselves being laid off and without a job at the most inopportune moment. Nothing crushes a human soul more than the sad realization that he/she is just an entry in the payroll system that can be deleted because some numbers have to be met. If there is one truism every single employee should remember, then, it is this—It does not matter how good or how talented you are, in the corporate world, you are always expendable. The “new-hire-moon” experience lasts only a few days or a week at the most. After that, you either crank up your running speed on that hamster wheel or the wheel runs you over.
As an employee of an organization, depending on the workload and the demands of the projects, you may spend anywhere between 8 to 12 hours of your day, sometimes including weekends, at work. Assuming you are lucky enough to enjoy 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, then, you will spend anywhere between 50% to 75% of your waking hour at work. And that excludes the commute, by the way. Professionals in India, working in cities such as Bangalore or Hyderabad, experience the worst commute. For e.g., in Bangalore, India’s Silicon Valley, they spend at least 2 hours/day, on an average, commuting to work and back. It would be the same in Hyderabad, too. Now, add some rain and bad weather during the monsoons, and your commute time goes up exponentially. Anecdotally speaking, my team members used to leave their residence at 9 AM to be at work by 11 AM and leave work at 8 PM and reach home by 11 PM, a total of 14 hours away from home and family. Now, you do the math and figure out how chained most professionals are to their jobs.
Pause for a moment to ponder over those facts. Consequently, unless you marry up, win a lottery, get adopted by a billionaire, or inherit a fortune, you are likely to spend a large portion of your adult life at work!
By the way, the 40 hour work week (45 hour work week in India) is a myth. Although your employment contract will state a 40/45 hour work week, your bosses may gently remind you, over a call or during a face-to-face meeting, that unless you put in 50/55 hours per week, it will be construed as a sign of being inadequately challenged by the asks of your role. It is a euphemism for “I own you as long as you are working for me, give me ten extra hours for free or else…”. Moreover, peer pressure will force you to put in much more than that. So, you will have that going for yourself, which is good!
The labyrinthine corridors
To be successful in the corporate world, you will not only have to be the best at what you do, but you will also need to have an ace up your sleeve, too. You will have to be “cubicle smart”. You can best the system and its inherent idiosyncrasies by learning how to navigate the minefield. You will need to know how to work the system to your advantage, which means you need to have excellent people skills and organizational know-how.
During my career, I have worked with all sorts of people—brilliant, smart, intelligent, hardworking, lazy, dumb, sycophants, crazy, lackeys, sociopaths, etc.—hence, I am cognizant of the system and its participants, inside and out. That will be my blog’s usefulness to you; I will share the secrets with you, explain the behaviors you need to be aware of, specify the pitfalls to avoid, evasive maneuvers to execute to not catch any flak, risks to mitigate, avoid or transfer. Like a virtual mentor, I will share my work experiences with you. It is up to you to use this information in a way you deem fit. I hope that you find my missives useful.
In this blog, I’ll share my experiences dealing with:
- autocratic bosses
- destructive politics in the workplace
- married bosses who stalk their employees
- backstabbing peers
- obnoxious loudmouths
- lousy ass kissers
- “prima donna” Prakash
- “dilettante” Deborah
- “tardy” Tom
- “consistently missing project deadlines” Chaitali
- rigged question and answer sessions with leadership
- sweatshop owners, also known as authorized vendors, who supply temp workers and contractors.
…and much more… Please read and interact with me on this blog.
In addition to the topics above, I will write on various other subjects matters that are of interest to me. I will make fun of politicians, political pundits, experts, racists, xenophobes, empty suits, Manchurian candidates, government workers, celebrities, wannabe celebs and wannabe wannabes. I will talk about the lack of truth in advertising—fairness cream anyone; bloviating bubbleheads on TV—also known as journalists/reporters/media personalities; false prophets, faux leaders and the exploited plebes. Be forewarned! I will speak and write about the uncomfortable truths that many people are scared of speaking in public, but acknowledge in private. I will be politically incorrect.
I can promise you one thing; my humor may not make you laugh out loud, but it will, at least, make you chuckle. And sometimes, a chuckle is all it takes to make someone’s day. 🙂
See y’all around!