J. M. Pressley
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Working Man's Address to "The Man"

Hi. You don't know me, mainly because you sit in an office with your door closed, far across the building from my humble cubicle. I know you, though. We all do. You're "The Man" we all talk about, always keeping us down. The one who sees nothing as impossible so long as there is cheap and expendable labor. The one who won't let our families, commitments, or Maslovian needs for nutrition and sleep stand in the way of progress. The one who seems to think that I'm paid to live here rather than just to work here. That Man.

Let me set the record straight for you, Mr. Man. I work because life and my particular circumstances dictate that I must. I don't work because my identity's wrapped around what I do, I don't work for the enjoyment of it, and I certainly don't work to put a smile on your smug, exfoliated face. I'm not even really working for you, when I think about it. I'm working for the bank. All I know is, I'm certainly not working for me. If I had food, shelter, and health insurance provided for me without having to get up every morning looking forward to spending the majority of my waking hours in your company, I wouldn't be in this situation. Most likely, none of us would, given the choice. I know you wouldn't.

So pardon my cynicism whenever your lips are moving. Speaking as a working man, there's absolutely nothing the rank and file of an organization love to hear more than condescending rah-rah speeches from the corporate aristocracy about all-for-one and one-for-all and sucking it up in the face of adversity. After all, most of the adversity I'm facing is directly attributable to decisions you've made in the interest of improving either your status or your stock options. Those speeches also contain an implicit theme running through them that I should be grateful to you—either for letting me work here or for not firing me yet. Gee, thanks.

This isn't the first job I've held; I'm damn sure it won't be my last. It may be a cold world out there, boss, but the heater in here ain't exactly working like it should. The best thing I can say about this gig is that it's the devil I know. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. Grateful? Am I really supposed to feel that way about an organization that covets my loyalty but requires my signature on an "Employment at Will" policy acknowledgement? Don't talk to me about how rough it is out there. I've got plenty of firsthand knowledge of that.

Besides, I'll take your golden parachute over the shaft I'd get any day of the week. You can thank my coming in at less than market value and the subsequent years of two percent raises as part of the generous financing of your eventual severance package. And thanks for at least not directly embezzling what's left of my pension fund on your well paid way out the door when that day comes. I'll probably have to wait a few years before the company has to renege on that promise in order to pay for the latest CEO's fourth home.

I'm sorry—that sounds bitter? Well, I'm not going to apologize for that. An organization takes its cultural cues from the top down, from those who are in the position to demonstrate leadership. That's why they call it leadership. You lead, we follow. Perhaps you've heard of Enron, WorldCom, Global Crossing? None of those could have happened if their leaders weren't promulgating an ethos of corporate malfeasance driven by sheer greed. Not that I'm implying anything, mind you. All I'm saying is that leadership involves as much the setting of an example as it does barking out orders. When they were teaching that Leadership seminar during your MBA coursework, did you skip school that day, or did you sign up for the extended course in Malevolence instead? You don't like the morale here, that's fine, but you could at least own up to your share in the responsibility for it.

Speaking of which, thanks for all the Successories® that comprise your interior decorating plan. I, for one, have always thought that sanctimonious artwork and vapid aphorisms are laudable substitutes for vision and articulation. Meanwhile, we're screwing the pooch on all of Deming's 14 Principles of Management. Philosophize on that, oh fearless leader.

Do I feel like a big man for saying all this? No. I feel many things, but "big" is not one of them. I feel like a weary man, a spent man, a disappointed man. Only as it relates to the forty-odd hours of the week I spend in this life-sucking nest of hypocrites, though. See, whenever I'm on the outside, you cease to exist to me. And that will be permanent the day that one or the other of us decides that I don't deserve working here. Talk to me about feeling grateful then.

By the way, don't trick yourself into thinking that this is sour grapes on my part. This isn't about envy of you or feeling sorry for myself at all. I don't doubt you have to be smart to earn an MBA or run a big business. I know I've got the intelligence to do what you do. I just don't have the abrogated conscience to do it.

It's said that people tend to elect the type of leaders they deserve. I think it's vice-versa in business. The Man tends to attract the type of workers He deserves. That certainly will be the case here, once you've stifled everyone that has independent thought, personality, or enthusiasm for what they do. At least then you won't have to worry about pesky little authors such as me. You'll just have to deal with exactly the type of staff this den of weasels merits: a bunch of scared wage-slaves that would gladly either jump ship or line you up against the wall at the earliest opportunity.

At that point, from the sidelines, I plan on enjoying the slow, grueling demise of you and the ethical Purgatory you created. In the meantime, I'll be at my desk. Waiting.

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