For the past year and a half, I have been impersonating a business woman at a large health insurance agency. Up before the sun, I would slog through the morning commute to put in my eight (or ten or twelve) hour workday. As of this week, I have joined the ranks of the unemployed again but have left my previous place of employment with both fond memories of friendly coworkers and mini-heart attacks of things that I have left undone. What follows are a few observations on Corporate America:
- Life before computers was probably a lot easier. As a millennial, I’m not quite sure what it was like before, but it seems as if computers make life more complicated by providing an excuse to pile on even more work. Then, on the inevitable day (or days) when the computers are running slowly, smoke begins to pour from employees’ ears and a team sets out toward the IT department with pitchforks. Instead of a two-hour meeting where everyone gets together to crank projects out, the email train creeps into the hundreds until it feels like an episode of Lost where no one quite knows what is going on anymore.
- Read receipts are a blessing and a curse. Having the setting on your computer that lets you know exactly when every email you send is read is a great way to keep tabs on whether your requests are being addressed. However, knowing someone has read your email and not responded can be incredibly frustrating. Then you have the awkward phone conversations where you say as sweetly as can be, “I sent you an email a couple of days ago. Did you receive it?” knowing fully well that they did and really wanting to say, “WHERE IS MY INFORMATION?!”
- Elevator Etiquette. Not sure if this is a Texas thing or common knowledge from the male perspective, but there is a strange custom of holding elevator doors open for women and letting the women off the elevators first. This creates an interesting dance as the men who get on the elevator last jostle and rearrange themselves so that the women can get off first. I had to swallow smiles as I watched this show of chivalry being played out on a daily basis.
- No one likes to talk on the phone. I thought that as an adult, one magically develops the ability to carry on extended conversations via the phone lines; however, it seems unanimous that emails or IMs are the way that most people communicate. The only time the phone is used is as a last measure. When you are calling someone or they are calling you, you know that something is late.
- The idea of an 8 am-5 pm job is totally antiquated. Emails come in on weekends, before 6 am, and after 9 pm. Sending out emails at 7:30 pm on a Friday night or 10 am on a Saturday morning and getting replies within twenty minutes is a terrifying thing. (Does anyone have lives outside of work anymore??) Of course, those instant replies are rather addictive and sadly don’t correspond to other types of emails one receives from non-work-related sources.
- An “out of the office” reply means different things to different people. Some people are actually unavailable, but usually it just means that it might take someone an hour to reply rather than five minutes.
- Letting employees leave early on the occasional Friday does more to foster loyalty and boost morale than just about anything else.
- Spending over a year working with vendor partners and never actually knowing what they look like seems strange. Are they seventy-five or seventeen? Do they were Star Wars t-shirts or business suits? Of course, working with people spread out all over the United States allows the weather to be a continual topic of conversation.
- Being surrounded by coworkers who are enduring the same stress, ranting about the same difficult situations and people, and who celebrate the successes of a job well done is the only way to make it through each new season.
I’m not sure what the next stage of my work life will entail, but I am thankful for the experiences that I had and the people I was able to meet during my time as a business woman in Corporate America.