Making It Work

Hi. Today I’m going to share some thoughts on navigating the corporate bureaucracy of a chain supermarket, which I will call MegaBox. I’ve worked at one for seven months and I’m finally understanding the corporate system and how I can adapt to it or challenge it.

This is the first in a series of blogs on The Placeholder Job. This job is useful for keeping me in a routine and making me money until I find a job that uses my writing degree and my creative passions.

The trouble started when I got fed up with the masks. Moral questions aside, I have some facial paralysis and speech issues (which I’ve discussed in this essay and this one) which make masks harder for me than for others. This was not an issue on my college campus, but when rules became stricter at MegaBox, the mask became more of a hassle.

Conveniently, that was the same time frame in which my managers took issue with my performance. I am not a naturally fast person, and MegaBox has high quotas, so I’ve had many conversations with my managers about the need to “get my numbers up and keep them consistent.” I’ll be the first to admit that I regularly performed under quota for my first six months. It was only when I switched roles and put up resistance to the masks that I came under their microscopes. I initially thought my managers didn’t realize that I am a human who has good and bad days and that a wide variety of factors can affect my “performance”.

However, I’m learning that it’s less about one individual and more about the chain of command and how each link in the chain performs. If my numbers are low, my manager has lower overall numbers, and it ripples up to her manager and so on. The main thing I’ve had to learn is: it’s not about me. My managers may frame it that way, but it’s really about the bigger picture.

I’ve considered myself “allergic to bureaucracy” for most of my life, but part of being a working adult is picking my battles. I’ve been as indecisive as a pinball about whether this job is worth it, and I’ve had to work through some anger and self-worth questions. After too much deliberation, I’ve decided the job is worth it. I want to make money for graduate school and remain in my stable position, with a routine and a structure that suits me. I’ve made a few work acquaintances, and the casual social interactions are also good for me. I choose to see the bigger picture. This isn’t my ideal job, but it’s where I’m meant to be right now. It’s a step on the road to success, and I’m making it work.