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“hiatus” December 7, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Definition, Meta.


The short definition of “hiatus” is “what this blog is going on”.

I like writing CorporateSpeak entries. Sometimes. The thing is, keeping up fresh content on a daily basis, along with everything else I do, and not really getting any increase in pageviews… it’s not doing it for me. I ran this blog with a new post every day for 15 months with very little change.

I’ll be honest: I started CorporateSpeak in the hope that whomever was reading blogs and turning them into books would want to do the same with this one. I mean, if that fancy fast food blog got a book deal after six posts, I certainly should’ve been able to do the same, right?

I also started it to have an outlet for my frustration with my job. But I’m not frustrated about my job anymore. After the reorg, I suddenly found myself with nothing to complain about, work-wise, except the fact that I kept getting stuck late at work on Fridays. (But when you work with ad agencies, that tends to happen a lot.)

Finally… CorporateSpeak takes time to maintain. I have to find topics that I’m interested in, write about them, and hope I’ve done a good enough job to get people to read the posts. I have a lot of stuff going on in my life besides the blog, and this takes up more time than I feel it is worth at this point.

So for now I’m putting this blog on hiatus. I may return in a few weeks, or I may return in a few months. Or I might come back on 1/3/10 with a weekly or bi-weekly format. Who knows?

Thank you for reading. I encourage you to migrate over to a blog that I’m actually trying to do something with, I Had To Tell SOMEONE, and send me your amusing, unintentionally-dirty, or just plain strange chats — Facebook, IM, Twitter, Gmail, Wave, whatever.

Until then… keep me in your RSS reader. You never know when I’ll pop up next.


going to work for your dad December 4, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Experiences, Lessons Learned.

cc-licensed photo by Larry Page

My father had exactly one post-college job in his entire life: he worked for his dad — my grandfather. It was a good job, though a hard one — he left for work at 5:30 every morning and got home at 5:30 every night, and had to work every other Saturday. He was tired a lot, and dirty, and he’s got some lingering injuries that are probably work-related, but we lived in the lower tier of upper-middle-class and we were, overall, pretty happy. Later, after my grandfather and his business partner retired, my dad became one-third owner of the business along with the partner’s two sons. And, finally, he retired as well. All in all, a normal life for a person born in the 1950s.

Things are a little different now. Kids are still working for their parents, but parents are in different types of jobs. Manufacturing and delivery are often done by bigger companies and corporations where nepotism only works when you’re the CEO. And in small companies, you can certainly hire your kids, but there’s a recession on. What happens when you have to cut staff? Do you fire your son or your daughter? Do you keep your family on staff even though you clearly have more talented employees not related to you?

Family restaurants, laundromats, and so forth are a different animal, so let’s leave those out for a minute and think about a couple of case-studies.

That Guy. Now, obviously I didn’t go to work for my dad, though I did sit in a couple of times at the office when one of the receptionists had to miss a Saturday. I never wanted to go into a physical-labor field (his company delivered and serviced restaurant equipment and supplies, and had been doing so since the early 1900s), but it was made clear to me that, if I needed to, I could go work for him.

I didn’t. I got a job at an office supply chain in high school, then went off to college and never went back home for anything more than a summer.

Because of the nature of the business, and because my dad retired and as part of that his partners bought out his third at a set price, contractually, I don’t know how the business is doing. I hear from time to time that they’re still making money, so that’s good. But what if they weren’t? What if I’d gotten hired and the business went south? Would I have lost my job because I was a newer employee, or would I have kept it because my dad was the boss? Would my dad have worked longer to make sure I had the dad-as-boss protection?

Plus, from a purely physical standpoint, my dad is a pretty strong guy. I’m not — I’m about average. I’m sure that lugging around equipment and making deliveries would’ve remedied that, but my dad is also very mechanically-savvy; he would often leave the management duties to his partners and go repair stuff in the shop out back. I think his employees liked him better than the other guys, but then, when the hammer needed to be brought down, it was my dad who did it. Could I have succeeded him? Probably not. Would I have been happy in the position? Definitely not.

And what about the money?

That brings us to case two.

cc-licensed photo by blmurch

Kyle. Kyle is a friend of mine who works for a small, family-owned jewelry shop. And when I say small, I mean small — they have four employees. There’s Henry (the owner), Beatrice (the owner’s wife), Lewis (another employee), and Kyle. Oh, and also me — I freelance for the store, doing their web development and keeping their catalog updated. Now, also important to note is that Henry and Beatrice have two children, Ramona and Robert. And that Ramona is married to Kyle.

You can see where I’m going with this.

Kyle got a job working for Henry some years back, when he and Ramona were just friends. But they recently got married. Now Kyle works for his father-in-law, in an industry that was fairly hard-hit by the recession — who’s going to buy jewelry, especially from a small, family-owned shop, when they can get something less expensive in the mall or at the jewelry exchange*? Now, before the wedding, Kyle faced a few pay cuts, but he’s still making good enough money to support himself and his wife, who currently works part-time while finishing her Master’s Degree.

What happens, though, if the jewelry industry takes a turn for the worse? What happens if Henry has to lay someone off? Sure, Kyle’s good at his job, but Lewis is a better salesman — do they fire Lewis (because Kyle supports their daughter) or do they fire Kyle (because Lewis will bring in more money and gets paid less anyway)? Can Henry in good conscience fire Kyle, knowing how it will impact his daughter? What if Kyle can’t find another job, and Ramona can’t find a full-time job? Will Henry just end up supporting them by letting them live in their house? (I’ve been there; Henry and Beatrice have a nice house with plenty of room now that Robert has moved into his own place.)

Quite a dilemma for Henry. Quite a dilemma for Kyle, who knows his job is secure as long as the company makes enough to pay his salary. And quite a situation for Lewis if Henry ends up having to make that decision.

So… knowing what you know, would you hire your son or daughter? His or her spouse? What about other relations — nieces, nephews, sisters, brothers, cousins, and so on? Most big companies have rules that relatives cannot supervise each other, and it’s a whole different issue as to what happens around promotion time. But in this economy, if you have no job and your parents get you one at their company, sometimes you (and they) just have to deal with the consequences.

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* I remember, as a kid, going to the jewelry exchange and being bored to tears. I wonder if people still go to those, or if they’re all out of business.

Note: My dad did not own or work at Doug’s Repair Shop. It’s just an example of what is likely to be a family-owned and keep-it-in-the-family kind of place.

frustration vs defeat December 3, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Economic Downturn, Getting Fired, Seen Elsewhere.
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Overheard in the Newsroom:

Last year on my self-evaluation I wrote a lot because I was frustrated. This year I will write little because I’m defeated.

The right to make your voice heard on your self-evaluation is huge. It’s the one time during the year when you can get on record how you feel and what changes you want to make. It’s very freeing. You still have to be careful — you don’t want to badmouth your boss because your boss, after all, is the one who decides if you deserve a raise — but for the most part, if you hate the way your department is run ragged by another department, you can certainly say it.

The thing is, most people aren’t getting raises this year. They’re lucky to keep their jobs at all in most cases, what with the across-the-board layoffs and more people having to do more work but make less money. And they know that if they make too many waves, they’ll be tabbed for the next round of job losses.

Anyway, if you aren’t getting a raise, it’s unlikely you’ll get more than a perfunctory meeting with your boss where s/he tries to convince you that you need to stick around and do your best even though you’re not seeing anything good happening in your job. You may not even be asked to self-evaluate, and if you are, your boss is just as likely to throw it on file and be done with it. So why would you bother to write a lot? Or anything at all?

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quit unexpectedly December 2, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Experiences, Getting Fired.
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So what do you do when you’re treated poorly, not given enough incentive to hang around, and not appreciated by management?

You quit.

Years ago, I quit a job because I was harassed and, while my regional manager was willing to back me to the hilt, the RM’s boss said no way. I found another job, I called the RM, I explained my reasons, and he totally understood. He wasn’t happy, but he understood.

I didn’t do this, though:

This guy has totally burnt his bridges. He will never work for this company again. He will never get a reference from any managers at that company. And because of that, he can’t use any work he did at that company for future job applications because they might call said company and try to find out what kind of designer they’re hiring.

It goes both ways, though. My boss is very vocal with his praise, and the culture of positive recognition is so ingrained in my department that we actually have a segment during our weekly meetings where we publicly recognize our co-workers for doing good work or being helpful. In my old job, my immediate boss was always appreciative, but beyond him there was very little praise or pleasantness unless you did something really amazing — which I did every now and then. Which is why, when the reorg happened, I went upstairs and most of my coworkers went to another office.

I’ve got a post about burning bridges coming at some point. This is just a tease, if you will. And a funny one at that.

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“cloud computing” December 1, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Definition, Pictures, Seen Elsewhere, Technology Trouble.
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cloud computing
KLOWD kom-PYU-ting

If you want to get technical, cloud computing is a very cool way to keep all your stuff in internet-land, where you can access it from anywhere because you don’t own the media or servers upon which it’s stored. But if you want to get corporate, all you need to know is that corporations are likely to be very, very leery about implementing it despite how into it their tech folks are.

The problem with cloud computing, from a corporate perspective, is all about control. Most people have Google accounts, and already live somewhat in the cloud — if you have webmail, you’re doing cloud computing. Google is by far the king of the cloud, though Microsoft’s Office 10 is going to attempt to make some inroads into that market share. But whether it’s via Google, Microsoft, or even Yahoo (anyone remember Yahoo Briefcase?), the company doesn’t own the data. The data is held by the third party, who has their own set of terms and conditions as to the warranty of the data (T-Mobile Sidekick Fail, for example), the accessibility of the data (you can’t call Google and complain that Docs is down), and their right to read the data or be subpoenaed and hand the data over. And what happens if the third party suffers a hacking attack that ends with the data being taken by hostile parties? What’s the company’s recourse?

That’s why so many companies use VPNs instead of cloud computing — they let employees log into their work PCs using secure connections that they control. It’s way slower than the cloud, but it lets the corporations exercise their own security measures. And, I have to admit, as much as I love cloud computing (I do most of my first drafts on Docs), there’s a big difference between running a blog and running a multi-million-dollar corporation.

Of course, all companies have to do their due diligence and pretend to be interested in cloud computing, as illustrated by the above Dilbert strip. The tech guys always get excited about it, hoping they can link their tricked-out Google accounts to their work life. Just remember — if the company does go with the cloud, you’re going to have to make all your Google stuff available to them upon request. You know it’ll show up in the IT policy. I’d certainly put it there.

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