Adrift in the Corporate Shuffle
July 23, 2013 8:17 AM   Subscribe

It hit me this morning that perhaps all of my endless toil and hard work has landed me here. I've transferred so much within the company that all paperwork on me has been long since misplaced. I exist only in a computer program that spits out a 4 digit paycheck to my bank account every other Thursday - just another tick on the underbelly of the corporate warthog. Too senior to be fired, too misunderstood to be bothered, I am truly the forgotten employee.
posted by Mach5 (52 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Entertaining story, if a little jarring at times. Thanks.
posted by lazaruslong at 8:32 AM on July 23, 2013

posted by lordaych at 8:36 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've gotten close to this nirvana but never at this guy's level. Well played Mr. Moonshine, well played. I now have a new hero.
posted by Ber at 8:43 AM on July 23, 2013 [7 favorites]

Everything is fine as long as they don't take his red stapler.
posted by nathan_teske at 8:47 AM on July 23, 2013 [12 favorites]

I kind of wish it had stayed at the level of not being found out due to the systems in place that shuffle middle managers around without any thought to what they do. It might have been a more boring story, but that very well could have been the point. The globes were a nice touch, though, especially the "management globe."
posted by xingcat at 8:48 AM on July 23, 2013

posted by tilde at 8:50 AM on July 23, 2013

FWIW, this is pretty old: first posted in 2002 on the Something Awful forums, from what I read elsewhere.

Still, it's fun to dream about what you would do with a good Internet connection, free coffee, a steady paycheck, and nothing but time (IOW, an incubator?).
posted by wenestvedt at 8:57 AM on July 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

>it's fun to dream about what you would do with a good Internet connection, free coffee, a steady paycheck, and nothing but time

From my time in state and federal government, seems like most people in this situation just nap and gossip.
posted by anti social order at 8:59 AM on July 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

It's interesting how the various community websites all seem to develop their own in-house style for their fiction -- I'm not sure exactly what the identifiers are, other than the Capitalized NSFW Descriptors In Place Of Names, but I'd be able to recognize this as SA from a mile away.

This didn't much work, for me; too many bald implausibilities, starting with the "they reassigned my responsibilities and direct reports but forgot to fire me" bit.
posted by ook at 9:00 AM on July 23, 2013

I think the funniest part is that he spends as much time and care avoiding work and responsibility as his co-workers who do stuff... probably more. It's a sinecure he has to work to hold on to.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:00 AM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

I want to believe.
posted by asperity at 9:00 AM on July 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm sorry, I am just having trouble suspending disbelief on this one. What is this magical cellphone that has buttons that can be operated from outside the pocket? This isn't Star Trek people!
posted by rocketpup at 9:08 AM on July 23, 2013

Yes I was just thinking I read this something like 10 years ago. Still, a solid entry in what I call dystopic workplace fiction.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:11 AM on July 23, 2013

What is this magical cellphone that has buttons that can be operated from outside the pocket?

In 2002? Basically any candy bar phone, they all had physical buttons instead of touchscreens.
posted by backseatpilot at 9:14 AM on July 23, 2013 [13 favorites]

Hosted on the forgotten website hosting service.
posted by notyou at 9:16 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

I don't know if I'm jealous of his paycheck-without-responsibility or of I'd be bored to death by it.

And yeah: how's he been doing for the last decade?
posted by easily confused at 9:17 AM on July 23, 2013

What is this magical cellphone that has buttons that can be operated from outside the pocket?
In 2002? Basically any candy bar phone, they all had physical buttons instead of touchscreens.

Seriously? Thanks for the historical context.
posted by rocketpup at 9:33 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

George Costanza was a pioneer in this field.
posted by Mack Twain at 9:49 AM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

In 2002? Basically any candy bar phone, they all had physical buttons instead of touchscreens.

Such as the ubiquitious nokia 3510/3530, that heralded the introduction of the internet to bog standard phones. Well, it had dog-slow GPRS access to that heavily neutered puppy of the web, WAP, which counts, right? It did however have polyphonic ringtones, which meant you could pay extortionate prices via text message to get a badly out of tune version of the Imperial March as your ringtone. And of course, it played Snake.

Man, 10 years go by fast, don't they?
posted by ArkhanJG at 9:50 AM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

I was in a weird corporate limbo for a few years in the early 00s. They had laid-off my whole team except for two of us who were kept on to train our outsourced replacements. We, the remaining two, were supposed to leave at the end of the year after we were done training but they goofed, didn't file things correctly and the "resource action" expired on December 31 causing us to not be laid-off and our local manager couldn't figure out how to legally get rid of us. My teammate quit six months later out of boredom since they wouldn't assign anything to us but I was in grad school, paid by the company, and was damn sure to stick around until I finished my master's. (Also I'd have to pay back the tuition if I quit)

So I spend the next 2-1/2 years going to class and randomly showing up at my office (which was the only occupied office in a cluster of a dozen of empty offices so it was kind of spooky), reading my email, writing status reports and doing my homework. Eventually after bouncing me through three managers I actually got a project to work on but then three months after that, they found an active resource action to attach me to and finally laid me off. The kicker was that they gave me notice about two weeks after they'd paid off my final tuition bill for grad school and then gave me three months full severance pay and paid for my heath insurance for the next six months which let me finish my thesis project and then take a little vacation after I'd graduated.

So thank you large multi-national computer company for paying for my education, paying me a comfortable salary and giving me a very comfortable private window office on the twentieth floor of a downtown landmark building with all the free pop and coffee I could drink and not actually giving me anything to do.
posted by octothorpe at 9:52 AM on July 23, 2013 [51 favorites]

Peter principle?
posted by blue_beetle at 9:52 AM on July 23, 2013

In 2002? Basically any candy bar phone, they all had physical buttons instead of touchscreens.

Semi-related: Went into a small AT&T wireless retail store the other day. Everything is now a "smartphone", they had zero keypad phones on display. They do stock them but they are all in the back.
posted by jeremias at 9:54 AM on July 23, 2013

Octothorpe, your story couldn't possibly sound more like what I saw during my time at IBM.
posted by deadmessenger at 10:01 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

deadmessenger, I never said that I was working for that large blue company. I might have been working for any number of 300,000-person hundred-year-old computer companies that force their employees to use Lotus Notes for email and file their expense reports using VM.
posted by octothorpe at 10:11 AM on July 23, 2013 [19 favorites]

Then I realized something amazing - I was wearing my bar pants.

posted by Kabanos at 10:20 AM on July 23, 2013

Back when there was no Apple and computer typography was the only way to go, I was hired by a large, high-profile firm to help train existing staff on new equipment which proved to be transitional and short-lived. They paid me crazy money and the benefits were generous.

I spent at least six months in an office with a desk, a light, and a pile of magazines, waiting for the new equipment to arrive. My boss would tell me to "look busy when the big guy comes in" but otherwise I was free to read, wander the building (an interesting industrial site being rehabbed for business), ride up and down elevators etc. Meanwhile I got lots of dental work done and had minor surgery paid for by their plan.

When this gig stretched into a year--there were issues with the equipment manufacturer as well as the staff--I found that just sitting around doing nothing could be far, far more stressful than working hard, despite the goodies. I ultimately moved on and was happy to do so, even if I did miss the money.
posted by kinnakeet at 10:28 AM on July 23, 2013 [6 favorites]

Living the dream!
posted by klangklangston at 10:33 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I worked a shitty call-center job a decade ago, one of the sort where the "supervisors" actually had about 100 employees working under them, such that performance was mainly an automated process. One my the members of my "training pod" was a perpetually thick Bro who took the job to work off a slew of reckless endangerment tickets he had racked up street racing. When we were transfered from our trainer to General Population, he fell between the cracks: No supervisor, but still in the system. So long as he clocked in on time, and took a minimal number of calls, his profile didn't raise the red inactivity flag that would draw the attention of anyone higher up on the food chain. And without a direct supervisor, there was no one monitoring the actual quality of his work.

One day, I walked past his station, and he was flipping through and issue of Maxim while on the phone. Eavesdropping, it appeared he was comparing notes with the caller about the relative merits of each girl's endowments. I asked him about it at lunch, and he revealed his strategy: He would take four or five calls an hour, and assess if the caller "seemed cool" or not. If not, he would hang up without serving them, leaving them to call back and get another employee at random. If, however, they passed his criterion, he would "hang out" with them on the phone for as long as they cared to indulge him. This Maxim call I had overheard evidently lasted 40 minutes.

When I finally moved on to greener pastures, he was in his fourth month of brainless employment, with no sign of anyone catching on to his situation. Not a bad gig for someone without skill or ambition.
posted by belarius at 10:34 AM on July 23, 2013 [9 favorites]

I've been on gigs like this while riding the many sinking ships I've been on in my career and it's pretty exhausting trying to look busy enough to not get let go before the incoming layoff while not looking so busy people actually make you do work. Doing actual work is oftentimes easier.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:58 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

the managers' meeting reminded me of this comment
posted by exogenous at 10:59 AM on July 23, 2013

What is this magical cellphone that has buttons that can be operated from outside the pocket?

In 2002? Basically any candy bar phone, they all had physical buttons instead of touchscreens.

Seriously? Thanks for the historical context.

WTF? My current phone, which I bought like 2 months ago, has physical buttons.
posted by DU at 11:00 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

What is this magical cellphone that has buttons that can be operated from outside the pocket?

In 2002? Basically any candy bar phone, they all had physical buttons instead of touchscreens.

Seriously? Thanks for the historical context.

WTF? My current phone, which I bought like 2 months ago, has physical buttons.

Are you a witch or are you a time traveler?
posted by rocketpup at 11:11 AM on July 23, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'm someone who can't justify spending $N x 102/month on a toy.
posted by DU at 11:14 AM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Hahaha, aha. It would not be an opportune time for discussing my 3 years in Malaysia, ask me when the contract ends in late September.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:15 AM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

In one of my two brief forrays into the corporate world, I had a gig like this by actual design. The company was liquidating and in bankrupcy. My job was to liquidate a certain portion of the company, mainly give back the money in insured customer accounts. Other than do that and answer some regulatory questions, I was told to basically read the internet cover to cover but be available between 9:00 and 5:00 to answer questions if need be. It is how I first discovered MetaFilter.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:22 AM on July 23, 2013 [7 favorites]

My current job is pretty close to this. Sure, I do some reports every now and then, but that's about it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:42 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

they reassigned my responsibilities and direct reports but forgot to fire me

Something like this happened while I was at Real Networks, during the chaotic end of the dot-com bubble. There was this one guy down the hall who'd been there a while, but nobody on my team knew exactly what he did or who he worked for. He spent a lot of time away from his desk, and to the degree that anybody thought about it, we just figured he'd been attached to some project elsewhere in the building, but hadn't been moved over to join the rest of his team.

Months went by, and one day he was gone - fired. After somehow falling off the org chart while remaining on payroll, he'd been running a startup out of his office the whole time, and one day one of his PR pieces caught the attention of some higher-up who recognized his name. That was the end of that gravy train! Never found out what happened to his startup; I'm kind of curious now how it all turned out for him.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:43 AM on July 23, 2013 [7 favorites]

I've slagged the Big C a lot, but one thing that happened to me early on (when the Great Dark Merger was barely young and a lot of the better execs from the Bank were still in charge instead of the SSoBs) was my group getting disbanded and its responsibilities assigned to a different group because of, basically, executive infighting during a reorganization. My record and reputation at that point was good enough that two different groups were trying to get me into their own, but neither of them had the ability to issue the in-house application due to their group funding at that point.

So the guy above them calls me. I have no idea about the people looking to get me into their orgs, just that mine is getting gutted, so when I get called in, I'm expecting to be laid off.

No, no, he tells me. He gives me the deal that's going on, then tells me that he's using his discretion to put me on his personal staff for a couple months until the re-org shakes out and they see who can afford me. "This way we know where you are."

I nod, ask him what I'll be doing for him. He shrugs. "If something comes up I'll tell you. Otherwise, catch up on your reading or something. Just as long as you're in your cube during business hours." He used me a couple times to do some stuff for him, taking care of a couple issues, but I think I had something like a total of a week's actual work in a month and a half.

I lived the dream. But it really was stressful. People knew and resented me for it, which was really difficult. I turned around and was as helpful as possible, but I was basically there because someone thought I was worth keeping around until something opened up for me, instead of letting me go and rehiring me later (or not, if I got another job). But the Old Corporate Culture was that way. The new one would have (and about 8 years later did) just punt me.
posted by mephron at 12:32 PM on July 23, 2013 [7 favorites]

This job. How do I get it?
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 1:31 PM on July 23, 2013

Something very similar happened to me for a six-month period, even down to the masturbating colleague.

I was working on a student placement for Pharma & Sons in a not very attractive part of the UK, when the site was abruptly shut. 500 people were given their marching orders a few days before Christmas.

The upside for we students was that they couldn't fire us because we weren't directly contracted, so 12 students got told they were moving to another site in... Italy. The downside for me and another student was that we were apparently moving to a process plant (ie a big factory, rather than a research lab) in... rural Ireland. We kicked up a giant fuss and eventually the company relented and agreed to just send all of us to Italy.

Because there hadn't really been space in Italy for the extra two of us, they put us on slightly weird projects. On the first day, while my friends were fetched by professional-looking chemists and whisked away to the giant steel and glass extension to the labs that had just been completed, my new supervisor lounged over to flirt with the female students. He appeared to be a cross between a dashing 1930's aviator and an affable skeleton. His name was Louis, he was flamboyantly French and as we walked down to where he worked (an X-files style basement near the loading dock), he filled me in on the rules:

1) I would need two notebooks, one for my regular work [notebooks are very important in pharma, because you need a meticulous paper trail when it comes to filing patents] and a second for 'other work', which I soon found out involved sketchy stuff involving competitors' patents. This seemed to have the side effect of making him unfireable, presumably because he knew where all of the regulatory bodies were buried.

2) Louis wasn't "concerned about measuring things" - a tenth of a gram here, a hundredth there - he preferred to play fast and loose. Freepouring chemicals, a pinch more of this, a couple of spatulas of that. This wasn't what I'd come to expect from two and a half years of working in chemistry, to put it mildly.

3) Louis was having an affair with Lisa, a woman fifteen years his junior. It was 'kind of an open secret' on the site but nevertheless I wasn't to mention it to anyone. Because many of our coworkers were friends with his wife, and knew his kids. Also, Lisa was engaged to be married herself that summer. However, not to worry, it was purely physical and he was keeping an ironic detachment from it all.

Within... Ooooh, about a week, things started to become complicated between Louis and Lisa.

To begin with, he'd half-heartedly suggested a couple of projects to me, related to the area of research that he was (half-heartedly) working on himself. As the affair took up more and more of his time, he would start missing meetings, forgetting to pass on emails, and eventually disappearing from his office for long periods of time. Initially, I tried to continue with the project on my own, but after an incident in which he blithely signed off on my suggested reaction scheme, without noticing that it involved POCl3, I gave up. Luckily a friend had happened to drop by and warned me to take extra safety precautions before I started the reaction. (Actually Louis stole my reaction scheme and tried it the next day, and it blew up and sprayed the highly toxic reaction mixture all over the inside of the fumehood while we were chatting).

I settled into an easy routine, and I'm ashamed to say that this still ranks as one of the happiest six months of my working life. I would get up fairly late, and as one of the few drivers among the students, I would take one of the cars that had been hired for us and ferry any other late starters to work, stopping off for 'cafe i cornetti' on the way. Then I would go and eat some more from the fridge at work, have another couple of coffees, have my free lunch, and a couple of hours later I would take the first car home for early finishers. Between these daily landmarks, I would mostly browse the internet, interspersed with occasional trips to see my friends doing real work in other labs. Rent on our apartment was cheap, and with all the free food and the free car hire, we only had to pay for evening meals, petrol, booze, and entertainment each weekend. We were still paid in sterling and the exchange rate with the Euro made us rich (well, for students). It was an incredible party, we were all young, beautiful people in an old, beautiful country and - thanks to being blessed with the world's most disengaged supervisor - I never had to worry about going to work with a hangover.

The only interruptions to this pleasant routine came from Louis. Once or twice a week, he would appear at my desk, bearing a couple of cups of coffee. One was for me. He'd then let out a theatrical sigh, and proceed to explain how difficult things were going between him and Lisa. I'd mentally block about half an hour away from the internet on my internal calendar, listen patiently, and always advise him to break things off. He'd eventually talk himself around to agreeing, appear relieved, thank me, and inevitably we would see his car parked in front of her apartment block as we drove home from the beach or a restaurant late on the same evening.

Sometimes, though, he would come to wave dangerous objects near my head. Once the object was a brick of sodium in a rusty metal can. The can was supposed to be filled with mineral oil, but (we discovered after opening it) over time the mineral oil had somehow escaped and the sodium was 'dry' i.e. exposed to the moisture in the air. That involved doing some real work, because we cut the metal into chunks, to put it into a more suitable container, flicking the offcuts into sink - which, to Louis's audible delight, turned into a column of fire that singed the lab ceiling.

Another time the object was small enough to fit into his fist and it was a guessing game - 'guess what my son found in the footwell of my car? Someone must have pushed it in through the crack at the top of the window!!' I know, right? Obviously it was a live, dum-dum'd round. When I asked him why he thought someone might have gone to the trouble of leaving a live (and illegal) bullet in his car, he laughed and shrugged it off as a coincidence. Pure unfounded prejudice, but I still suspect that it might have had something to do with Lisa's finance, who worked in his family's construction business (!) down in Naples (!).

Other than that, and his very serious discussions about how he would make his fortune breeding snails with sinistral shells and selling them to top Parisian restaurants (this was normally in lieu of talking about my project, after one of my feeble monthly attempts to assuage my conscience and get some actual work to do) - other than that, I never saw him. I was left alone in my office with Andy, a vaguely odd biologist who ran the site baseball team and salivated slightly when he talked. I liked Andy and was always slightly confused by people's reactions when I mentioned that we worked in the same office. Eventually someone came out and said it to my face. 'But... isn't he the guy who watches porn in the office all the time?' 'Nah... Andy? Not possible. I'd have noticed!' But of course after that I did notice that he was able to minimise stuff on his screen like a ninja whenever I spoke to him. Being young, I found this less creepy than I probably should have and more funny. We sat back-to-back and I had hours of playing a reaction-testing game of my own invention, Spin Swivel Chair Unexpectedly And Boom Out A Question To Andy.

All goods things come to an end, of course, and after six months it was time to say my goodbyes and go back to Uni. My academic supervisor, who was fairly humourless, hadn't been pleased to hear that there was no project work for him to come to Italy and mark (in retrospect I realise that he had probably wanted the free trip to Italy). Thankfully Louis - going through a difficult period, with his wife leaving him and Lisa getting married - remained consistently uninterested in the placement student he'd been given. After six months, my academic supervisor came over to tell me that they'd been sending Louis an A4 page form to fill out on a weekly basis, of the type 'write a number from 0 -100 in this box and then a paragraph explaining the mark in this other box' and he'd promised to get back to them immediately each time. At that point they gave up and just gave me the (good) mark from the first six months.

Any flickers of bad conscience? Nah, not at all. Pharma & Sons were an unpleasant, cynical business (like the rest of Big Pharma) and I'm happy to have cut into their bottom line, even in such an imperceptible way. Also, as I think I mentioned, it was one of the best times of my life.

[European pharma is a small world and getting smaller each year, as pipelines dry up and sites get closed. If you work in the area, you can probably make a decent guess as to who some of these people were, but I've changed the names anyway.]
posted by Isn't in each artist (7) at 1:40 PM on July 23, 2013 [21 favorites]

I remember reading a piece in the NYT back in the 80s, I *think*, about a tale of "corporate Siberia" where an entire division -- in some tellings Citibank, and in some of those in the Citigroup Building in LIC -- was essentially wiped out in a reorganization, but only functionally. The people, those they kept on, with no work to do, stuck together on a floor. Supposedly it drove some to quit, others to madness. I thought it was pretty ridiculous at the time.

Years later, though, I had a couple of instances like that. I worked for a consultancy in Chicago that placed me at a big insurance company, undergoing an infamous Y2K upgrade that wasn't going to be done on time despite $billions thrown at the problem, and while I had various duties in that period -- for one spell working 80-hour weeks, which put me in urgent care with my first migraine -- not much of it was really critical to the outcome. After Y2K came and went, though, I was one of several headcounts kept on for, you know, something to be determined later. Meanwhile I was stuck in a cube with naught but my own mind to entertain me. I spent time on MeFi. I blogged. I worked on a proto-novel. I worked on a programming project that could have been something like the bastard child of Usenet and Friendster if it had ever looked like something more than a student demo.

I had a scary moment or two when a sexy, Hispanic consultant (from another company, but ostensibly part of the same general team) tried to get me to do some research for her. I was excited, because it was work!, and because she was pleasant to be around, but I felt obligated to clear it with my boss and he scared her off. I was back to nothing to do....

Eventually I was moved onto another project where I was actually doing something useful, and just as I was gearing up for real work that would actually make something (well, replace something), bam. The lot of us got cut. I was able to land elsewhere in the client company on another project, and I actually enjoyed it and had real responsibility, but it was a transitional technology that was in the process of being replaced so had a dismal future -- and I was stuck working nights and weekends, precisely in the middle of what was left of my social life. So I sort of had to quit, even though they made me an offer to come in-house at the same salary.


I was a consultant without portfolio. I worked at a few different clients, and unfortunately at one of them my bad habits caught up with me and I embarrassed my boss from the consultancy by misgauging my autonomy. After that I was in consultant limbo, with my only duties to work on certifications and come in to the office at least once a week, where we had a bullpen of similarly unassigned guys banging on computers, mostly surfing the web. I couldn't hack that easily, I worked on a few odd projects for people but mostly not at clients, except for the one who was a personal friend of the company president and an attorney who had ended up owning a strip club after a client of his went to prison/owed him money/never got the real story. That was going just fine until I swapped out a keyboard on a machine that then failed to reboot, munging the work records of the strippers, I kid you not. It wasn't long after that that they "reoriented" the company and got rid of a bunch of us network/hardware-oriented guys in favor of web development.

Anyway, I had a real taste of corporate Siberia after all those years, and that story was no longer unbelievable. And you know? Not feeling bad at all about being out of IT. Barely miss it.
posted by dhartung at 2:02 PM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

I had an experience just like this with an Unnamed Yellow Software Company. They had launched a huge project that was intended to eliminate, distribute, or automate my admin responsibilities and replace them with a new software structure with a whole new set of admin responsibilities. The project succeeded very well in the first part and failed catastrophically at the second. Almost 90% of my workload had vanished, and hadn’t been replaced with anything.

It wasn’t from lack of trying on my part either. I spent almost two months trying desperately to generate new, useful work for myself, but after watching everything I did vanish into a big institutional hole without so much as a burp, I shrugged my shoulders and gave up. Since I was part of a distributed team and every one of us was in a different state, so as long as I stayed logged into my corporate laptop, it didn’t matter where I was. Nobody either knew or cared if I actually came into the office or not.

Eventually they wound up eliminating my entire department outright, but for almost six months I was essentially getting paid to sit around at home, keep an eye on a laptop, and play Call of Duty all day. I won’t say it was STRESSFUL, but it was almost a relief when they finally let me go and I had to go do something interesting for a living again.
posted by Morriscat at 2:18 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

The narrative tone/voice of this reminds me of the tales of the BOFH.
And now I know how I'm spending the rest of my afternoon.
posted by ApathyGirl at 3:15 PM on July 23, 2013

What is it about these limbo situations that makes it uniquely difficult to get any of your own work or creative juices going? Theoretically, they should be perfect. In reality, nearly everyone describes them as "stressful". Shouldn't they be the most liberating amazing times? Is it because we're still stuck with part of brain belonging to the company, just waiting for the other shoe to drop and never able to fully live in the present? Why don't people write novels, or theorems or paint? We just get sucked down into a hell that should be perfect bliss.
posted by stoneweaver at 3:19 PM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think it's that when you have a job like this you're living in fear that someone responsible for getting you those sweet paychecks will swoop down and take it all away at any moment. Since, y'know, they could. Doesn't really help keep you doing anything genuinely creative or useful. Also, pretty much anything beyond writing and screwing around on the internet looks obviously like not-work in one of these jobs.

In some ways, the factory response to down-time is easier than the office job one: clean and sweep everything. Vaguely useful and better exercise than practicing your ninja-minimizing skills.
posted by asperity at 3:42 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

In part what Asperity said, and in my case, it was the sense of hostility I got from people who knew who was up and hated me for it. People watching you, walking by to see what you're doing. Trying to find something to report and screw you over. That's stressful as hell.
posted by mephron at 4:31 PM on July 23, 2013

What is it about these limbo situations that makes it uniquely difficult to get any of your own work or creative juices going? Theoretically, they should be perfect. In reality, nearly everyone describes them as "stressful". Shouldn't they be the most liberating amazing times? Is it because we're still stuck with part of brain belonging to the company, just waiting for the other shoe to drop and never able to fully live in the present? Why don't people write novels, or theorems or paint? We just get sucked down into a hell that should be perfect bliss.

People basically like to do work, specifically, work they perceive is useful. Nothing accelerates the mental and physical decline of old people like the feeling of being useless. This is why MMOs like WOW are so insanely popular: because your brain perceives playing them, grinding up levels and items, as "useful work". Give people a game with newfangled "horizontal progression" like Secret World, or Guild Wars 2 - where you don't explicitly give players a strict vertical progression path - and you'll find that, given total freedom to do what ever they want, most people find it stressful, end up paralyzed, and choose to do nothing at all.
posted by xdvesper at 5:03 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Reminds me of a phenomenon that happened in Japan. Employees are traditionally expected to stick with a company for life, and likewise nobody ever gets fired. Incompetent or otherwise undesirable workers are simply not given work and they're expected to quit out of shame or boredom. There are those that don't though, and they spend their days gazing out the window from their desk. They're known as the Window Seat Tribe.
posted by cyberscythe at 5:57 PM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Got stressed out just reading that.
posted by mantecol at 8:03 PM on July 23, 2013

He was actually working as an actor.
posted by telstar at 3:14 AM on July 24, 2013

My instructor from last semester adamantly pointed out that "loyalty" & "security" are two words that aren't sure shot things especially in the corporate setting. However, the experience/skills that you obtain are things that no one can take away from you thus proving useful in padding up the resume for a future gig down the road. Learn as much as you can, and be able to show adaptability and flexibility. Your position gets eliminated or outsourced at any give time? Sure. Take away the knowledge and skills you've obtained, honed, and mastered? Nope.
posted by tnar23 at 10:50 PM on July 29, 2013

As someone who has had a hellish go of things at work for the past few weeks, I was really hoping he would get skewered. Alas.
posted by planetesimal at 11:12 PM on July 29, 2013

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