“Burn the Land and Boil the Sea, You Can’t Take the Sky From Me”
from Firefly by Joss Whedon
You’ve sensed for some time now that all is not right at work. Each new workday brings a strange encounter of some kind. Your boss acts like he’s from another planet and your co-workers fall in line like programmed robots. The males compete in a Martian show of dominance, appearing to have all the answers when they don’t have a clue. Meanwhile, the females strive to be the alpha species, ready to take over at any moment. Together, they’re like meteors on a collision course of universal proportions.
Is a “war of the worlds” imminent? Are extraterrestrials really roaming the hallways? And if so, what can you do? Bring in the FBI? Call HR? Phone home?
If you’ve read this far, one thing you can do is plant your feet firmly on Earth. You’re not paranoid, but it doesn’t mean someone’s not out to get you. Your workplace has likely been invaded by aliens.
Here’s how you can tell:
1. Your company’s mission statement reads like a supreme command from the Mothership.
Mission statements are supposed to guide managers and employees toward a clear vision of where the company wants to go. But often they sound like conspiracy theories written in secret code, rife with dictates and decrees about domination, exploitation and pre-eminence. “We strive to dominate our competitors, exploit our markets, and be the pre-eminent provider of widgets in the universe.” Yeah, but what if Darth Vader destroys us in the meantime?
2. Your work environment resembles the Voyager Spacecraft.
Research consistently shows that pleasant physical surroundings create more positive, productive workers. Yet many office environments are completely devoid of earthly comforts. Identical offices surround corrals of cubicles all interconnected by advanced technology and telecommunications devices with blinking indicators and audio alerts.
As events unwind during the day, workers simultaneously pop their heads up, like ground hogs, to see what in the world is going on – or perhaps to make contact with other humans. They sometimes adorn their workspaces with personal artifacts, “down-to-earth” reminders of the real world that do little to alleviate the strange sense that they’re stranded on a faraway galaxy. And what’s up with the cosmic light show in the third cube on the left?
3. Your co-workers communicate in Nanospeak.
Communication is the cornerstone of a civilized society. But if you listen closely to the language of the modern workplace, you might think you’ve stumbled upon a new life form. Terms like “competency alignment,” “accountability management,” and “corporate branding” are lobbed about like flying saucers.
“Human capital” is “leveraged” through “strategic talent development” and resources are “optimized” via state-of-the-art “knowledge management practices.” Many people actually appear to be talking to themselves, like “spaceshots” in a science experiment gone awry.
4. Androids have replaced Earthlings.
Many well-intentioned employees’ attempts to “dress for success” have created a culture of look-alikes, even on “Casual Fridays.” True, the new administrative assistant with the pink hair and the flea collar is an exception, but she’s only a temp, placed on this planet to complete a short-term mission. The rest are clones. With such uniformity, it’s only a matter of time until the silver suit with the V-neck and the white boots becomes the standard dress code.
5. Your boss is a pain in Uranus.
Despite an abundance of management programs and philosophies, many bosses still choose to micro-manage, destroying any notions of pride or dignity in their employees. It’s not uncommon for employees to complain periodically about “Big Brother” looking over their shoulder. With the advent of today’s sophisticated monitoring technology, these complaints have grown louder and more frequent. Such “snoopervision” increases employee paranoia. If you feel like someone (or something) is watching you, it could be a warning to get away now, before you’re transferred to the Stepford office.
Since the whole universe is estimated to be 13.7 billion years old, my guess is that space invaders have already been here, looked for signs of intelligent life, and concluded that they needed to look elsewhere.
Which is what you should do too. If your work life has drifted too far from your personal values and beliefs, and your workplace is hurling meaninglessly toward some unknown space, then it’s time to do some exploration of the larger world of work. It’s unlikely that your company has a policy for workplace abduction, so you’re on your own.
Before signing up for the first space shuttle out, put your antennae up. You don’t make good career decisions by getting away from something, but by moving toward something. If you don’t know what it is you want to move toward, you’re like to just land in some other alien netherworld.
Do a little assessment of your interests, values and skills. What do you need to learn? What would you like to change? How would you like your work life to be? What is your vision of your future?
Take time to speak with others, read career books and articles, find a mentor or coach. In other words, look for signs of intelligence to guide your way.
May the force be with you.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.