Miss Congeniality

Jesus Christ. I am busy today but I really have to get this down somewhere.

So I went to the World’s Worst Company today to have a performance review with my new line manager. He’s quite a plain speaker, which is good. He patiently revealed to me that I still understand nothing about the organisational culture, after a year of being absolutely battered by it. He broke it down for me like this. I wish I were joking. This is what he said. No word of a lie.

In this company, there are 3 classes of people.

There’s an underclass that has no qualifications and no business experience. These people are cheap to employ and some of them have been there for 20+ years and are scared of losing their jobs, as well they might be. They hate the classes above them.

The middle class has qualifications but no business experience (are you noticing a theme here). These people are also quite cheap to employ because they are young. They are not quite as scared of losing their jobs, but they are still scared. They hate the class above them.

The upper class has qualifications and business experience. It’s a very small class indeed, comprising me, him, the new CEO, aka The Terminator, and a very small handful of other people.

Now here’s the shocker. Within this organisation, which has been muddling along for a long time, there are not one but two measures of success. The first one is performance – big surprise, right? It never crossed my mind that anything else would matter. The second one is congeniality. That means popularity. That means ‘people think you are nice’.

So in theory, I said to my new line manager, I could be terrible at my job, deliver crap performance, but as long as everyone thought I was nice, my job would be safe. Yes, he said. Fucking hell, Brian, I said, with my head in my hands. What are we doing? I don’t understand what we are doing.

So – in order to win at this game, I have to get these two lower classes to agree that I am nice. And they absolutely hate me, to a man. The reason they hate me so much, my new line manager revealed, is because (1) I talk about business and show my experience, this is like a red rag to a bull, and (2) I haven’t been participating in the popularity contest that I didn’t know existed.

There are formal scores for congeniality – I wish I were making this up, I swear to God, I am not making it up. So for example you can win points by going out for drinks on a Friday night. So this leads to the most incredibly surreal situation where groups of people who absolutely hate each other’s guts go out for drinks every Friday night and are fake nice to each other, because if you don’t do that, you aren’t Congenial.

I feel completely exhausted. They hired me BECAUSE of my business experience. Brian’s advice was this:

  • Don’t talk about business ever again. Don’t mention it. I can obviously mention it to our customers, who are not stupid and know what they are paying for, but don’t mention business ever again in front of a ‘colleague’.
  • Be more fake. Don’t say what you really think. Don’t say things in emails or on forms or in conversation which suggest any hint of displeasure with the most hostile working environment I’ve ever experienced. Say that everything is perfect and do whatever it takes to convince everyone that you are their best friend, no matter how much they quite obviously hate you.

At this point I’m completely drained of energy. Then we filled out the rest of the so called performance review form and there was some shit about my career aspirations. Being in this organisation is putting my career at risk, Brian, I said frankly, possibly for the last time. Okay, well don’t put that, he said, patiently, just make something up. Make something up that this organisation can actually do and say that’s what you aspire to.

Okay, I said. So then I filled out this form saying that this company is the happiest place on Earth and its staff are the nicest people I’ve ever met. I think that should do the trick. He’s going to take a look at it and if I lied convincingly enough, he can sign it off.

I wish I were joking. This goes against everything I believe in and it is one more item in the GET THE HELL OUT column. I should stop talking and get the hell out.


Lee Perry: Vampire

3 thoughts on “Miss Congeniality”

    1. It’s not normal, is it. I’m not wrong about this, am I. It isn’t normal. The Terminator is great and is focused on the future, but I think Brian speaks the truth about the present day.

      1. I think unfortunately it may be more normal in this sort of industry, because ‘rocking the boat’ is not the done thing. As you know, if someone has a massive inferiority complex and they feel challenged, they often attack. Multiply this by the numbers in the underclass, the middle class, (and possibly the upper class too) and you have your scenario

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