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Noah’s Cog Life Eerily Similar

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When Noah published this post titled “Life as a Cog, 14 months in a corporate cubicle,” it resonated with me as I also work(ed) at a 100,000 person company. I said so at the time (check out the comment I left) though I wasn’t going to go further with it until now… after I’d tendered my resignation eight months later. Before you read further, check out his post and let me know how that compares to the job you’re holding now (and whether your company has 100 or 100,000 employees).

First off, I enjoyed my time at my former company. The people I actually worked with were top notch and were far better performers than I was. That being said, there was a lot of dead weight (one guy spent an entire day talking to his real estate agent about buying his fifth house with an adjustable rate mortgage and quibbling over points, I should have told him that the first four houses on ARMs were going to screw him in about a year or two) that the company is just suffocating under but appears powerless to remove. If I was married and had kids then it would’ve been the ideal situation for me. My managers were great, the projects I worked on were challenging and interesting, but ultimately I think it was time for me to move on.

That being said… the five points Noah makes about Intel are the same at my former 100,000 person company. Exactly, to a T. A lot of groups still use Excel (but this is true everywhere), in my area they turned up the AC a few degrees to save some money (oh wait, it’s “broken,” like the escalators that have been broken for the last month), and yes our CEO also reported incredible profits and was given an enormous double digit raise (over 20% on several million, amazing) while our managers told us raises weren’t going to be good this year.

Maybe it’s just a size problem, just as mutual funds perform worse after incredible years because they just can’t invest the new influx of money the way they used to (they lose agility because of size).

Maybe they just needs the Bobs.

Bobs from Office Space

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2 Responses to “Noah’s Cog Life Eerily Similar”

  1. It seems like even small organizations have one person who is not pulling his or her weight–for-profit of non-profit.

    At least in a small place, I don’t usually have to go through three meetings to accomplish something, though many of my best ideas don’t happen because the leadership is . . . a little slow to innovate, to put it kindly.

  2. Matt says:

    I have a very firm rule in life. Never work full-time for any company large enough to require “middle management”. That is, if team leaders don’t report directly to corporate officers (or “if my boss’s boss’s title doesn’t start with ‘chief’ and end with ‘officer’”, or “if there are more than three layers on the unabridged org chart”), it’s time to quit.

    Two reasons:

    1. Managers make more massively multiplied meetings mandatory. The more layers of management you have, the more meetings you’ll need to have in order to keep everyone more or less rowing the the same direction. It doesn’t take much management before the meetings start to overwhelm the work.

    2. Agency cost. Team leaders tend to care about the work, and in cases where they don’t, it’s usually obvious enough that they can be easily fired. Corporate officers tend to care about the health of the business, and likewise, if they don’t, it shows and they can be sacked forthwith. Middle managers, on the other hand, can all too easily become distracted by empire-building and other such activities that benefit the manager at the expense of the work and the business. And while it’s generally obvious that a company has begun to suffer from an excess of bureaucracy, it’s much harder to locate the perpetrators and get rid of them.


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