Murphy\’s Bye-Laws

Law #4: Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it. –H.D. Thoreau

Corporate Cogs

Posted by PintofStout on August 20, 2008

I experienced major disillusion yesterday.  Part of the illusion I was holding was borne of supreme confidence and hopeful expectation (and probably logic not encountered in the structured corporate environment).  How foolish of me!  The hope of a great leap ahead in compensation and professional expansion was just too much to not latch on to, I guess.  The position laid out, and the process of actually creating the position, was so compartmentalized that one would need to already hold the same job to fit, like a good cog in a machine.  Of course carried to an absurd conclusion, those cogs in the corporate mechanism have no ability to expand or evolve, but only to fit in their rightful place as they were manufactured to.

After viewing the situation from a new distance, am I disappointed that I don’t get the opportunity to be a cog?  Surprisingly, yes.  There were many benefits to occupying the cog slot.  In the smaller machine I currently find myself, I feel more like a whole small engine, rather than just a single gear.  I make up the entirety of the machine, but the throttle is in someone else’s hand.  If my current position were translated into the larger machine, I would actually fill multiple cog positions, and lubricate it with my thinning vitality as well!

The environment of most employment today is quite disgusting to an individualist with a deep-seated scorn for needless hierarchy and redundant structure.  The potential for individual achievement, growth, and success is blocked at every turn by the very structure that purports to facilitate it.  The growth that is built into the system isn’t the growth of the individuals within it, but of the expansion of the system itself, often at the expense of the individuals.  Achieving success above or outside of one’s designated position is promptly claimed by the occupiers of that position.  Changing positions is hindered by strict definitions of position and a belief that advancement and growth to that position is impossible if not from the proper blood lines or through the highly structured and quite rigged education process.  Education – in the academic realm; not necessarily in the trades – is simply another component of the corporate structure.

The feedback loop between academia and industry is obvious to any who care to examine it.  The employer part of the structure requires a certificate (a receipt for funds paid) from the education portion of the structure.  To get that receipt, the student gets a watered down version of education that is prolonged for as long as possible.  When finally bled dry of funds, the receipt is given only to find that the “education” is still inadequate (especially if one continues to pay education costs – that’s one lesson definitely missed!) for the needs of industry and all the requisite skills are then learned on the job.  The net monetary gain from it all is almost always negative, even taken over time.  The exorbitant costs of shitty education – in both wealth and time – cannot be made up very often.  Take, for example, most MBA programs that cost the students anywhere between $10K and $30K in order to get a crackerjack degree as common now as the common cold.  In order to achieve this “higher knowledge” of business, one is required to make one very bad business decision to invest in something with no hope of paying off.  The student would have better odds playing the lottery!

Awareness of the nature of this shell game doesn’t preclude one’s participation in it, unfortunately.  Besides corporate industry and education, there are many branches of this ancient structure.  All the branches and parts work toward the same end, which is control.  Control of people through control of choices, wealth (or the worthless paper that passes as wealth), and the direct or indirect control of actions.  There is a price to be paid in order to escape that we are “educated” to fear and not desire; we wouldn’t want to live outside our culture now, would we?  Instead, we continue to be the fuel expended to progress the structure while another class of people fight to man the helm and reap the rewards.

I’ll leave this with a quote from Edward Abbey, that sage of the southwester deserts, that I found at Wally Conger’s blog: “Never before in history have slaves been so well fed, thoroughly medicated, lavishly entertained. But we are slaves nonetheless.”

Yes, thank you for the shit.


7 Responses to “Corporate Cogs”

  1. Sunni said

    Very interesting comments. I’m sorry you didn’t get to be a cog—only because you wanted it, however. I suspect in the long term that may change for you.

    Regarding the “living outside our culture” fear, I have found that the older I get (mid-40s at present), the more I grok I have never really lived inside it. And thus, the less fear I have of being outside it; indeed, these days I relish it more and more; and am glad my children aren’t in the culture of their peers too much, either. I think that is the sand that may ultimately wear out the bearings of this sick system.

    I’m currently reading an Abbey book myself, turned on to his nonfiction by Wally. I wish I could devote more time each day to it … and that I had more of his books at hand to begin once this one ends.

  2. I realize the dichotomy in lamenting the system and then boo-hooing my lack of a different position within it, but it was strictly a money and return on my efforts thing.

    The fear of living outside our culture is likely a bugaboo with the same weight as all the others tossed our way in order to require a rescue. How does one really define the culture across such a large demographic? Our “culture” is essentially defined by marketing.

    I have most of Abbey’s books (all but “Heyduke Lives”) borrowed or long-term borrowed from my cousin. I’m sure you could check those out of the GYHD library. I enjoy the non-fiction much more than the fiction with the exception of Monkeywrench and Fool’s Progress (my favorite).

  3. gospazha said

    Sadly, what you describe is true for so, so many employers and their employees. I feel pretty fortunate to have found one of the few places that doesn’t require the complete subversion of my desires and goals to fit like a good cog.

    And unfortunately, employers can prey upon your fear of losing your cog position in order to keep you docile and subservient. Very few encourage you to test your professional boundaries, and even fewer reward you for your successes when you DO test them.

    We’re hiring if you can get the Mrs. to relocate. 😉


  4. Typically, I am quite happy where I’m at. I get to do a multitude of things, work pretty independently, and I do have a voice (albeit a small one) in the direction of the company as it relates to GIS. The thing is, via my dabbling in the real GIS world (my missed chance at cogdom) I realized my job description as it translates into the larger world is at a much higher pay grade. AND I realized the buckaroo way we currently do GIS (built around me, who learned on the job) doesn’t count to the bean counters in cogdom.


    I just need to get myself to the proper position for pay grade where I’m at, and I think I’ll be fine.

  5. gospazha said

    It’s funny when that realization sinks in – that your skills are being undervalued. But there ARE places where those skills will be valued, even if it takes some finding.

    Once you find a business whose concept of value matches your own, you’ll be set.


  6. The trade-off as I see it in finding someone who values me as I hope, which may be where I’m at, is that to keep out of the restricting, soul-crushing cog business the employer is usually a bit to much smaller and may not have the ability to pay at such a high level.

  7. thesofine said


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