I’m in-between jobs. That’s what I say at dinner parties instead of, “hi, due to my dickhead former boss, I presently serve no societal function. Have you tried the lettuce wraps?”
And as functionless people do, I picked up a few job descriptions for some light summer reading. Much like false advertisements, these listings feature incredible promises. Among the least credible are promises made of the workplace culture.
Workplace culture is like God—no two employees understand it the same way, but both pray for its mercy. The most common promise made of workplace culture is the freedom to bring your self to work. Let’s pause.
I believe words are important, and language defines our universe. If we lack the words to explain something, we make up new ones. Occasionally, we combine words in ways that hide an idea rather than define one.
Most often, these take the form of feel-good phrases that when dissected, reveal a harsher reality.
My first example: “live your truth.” Well I certainly can’t live Steve’s truth. But if I choose to live a lie, is the lie my truth? Are there several truths? Is mine the best? Please say yes.
What this phrase means is that your perspective is reality, and that you may avoid engaging with perspectives that place your reality in question – in fewer words: ignore people who disagree with you. Not such a positive reinforcement after all.
And then there’s live-your-truths’ cousin born with an extra chromosome: “lived experience.” As if we can possibly experience something in any other state. Although, there are unlived experiences, we call those plans. This phrase is another way of saying, regardless of other perspectives, what you perceive to happen is what happens; another anti-intellectual narcissistic platitude wrapped in a pretty bow.
Which brings us back to our phrase of the day: bring your self to work. First of all, if I could have brought anyone other than myself to work, that would’ve been my day-one power move. But this promise is not permission to be whatever it is you think your ‘self’ is, it’s far more constricting.
In fact, it’s coded language for the cause du jour, transgender rights, and the tacit permission for non-binary individuals to present themselves how they see fit.
But that’s not what is written in plain English, is it? What’s written is that I can bring my true self to work, and here are some of the ‘selves’ I plan to bring.
Self one believes the new business-casual is a pair of old sweatpants and a pit-stained hoody from college. Self number two believes in bathing… at least once a month. And self three can’t talk to his boss until he defeats Darth Malak, the evil Sith boss at the end of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, available now on the Nintendo Switch!
You know guys, I actually have a pretty good feeling about this next job, and I haven’t even lived that experience.