Wednesday, October 29, 2008

We Make Bureaucracy: 3

After the dot.com bust, I took stock. My area of expertise was writing about technology, a scribe who detailed the inner workings of countless software packages, advising users when to enter their names, when to press Return, and when to call technical support. I became adept at transforming binders of documentation into online help systems.

One day I answered an advertisement to manage a Web site for an Oakland-based company on a temporary basis. Later, I applied for the permanent position, and got the job. But there was something oddly familiar about this new setting, and not in an entirely good way.

During my initial “honeymoon period,” management had tolerated my dot.com credentialed glow. But forays into taking initiative became increasingly suspect. A series of monthly “brown bag” lunches where employees could share information about mutual projects, became construed as “empire-building.” My annoying habit of asking questions at weekly staff meetings rather than accepting explanations at face-value, bordered on insubordination.

I was a fly. I was flattened. But fortunately, I wasn’t stupid. Did I mention that I was a single mother?

Reporting to a new manager and banished to my closet without windows, the light finally dawned. I realized that I had returned to a bureaucracy. There in my worst moments, I would softly bang on the door and whisper to myself, "Let me out."

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