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Please begin with an informative title:

It's been six months since I was laid off from a long career in corporate America. I don't miss it much, but when I do, I only have to listen in to one of my husband's corporate conference calls to restore my sense of relief at being on the "outside".

Today, he was on an early morning "leadership" call, the sort where self-absorbed corporate officers blather on and on and on about the "exciting" new "programs" that they're "rolling out" while admonishing the listeners that the real "heavy lift" will be meeting the aggressive financial goals for the quarter. Short version: we need to make our Wall Street numbers. All the rest of this is just lip service. If "you" don't make these numbers, "we" don't get our bonuses.

The lady from "Human Resources" (HR) took up way more time than anybody else, and way more time than her presentation warranted. We used to play a little game back at the dysfunctional place I worked (let's call it "DysCo") when trapped on these eye-gougingly tedious conference calls. For the HR portion, we'd time how long it took before the word "people" was used. Today, it was about 8 minutes, pretty good, but hardly world class. Alternate terms used to refer to "people" include "talent", "levels", and "roles".

She did, however, use the word "exciting" about a dozen times to describe the various "tools", "programs", and "processes" being rolled out to help people the thousands of employees squashed together by the recent merger with "change management". The basic premise of "change management" is that, whatever you were used to in your pre-merger company, you can kiss that sh*t goodbye. We're a Borg Collective big company now, and the watchword going forward is "standardization".

Everyone's position will be revisited in light of the new "classifications". Benefits and terms of employment will be "normalized". People mindless interchangeable drones will be reassigned across geographies and business units to reduce redundancy. Those unwilling to accept their new classification will be offered outplacement services. The new structure going forward will enable us to... sorry. I dozed off for a bit here.

Best news of the whole call: exciting Webinars will be rolled out for all employees explaining the new structure, and laying out the new "development plans" that will be prepared for each role. Not each "person" mind you. It's the role that's important. People Role-fillers are a dime a dozen. No sense getting too attached to them since, if the company doesn't make its numbers, those HR folks will be returning to their core competency: explaining the layoff process.

It all sounded very "exciting", in the way that waiting in line at the DMV is "exciting". Mr. Carolina reported that people began dropping off the call shortly after the HR Dragon Lady began her presentation. Maybe because they've heard all this crap before. Maybe because she's a conference call diva known for turning a five-minute update into a 15-minute self-aggrandizing performance.

With virtually no time left on the call, the "question and answer" portion included only one question. Hopefully, everyone was scurrying back to their desk, grinding out more sales and cutting costs so that the big bosses could get their all-important bonuses. Even if it was a trip to the rest room, it would have been a better use of time than this call.

My friends in Europe get six weeks of paid vacation, while we at DysCo typically got two to four weeks at most. Here's my modest proposal: a quick calculation shows that, if we could cut out these frequent and interminable conference calls, we could give everyone another week or two of vacation Personal Time Off (PTO) And Do Not Get Me Started About That.

The employees would return refreshed and productive, families would enjoy precious time together, and corporate America would once again be humming with profitability. No productivity would be lost, since the time is already wasted consumed by these insipid calls.  Seems like this might be a way to energize the workforce and solve a major complaint of staff at companies across the country. Who's with me on this. Anyone? Hello?

One last thing: a shout out to the real heroes of HR, the folks who pursued this career to help their fellow employees make the most of their time with a company. The folks who expanded benefits, provided true career paths, removed obstacles, and helped everyone reach their potential. I knew a few of these folks. Most left DysCo on their own when they realized that their job was to corral and terminate, not to empower and elevate.

Sadly, that leaves us with people like the vapid young man who presided at my layoff, asking whether he could help find me some empty boxes to pack up my stuff. After more than three decades in corporate America, I knew where to find boxes: the copy room. At least he could check the box saying he'd asked. Apparently that's all that matters now.


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Originally posted to cassandracarolina's fossil record on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 05:44 AM PST.

Also republished by Retail and Workplace Pragmatists - Members and Editors, In Support of Labor and Unions, and Community Spotlight.


Do you have to endure tedious conference calls in your job?

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