A Corporation is many things and describing it just one way is really hard and probably not as simple and generic as one thinks when first trying to. There are many ways of doing so, but to make this really short and to the point I’l just say that sometimes Corporations are like battlegrounds in which we are either cannon-fodder, captains or footmen who may or might not know they are actually fighting for something called order.
Every Corporation needs a certain order and every successful one does have a certain one by which it lives. For those of use who live our professional lives in these battlefields, the picture is that of Chaos usually, like any Lord of the Rings battle: nobody knows where to go, who to attack or what to defend, but one thing is clear: it’s us against them.
Employees will not attack the Corporation willingly, and the Corporation will not battle against those that make it but sometimes when processes are involved, that’s the general feel. You know what I mean, don’t you? Like when you are trying to create an expense report, or trying to figure out your tax forms, or even requesting your paid time off. And when we don’t understand, we lash out, and the Corporation fights back. We complain about the processes (instead of trying to understand them), and we receive more processes as a defend mechanism.
So who fights who and what does Victory look like? Easily put: employees want simpler processes and problems solved, they don’t want to waste time or get frustrated. Corporations want everything clean and properly documented, and that means time and focus from everyone.
But even when hope of winning is slim, when employees start yelling and escalating there is always a way to achieve Victory. If you’ve watched enough movies, specially the Lord of the Ring ones, you know that’s when the Hero appears.
At dawn, look to the East
That’s what Gandalf says to Aragorn and well, here’s a clip for you to remember. He does appear through the East and he does save the day.
We all wish (at least we Nerds do anyway) we had a Gandalf around to help us when we don’t understand a process or just need some help. Who are these heroes? I can tell you they do exist and they are there, but you probably haven’t realized it yet. I’ll just name 3 of them for you and let you find the rest on your own.
“Hey man, I need help, my laptop just died and I was running a vLookup in Excel! I need to finish a report by 6pm today and it’s already 4pm!” – I told Nick, the IT guy from a certain Corporation I worked for.
“Did you call the help-desk?” he said, laconically, not even looking at me.
“Of course I did, but they said they would call me back in 1 hour and I can’t wait!” I said, louder than I should have and with a voice that was embarrassingly hysterical.
“Oh. I know, those guys are not good.” he said, this time looking at me.
“So can you help? Come on man, I need help!” I begged.
“Of course man, specially because it’s you. Give me your laptop!” He answered and eventually saved my day.
What I didn’t tell you until right now is that this guy was used to being treated poorly and yelled at, as every person that works as a help desk operator or technician is. We are usually not nice to them because we are used to call them when something goes awfully wrong, even if it’s our fault (like running a vlookup while having 10 different spreadsheets open, a few presentations and listening to music in, wait for it, Windows Vista). I was a help desk tech once, I know how it feels so one of my cardinal rules is NEVER treat them as I was treated. So Nick? The minute I started my job there, I asked for him immediately, talked to him, usually had lunch with him, etc. I made friends with him but not because I wanted something back: I just understood what his life was like and thought he could use a friend so he was actually happy and willing to help me.
The accountants, or Tax Ninjas
“I just don’t understand why I need to complete this form every single year if I am still going to be taxed heavily!” I said, in a very a tired voice to the girl in accounting that was trying to help me fill out a simple form.
“It’s not that hard but it does take time. The thing is that if you don’t present this form, they might wonder if your worth more than you declare you do.” she answered in a very educative voice.
“That’s ridiculous. They know how much money I make.” I said in an offended voice.
“Well, they do, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t hiding assets or not. If anything should happen, these forms show that you’ve always declared what you have and prove you did everything right.” the teaching voice said again, this time with even more patience.
“Trust me, I know it’s boring but you have to do it. I wouldn’t be going through it without you otherwise.” she added quickly as I was still frowning.
The fact is hate doing my tax forms and when possible, I’ll not do them at all which can only come back to bite me in my behind, should the Tax Agency come look at my records and wonder if I am indeed hiding something.
Accountants are specialists on explaining these complex things, in very complex ways, which makes me wary of them as well, but this girl was different. She made it easy for me even when I was being as stubborn as only Taurus is. She never got tired of explaining…and I would always thank her, and eventually buy lunch, or coffee for her and always say hi and bye when I saw her. It turns out not many people is nice to accounts, and they do care.
Your HR person
“There has to be a way out of this, don’t worry, just let me think”. said the person in front of me, an HR director that was really new to the Company and was helping me get a visa in less than 3 days.
“I went to the Embassy and they said it takes 10 days, they wouldn’t accept any letters of recommendation I would take and didn’t care about the training schedule I gave them! ” I said in my complaining voice. I had to take that training but I needed the visa to get inside the country I was flying to.
“Yes, that’s what one of the operators would say, don’t mind them. We need to talk to someone above them.” she said and went quiet for a few minutes, frowning as she went through some stuff in her email.
“Ah, I know! Let’s do something: you go to the Embassy right now, call me when you get there, they’ll receive your papers” she exclaimed suddenly. She took me by surprise, but I complied, grabbed my papers, run to the street and got a cab and 25 minutes later as I stepped out of the car my phone rang.
“Done! They are waiting for you, jus hand them your papers saying I just called and talked to the ambassador.” confident voice.
I did as she told me but never got to mention the ambassador. I just presented the papers through a window and said my name, and 24 hours later I had a new visa in my passport. I never knew who she called or if she did indeed talk to the ambassador, but I know that since her first day at the Company, I tried my best to make her feel home: took her on a tour through the facilities, presented everyone on my team to her and offered to help in any way I could.
Do you know what’s common about these heroes of mine? They are people used to receiving complains from us all. They are used to being poorly treated…and still help most of the times. The fact is that we are used to mistreating them when we are frustrated and thinking they are responsible for poor processes or mistakes we deem huge or bad when in reality they are employees too and way before that: they are human and as yourself they relate to people, they relate to pain and joy as you do.
Next time you need them, or help in any way…think about this. Heroes don’t just appear because you think you need them or you feel they should help you: they are there already, and they appear when they feel they want to help you, and why would they want to do that if you’ve never done it before for them?
In the end…we make our own heroes, don’t we?