Years ago, I worked for a major US bank in a very “elite” service area which dealt with critical issues facing the company’s growth strategy and structure. Admittedly, I was pretty low on the totem pole and mostly only a peon, but I did work in this particular division of the company that afforded me a great more deal of “authority” within the rest of the bank. If I asked someone for some information, they gave it to me or would be in pretty serious trouble.
I enjoyed my job in so much that I was good at it, was recognized as such and made some good acquaintances in the bank. However, the most frustrating part about my job which I came to despise utterly was the prevalence of “office politics” whereby people trampled all over one another to cement their own “power”. We were supposed to be working together as a team and purportedly focused on making life easier not only for our employees, but for all those in the company. We were a “family focused” company. The corporate leaders proclaimed that our company would be concerned about making sure that families came first in its employees lives, knowing that happy employees with a good family life would lead to better productivity amongst its employees. The practical application of this ideal was very far from this fantasy.
One day within the first couple of weeks of our first child’s birth, my wife called me to say that she hoped I could come home and either watch the baby or go by the drug store to pick up some medicine for the baby – as he had picked up some sickness and needed a salve of some sort. Well, as this was the middle of the day, I needed to talk with my boss whom I gently asked to take some time away from the office to run home and help my wife. Since the bank was “family friendly” I knew this would not be a big concern, and I would make up any time I had missed that day later that evening after coming back into work.
You figured out what she said (my boss), right? “Absolutely not!” She became flustered and outraged that I would suggest something so idiotic as to leave work simply to help my wife. When my boss had children, she did not require her husband’s assistance – that he leave in the middle of the day. I tried to explain that my wife had had serious ear problems as a child, and she was afraid to get our baby out in the weather and into a drug store filled with dozens of possibly infected or infectious individuals and items.
Regardless, she would not relent.
Well, I believed (and still do) that family does come first. So I left.
I went home, took care of my wife and child, and returned to the office about two hours later to stay late and accomplish whatever needed to be done. Please understand, my role at this point in my job was strictly “support” oriented – I created a weekly manager’s meeting report for the higher-ups in our division that mostly needed coordination from a single source (me). I had very few “obligations” in my position that necessitated me actually being physically present in my cubicle in order to accomplish my assigned tasks.
Upon returning to work, I found my boss to be somewhat distant and seemingly unwilling to look in my direction. I blew her attitude off as simple frustrations and did my job, staying late for no other reason than I promised I would – even though I was not given express permission to leave.
The next day was not a pretty one. The man who had been my boss’s boss previously (and under whom I sometimes directly reported when my boss was not in town) called me up to have a “chat” with me on my “irresponsible” and “erroneous” behavior.
From that day on, I sought a way to get out of the nightmare of personal politics and away from the self-deluded corporate hacks that said one thing and celebrated something completely other.
Little did I know that my soon-to-be chosen profession would allow me to meet many others who would continue that same political ideology where it should never be.
End of Part One