Stages: Circling the Drain


If you’ve worked in a corporate environment, you’ve no doubt had the opportunity to watch one of your coworkers go through the progress of becoming ever more disenchanted and eventually leaving.

Things are pretty wacky around my own employer these days. Times are strange since the merger, so we’re seeing a lot of bad behavior.

There is the coworker who, on Friday, was in the employee directory, and on Monday, wasn’t. No one knows what happened. After sixteen years at this company, he was just…gone.

There was also the senior manager guy with a whole set of direct reports who suddenly no longer has direct reports. He is listed as a peer to the people he once managed.


Right now, I have a good friend, mentor and coworker who is going through the “stages”…he’s on the path toward “I’ve had enough!”

So with that in mind, here’s my unofficial, opinion oriented, based on experience, stages of the descent of a corporate minion.

Stage One: Grumbling.

“This place is so strange, I don’t understand why (boss) has to manage like that.” This stage is characterized by a slight uptick in the complaining about the job. I mean, we ALL complain about the job, but this is taking it to a new, higher level, with some unconvincing, “I should find a new job” statements thrown in.

Basically, the disenchanted is still in the game, still meeting deadlines, still doing the work, but is starting to think about doing something different. This is like picking at the edge of a scab, really. Just picking and picking but not serious about it. The grumbling stage includes a lot of thinking, “Can I make this work?” and “I’ve been here a long time” and “Maybe things will improve.”

Stage Two: Misbehaving.

If the grumbling progress continues, things ratchet up and become tinged with a bit more emotion. Anger, frustration and acting out become obvious. Could be an, “I can’t believe he said that” comment from a meeting where the disgruntled shot their mouth off on something, could be missing a “mandatory” all hands event, could be missing a deadline. Enough to get noticed, but not enough to get fired.

At this stage, the disgruntled begins thinking seriously about looking for another job. They usually start by looking at other open jobs within the same company. May even go so far as to navigate over to and Craig’s List to see if there is even anything interesting outside the company.

At this stage, the disgruntled usually stops just short of actually updating their resume and, usually, aren’t happy with job opportunities found elsewhere, so they decide to hang in there a bit longer to see if things improve.

Stage Three: Actively acting out.

Characterized by coming in late consistently, leaving early, disappearing for large parts of the day, distracted in meetings, more impassioned discussion of looking for another job, and complaints about “this place,” followed by mentions of actual job openings at other companies.

Resume has been pulled up in Word, updates are being made, daily searching the job sites. Asking friends for leads. Making rumblings among close coworkers that he’s looking. Trying to find allies that are also looking, or trying to convince others to join him in the job search.

Pretty serious, but yet, could be convinced to stay with a little management intervention, a little love, a little promise of something more.

This is usually where the disgruntled invites a trusted friend to lunch offsite and runs down a list of grievances and confesses they have had it. They are looking for a job. The case is laid out, discussed, asked “do you think it will get better?” Lots of “this is ridiculous” statements issued.

Sometimes, this is where the disgruntled will receive a surprise bonus or promotion or similar, and this puts them back at state one or less…at least for a while.

So this is the stage where my friend is hovering. Actively looking, actively disgruntled, been to several offsite lunches, discussing the merits of job opportunities at other companies. Then again, we are actually due for a mid-year review and bonus, so we’ll see…..

Stage Four: Stealth.

The disgruntled is not only actively looking, he’s got a few leads. Maybe even calling in sick here and so they can go interview. Something may be happening, so it’s time to pipe down. Many people (especially boss-type people) often confuse stealth with a move back to stage one. Easily confused, certainly.

The disenchanted person may be coming in on time again, but if you look close, they aren’t really working that hard, aren’t volunteering to take on new projects, may be handing off work to coworkers. They want to leave on a good note and are feeling optimistic that something is about to change. Mood has improved. Complaining a bit less. Laughing at all the boss’ jokes.

Stage Five: Poking the Tiger.

Not everyone gets to stage five. Many people get to stage four, find another job, and leave. They leave on good terms, shake hands with the boss and go off to a new gig with a fresh look of optimism in their eyes.

Those that can’t find another job or aren’t motivated enough to find another job move into the phase where they start stirring the sh*t. Oh yes, they are too timid to actually *do* something themselves, they want someone to do it for them. Passive aggressive.

So they start actively missing deadlines and meetings and coming in late and not even pretending like they care about the work. They may even speak insultingly or say stuff that’s not cool. They openly challenge people to say something. They aren’t just picking away at the scab, they are making new wounds.

At this point, the boss may actually realize they have a performance problem on their hands, and put the disgruntled on a performance action plan. This either spurs the disgruntled to find another job…or, bad attitude continues until the end of the performance plan and the inevitable happens.

Or, some powerless bosses still won’t take action, and they let the employee keep flailing away.

Often the employee will finally just up and quit. Sometimes in a blaze of glory “this is part of company folklore” kind of way.

Sometimes, the disgruntled poking-the-tiger guy gets weary, still lacking any self-starting behavior, becomes stuck in place, and they just pipe down and keep doing the job. These people become the “retired in place” completely useless employee, the guy who just can’t get fired and just won’t quit, so he sucks down company resources until retirement.

We’ve all known one of those, haven’t we?

Did you know…

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…that today is National Health and Fitness Day?

I didn’t either, but it is.

So my own company decided to celebrate by hosting a lunchtime walk along a really pretty bayside trail near our offices.

When I told my favorite coworker about the planned event, he reminded me that employees of our company get *plenty* of exercise jumping to conclusions, walking away from responsibility, and running to line up first for the buffets.

While I couldn’t argue his point, I decided to take a walk anyway. Feeling cranky and amped up, a walk seemed like a nice idea.

It was walker’s choice, a one mile or two mile jaunt. I went ahead and chose two miles, strapped on my trainers and got to it.

Can’t say it was the nicest day for a walk. After being hotter than the hinges of hell for the past several days, the Bay Area Inversion (description here) has kicked in and today we get windy and cold.


Look, while most of my coworkers sat at their desks and ate hearty lunches in the cafeteria, I actually *did* something useful today.

I feel *so* smug too. I even took the company provided shuttle over to the start point in an effort to conserve fuel.

And I recycled the bottle from the water they gave me.

When the walk was done, I ate a salad.

If I keep this up, I’m going to be driving a Prius soon.



Ok, to offset all this goodness I’ll have red meat and whiskey for dinner.

That ought to restore balance to the universe.

They never promised life would be fair

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Today was a particularly tough day for me to roll out of bed with the alarm and come to work.

I didn’t sleep well last night due mainly to the crazed feline. I have a friend who has a theory that occasionally the cat brain will release some hormone that is akin to kitty crack, which then is the reason for the dilated eyes and tendency to gallop around the house making crazed movements.

If that is true, then my personal feline got deep into the kitty crack at about 3:30 in the ayem, and is, today, my least favorite person in the world.

Sleepy eyed, I ventured out onto the highway to make my way into my place of employment. I was heartened to see the sun slanting over the hills with the promise of a really warm day. This never fails to cheer me.

But that smile turned into a snarl when I made the merge and found myself rolling behind this.

Click for full size if you can’t make it out. If you can make it out, what you see there is a Forerunner with two surfboards sticking out the back.

Dude driving and his long-haired blond lady in the passenger seat are headed, I assume, to Pacifica for a nice day of surfing.

While I drive to work to sit under florescent lights all day and literally watch my muscles lose their elasticity. In a building located in what is considered one of the most foggy and windy areas of the Bay Area.

And this is fair how?

Just one little thing…

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Last night, after coming home late, and looking for something to accompany my dinner of hot soup, I watched some throwaway episode of some throwaway show in syndication.

The premise of the episode was that just one little thing can change the outcome of your whole day. It was a riff on the Butterfly Effect complete with a CG butterfly.

I actually thought it was a clever bit of television writing, and it was highly satisfying, along with my chicken soup.

This morning, I had occasion to revisit this bit of chaos theory as I made my way into work.

I left the house a skosh later than I’d wanted to, and when I fired up the Jeep, the gas indicator began making noises at me. I had to stop for gas, making me run even later.

The closest gas station is located on a road out of town that I don’t usually take, because along that road there are three schools. The parents dropping off their kids always backs up traffic, so I avoid it.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. In addition to running later than usual, and running into school traffic by taking a road I normally don’t take, it turns out there was a traffic light blinking at the most critical intersection (right before the highway entrance). So traffic on that road was backed up for about five miles.

And because I sat for an hour on a road that should normally take ten minutes to traverse, I got to work much later than usual, meaning I had a hard time finding a parking spot. The one I did find was a tight squeeze by a wall in the parking garage, and so I dinged my own door on the way out.

It also means the work cafeteria was out of orange juice by the time I got there.

And my staff gave me an arched eyebrow when I did finally roll into my office.

All this really bodes for a great day, right? Ugh.

So as I sit here at my desk drinking coffee instead of OJ, I got to thinking about how just one little thing had ruined my whole good day.

At first I blamed the traffic light. That damn light! If not for the flapping butterfly wing of that stupid busted stoplight I would have made it to work on time!

But that’s not really true, is it?

It’s that I rolled out of the house late. Had I had my you-know-what together and left earlier, there would have been less traffic.

But that’s also not really true, is it? Because even leaving late, I would have taken a different road and been fine…if I had a full tank of gas.

The crux of this whole thing was my empty gas tank.

See, last night when I was driving home, my near empty gas tank was already beeping at me. I could have stopped for gas on the route home, but feeling lazy and tired, I chose not to.

So the flapping wing, really, was my decision not to stop and get petrol last night.

That one decision has blown my whole Wednesday morning.

And unlike the television show, I can’t do a second act on this day and show what would have happened if the decisions had gone differently.

I have to, as The Good Man says, “just play through”.

That there is chaos theory, Karen style.

Infomercial Wow


Over the holiday break, my lazy hind-end had the opportunity to watch a LOT more television than I usually do.

And since I watch sans a TiVo or similar device, I am subjected to all manner of commercials. The retail onslaught has been hard and heavy this year.

But sometimes, there is a commercial that rises above the rest.

It began with the repeated ads for a product called ShamWow.

A very enthusiastic guy with a wireless microphone headset (mildly reminiscent of Madonna in the Vogue years, image here) and an east coast New York/New Jersey blend accent extolled the virtues of this fabulous new absorbent product.

Okay. Well, good. Very spongy.

But the commercial stood out more for the oddball guy making the pitch than for the product itself. I admit, it was, as they say in the marketing world, “sticky”. I can remember the product name off the top of my head, so it’s working.

Then a couple days ago, the ShamWow guy showed up in a new ad for something called a SlapChop. This product is a new and improved version of a good ol’ kitchen chopper.

Same guy, same accent, but he’s got a schtick working now. There he is, chopping away at a variety of items, telling us that the SlapChop is going to transform our lives.

Then he said something in the ad that caused The Good Man and I to stop all activity and look at each other.

“Did he really say that,” I asked, and TGM nodded.

What my new television pal Vince Offer said was:

“You’re going to love my nuts.”

He then showed how the SlapChop can decimate the nut of your choice to tiny bits.

Then later he also said, “Stop having a boring tuna.”

Well yeah! Who wants a boring tuna!

At first I was kind of put off by this Vince guy, but the more he shows up on my television screen (which is a LOT lately), the more I’m in this guy’s corner.

A quick Wikipedia glance makes for some good reading. (you’ve made it when you have a Wiki about you…right?)

I found a Slate article, and below is the best quote that sums up exactly what I wanted to say:

“Vince…conveys a street-smart persona—with his headset microphone, rat-a-tat phrasing and fuhgeddaboutit confidence—that’s intended to get the viewer thinking, “Hey, this guy’s sharp. He knows a good deal.” (It may also get us thinking, “Hey, this guy’s a douche. He needs a better haircut.” But that’s a secondary issue.)”

Can Vince become the next Billy Mays (of OxiClean and OrangeGlo fame)?

Time will tell.

For now, let me just say this. You’re gonna love his nuts.

Image from SlapChop website.