America, especially corporate America, is amazing at branding. I’m gonna stuff this turd down your throat but call it a prosciutto and brie baguette and you’ll fucking love it! And eat it daily! Sometimes the ruse is genuinely clever in disguising its true intent. Other times the sheep (i.e. people like me) are too timid and don’t have a strong enough rallying cry to fight back. “No Mr. or Ms. CEO, I know this is a shit sandwich, and I will stomach it no more!”
WTF am I talking about? What is the turd in question? I’m talking about “collaboration” and “collaborative work environments”.
As I’ve gotten older and “progressed” in my career, my actual physical environment has dramatically deteriorated. When I was 23, I was a low-level manager at a Mickey Mouse organization. A 100-person company, with an average age of 25. A company so poorly run and destitute that they (1) Cancelled our monthly Pizza Hut delivery lunch because it was a “luxury” (2) Various VPs would openly scream at each other. Even so, when I first started, I had my own walled cubicle and then moved into a shared office. Since then: Open floor plans, no desks – just long tables with “workstations”, hoteling – a situation where you don’t even have your own area you just bring in your computer and plug in. A lot of places don’t even have printers anymore because “they’re going green”.
Mr. and Ms. CEO, fuck you. Your goal is to save money on real estate. And the particularly miserly ones, on paper and printer maintenance too. I remember this prick Managing Director, during a meeting a few years ago, described our open workspace office setting as an “idea engine”. I couldn’t restrain my rage and fired back that I personally found it “distracting and resembling a 1990’s Asian sweatshop environment.” In retrospect, it’s no wonder that I never get promoted.
If there ever was, at any point, anybody dumb and blind enough to believe that “collaborative work environments” were a real initiative – that person died long ago and their method of death no doubt won them the Darwin Award. Perhaps it was that idiot last year who tried to take a selfie with an 'injured' bear. Maybe that guy, prior to his passing, genuinely believed that working in a big open room, no more than three feet away in each direction from one of his colleagues, was really intended to promote collaborative problem solving and teamwork. Perhaps he was frustrated watching his colleagues procure $400 noise cancelling headsets and downloading white-noise apps in hopes of trying to drown out the 878 daily workplace distractions. “Why aren’t people collaborating in this wonderful workplace environment provided to us!?”
It’s 2020 and we (corporate nobodies of America) have allowed ourselves to get packed into “collaborative spaces” like canned sardines. I can honestly say that the idea of once again having a walled cubicle of my own excites me greatly. A makeshift wall, all to my own, that partially shields me from douchebags. Am I dreaming too big? Too greedy and ambitious in my desire?
No. Not anymore. When this pandemic subsides and we head back to work, I’m finally standing up for myself. Fuck no I’m not sitting next to 15 other douchebags in a 100 square foot area. Leadership’s veneer for their cost-cutting scheme was “collaboration”. Well my veneer is “corona”. Whether I fear the virus itself or not, I now have my excuse/rallying cry and will no longer work in a computer sweatshop. Three shitters for 200 men. One dysfunctional printer per floor. A flurry of inane conversations overwhelming me from all angles; feels like I’m boxing against an octopus.
Rise up, my corporate minions! RISE UP! And do it the modern way – by whining relentlessly to HR about how you feel unsafe (and in all seriousness, you have every right to). No Mas! “I do mind, the Dude minds. This will not stand, you know, this aggression will not stand man!”