Corporate Games: Outthink the Competition and Take It All

Corporate Games: Outthink the Competition and Take It All

by Michelle Edith Jones

ISBN: 9780989663809

Publisher B I C Book Publications

Published in Self-Help, Health, Fitness & Dieting, Business & Investing/Processes & Infrastructure, Business & Investing/Job Hunting & Careers, Business & Money

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Book Description

This book looks at employment in a corporate setting and offers advice for job seekers looking for their first job, next job or any job. There are suggestions for everything from perfecting your resume to surviving job interviews. It also provides examples of what a little behind-the-scenes aggression can do for your career.

Corporate Games uses stories to illustrate the things you should (and sometimes should not) do to get ahead. I wrote it with humor, sarcasm, and a healthy dose of bluntness, just to keep it real. If there is such a thing as an employment survival guide, this book is it.

Sample Chapter

A Bit of History

I looked at this scene every business day for approximately five years before the company I worked for moved to LaSalle Street, and then later to Elk Grove Village, Illinois. The white building on the left is 222 South Riverside Plaza. Chicago’s Union Station is housed beneath it, and my path toward a business career began on the building’s fourteenth floor.

In 1984 I moved to Chicago, Illinois, from Denver, Colorado, where I had lived for a little over a year. During that time I had a variety of jobs. I was a maid, a dishwasher, a newspaper ad inserter, a display maker, a nurse aide, a construction worker, a linen factory worker, a weigh master, and a day laborer for hire. The reason for all these different forms of employment wasn’t just because I was young and undecided about a career path. It was because at twenty-two I was considered an adult and was alone in a strange city and needed to do whatever it took to support myself with minimal skills and education. At that age I was still extremely immature and lacked the patience and temperament required to succeed long-term at menial labor. Additionally I had no real skills to speak of, my highest level of education was high school, and the only jobs readily available to people like me were in the food industry.

Please don’t think I’m knocking the fast food industry as a source of employment, because I’m not. I was raised on Big Macs, Sliders, and Whoppers like many other Americans who grew up during the 70s and 80s, and I have a healthy appreciation for people who work at restaurants. I commend anyone who has the patience to serve food to hungry, often unruly, American patrons. Fast food establishments provide a necessary and welcome service to people on the go or those who can’t cook for themselves or their families without poisoning a beloved relative.

As a teen, I never had the pleasure of working at a Burger King, K Fried, Taco Bell or Mickey D’s, but for some strange reason, I suffered for years from nightmares about working at such places and severely burning myself trying to operate a fryer. The dreams usually involved images of deep fried hand or foot. Don’t ask about the deep fried foot.

So I’m not knocking a temporary or permanent career in fast food. I’m just telling you that from a very early age, the klutzy child who grew up to become this even klutzier adult knew that for my sake—and that of the general public—I needed to stay on the customer side of the fast food counter at all times.

So even though I worked a variety of odd jobs in Denver, my employment opportunities were still limited by my lack of skills and minimal education. Or so I thought.

When I got to Chicago, I couch surfed at the homes of several friends and relatives. The plan was to get a job doing anything and everything and earn enough money to go back to Denver and give life there another go. However, my Aunt Carolyn worked for an insurance company that offered a three-hundred-dollar referral fee, and she wanted me to apply for the temporary job they had available. She considered it a win-win-win situation for all parties concerned. The company needed a file clerk temporarily to replace a worker out on maternity leave. I needed a job. She needed that extra three hundred dollars. But after having attended high school with my baby brother and sister and experiencing firsthand the disadvantages of being in close proximity to blood relatives as I tried to go about daily life, I developed a rule of never working with or near a relative, and this rule was sacrosanct. I would rather have given her the three hundred dollars (if I’d had it) out of my own pocket than to have broken this rule.

But there was another reason I didn’t want the job. Up until that point, the jobs I’d worked had been extremely physical, and the last few had allowed me to spend copious amounts of time outside in the sunlight and fresh air. I wasn’t ready to give it up for a steady income earned indoors. (See, still no signs of maturity.) I had not yet experienced life as an office worker, but I had the impression that it was the kind of work performed in a very confining environment. Just thinking about it made me feel claustrophobic.

So because my aunt continued to pressure me to complete the application for a job I repeatedly told her I didn’t want, I eventually gave in, but I did it my way. I didn’t want the job, so I did everything I had ever been told not to do when filling out an application: I wrote in pencil and misspelled words (including my own name); I balled it up several times to make it wrinkled; I stated that I did not finish high school or complete a GED; I reported that I had been convicted of a felony—assaulting a coworker with a stapler. On top of all this, I showed up to my interview wearing, of all things, ripped cords, dirty gym shoes, and a Mickey Mouse T-shirt that was also ripped and faded. Aunt Carolyn heard I was in the office and rushed up to the front desk with some of her office friends to see me. Just one look and she was utterly mortified. She rolled her eyes, turned her back on me, and walked away. She pretended not to know me, as her friends asked, “Is that your niece?” I’m not sure, but I think the answer was “I don’t know who you’re talking about.”

I was expecting the supervisor I was scheduled to meet with to react in a similar manner, but she was paid to be a professional and somehow managed to conduct the entire interview with a straight face. Perhaps having her boss in the room with us during the meeting was a motivating factor. I know that if I had been in her shoes, I wouldn’t have been able to hold back the laughter or disgust. During the interview I slouched, feigned disinterest, and spoke as ghetto as I could. The supervisor for the position concluded the interview by telling me it was a pleasure to meet me, but she didn’t think I was the right candidate for the job. She thanked me for my time, wished me well, and extended her right hand to shake mine while extending her left hand to toss my application in a nearby trash can. But her boss, the operations manager, stopped her and told me right then and there that I had the job. The supervisor and I were both dumbfounded. The manager’s rationale for his decision was, “She’s here. We need someone today. It’s temporary. How bad could it be?” He wanted me to go to HR to fill out the necessary paper work for employment and then to the records department for immediate training. He got up and left the room first. I’m not sure, but I think he chuckled a bit on his way out the door.

So there I was, stuck with a job I didn’t want and a supervisor who didn’t want me, all because my particular upbringing wouldn’t let me turn it down. Other potential employees would have been able to admit they really didn’t want the job, or they might have asked for time to think about it and then quietly slipped away, never to be heard from again. But I couldn’t do that; my father raised me under a particularly strict set of rules, and one of his rules had been that you take whatever you ask for. Whether it was—food, a job, a favor, or anything else, if you asked for it and got it, you kept it. There was no giving it back. By applying for a job I didn’t want and getting an offer—however ludicrous the situation was—I was obligated to accept it and do the very best job I could. It was at such times that I wished I could ignore my parents’ teachings, but I couldn’t. So I took the job and instantly became as much of a model employee as I could be. I worked as fast, hard, and efficiently as my abilities allowed. On days when the work was particularly hard or I felt underappreciated, even for a file clerk, I just reminded myself that my days there were finite, and I could count them down until the new mom I’d temporarily replaced came back to claim her job.

About six weeks before the job was scheduled to end, however, something had gone terribly wrong. My supervisor and some of her most trusted friends began to whisper a lot in the office, and whenever they walked past me, they would stop talking and throw furtive glances in my direction. At first I was sure they were looking at someone else directly behind me, and I would spin around quickly as if being stalked by a serial killer in a horror film. But there was never anyone there. I started to worry that I’d made some mistake that cost the company a lot of money and even more to fix. I also worried about getting fired. This was a predicament that would negatively affect my chances for finding gainful employment back in Denver. After all, this was still a temporary job. I still planned to return to Colorado when the assignment was over and try a fresh start at becoming a Westerner. I started to ask around, but no one else in the office knew anything beyond the fact that my immediate supervisor was acting weirdly, even for her.

Four weeks later the whole office knew what was going on. The woman I had replaced didn’t want to come back. She wanted to be a stay-at-home mom and spend as much time as possible with her baby girl during her first year of life. My supervisor panicked. She had been counting down the time until I was out of the office, just as I had been. Now she was faced with the real possibility that I’d become a permanent fixture there. She had several conversations with this employee, who’d already given her two weeks’ notice but was willing to rescind it for a healthy pay raise. Apparently part of her wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but a bigger part wanted a larger paycheck. It had all been a ploy (and a good one too) to get more money and benefits. It might have worked had I not been there. Once the operations manager got wind of what was going on, he asked my supervisor if she indeed had received the other woman’s resignation in writing, and when she answered yes, it was his decision to accept it and to change my job status from temporary to permanent. And just that fast, she was out of a job, and I had a permanent one.

This was the first lesson I learned about how corporate games are played. An accepted rule is, if you have leverage, you can try to get more money, more benefits, a promotion, or a better title. But the important thing is that you have to know when you have leverage and when you don’t. The employee I replaced had leverage up until the moment I temporarily filled her shoes. Had the position remained vacant, or if I’d been a less-than-stellar employee, her demands might have been more positively received. But once I began working at the company, her leverage evaporated like morning dew on a summer day. Had she, as a valued employee, simply returned to work on time after her maternity leave had expired, of course they would have given her job back to her. Because she made demands however, the appeal of having her continue as an employee quickly wore off.

Corporations are funny that way. The same business that expects a high level of commitment and loyalty from you doesn’t always return the favor. Over the years I’ve seen many employees work themselves into a stupor under the mistaken notion that by doing so they were earning some form of future currency with their present employer, as if brownie points really have an actual cash value. The truth is these employees were just working at a detrimental and often unsustainable pace for something they’d never get. Such people burn themselves out and are generally the first to be let go in a pinch. Corporations prize loyalty highly, but since they rarely give it in return, I suggest you mold your corporate career around ethics and your own personal ambitions, and leave the concept of loyalty for your relationship between you and the trusted family pet.


Excerpted from "Corporate Games: Outthink the Competition and Take It All" by Michelle Edith Jones. Copyright © 2014 by Michelle Edith Jones. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

Michelle Edith Jones

Michelle Edith Jones

Michelle Edith Jones was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, and has been working in the corporate world since 1984. She started out as a records clerk at Hanover Insurance Company and has since worked for a variety of companies, agencies and brokerage firms. Today, she can currently be found at Harco National Insurance Company in Rolling Meadows, Illinois.

View full Profile of Michelle Edith Jones

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