In sorting through my files recently, I came across a chart I created on one of my jobs. It was a rating system to help me evaluate my job each day and then decide after a trial period, say a few weeks, whether I should stay or go.
These were the games I played with myself while staring at grey cubicle or office walls, or at technical manuals that needed continual revising. Not that I hated the work. It could be satisfying, but frequently the corporate hierarchy found ways to quash and squash my enjoyment. And they didn’t hesitate to rate us. Just like we were first graders, they put us in boxes from one to five, never to climb out. (1 = incompetent and soon to be fired; 2 = lazy ass goof off; 3 = average; 4 = workaholic; 5 = unobtainable super star.)
So my way of making corporate life more interesting and to rebel a little was to rate them. Every day, on my chart, I would assign a value from one (the lowest) to ten (the highest) in several categories, including physical, emotional and intellectual. What was my comfort level in each of these areas? My ratings were:
1 = toxic waste dump
2 = graveyard
3 = dentist’s waiting room
4 = Dept. Motor Vehicles line
5 = walking down sidewalk
6 = sitting in restaurant alone
7 = dinner with friends
8 = reading a good book
9 = planning a trip to Hawaii
10 = beach on Maui
I don’t remember now the exact job where I started this or the outcome, but most likely it was not rated high up there with vacations. If there was any vacation, it was often a forced one.
Most of my jobs lasted less than a year and ended in layoffs or in quick leaps out the door if the situation was really unbearable. One exception was my technical writing position at Xerox, which lasted six years. However, they moved and reorganized us four times while I was there, so it really was like four different jobs.
Except that the rating system never changed. Our personnel files followed us wherever we landed within the company. I’d walk in to meet a new manager and there he or she would be holding my file. She might as well have said, “Hello Number Three.”
Since I didn’t want to work 60 to 80 hours a week, I gave up any aspirations to climb the ladder to Box Number Four and just did the best job I could every day. Some bosses only saw a Number Three, but one or two exceptions saw beyond the labels and expressed appreciation. One such boss loved to take us on team building outings (sailing, baseball games, picnics with Pictionary) that were genuinely fun. Those days came closer to “lying on a beach.” And the days following, back in the cubicle, were less dreary too. That is, until another boss arrived, the lunatic from the dark, dark toxic depths of the underworld.