"When Bottom Lines Collide"
This weekend at the store, the "parents" stayed home and the kids ran the place. All Saturday, no one there to back us up with answered questions or morale-boosting assistance. And it has never been more apparent - without the hustle and bustle of the weekday and without the appearance of someone to support our heroic efforts - just how much weight we bear in this Sales and Customer Service circus.
Something in me broke. Maybe it was too many people yelling at me. Maybe it was too many people calling (1) while in their car, (2) with me on speaker, (3) while the wind whistled through their opened window, and (4) them getting exercised because I couldn't understand what they were saying.
Or maybe it was the end of the honeymoon? Or the realization of how thickly the corporate rules and regs are slathered on no matter where you go. It's what happens to the bottom employees in any misguidedly finance-instead-of-people-first-bottom-line-focused industry: first you follow the rules, hoping that you will do well enough to reap the rewards; next, you realize that the cost for following the rules is too high to endure for a long, long time because it's so emotionally- and energy-draining, and far, far less compensated for than it should be; and finally you look at the rigged game through your lens of exhaustion, outrage and surrender and you stop caring so much. Or you stop caring altogether.
This is the point at which the Corporation turns to you (or your manager) and says, "Her stats are falling! She has become a bad employee! Make her better or let her go!" This is the point at which people let themselves go, either caring less about the quality of the work, or simply leaving the company and taking all of their promise, all of their acquired knowledge away from the company. And the company, blind to the real bottom line, which is the people they have failed, simply lies and says, "We'll miss you." "Best of luck."
In my 20's I was living in Vermont and working as a waitress in a restaurant called The Skyline because it looked out over the famous New England trees which dotted a breath-taking vista spanning four different states.
I was a terrible, terrible waitress. Friendly, of course, and committed as hell, but I was so massively over-eager to please, I moved too quickly and nervously all of the time and I constantly spilled coffee on myself. My white apron was never white.
When I told my boss that I was quitting, he sat me down and asked me if I would stay for more money. How much? I asked him. And with a straight face he offered me a five cent raise.
I quit that day.
You know, I once had a long relationship with a man named Vince. He worked hard as hell until he got sick and died. His favorite thing to say when things that were unfair pissed him off was, "FUCK that shit!"
Well I have to agree. Fuck. That. Shit.
Which shit? The top-down, trickle-down, work-hard-and-you'll-make-it lie.
I love to work, and I love to work hard. Makes me happy! But working hard and finding that my excellence and commitment are not benefitting me (never have, actually), just makes me alternately hacked off and depressed.
And the bottom line that gives heads of Corporations massive hard-ons (no pun originally intended) is not the actual bottom line. So, even though the organizational rules are aaalll set up to feed "the bottom line" - M. O. N. E. Y. - they never really do feed the life blood of any business - P. E. O. P. L. E. Result? The people at the top never feel like they have enough. And the people at the bottom know they don't have enough. The people at the top bemoan their lot as people with fantastic management ideas that just don't seem to do as well as they thought they would ("What's wrong with those people???"). And the people at the bottom churn, leave, and more are hired who then churn and leave ("What I do is never enough!"). It's a very specialized sort of insanity. And it actually comes from something so freaking bizarre and interesting! So check this out...
Turns out, what started this type of Corporate management is something called - you're gonna love this - "Train Wreck Management". Isn't that perfect? How many times have you said, "Oh my god, this entire place is a train wreck!" ? It's what I said when I was working at RDI. A lot. I said it a lot.
So Train Wreck Management came into existence aaaaallllll the way back in 1841 after two passenger trains collided, killing and hurting a whole lotta people, pretty much marking the end of business owners feeling comfortable with just following the simple cottage industry mode of business. Something had gone wrong, and business was getting bigger and spreading out across the growing country. So it was decided that since a way was needed to prevent disasters like that one, business needed to choose between one of the two models in existence in order to have more controil: the church model or the military model.
Guess which one they chose? The military model.
It's the model we still unsuccessfully labor under. And when did that start, again? October 5, 1841! Think after roughly 180 years we might need a better model?
Here's the real core issue - this is mind-blowing: What it was based on was the need to have someone to blame, and discard. Isn't that remarkable? It was not based on finding a better way to "run an airline", so to speak, but simply and solely on identifying Who. Is. To. Blame. And. Punish.
Doesn't that just explain a whole lotta stuff??? The idea was that if we had some bonehead at the top, and a bunch of boneheads under him, the bonehead at the top could find the bonehead at the bottom to blame, pluck him out of the pack and throw him out and install another bonehead. There was no real respect built into this model; no collaboration, no individual betterment and no need for the bottom-level boneheads to be seen as of any benefit beyond being obedient and operational machines. Good little soldiers.
And so that model continues. And because the top level boneheads most often have not been the bottom level boneheads, the rewards offered are customarily infantile and absolutely pablum-like. They soothe, but do not address any of the systemic, core problems, and they certainly do not address the actual human and seriously complex needs of the people at the bottom who are not - what a shocker! - actually machines.
Maybe you're offered a birthday party. Or the opportunity to win a gift. Or maybe you're applauded and "recognized".
Fuck the applause. Show me the money, the support, the respect, a seat at the table, and advancement. Hold the damn applause.
Funny. I just realized that the billionaires who run our country and our corporations have a poverty mentality. If they didn't, they wouldn't need to fill the rooms in their homes with top-to-bottom $1,000 bills that they can roll around in naked, and continue to build still more rooms to stuff more $1,000 bills into.
And I know that we are all suffering from this infantile setup; even the top boneheads. You wouldn't think that a military-based setup would be considered infantile, but here's where the whole thing falls apart: Corporations are not actually the military. Oh my God, really??? Yes, really. This is Civilian Central right here, y'all, and the military model has to be translated into non-military life. How does that translation go? Like this: We have to earn our living, our advancement and our good from pleasing "Daddy" at the top of the god-forsaken business totem pole. Small wrinkle here: Daddy simply cannot be pleased because - oh my God what a surprise! - he ain't your daddy, and he is your controller.
The game is rigged. So, do you give up? Or do you speak up? Do you follow the rules? To what extent? Do you learn to work the rules to your advantage or do you leave the whole game behind?
I have a company called The Goodbye Good Girl Project and the whole idea is to help women in leadership break any rules of "good girldom" that keep them from speaking out, rising up, and changing the game so that it benefits them in benefitting everybody they affect, in whatever ways their work calls them to do.
The Corporations that are going to create true transformation on a human scale are those that put their real bottom line first. People are the real and only bottom line, because all of that money the 7 and 8 figure boneheads at the top are playing with come from us boneheads at the bottom.
I guess the choice you make as a leader (and as a follower of the lazy and far more comfortable ideology of "well, this is just the way it is, and what difference does it make what I do!"), as a complex human being with goals and dreams and abilities and emotions and life choices, falls into one of two general categories: To do your business in a way that feathers your own nest in grand fashion, and then throw a few crumbs below you to show your largesse; or to be of true service to your people, knowing that when you truly serve those under you, they will have a loyalty to you, and a dedication to the quality of the work that cannot be purchased even with countless rooms filled with $1,000 dollar bills. All of which nets you more of that money that you think you can't get enough of.
I am far from the only one breaking with "traditions" that are killing us. Fifteen-year-old Greta Thunberg of Sweden (posted her Ted Talk for you below) is trying to wake us up on the climate front - the most important front of all since oxygen and water are - shockingly - prerequisites for living. Surprise! You can't actually eat dollars. Greta understands that we can't play by those rules anymore. They're all built on old models that have either collapsed or are in the process of collapsing.
I'm not an anarchist. When rules are helpful in serving our high efforts, that's a beautiful thing. But when our high efforts are blunted in order to "fit in" with mechanized, militarized rules so that we don't "have to" think for ourselves (why is that considered such a burden? I could answer, but that would be a diferent blog post); when we abdicate our own individual creative thinking and just take the easy way of pretending that "things are okay" when they most certainly are not, then we're just sheep. And even though it makes my life a living hell at times, and pisses my friends off when they see me tilt at that windmill one more time, I am not a sheep, and I believe that that effort to put people and quality of life first does pay off. and that it is an effort eminently worth making.
Which is why I'm kind, with boundaries, even to those people on the phone who haven't got a lick of sense or courtesy. Standing up to them when I have to. Forcing my humanness down their throats until they suddenly realize they're being horrific, and their voice changes, and they become friendly. Life Lesson for the Day, Bitches!
I'm changing the game, and breaking the rules of wheel-cogdom one fucking call - and one hard day - at a time. And speaking up (apologies to my friends) in whatever ways I safely can.
Okay. Lori out (for now). Listen to Greta now (below). Is she really just 15?
(For more info about the Train Wreck Chart, click here.)
©2019 Lori Kirstein
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Working for a retail store should come with hazard pay. Especially when you're in a Call Center.