Counting My Blessings

Thursday, August 6, 2009, 15:20 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

Working for a giant international mega-corporation has its drawbacks, especially for someone like me who entered said corporation having to that point worked only for small companies (or, in one case, a small autonomous operation within a big company). The people at the top are often ridiculously oblivious to how their decisions affect the layers below them, and good ideas from the bottom seldom make their way up high enough to be seriously considered. On the other hand, there is security in a larger company—presuming, of course, that it’s well run—that small companies, vulnerable as they are to economic fluctuations that are mere ripples in a pond to larger entities, don’t enjoy.

I have complaints about my employer, to be sure. Having been accustomed in my prior jobs to the luxury of independence and the freedom to try new methods and use what worked best, I find the rigid processes of big business to be stifling. There is no way for me to override procedures in extenuating circumstances, such as when a client needs funds quickly in an emergency situation and I can’t simply pop into the CFO’s office and have her manually cut a check. Hell, in my company, the CFO doesn’t even know where the checks are.

But there are times when I am aware of the benefits of working in a financially sound big business. Even in the midst of the recession, with large financial services corporations seemingly falling like dominoes (or so it’s portrayed on the cable news programs), we did well enough to get raises and bonuses this year. Every time I make a contribution to my 401(k), my employer throws in some extra. I get lots of vacation, great benefits, and a company-paid pension plan that might actually be there when I retire.

Then there is the annual summer outing.

We (not the whole company or even my location, but the operation for which I work) will be shutting down this afternoon for good food, good people, and good times at a ski area a little north of here. No, this isn’t the Rockies, where the mountains are snow capped year-round, or even Mount Hood, where on my mid-July birthday many years ago I drove to the tree line and watched the snowboarders. But they have a function facility, a pretty good caterer, lots of room for volleyball and other activities physical and not so much, a D.J. who plays mostly music that doesn’t suck, and even a chair lift to take us to the summit, from where on a clear day you can see the Boston skyline. The chair lift presents a challenge considering my age-augmented acrophobia, but I can white-knuckle it enough to get to the top and enjoy the view. (Side note: I’m having a major déjà vu. If you look back on past August posts, I may actually have posted something about a past outing.) Last year, the skies opened up unexpectedly when my co-worker Janice and I were a quarter of the way up the mountain. By the time we finished the loop and were back at the bottom, we were drenched to the bone and, much to my horror because I was wearing a white cotton blouse that the rain had rendered magically transparent, faced a barrage of colleagues wielding cameras and camera-phones to capture the moment for posterity or the next quarterly meeting. But the facility staff was very helpful in providing us with towels and free t-shirts and blow dryers and even access to a clothes dryer while we waited, disrobed, in our respective gender-segregated restrooms. Many of us agreed that it was the most fun we had ever had at a company outing.

So today at noon, subject to meetings finishing on time, three of my work friends will pile into my Toyota Yaris (note to self: have Rob, the tall one, sit in the back seat where there’s more head room) and head north to eat, drink, and be merry, courtesy of Benevolent Mother Unum. We will recharge our individual and collective batteries and return to work tomorrow in good moods and, maybe, with enough patience to last until the mid-winter outing.

The forecast shows no rain, but just to be on the safe side, I’m wearing a dark shirt.

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