We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Thursday, August 18. 2016
For me, the corporate world has become a bizarre scenario. Recent management changes in my office have led to responsibility shifts, and being a white male over 50, I'm in an unusual position. I have to continually prove my relevance. That shouldn't be unusual, it's the kind of relevance I have to prove which is unusual. We should all have to prove ourselves capable and competent in our jobs, regardless of age. This seems to be less important today. What I have to consistently prove is how well I 'fit' in the organization. In other words, it's now what you do or say, but how you do or say it. Results aren't gauged by how quickly or efficiently they are accomplished, but by how well they are 'socialized'. To a large degree, it has required a considerable bit of effort to run in place. I've found that my days are spent as much determining strategies to move forward as they are spent trying to get the job done.
It doesn't help that I'm not 'diverse', as I pointed out 3 years ago. It seems my lack of 'diversity' makes me less 'useful'. What is particularly odd about this is that I'm over 50, and I'm the only one in the department over 50. Whereas 5 years ago I was fighting whippersnappers who were consolidating their power, rather than taking business risks which could have provided revenue, now I'm fighting whippersnappers who are instituting processes to make sure any business risks we take are not 'risky'. Those processes are couched in a design that purports to achieve full disclosure so any 'risk' is mitigated. In reality, it's a veiled form of Cover Your Ass. Few conversations take place on the phone, everything is done through email to make sure all communications are tracked. If you do hop on the phone (really the only way to get things done), make sure you send out an email to everyone immediately detailing what the call entailed.
As I so often do, I went for a walk in Central Park to clear my head today. I watched parents walking with their kids, pushing strollers and eating ice cream. I saw lovers on blankets at Sheep Meadow, young groups of kids walking around playing Pokemon Go (at least they are outside and getting exercise), buskers, bums and lots of boaters on the pond. Walks like this take my mind off the nonsense I have to deal with at the office. I begin to realize the world isn't as crazy as a hyper-politicized business environment.
It's easy to go crazy when you take your job as seriously as I do and get upset when people get in the way of producing results by pushing 'process'. It's not as easy to take a walk and realize life isn't as serious as you think it is when you're sitting at your desk dealing with young people who have all the answers and no respect for experience. Not all these kids are so bad, it's the few that are - the hypersensitive and ubermotivated - who give the whole group a bad name. Outsized expectations coupled with outsized egos and thin skins.
But Central Park is relaxing. I used to think Central Park was a benefit that came with where I worked. Lately I've come to believe the job is the price I pay to be near Central Park. It's not a terrible trade-off. It would probably be nicer if I loved my job the way I used to, but it's going to take some big changes to alter than arrangement. My industry (and perhaps many others) has become highly unpredictable. It's good to get out and look at trees and clouds for an hour or more.
Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
I am SO glad I've spent my life in small business. There's been no office politics, or if there was, I didn't recognize it. In my present job (estimator at a small concrete contractor), which I like a lot, no one cares what I think, or do, or say, as long as I get my work done.
I think you are touching on something that is prevalent everywhere, in a form of what we are currently calling political correctness. The ruling themes blowing through the national economy are mindless, ever-so-sensitive, desperately seeking approval, and extraordinarily fearful of giving offense. Nobody quite knows just what will garner approval, which is partly what makes them all so nervous. It's not enough to be in style, or correctly educated, or just 'with it' --- all are on the verge of being called down to Human Resources and assigned to sensitivity classes.
Part of it is the politics. Nobody understands how we really got here, nor how to avoid saying something that will be described by others as beyond the pale. But we got here because Republicans had too many candidates, mostly all excellent. The hard Left media essentially ignored them all focusing entirely on Donald Trump because he was new and unexpected and no one ever knew what he would say next.
Voters, desperate for someone to rescue them from the current administration took bluster for courage. And the inability to get any attention doomed the rest. I'm retired, and merely an observer, but that's my take if there is any comfort in it, which is unlikely.
Feel your pain. Similarly situated as to constant HR inspired mandate to prove my proper bona-fides. None question my competence, I get dinged for failure to 'update goals' and 'promote team spirit'. At my stage of life I will rise no further but must constantly prove myself worthy of being retained for the benefit of mgrs who have no temperament to manage, and superiors who have proven (to me) their Peter Principle creds.
Excellent post Bulldog. Many of us post-50 (and post-60) faced the same challenges. Not a random event that in the last full time job I had the 20% cut in our department were all 50+ year old white males. Most of the managers above us not only focused on using emails, they also kept an amazingly detailed contemporaneous diary on their computers -I don't know where the heck they found the time. I do take solace in that all those that worked for me still tell me how much I helped them become better at their job and ensured that they knew how much their efforts to the companies success were appreciated. So go the Golden Years.
We were surprised to see my spouse made it to retirement age (can't remember the number of "bullets" were dodged but make it seven to eight), but we did it!! Bulldog, good luck to you, and one bit of advice: make certain you have a copy of all these emails safely secured elsewhere. If all else fails, print them and remove them daily to a secure location. You may need them in defense, if only to secure a decent severance package.
Good advice. When they plan on downsizing you for your age and race they will begin by giving you poor reviews even if they find nothing wrong during the year. Age discrimination is supposed to be against the law but when the management plans ahead it is difficult to prove. Keep copies of emails, letters and notes of most questionable events. Somehow it will be the older white male that is always to blame. Our family knows how they play the game.
I have always opposed laws which use age/gender/race as weapons for hiring and firing offenses. I don't believe they do what they claim to do, and I have first hand experience with two events in which these laws were abused and misused (in one event by someone against me, in another by a company against an employee where I testified for the employee).
These laws are horrible and misleading, rarely doing what they are supposed to do - but opening the door for frivolous lawsuits.
However, since they are on the books, I am definitely taking advantage of them. There is no question, in my case, there are certain 'ageist' behaviors taking place. I have already been saving every email I send, and forwarding them to my personal email, as well - with additional commentary and context.
It's a sad state of affairs when doing your job just isn't enough.
Time to find a new job while you still have this one. Much easier to get a new one when you've already got one. Don't stay where you are, it would be a big mistake.
You will probably need this>
I sincerely hope that you won't need this:
What frightens me about this is that operating in a fear based environment is becoming the new norm. The problem is that in an uncertain environment like now risk taking is absolutely necessary. When all path look unsafe, what choice do you have?
Well, there's only one thing for it, Bulldog. Pluck your eyebrows, shave your legs and start wearing a dress. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Become an LGBT. That ought to have them eating out of your hand.
Seriously, one wonders how this thinking affects the profitability of corporations today? It astounds me. How can they be so profitable that they can embrace this nonsense, replace the competent with the incompetent, and not have it reflect on the bottom line?
I wish you well. Sounds to me like you work in Alice's wonderland. Or perhaps Dilbert's. Wouldn't that be fun to look forward to every morning on the way to work? NOT!
FM - you have no idea how close you are to the mark.
I'm a 61 year old white guy - the oldest in my department. Where all my contemporaries in IT have gone I can only guess but that's a topic for another day. I routinely (twice a year) got hauled down to HR as not a 'team player' as I would not give my staff time off to 'volunteer' at our yearly corporate sponsored Gay Pride parade among other 'infractions'.
A year or two ago I informed the HR inquisitor that I was being singled out as I was gay. She replied that my status was impossible as I was married and had six children. Boom! I own you sister. I reported her to the SVP and demanded an apology. I got it and my case was dismissed.
She is no longer with the firm and I have somehow become fireproof.
Punch back twice as hard and all that.
Wow! My hat is off to you Tonypete for your ability to improvise, adapt, and overcome.
Bulldog: It doesn't help that I'm not 'diverse', as I pointed out 3 years ago.
Non-Hispanic whites constitute about 62% of the U.S. population. This proportion is larger the higher ones goes in the corporate world.
Interesting that you would so keenly feel the stresses of being a minority. Imagine what it must be like for someone who is actually a racial or ethnic minority, who has personally experienced racism, who lives in a country with a long history of racism, and who works in a corporate structure that still exhibits the vestiges of racism.
I fail to see what you're saying. I didn't say I'm a minority. In fact, I don't feel the stress of being a minority at all. It's hilarious that's what you took from that comment.
I am a victim of law, not a minority. Victims of the law are a majority in our society. Laws and behaviors which have no place in civil society.
Yet, in the same sense, I am sort've a minority. After all, those over 50 are 32% of the population. Being a WHITE MALE over 50...well, you get the picture.
Point is - I'm not feeling the stress of being a minority. That's how you're idiocy describes this. The way I see it, the law has singled out white males for attack, and society in general has deemed those over 50 (who haven't attained a relative management status) unable to be innovative and aggressive, therefore expendable.
Yet I'm more innovative, more aggressive, and more experienced than my younger colleagues. I just don't have the 'right' outlook.
HR will tell you "be respectful of other points of view" in their briefings. Then, when your POV is not in line, they will go to great lengths to either force you to change, or use it against you. The idea of respect is secondary. What they really want is conformity and stepping in line.
That is the whole problem with these laws. They don't promote respect or civility. They promote alienation and distance.
So I suggest you take a look at what you've suggested and rethink your position. Minority stress? Not even close. I'm feeling the imposition of law and culture that has no respect for differences of opinion and experience.
I'm not anti-diversity. I never said minorities haven't suffered from intolerance.
On the other hand, it's an issue of degrees. The intolerance I see today is intolerance of intolerance. Sadly - that's not tolerance. It's just more of the same.
As for minorities, their lot has improved dramatically over the course of my life. I'm not going to say "YAY, we've solved these issues" - but I am going to say "Grow up. It's time to stop complaining and asking for special treatment."
My first job had two minorities in the office. I didn't think that was odd - I didn't grow up with any at all. College was my first experience dealing with them, and it was all pleasant.
Today, minorities and women fill more jobs, even in management, than they ever have. While white males are still dominant, it's a lie to say this is a "problem" because things are changing dramatically and quickly. After all, Tim Cook may be a white male, but he's gay. And I used to work for two different companies which had black CEOs.
So I'm not buying into your nonsense on "think of how it must feel to be..." First off, I don't feel that way. Second, I'm not going to waste my time feeling that way for someone. If you want to engage your bullshit emotional IQ crap - go for it.
I'm about results and hiring good people, regardless of age, gender, or race. I merely mentioned that I'm a white male over 50 because, like it or not, society has decided the best way to make things MORE FAIR is to make things more difficult for the groups they view as having had an advantage in the past. That's just another lie, though. My skin color never helped me in any of my periods of unemployment.
Bulldog: n. Being a WHITE MALE over 50 ... I'm about results and hiring good people, regardless of age, gender, or race.
It just so happens that the higher up you go in most organizations the greater the proportion of white males over 50. It's tough out there, but clearly tougher for non-whites and women.
Of the U.S. Senate’s 100 members, 93 are white, 80 are male and 55 are Protestant. The average age is 61.
Bulldog: It's not as easy to take a walk and realize life isn't as serious as you think it is when you're sitting at your desk dealing with young people who have all the answers and no respect for experience.
Don't be surprised if many look to you for leadership, even those with "with outsized egos and thin skins".
Actually, that's the smartest thing you've ever said.
There are some in the office who stop by and look to me for advice and guidance. I never said Millenials were all bad. Funny thing? The ones who stop by are of 2 stripes:
1. Immigrants, or children of immigrants
2. Extremely well-educated (not just a degree, but an education)
A third type stops by, but they are transparent. I call them Komarovskys after Rod Steiger's character in Dr. Zhivago. They are just looking for alignments and don't want to risk alienating anyone.
Even those who try to out-compete you are using you as a standard of achievement. Of course, that could mean that one day they do out-compete you.
I'm white and just turned 50. Where I work (not NYC) I can think of very few managers under 40 who reliably deliver results. Us old guys and gals are the ones making stuff happen.
On the other side of the Hudson there is probably less money, but a lot of places who want us old grinders instead of entitled millennials.
I am so happy at my job. New hire announcements include bragging that the person has "over 30 years of experience!"
Working with engineers has so many advantages - nobody cares what I wear and there is no drama - but the main benefit is that experience is so clearly valued.
If there was more of my industry on the other side of the river, I'd hop it quickly. Unfortunately there isn't (at least not that pay as well...).
An interesting sidelight. I had an interview at a very young organization recently - they cater to Millenials. Their leadership (all under 40) is looking for experience and older people.
I joked that they must have watched The Intern. One guy said "that was filmed in the office where my start-up was."
Then he went on to say that was exactly what he was looking for - even he realized young people are a bit lacking in leadership skills and direction.
Oh, Dear! I went through this 2 years ago. I had worked for 30+ years for a fine company which highly valued each one of us, but it was sold and the new (multinational) management did everything on the fly, no consultation or warning..... I could SEE the problems coming down the road, and most of them didn't fall into the ditch, but ended up on my desk.
I retired at 64, couldn't stand it anymore. Let the kids have it, they think they're so smart.... ;-)
I have a nice pension, though.
I have experienced this both in the hiring process and on the job. My job was one that wasn't expendable and very difficult to fill so they couldn't just fire me. On that one occasion where a sexist management was trying to force me out I had plenty of time to find a better job. I left with good wishes and ironically meet with some of the antagonists a few times a year now that we are all retired. No hard feelings on my part, I've always landed on my feet and it's all in the past anyway. My only regret or hard feeling is simply that the office politics always interfered with getting the job done and made everything more difficult for the rank and file.
I will add that I did seek a lawyer's advice and to sum it up he told me that as a white male I had no legal recourse what so ever. If I had been female or a minority I had a case and could have walked away with a nice settlement. But that was 25 years ago and I'm not sure how much those factors have changed.
I've only consulted a lawyer once - 8 years ago - with similar results. The situation was very different, though. He pointed out that while I had a legitimate case against my company, it would cost me a fortune, my friends would lose their jobs, I'd probably never get hired in the industry again, and the law worked against me so there even a legitimate case was unlikely to see a positive outcome.
I chose not to pursue it, and I am better for that.
Today, I'd probably choose a different path. While I don't support laws which benefit me because of my age, they exist. It would be impractical to not utilize them to my benefit, so I am doing so.
If for no other reason than to highlight why they are terrible laws.
I've always landed on my feet. I'm never worried about that. I have skills companies need and can't find in a millenial.
What I find so bothersome is the inability of modern corporate culture to focus on what's important - results rather than process - and completely missing what is going on without proper quantification and justification.
When you watch millions of dollars in revenue disappear, and tell your management about it, and then they dismiss it, saying "well, it's not really quantified, is it?" You have to wonder what drives them.
It's quantified. We track it. But since every deal is unassured, it's easy to say "we may not have gotten that anyway."
But when the amount you didn't get exceeds what you need to reach budget, time and time again, you have to start to wonder what leaders are paying attention to.
If you are smart you should polish up your resume' and begin networking now. You are going to be pushed out within two or three years. Your first hint will be when your performance review is less than stellar and is focused on soft skills (i.e., fitting in) rather than hard job skills. Read the tea leaves.
If you are lucky you will get a decent severance package. As a white male you have no protection under the law--don't even bother consulting an attorney (I am one, btw).
The best advice I can give white men in Corporate America is that by the time you approach 50 you need to be in a position in which you are directly and solely responsible for maintaining a significant revenue stream for the organization, such that if you leave the revenue stream goes with you to a competitor. Your book of business is the only asset you have.
If you are in such a position you should be networking actively and interviewing with competitors. Never empower your peers or subordinates to establish a relationship with your client contacts. Maintain the outward appearance of being a team player, but be ruthlessly self interested. Your only goal is to finish your career on your terms--not theirs.
If you are not in such a position then the best advice I can give you is to figure out a way to implement your job function as a consultant. Network within your company and competitors to quietly plant the seed that your job function might be better suited for outsourcing. Be prepared. When you get that first less than stellar review don't hesitate to propose that it might be win-win scenario for you to operate as a consultant.
Good luck to you.
The last 15 years of my work life was pretty dismal. I tell people I had a Benjamin Button career. Sooo glad to be retired, the key to which is knowing how to live on next to nothing. I don't think this would work in NYC but it works just fine down here in Texas.