I haven’t worked in a corporate environment since March of 2020. Prior to that, and for many years, I was in financial analysis and corporate accounting roles for over 20 years. My work often consisted of developing and creating budgets for the many departments and/or locations for property management companies.
The largest expense in a company’s budget was most often salaries. People are often one of the largest budgeted expenses and often where my employers wanted to cut the most. Long before the pandemic, my employers were constantly trying to reduce salaries, to cut employment costs.
Most years that I worked on budgets the executives would ask, “Why are salaries increasing year over year?” I would say, “Salaries don’t decrease year over year. Between annual cost of living adjustments and promotions, salaries will always increase.” This conversation happened every year during budget season.
My answer seemed to be taken as a challenge and department heads and executives would have meetings to discuss how to decrease the salary line items. They would plan to release someone that was “underperforming” and back fill the role with someone that cost less. Yes, that would reduce the costs, but I never understood how replacing someone with possibly less experience and a higher risk than someone already doing the job would be an improvement. I just didn’t understand how replacing people helped anything than other than the cost, but I guess that was the point. By reducing costs and increasing price per share growth, the shareholders and executives were satisfied. Shareholder value and executive bonuses were sacrosanct.
Over time, I started to realize that it was all about production, cost, executive bonuses, and above all pennies per share growth. People didn’t matter in these discussions. The department heads and executives discussed each employee and decided that someone that couldn’t work excessive and unhealthy hours wasn’t worth keeping. They hired for hustle culture and if you couldn’t, or didn’t want to do it, you were likely slated to be let go, downsized, or have your position eliminated.
The employees that stayed and kept hustling, received more work. If you were one of the work horses in the department you were asked to keep taking on more and more work. As employees, many of us kept taking on the additional work. Our hours crept up slowly and we took it like the proverbial boiling frog. I enjoyed my demise as I slowly burned out.
Most of my coworkers seemed to handle it well, and I did to, until I didn’t. For a time, I worked as hard as I wanted to, earned a lot of money, and several promotions. It was how I valued myself. Eventually though, I valued myself more than hustle culture. I then found my way out of corporate employment, after burning out…twice. It was good for me until it wasn’t.
For the past couple of years, I’ve been healing from hustle culture and the culture that is corporate America, or at least the culture that was my employment experience. Finding my way forward on my own has been challenging and satisfying. I’ve healed and maybe this blog post is me putting the final nail in the coffin of that phase of my life.
In this moment, I’m not sure what purpose this blog post serves other than to help me solidify what I learned during that time. I’ve learned that to value my talents, time, and energy. I’ve learned that that I don’t have to work for corporate America, and that I can do so much more than analyze and account for things for people who don’t care for me. I learned to free myself from people and institutions that didn’t value me. I learned to work hard for myself, on my goals, and my way. That was my path in this life. Those were my lessons to learn in this lifetime.
As for you, I have hopes. I hope that your employment situation serves you well. I hope that you value your talents, time, and energy. I hope that your employers value you because you are so very valuable, even if your boss doesn’t see you that way.
I hope that your path is filled with all the good things in life.
Happy Labor Day 2022.
Today’s image was made in Canva.