Posted by: spacewritinguy | December 9, 2007

The Infantilization of Corporate America

I’m probably being a spoil-sport about this (or just a curmudgeon), but for eff’s sake, what is my company doing by expecting a room full of 30-to-60-year-olds to play musical chairs for prizes???

Referring back once again to the Weekly Standard’s Matt Labash, he had an article back in September entitled “Are We Having Fun Yet? The Infantilization of Corporate America,” which detailed the efforts of HR consultants to bring fun into the workplace. However, this would not be grown-up fun, but grade-school-type fun. Bringing scooters into the office. Ice cream breaks. Adding ping pong and toys and stuffed animals to the cubicles. And let us not forget that game of musical chairs at the company Christmas party–where the local division manager also received a remote control toy with a stuffed gorilla on top, representing the equipment our company makes(?).

Jesus H. Christos, can we not just have a grown-up cocktail party and dispense with the propeller beanies and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey games? Never mind channeling my inner child. I spent enough years being accused of immaturity. I’m ready to channel my outer adult, and these pinheads are trying to get me to live in Romper Room.

Okay, fine, let ‘er rip: I’m a kill-joy. I’m not getting into the spirit of things. I’m not being a “team player” (or, as they called it on Dilbert.com, a “loser”). I got in trouble for this sort of attitude in another fun-filled office because I enjoyed my work and hated the management-mandated play time. Why? Because I took my work very seriously and enjoyed it. I did not take the corporate “fun” seriously and did not enjoy it because it interfered with my work.

Serious managers need to give this matter some thought: how many people have quit their jobs because they don’t like having their intelligence insulted by enforced playtime? How many workaholics like me have said buh-bye because their work was constantly being interrupted for the company carnival, pep rally, or Jeopardy game?

Is there some clause in these games that would allow the people who enjoy their work to opt out of the corporate foolishness? If people are doing good work and are passionate about accomplishing great things, they don’t need to have some nitwit in a character costume run down the cube rows giving people high-fives. They already KNOW that they’re doing something cool and fun. They go home energized and ready to hit the grindstone again the next day. No clown shoes required. And yes, no shit, there are people besides me who think this way.

Needless to say, I did not participate in that little game of musical chairs. I was quite content to sit back and wait for them to announce the numbers from the raffle tickets they gave out at the door. When it became clear that they were going to drag the reindeer games out for another hour, I handed my raffle ticket to a coworker and said we could split whatever was won, if and when. She responded, “Well, that could be a 95 percent share for me, 5 percent for you.” I said fine, she could do what she wanted. I’d hit my limit with the “face time” thing anyway.

I understand social events like these are necessary to some extent. And I must note that I lasted an hour longer than I did at last year’s party, when I worked for a different company. A coworker of mine said he wouldn’t attend after he heard two words: “cash bar.” I didn’t mind; that keeps my imbibing to a minimum. But maybe discretion would have been the better part of valor. I noted that my former supervisor did not show up, either. I’m left to wonder: how worthwhile are these events, especially if you work on-site with the customer, away from corporate, and most of the room is full of corporate suits and their spouses?

It’s a shame that social events of this type make me so frustrated and unhappy when I’m so energized and happy on the job.

***

My party habits haven’t changed much since I started attending them on my own 20 years ago: when I’ve had enough, I’m done, and I leave. Drove my friends nuts for awhile, but eventually they just learned to accept it. I figured, better to leave while I’m still having a moderately good time than to stay around and be a pain because I’m eager to go. But then I never could abide long periods of small talk. (Gee, and he wonders why he’s still single!?)

This also explains why I’ve had so few parties of my own: I can’t leave. Or, if I want to call it a night, I either have to tough it out or be an asshole and send everyone on their merry way.

I did talk to a couple of ladies while at this little festival tonight. I learned that I still have the ability to attract and be attracted to married women, even when they don’t wear rings. Magic powers I have, as Yoda would backwards say. One coworker remarked, “At least you’re looking at straight people.” Had to laugh at that one.

Now here’s the funny part: I actually had a better time at this year’s Christmas party than last year’s when I was at a different company. I know more people now, and there wasn’t this angst-ridden fear that I might be let go in the near future (makes a difference, true). And like I said, I lasted an hour past my expected internal restlessness clock, so I must be getting better at this. However, I can see why George W. Bush calls it a night early and doesn’t host parties that last until the wee hours. As bad as some corporate Christmas parties can be, can you imagine hosting one where you absolutely knew that most of the people in the room hated your guts?

That being said, I wonder if I’ll be working for this company by next Christmas? One never knows.

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