"Human Resources intersects rather nicely with classic literature. HR departments were the ninth circle of hell from Dante’s Inferno: a frozen lake of blood and guilt. The staffers were either barbarians – slashing headcount with impunity – or bleeding-heart softies with no guts or authority to add any value." BS Incorporated by Jennifer Rock and Michael Voss hilariously exposes life in corporate America. And here is an extract.
“Hello, Lunch Buddy!!”
What fresh hell is this? Anna, sitting in the cafeteria that occupied the sixth and seventh floors, grimaced at the email’s subject line. She was grateful the company had come through with a laptop on day two, but it was already becoming difficult to organize the new email box given the tsunami of corporate event notices, cafeteria specials and meeting invitations. And now this, some kind of forced corporate socialization program.
“Welcome!!!” the missive read. “Every new employee gets a Lunch Buddy to help you learn about Business Solutions!! Let’s meet this week and chat! J”
The email had all the telltale signs of a company culture-keeper – those well-meaning, passionate employees who trafficked in exclamation points and emoticons the way prison inmates peddled cigarettes. The self-appointed culture-keepers organized potlucks, baby showers and birthday celebrations. They headed up charitable activities and volunteered to staff job fairs, all in the interest of showcasing their employer as the greatest company in the entire, caramel-coated universe. Anna sighed. There’s a fine line between company culture and company cult.
Spending time with these employees was always exhausting, and Anna had a meeting with her new boss in 30 minutes. But she felt it might be useful to get some early assistance in navigating the company and obtaining a work space. Maybe Lunch Buddy can introduce me to Desk Getter.
“Sounds great,” Anna typed back to the sender, Holly Porter. “Can I stop by now?”
Holly answered in nine seconds flat. “Yes! I’m in the HR area – floor 5, turn left off the elevators, cube 292!!”
Anna arrived on the fifth floor, strolling past cubes adorned with the usual HR-softie indicators: silk flowers, stuffed animals and posters declaring “Every Forest Begins with One Seedling.”
“You must be Anna!” The 50-something, curly-haired woman sprang from her seat.
“Yes, it’s nice to meet you, Holly.” Anna shook her hand. “Sorry for the short notice. I won’t take much of your time.”
“No problem! Take a seat! Happy to chat, but I have a hard stop at 9:30 for a meeting with my manager.”
Anna studied the reference books on Holly’s shelf as she sat down. Most HR types wouldn’t own the latest AP Style Manual or Strunk and White. “What do you do in HR?”
“I’m kind of a lone wolf,” Holly said. “A Communications Manager embedded in HR … I keep employees apprised of things like benefits information and training announcements.” She smiled and ignored her ringing desk phone. “I know you joined us to handle exec communications – I got your info from the NEO team.”
Anna raised her eyebrows.
“New Employee Orientation,” Holly explained. “I’m sorry … we toss around so many acronyms here.”
“That’s one of the things I was going to ask you about,” Anna admitted. “I didn’t attend orientation. Is there a style manual or Wiki with some of that terminology?”
“Yep, it’s not very current, but I’ll send you the link. First, though, tell me more about yourself!” Holly scooted to the edge of her chair. “Where did you come from?”
“Interlogic, a software company,” Anna said, bracing for the obligatory small talk.
“How long were you there?”
“About three and a half years.”
Holly scrutinized the chunky diamond ring on Anna’s finger. “Oh, interesting! And what does your spouse do?”
“He’s a video producer.”
“Oh, interesting!” Holly repeated. “What’s his name? How long have you been together?”
Anna fidgeted, wishing for a way to steer the conversation elsewhere. She reminded herself to be patient. “Erik, and it’s been eight years. Or nine … I guess.”
Holly cocked her head. “Nine years! How did you meet?”
“In college. But it’s not really –”
“Where did you go to school?”
“Here at the U of M.”
If she asks for my high school locker combination, I’m bolting.
“I have an English degree,” Holly continued. “With a concentration in classic literature. But I ended up here, in HR Comms. Funny, huh?”
Actually, Anna thought, Human Resources intersects rather nicely with classic literature. HR departments were the ninth circle of hell from Dante’s Inferno: a frozen lake of blood and guilt. The staffers were either barbarians – slashing headcount with impunity – or bleeding-heart softies with no guts or authority to add any value. And employees needing help skated circles on that frozen pond, twirling between continuously changing generalists who listened with great empathy, before routing the hapless skaters to a call center in Mumbai.
“Funny,” Anna agreed.
B.S., Incorporated by Jennifer Rock and Michael Voss is funny, insightful, and heartfelt, It’s a feel-good story about people finding themselves and coming into their own while simultaneously skewering every aspect of life in Corporate America. It’s a book that anyone in the business world will get a huge kick out of… After all, every job contains a certain amount of B.S.