Help Me Help You Help Yourself

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One of the many things that became apparent early into the pandemic was many people were able to work from home efficiently and easily. I remember reading this news was met with some surprise across a wide variety of industries. Much of the surprise came from industries that were thought to be office based only. When push came to shove, however, a great many people found a way to work from home seamlessly. Many who were laid off during the first wave also found they were able to work from home if required when they were re-employed later.

We have a reliance on corporate structure in the U.S. even of we don’t personally work in an office. The chances are good we take advice or direction from someone who is in an office even if we are not. Is corporate structure and hierarchy still a workable structure for us? I have worked primarily in the mental health field for most of my thirties and forties. Before that a had about six years in the television industry and a smattering of sales jobs here and there. Both industries have their share of bloat and bureaucracy. To be fair, I have not worked in TV since the 1990’s and I imagine it has changed somewhat. Mental Health I know better, and it tends to follow the American corporate structure fairly closely, with some borrowing from the medical/hospital model.

What is common in mental health and many other industries is having many layers of managers and supervisors and a mixing and comingling of responsibilities. I have had several outstanding supervisors while I was a therapist, but many of them were stymied by their supervisors due to corporate policies. This is a common story many have heard time and again. My question is, do we still need gigantic behemoth corporate structures like this? I understand why our federal government needs a large bureaucracy due to the size of our country and the needs that come with governing, but that is for an entire nation. Do we still need to cling to this traditional corporate structure for business?

Some industries need onsite supervision round the clock for safety or logistical reasons, but certainly not all industries. Do we still need an endless line of supervisors supervising supervision (get it?) or would we benefit from less management and more autonomy? Typically speaking, after I learn the basics of a position, I work best if left alone to do my job. That does not mean I’m not receptive to feedback along the way, but it is my preferred method. I have worked for large companies and smaller ones. Generally, smaller companies can work work more quickly, depending on the industry. Decisions can be made and acted upon far more easily without layers upon layers of corporate bloat.

I’m writing this from a psychological/people first perspective because this is what I know. We have all of these great big multi-layered systems that do not necessarily increase productivity. More is not always better, more is just more. This is part of why I have chosen to work for myself. I answer to me. I have a handful of people I can go to for questions and advice, but they are never looking over my shoulder. I think a big cause of the over-layered corporate structure is an addiction to power and control. In the day-to-day, this looks like the person watching you is being watched by someone else. We have become byzantine in our quest for wealth, efficiency, and power. Could we all benefit from downsizing?

I think we can. I like making my own decisions on my own content. I like scheduling my professional life the way I want it, rather than juggling a myriad of details and events for multiple people who are often at cross purposes with each other. Do we ever take stock of how all these mental and emotional gymnastics take away from the job we were hired to do? Large undertakings frequently require large groups of people. Large groups of people often come with infighting and conflicting agendas. Maybe we can try this huge corporate thing in a hundred years or so when we have figured out a better way to get along and work with each other.

I think we have shown we are adaptable, responsible, and able to handle our duties without constant supervision. This may threaten our corporate structures, but too many cooks spoil the broth. Middle layers of management are added after a company reaches a certain size. I think if we are intending to grow business past a certain point, the structures to accommodate said growth need to be in place beforehand. This is not a new observation, but I mention it because I’ve worked for companies who grew and had nothing in place to accommodate that growth. The resulting outcome was a series of costly mistakes that threatened that growth.

I honestly hope everyone has a legitimate opportunity to do work they enjoy. I feel like we are looking at widespread change that will enable many of us to work in smaller business environments. In theory, that will make it easier to work with like-minded people rather than continuing to contort ourselves into shapes that are foreign to us in order to fit into the corporate mold.

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It took many years before I determined I was not a good fit for the standard American corporate gig. Some of that was due to individual temperament, adult ADHD, and uncertainty about what I wanted to do in my 20’s. I went back to school at age 31, got a Master’s degree in psychology, and worked as a therapist for 15 years. I worked for larger mental health agencies and I worked for smaller privately owned companies. One thing I found is that smaller companies are better for me, but working for myself is even better. This may be due to age, but my views on gigantic corporations and how the bottom line takes precedence over human needs became a paradigm I didn’t want to deal with any longer. The mental health industry, at least in my 15 years of experience, is not necessarily better about taking care of it’s employees than any other industry. A considerable amount of time is spent training therapists and counselors about vicarious trauma and burnout, but as an industry they create conditions that encourage burnout and chronic overwork. My conclusion on this is “that’s life in corporate America.” Because it is. These companies are set up like most other corporations in the U.S., so it stands to reason the impact on front line employees will be widely disregarded in order to continue the revenue stream.

Benefits are dangled in front of us like the carrot on the stick and a lot of us put up with far too much in order to keep those benefits for ourselves and our families. It is hard to walk away from a system that uses that carrot and stick so effectively. We are a long way away from universal healthcare, 20 hour work weeks, and many other systems other countries seem to use very effectively. My aim is to help anyone who wants to break away from that. Do your own thing, get paid for it, and have a joyous and productive life. Need help communicating more effectively? I can help. Need help goal-setting so you can set up your own shop? I can help you with that vision, if not the nuts and bolts of it. Confidence-building, self-esteem exercises, assertiveness training? I got it. Please help me help you.

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