Why I Will Probably Never Work a Corporate Job Again
For my first "official" blog post, I will get personal. Most of the posts that will appear on this blog will generally be observations about the work environments and other issues facing organizational psychologists, but I feel it's best to give some background on me so that readers can see where I come from and how I will tackle these issues going forward.
The topic for this post is "Why I Will Probably Never Work a Corporate Job Again" and will show some of the positives, but more so the pitfalls, of the current corporate work experience.
It was 2003. I was a year out of college, trying to break into the entertainment business, working behind the scenes as a front while working on writing. Ultimately, this did not pan out, and in a need to earn money to pay back student loans and buy a car, I had worked a variety of jobs, including a one-month stint in retail that I hated with a passion. But eventually, through a temporary employment agency, I found myself working for a medium-sized legal services firm on Long Island. It was not exciting, but it was stable and I met some good people along the way. I was responsible for providing quality assurance for the firm's work. Early on, long before organizational psychology became an interest, I sensed that there were some issues in the workplace, but it didn't bother me at the time.
This temporary assignment led to a full-time job, and after about a year and a half, a position opened up that seemed to fit me better, and having developed a great rapport with the hiring manager through my QA work, the job was mine. I would go on to spend the next 14 years in this same role, providing technical and management support for the company's time and billing (and later, travel and expense) application. I felt I had found a niche in the corporate world, and decided to further my education by going back to school to get my MBA.
In 2009, three years into my (four-year) MBA program, my manager of four years was laid off amid the Great Recession. Being that I was trained to take over for him, anyway (as he was nearing retirement), I saw this as an opportunity to really put my newly-learned management skills to work. But unfortunately, corporate politics took over and I struggled to move up. I eventually did get the promotion to manager, but not until 2014, and even then, it was a PINO (promotion in name only) as the organizational structure was not altered. I never got a chance to be a true manager, i.e. with employees reporting directly to me (aside from one temporary employee I hired during a period of busy work).
All the while, the work environment was getting increasingly toxic. People were afraid of senior management, in particular, with the company's chief operating officer (later president), who had a reputation of coming down hard on people. In my own role, I found myself fighting with people who had no regard for procedures and protocols, and to my own admission, I often came off as a bully at times, but that was the culture we had, where people had to bully one another in order to get things done and make their points. It got so bad that senior management was ready to fire me for, you guessed it, acting like them. But I was saved by actually doing good work, and by a parent company shakeup which saw the four top executives ousted (three of them later started a competing firm).
The new CEO came in with a much different attitude, but with no experience in legal services. Needless to say, while the culture improved, the bottom line did not, and that CEO was eventually ousted himself. Six months later, the parent company sold us off to a competitor, who then proceed to dismantle our operations, leaving me out of a job as of last November. That was when I made the decision to return to school to pursue my PhD in organizational psychology.
So you may ask, why will I probably never work in corporate again? Few reasons for this:
The Hiring Process
It took a miracle for me to even get that job in the first place, being assigned as a temporary employee and earning the job based on work, not a piece of paper and an interview. The process to get hired in a corporate job is too formal and froth with issues. I saw people get hired for jobs who seemed great, but then flaked out after a short period of time. The best people we had were the ones who came in as temps and stayed on (like me). I have sent out hundreds of resumes over the years, but received less than ten responses, and half of those were outright rejections before the interview stage. I have only made it to three or four interviews, none of which led to a job offer. And this was BEFORE I went public with my mental health issues.
Mental Health Stigma
Now that I have gone public over suffering anxiety, my chances of getting hired by a company are apparently -0.001% (the minus sign is NOT a typo). While people applauded me for bravery, of course, I got a ton of flak for putting it out there on Facebook where employers could apparently see it (even though my page is private and only friends can see the post). But all of this aside, it doesn't seem that companies are willing to hire people with mental health issues, even something as simple as anxiety, since they see it as a liability if something goes wrong. In a healthy work environment, a company would support people with anxiety issues (as well as promote a culture that prevents anxiety attacks from happening in the first place). But in a corporate culture, what happens when you suffer an anxiety attack? You get a "final written warning" slapped on your record (even on the first such occurrence) and threatened with termination. Is that the right way to help someone's anxiety? Of course not. I was lucky that my work was good; otherwise, I would have gotten the boot long before, and without the benefits of a severance package and unemployment insurance that come with a layoff.
So in conclusion, I don't expect to work in corporate again, except as required for my PhD internship in 2022-2023 and perhaps to do some research. And if people give me flak about my blog saying companies won't hire me if they think I'm going to observe them, my response will be "if the company has a healthy work environment, why should they worry about it?"
But more importantly, I like being my own boss. I like setting my own rules and doing the right thing. Let's hope it turns out OK.