The secret to corporate success

Work is so much easier when you don’t care

Photo by Pixabay on

I never have been particularly career oriented. I need to work because I like to sleep indoors, but other than that – meh, whatever. Tell me what the job is and pay me to do it and I’m happy. I don’t care if I’m not a VP. I would like to be asked to be a VP, but I don’t actually want the job.

My friend Sergio turned down a promotion to VP. The execs were shocked. How could anyone not want more nights away from home, more responsibility, more stress, and less fun?

Sergio’s wife shrugged when she told me the story.

“Our family is more important,” she said. “His boss said no, it’s actually *easier* to have a good work-life balance when you’re a VP because you can delegate more, but Sergio just laughed.” (Probably because Sergio knows a lie when he hears one.)

The dirty secret of corporate America is that even if you don’t care if you become a VP or a CEO, you have to act as if you do.

Even though *everyone* knows there are only a few executive slots and a lot of people who won’t be put into those slots.

But you have to play this stupid game where you have to act like you care. And by *act,* I mean you have to talk about how you want it and you have to put in the extra hours and you have to play golf with the right people – or whatever the bonding mechanism is in your company – and eat lunch with the right people. Even if you would rather go to the gym at lunch. Or read a book. Even if you hate golf.

It goes without saying – but I will say it anyhow – that having a penis and peeing next to the Right People is a major part of corporate success.

If you are someone who wants to do a good job but only wants to do a good job for 40 hours a week and then go home, there is not really a path for you. You cannot ever admit that you are working for the money and you don’t want to work the extra hours. You still have to go through the torture of your annual performance review and talk about your areas of improvement and what you didn’t accomplish and why you are such a bad person.

“The best job is to be a consultant. You tell them your ideas and they take your ideas or they do not take them but either way, you get paid.”

My operations research professor in grad school

Last year, my friend Alicia was so miserable that she quit her job at an F100 without having a new job lined up.

She was working long hours. Executives would re-do everything she did or ask her to re-do it. Projects never got completed. She never saw her work being used.

A few months later, her former boss called and asked her to come back as a part-time, paid by the hour contractor.

Alicia agreed.

Not surprisingly, as Alicia is really really good at what she does, they kept piling work on her until she got to about 45 hours a week.

“The difference is,” she told me, “that now I am paid for my time over 40 hours.”

“But even more than that? The difference is that now, I don’t care. I don’t care at all. I care about doing good work, but once it leaves my hands? WhatEVER.”

“If they want me to re-do it, I will. They’re paying me by the hour.”

“If they don’t want to use it at all? I don’t care. They’re paying me by the hour.”

And that, my friends, is the secret to career success.


What’s good home training again?

We all grow up with Rules

This is not a bathroom where people leave towels on the floor, but it was a bathroom to which I was denied access in my moment of need so I just used the men’s room across the hall. Sue. Me.

This is a story about manners. Good manners vs bad manners.

Or it’s a story about how this drama could have been prevented.

Or it’s a story about how I was horribly wrong.

You decide.

I have always thought that the hotel instructions to leave towels on the floor if we want new towels is a trick.

What kind of monster leaves towels on the floor?

I always hang my towels up. Always.

I am not a monster!

I think hotels count on guests thinking as I do and hanging towels up so that the hotel does not have to replace towels as quickly.

I actually don’t mind that policy because unless you don’t know how to use soap and water to clean your body, you probably don’t need a new towel every day.

My friend L and I stayed in an Airbnb recently. The check-out instructions were detailed and included the directive to leave the dirty towels on the floor of the shower.

Instead, I hung the used towels on the shower rod and left the unused ones folded on the shelf.

When we checked out, I casually mentioned what I had done, saying with a smile that I couldn’t bear to leave towels on the floor.

“Or,” the owner replied with a tight smile, “you could have done as I asked.”

“Oh!” I said. “Yes. I guess.”

“I don’t want to sound scolding, but that is what I asked you to do – to leave them on the floor. That way, I know which towels have been used and which ones haven’t.”

“Um, OK,” I answered as my face turned deep red. “Yes, I will remember that for next time.”

She continued. “That is what I asked you to do.”

“OK!” I smiled as I backed away. “OK!”

If I were bothering to write three pages of instructions for my Airbnb guests, if I wanted people to leave towels on the floor, I would write something like this:

I know not hanging up your towels goes against everything your mama ever taught you, but this is the easiest way for me to know which towels are clean and which are dirty! Please go against your instincts and leave your used towels on the floor of the shower. I know. I know! It seems so wrong! But I promise you I will not think you have bad manners. 🙂

That’s how I would do it, anyhow.


Why yes I am eating that cold pizza AT you, former boss who has been fired in disgrace

Is there anything better than watching someone you – hmmm – someone you DISLIKE INTENSELY FOR VALID REASONS get her comeuppance?



Some would say I need to forgive people and not take pleasure in their misfortune but some people have had a charmed life without ever encountering toxic people. I wish those people well – I don’t want anyone to experience toxic jerks – but I cannot forgive those who have wronged me and I take great joy in seeing them get what’s coming to them. If that makes me petty, so be it.

Let me back up. This is the second time that I have had the joy of watching a former boss be fired.

The first time was when I worked for a small company. There were only about 14 of us in the office in my city. The rest of the company, maybe 20 or so, including the CEO, were in Australia.

Here is a sample of the (many) things that made the CEO a horrible boss:

  • He cut my salary by $20K before I even started, saying that the number HR had given me was “full compensation,” not salary, which is BS because nobody in the world answers the question of “How much does it pay?” with a number that includes the value of the benefits.
  • He criticized – yelled – at my boss in public, even though the issues were things over which my boss had no control. Even if my boss had controlled such things, criticizing your team in public is very bad management.
  • After I (tactfully) rated a team meeting as being a “2” because although it was interesting, it covered technical topics I did not need in my position, the CEO called my boss at 9 p.m. that night to tell my boss to tell me not to come to the rest of the team meeting the next day because he was so mad at me. My boss had the unpleasant job of delivering that news to me. After that call, I understood why all my co-workers had given enthusiastic ratings of “FIVE!!!” to the session. They knew.
  • Four of the 14 people in my office had quit in less than a year, including someone who just didn’t come back from lunch one day.

Everyone hated that CEO. He was a jerk to me personally and to everyone else around me. I accepted the job (it was an internal move from the larger parent organization to the smaller company) but started looking for a new one on my first day when I arrived to discover that even though they had known for a month that I was coming, not only did they not have a computer for me, they didn’t even have anywhere for me to sit.

That first day – and the thing that sealed my decision to look for a new job – was when my boss handed (well, emailed) me a list of – I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP – 6,000 companies to COLD CALL to sell the company’s product.

Trust me this aspect of the job was not covered during my interviews.

Eight months later, HR tried to demand an exit interview when I quit. “How can we fix things if you won’t tell us what’s wrong?”

I laughed and said, “I don’t have to do an exit interview and you all know what’s wrong – you just don’t want to deal with it.”

Also, I feared retribution if I told the truth about the CEO. He was that nasty.

Six months after I quit, the board fired the CEO. Unfortunately, I don’t think it was because he is such a jerk. I think it was more because he spent a few hundred thousand dollars renovating the office space in my city, even though the existing space was just fine. You can be a total asshole and get away with it, but don’t waste company money, I guess.

Still, he was fired. And a search online shows that he has become a consultant. Nobody else wants him as a CEO, apparently.

I started my new job and my new boss was fabulous, although I still flinched every time he called me into his office. It took me months to realize he was not calling me in to yell at me or criticize me.

Good Boss: When Texan first started, she was scared every time I called her! But now she is fine.

Me: It’s because I thought you were going to scream at me.

Summer intern: You were like a rescue dog who had been abused!

I even wrote letters to all my former bosses (not including the job I had just left with the Bad CEO), telling them I had never realized how great they were because I had never had a bad boss before. I had taken having a good boss for granted.

Four years after I started, the company was acquired and the new CEO brought in all his GE friends.

(If you know anything at all about GE, this is where you start to get scared.)

In January, I was moved to a different group working under a new VP from GE.

Let’s call her Cruella.

In the year I reported to her, Cruella gave me no objectives. In June, she gave me one assignment. In my review in August, she said not much more than, “People really like you and your work!” She sounded surprised.

In September, she announced a new org chart. She told me the night before the announcement – only because we happened to be walking together to the hotel – that I would now be reporting to Liz, a woman I had recruited and trained. A woman who had no management experience and 15 years less corporate experience. I swallowed and smiled and thought, “Well, at least I like Liz. I can make this work.”

Yeah no.

Liz also gave me no objectives, no feedback. The whole time, I kept doing my old job because nobody had said not to do it and the work needed to be done and I was really good at it.

In December, Cruella called me to tell me she was eliminating my position. I told her she had been trying to get me to quit since the day she started. She retorted that I had really messed up the assignment she had given me in June. Which was the first time I had heard that. If I was going such a crummy job, shouldn’t she – as my manager – give me feedback and direction? And shouldn’t she have mentioned it in my August review?

So I was gone.

And two weeks later, one of my former co-workers quit without another job lined up.

And then the original VP – whom they had demoted to director (the CEO called her on Christmas day to tell her he was bringing in a new VP and that she would be demoted) – quit.

Since then, more of the original team has quit – including Liz, who apparently would go into the bathroom to cry after dealing with Cruella.

And two weeks ago, a friend who still works at the company told me that they had just announced Cruella was leaving, using the “she has been fired” language of “Cruella is leaving the company to pursue other opportunities.”

I messaged my former boss: I heard Cruella is gone. I hope she was fired and is leaving in disgrace.

Former boss and now current friend (thumbs up): Yep and yep!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

It feels great to be in a world of women

Even the bad news that you’re going to lose a tooth sounds better when it comes from another woman

I have a Bad Tooth.

It has to be pulled.

Would have been nice if my former – former because he’s a Trumper – dentist had caught this last year when I still had the good dental insurance and when it must have been obvious.

I say “must have been obvious” because my new dentist took new x-rays that she did not charge me for, saying the x-rays from July that former dentist sent were fuzzy. I think the new dentist was so shocked at seeing the state of my tooth on the July x-ray that she wanted to be sure before she said anything to me.

When Mr T and I went on ACA, we took one of their dental plans, getting decent but not fabulous coverage. As in, it makes financial sense to pay for the insurance because it’s what we would pay for two exams a year anyhow and we have some coverage for cavities.

But not coverage for things like tooth pulling and replacement. Because who expects that?

OK maybe I should expect that, as I had a tooth pulled and replaced with an implant 20 years ago. But two? Two bad teeth? Honestly.

I went to the dental school for a screening appointment, hoping they will take me as a patient.

My dental student was female, which was wonderful enough.

But then her professor came in to check the student’s work.

And the professor was not only a woman, but she was an 82 year old woman who happens to also be a nun.

The student addressed the professor as “Doctor Sister Jones.”

Me: I read a study years ago that nuns live longer than other women.

Student: It’s because they don’t have to deal with men!

Dr. Sister Jones: It’s true! I recently had an appointment with a new doctor. When he saw that I’m a nun, he said, “You’re going to live forever!”

She is 82 years old.

And she is still a practicing dentist.

And she is a professor.

OMG the things women can accomplish when they don’t have husbands and children.

The dental school accepted me as a patient. A female student did my x-rays and she, too, was supervised by a woman.

I believe all of them when they tell me my tooth will have to be pulled. I know they’re not lying just to make money.

I leave you with this story about a 116 year old nun who has recovered from covid.