Just Enough Not To Get Fired

I had a meeting today, and the outcome was interesting.  It seems that the work I’ve been doing for the past 3 months has been a complete waste of time.  This was the opinion of everyone present, including my boss’ boss’ boss, who is only about 5 more layers of middle management from the top!  My heart was broken.  I mean, I poured my soul into producing these numbers, working late nights and weekends and stressing about them during the holidays and canceling my vacation to format the spreadsheet so the file could be uploaded correctly to the AS400.   Oh, what a cruel world this is where one’s hard work is for naught.  It was a labor of love, and now that love is no more.

Seriously now, I had known from the start this project was a waste.  Apparently, I was coming up with some numbers that another group should have been doing.  I knew this, but was told to do it anyway by my boss, who also knew this.  These other people actually were doing it also, but we didn’t know.  When their numbers came out, they were different than my numbers, even though they helped me come up with my numbers.  Unfortunately, I had already submitted my numbers to the budget system and it was too late to change to their numbers, which were more correct, because the mainframe was “unstable.”  But now my numbers were going to differ from their numbers, and some woman who does some other budget that would be screwed up by the inconsistency refused to use a “plug” number to make up the difference because she had morals that would not be compromised.   So after much debate, it was decided that they had to change their numbers to match my numbers, since the difference wasn’t much off, and hope no one asks why they used a weird interest rate to back into a figure that matches my numbers.  However, they will be the “owners” of the numbers and will answer questions people might have regarding them.   Needless to say, I will be bringing a flask of gin to my next meeting.

It may surprise people that I have no advanced degree for such important and exhilarating financial forecasting work.  In fact, education is a handicap with this job because the smarter one gets, the less able they are to deal with stupidity.  And possessing high stupidity-tolerance is a trait far more valuable than any MBA could be.  I mean, you need to be smart enough to know this stuff is stupid, but if one is too smart, the “stupidity gap” becomes so great that the brain is not be able to process the high level of garbage and a violent seizure is inevitable, with possible tongue swallowing.

Now, when everyone in the meeting realized I had just done work that was a complete waste of time, I think they sort of felt bad for me.  My boss lamented that I could have been spending my time on other projects.  He was sort of astonished that something like this could happen.  Another guy came up with a weak reason for why the exercise contained some value to make me feel good about myself.  I kept a neutral face.  I probably was expected to be mad, but was in fact happy.  You see, I had already known this task was a waste, so it wasn’t like I was hurt that my work was unimportant and not used for anything.  That has happened far too many times for me to think any work I perform will serve some valuable purpose.  In fact, I usually pray work I have done will not be used for any meaningful purpose because I genuinely do care about not bringing the company down due to my shoddy work in the rare event it holds some real importance.  But what this meeting resulted in was that I now was not the person in charge of the numbers any more and the meaningless monthly reconciliation and meaningless variance analysis that went along with them were not my responsibility.  This made me happy because I despise doing variance analysis.  But I couldn’t look too happy in the meeting, so a neutral expression was what I expressed. 

The moral of this story is that if you think something you are required to work on is stupid, it probably is.  Don’t spend too much time worrying about it or effort on it because you will just be hurt when you see your work was all for nothing.  And it will always be for nothing.  The people who deny this are living in a fantasy world because the horror of admitting to themselves the meaninglessness is too much to take.  So be smart.  Do as little work as possible to complete your useless tasks.  Do just enough not to get fired.  That’s all the effort stupidity deserves.

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