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Guest Column: Why I will never work again

August 29, 2012 - After thirty years with a bank and ten years as director of a state quality award program, I retired from the work force in 2003 and have never looked back.  As I approach being a septuagenarian in March of next year, I look back on my work history with fondness, satisfaction, accomplishment, excitement, and maybe a bit of frustration.  There were highs and lows – great bosses and management teams – and of course a smattering of jerks disguised as senior management.  While I have had several opportunities to return to the daily grind over the years, I have opted to stay retired.  And as I interact with former colleagues and neighbors and friends who are still employed, I am firmly convinced that remaining on the sidelines and avoiding the struggles that many are now experiencing is the right choice for me.  Permit me to share with you why retirement for me is where I belong.

Here is what I am hearing about today's work environment and what people are growing tired and weary of:

+ Being bought out by a foreign entity and then having to comply with rules and regulations from people who lack the understanding to appreciate the focus of the company, its staff and the culture.

+ Attempting to amalgamate the operations of two different companies after what is commonly referred to as a "merger of equals".  History has shown that there is no such thing as a merger of equals.  Just ask the Daimler Chrysler employees about that!

+  Attending weekly or sometimes daily "update meetings" where there is no set agenda or time frame for the meeting where everyone touts their accomplishments and fails to disclose any upcoming activities that may have an adverse impact on the company.  In my mind, if people leave a meeting without any "action items", the meeting was a complete waste of everyone's time!

+  Receiving a project with a stretch deadline only to discover that once it is completed and turned in, no one in management even reviews the report for weeks.

+  Preparing a plan to decentralize all the departments and then discovering several years later that a consulting firm has been hired to centralize those same departments again.

+  Not being able to take a vacation without fear that your position will be studied and perhaps eliminated while you are away.  It is for that reason that many employees do not take a vacation.  Fear of losing one's job seems to permeate the workforce these days.

+  Incidentally, let's not even discuss performance reviews which we all know is a complete waste of time especially the so-called "360 Degree Performance Reviews" where everyone on the team gets an opportunity to disparage or praise a colleague.  These reviews tend to be popularity contests and nothing more!

So far all these reasons I know that I have made the correct decision in remaining out of the rat race.  I suspect that the first time I reentered the workforce and I attended a meeting and any of these phrases or words came up I would be making a quick exit:  synergy – a glass half full or half empty – can't see the forest for the trees (whatever that means!), game changer – cutting edge – show stopper – downsizing – rightsizing – lateral move – paradigms – thinking outside the box – low hanging fruit.  

Understand though that any organization that has won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award or is on a list of the "100 Best Companies To Work For" are exempt from all the above nonsense.  Also, keep in mind that Plante & Moran, the certified public accounting and business advisory firm actually has a notation on their website that the company is "relatively jerk free".  Now that's a company all of us can embrace and work for!  And that my friends is a positive "game changer". Yikes, did I say that!

Bill Kalmar

Former Director of the Michigan Quality Council

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