A manifesto for mediocrity

Meetings are a pet hate of mine. In my (completely unscientific) opinion they are an utter waste of time in about 95% of cases. They serve no purpose other than to allow some show-boater who was deprived of attention as a child the chance to engage in a bit of self-promotion.

In the Netherlands it was even worse than in Ireland, when it came to meetings that could break your spirit. Being a consensus society, a meeting was only effective if everyone in attendance got the opportunity to express their opinion. The fact that their opinion was pretty much the exact same as everyone in the room was unimportant. The benefit was in the inclusion. And nobody ever imposed a time limit.

Therefore during the endless hours of meetings I attended while in that lovely county I had to listen to men with floppy hair, navy blue trousers and brown loafers; and women with flowery dresses, leggings and cycling-assisted sturdy calves, spout on about something. Don’t ask me what they spoke about – I have mastered a facial expression which displays engagement and interest, while in reality I am thinking something dastardly.

I am much more of the Japanese workplace mind-set – management makes the rules; the minions obey them. If a minion has an idea then by all means approach a senior person to explain. But for heaven’s sake spare your colleagues your genius insights.

Even worse than the round table meetings, are the one-to-ones with one’s manager. Usually these occur on a monthly basis and claim to be a relaxed chat about the various challenges and barriers you are facing in your job, and an opportunity to discuss training and career plans.

I have a confession to make. While I want to be reasonably engaged and interested in my job, and while I want to receive a decent wage for the hours I work, equally I never want to work even a minute of overtime. I am not interested in taking on extra projects to strategically position myself for career advancement. If I am job hunting and see a company describe itself as a place where the staff ‘work hard and play hard’ I picture a place where the workers are worked into near nervous breakdowns, and who take lots of recreational drugs to compensate for their miserable situations.

I am a work to live, not a live to work kind of person.

I am speaking about my paid working life. When it comes to the unpaid (or barely paid) writing and performing work I do, then I am very willing to devote time, effort and energy to these endeavours. That’s because I find them personally fulfilling and rewarding. I feel like I am achieving something worthwhile and feel passionate about them.

Not merely creating a dividend for some shareholder in the US, or Germany or Japan who would be more than happy to sack me as soon as it becomes economically convenient. It feels that I am doing something worthwhile. I should clarify, that I am employed by a multinational company. These are the workplaces where enormous energy is spent on employee public relations, to persuade you of your value to the company and how much you mean to them. Everyone knows it is a lie, and that everyone is 100% expendable – from the entry level worker to the CEO. It’s all about the money. By any means necessary. If I worked for a school or a hospital or a non-profit organisation or an environmental agency it might be a different case. As it stands however between the hours of 9am to 5.30pm every Monday to Friday, my existence is defined by my ability to make money for strangers.

There is nothing cynical or bitter about this observation. It is a merely an analysis of my situation.

Under no circumstances can this ever be expressed out loud. To do so would be utterly foolhardy and would reveal you to be culturally at odds with your employer. As sure as night follows day you’d soon be offered the exciting opportunity of exploring career options outside the company. But that rent and those bills don’t pay themselves.

Some people find it easy to reconcile their personalities with the ethos of their employer.

It’s a struggle for me. I want to work just hard enough to be ignored. But not so hard that a promotion will be offered. I want to live a pleasant live without workplace stress. I want to find a job that allows me to work three days a week – the free time can be spent writing or rehearsing. Something of more value.

Unfortunately my cunning plan to reduce my workload has been cruelly thwarted this week. I have been tasked with finding two improvement projects for my department, documenting them and presenting them at the next two consecutive monthly meetings.

What have I done to deserve this?

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