Corporate Jobs That Don't Suck

The Good and the Bad of Corporate

August 22nd, 2007

Written by Pamela Skillings

As part of my research for my upcoming book, I conducted an unscientific online survey regarding employees’ attitudes toward working in Corporate America today. So far, 140 people have filled out the survey (in addition to the 70+ people that I have interviewed one on one) and the results have been very interesting. Just to give you a taste of the big picture…

What are the best things about working in Corporate America?

  • Salary — 70.2%
  • Health insurance — 64.9%
  • Sense of job stability — 29.8%

What are the worst things about working in Corporate America?

  • Too much bureaucracy and/or office politics — 53.1%
  • Difficult and/or incompetent bosses and/or coworkers — 42.3%
  • Lack of work/life balance — 40.8%

The top 3 "best thing" answers don’t surprise me, though it is a shame that things like "interesting work" and "meaningful work" didn’t make much of a showing. Then again, we all have to put food on the table and most of us didn’t get into corporate work for the thrills.

In terms of the "worst things," I think it’s pretty interesting that bureaucracy and annoying bosses/coworkers seem to bug people more than seemingly more serious issues like overwork and lack of work/life balance. I think a lot of people underestimate how frustrating a bureaucratic environment can be. Bureaucracy can seem funny and harmless in Dilbert cartoons, but it can also slowly but surely drive you insane in real life. I’ve actually been conducting a lot of research on bureaucracy and its insidious effect on corporate innovation and culture (this research is actually a lot more interesting than it probably sounds).

I will post more results from the survey in the future — including some interesting job satisfaction stats and info about those who escaped from Corporate America and why/how they went about it. In the meantime, if you’re interested in voicing your opinions on corporate life, you can still check out the Escape from Corporate America survey.

Telecommuters Get No Respect

August 20th, 2007

Written by Pamela Skillings

A recent survey of executives found that many corporate managers are still clinging to the outmoded idea that the employees who put in the most face time are the ones that should be promoted. 78% of managers agreed that those working remotely were just as productive as other employees (if not more so), but 61% said that telecommuters were less likely to advance in their careers than those working in a traditional office setting. Read more about the survey.

Are older managers just having a hard time letting go of the old rule book or is there a legitimate reason that telecommuters don’t get the respect they deserve? Maybe it’s that horrible name, telecommuters. It’s a term that sounds like it was coined by futurists in the early 1980s. Maybe it’s just me.

So why is face time still so important in the corporate world? For old-school executives, managing telecommuters can be a challenge. Micromanagers probably hate the idea of telecommuting on principle. When managing telecommuters, there is more pressure on the boss to hire the right people and be clear about job responsibilities and expectations. If you want telecommuters to be productive, you have to actually manage effectively. Radical concept.

As telecommuting becomes more and more common, executives will have to step up and get comfortable with different management styles. Interestingly, 48% of the executives that responded to the survey said that they would personally consider taking a job that involved telecommuting on a regular basis.

Of course, there is also something to be said for the “out of sight, out of mind” concept. It’s easier to form real bonds with people that you actually see face-to-face on a regular basis. Telecommuters that want to be promoted need to understand that and compensate for it.

Tips for Telecommuters that Get No Respect

  • Try to visit the office on a regular basis and to be there for key meetings and social events.
  • When you do stop by the cube farm, make the most out of it. Take the boss to lunch and make a point of visiting colleagues in person. Get as much team bonding out of your limited face time as you can.
  • When you’re working remotely, make a point of staying visible through email, IM, and phone. You’ll find plenty of opportunities for virtual team bonding.
  • Make sure you promote yourself and your accomplishments so everybody knows that you’re not just sitting around watching paternity tests on daytime TV.

The Genius of “The Office”

October 2nd, 2006

Written by Pamela Skillings

When you need to laugh at the insanity and inanity of office life, look no further than NBC’s brilliant "The Office." Inspired by the groundbreaking British show, the U.S. version of  "The Office" has more than come into its own.

Steve Carell’s Michael Scott is the perfect annoying boss. Rainn Wilson’s Dwight Schrute is that creepy, way-too-serious coworker that really might go postal one day. It’s clear that some of the writers on this show have actually spent time in an office. How else could they have come up with such hilarious episodes about diversity training, "Take Your Daughter to Work Day," and the ridiculous world of business conferences?

Unfortunately, my office was never quite this funny. We definitely had our share of laughs, though (in between crying jags). "The Office"perfectly captures the dark humor and absurdity of modern office life. The show also gets bonus points from me for being set in beautiful Scranton, PA. I grew up near Scranton so the show’s "Scrantonicity" really hits home. Needless to say, the shout-out to the Scranton Anthracite Coal Museum was a big hit in my house.

Best Companies for Working Moms

September 26th, 2006

Written by Pamela Skillings

This week, Working Mother magazine released its annual list of the most family-friendly companies in Corporate America. According to the Working Mother study, more and more companies are implementing new policies in reaction to concerns about losing their top female talent.

Could Corporate America finally be getting a clue that today’s best and brightest aren’t willing to follow the old rules? We’re not afraid of hard work, but we also want lives outside the office.

Working Mother looks at five key criteria when compiling their "Best Companies" list: flexibility, leave time for new parents, child care, elder care and the number of women occupying top jobs. Which companies earned top grades?

The Top 10 includes Abbott Laboratories, Ernst & Young, HSBC, and IBM. Check out the full list and start updating that resume.

Your Job Is Not That Bad

September 17th, 2006

Written by Pamela Skillings

Having a terrible Monday? The bad news is that you’ve got a long way to go before the weekend. The good news is that it could be worse. Much worse. For proof, check out the poor suckers posting on http://www.worst-jobs.com

Take Hans, for example. He’s a toilet attendant at the Stockholm Constipation Clinic. You can also check out horrifying occupations like Carcass Cleaner, Flatulence Analyst, and Fear Factor intern. Kind of makes you want to go give that moronic boss of yours a hug, doesn’t it?

Let My People Go Surfing

June 19th, 2006

Written by Pamela Skillings

In Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman, Patagonia CEO Yvon Chouinard details the company’s eco- and people-conscious philosophies on business. Patagonia gives 1% of annual net sales to environmental groups and also sets benchmarks for employee-friendly policies.

It’s an approach that has landed Patagonia on the Great Place to Work Institute’s list of best companies to work for in America. By the time you finish the book, you may be polishing your surfboard and your resume.