There are three irrefutable forces that drive a typical American office workplace. They are at the core of the office dynamics of every white-collar enterprise in America in general, and in SF specifically. These are the primary factors that make the typical workplace so depressing:
1. Excessive Political Correctness & Sexual Harassment Policies
Our conversations at work rarely go beyond “How was your weekend?”, “What are you having for lunch?” and “It’s a nice day today”. No one wants to get in any kind of trouble by saying anything even remotely controversial. If you express any kind of opinion, you run the risk of rubbing a co-worker the wrong way. What if he disagrees with you? What if you make him feel uncomfortable and he runs to the management to complain? From there – the road toward animosity and back-stabbing is pretty quick.
The paranoia of offending someone by having an innocent sexual joke perceived as harassment takes the pathological political correctness to another level. Besides having to avoid saying anything meaningful when it comes to politics, religion and other “sensitive” topics, we also have to make sure that we, god forbid, don’t make it appear like we are sexual creatures on any level. Flirting and subtle sexual innuendos are banned. By having sanitized our workplace from any hint of sexuality, we make our workdays so much longer, and our workplace so much more dull, hopeless and depressing. A day free of flirting and subtle sexual play, even when sex is not the goal, is not a fun day, to say the least.
2. Ass Covering
This element is translated into refusing to take any responsibility and having others sign off on every important decision, in addition to blindly complying with all kinds of meaningless rules and polices. Being a mindless zombie is the way to go. Someone complained about harassment or discrimination? Let’s play it safe and fire the “harasser”, regardless of whether anything happened or not. It’s just safe to go that way, because it makes the company look good – it took “strong measures” to prevent harassment. Why bother and investigate too thoroughly? Who cares about the truth? It’s the perception that really matters; not the facts.
3. Fear of Losing A Job
Whether it’s being laid-off or being fired for a reason or no reason, or simply because the (new) boss in on a power trip, the lingering anxiety over losing a job is always there, in the back of our minds. Will my mistake at work be overlooked by the management, or will I receive a warning? And will that warning be just that, or will it be your typical one-foot out the door PIP?