The Unheralded Paragons

In my former life (which seems a million miles away these days), I used to be a Vice President for JPMorgan Chase.  Yes, your long haired once a hippie always a hippie, ex-burn out and formerly drunken scribe, used to work in Corporate America.  As in Ivory Tower Corporate America…for 17 years at JPMC no less.  I dealt with people who existed in what I used to call the “Adminisphere”.  That’s the place where you go when your Title and Pay Grade take you to where the air is thin because you are going higher up in the Ivory Tower.  Well, I was on the border of the Adminisphere at the higher echelon of Middle Management; I dealt almost exclusively with Senior Veeps and above…hence, a really good idea of what The Adminisphere is, and where my layer of Corporate Atmosphere ended.

These are the guys who don’t want the details, all they want is everything condensed into a nice 10 page deck or Powerpoint presentation.  These are the guys who will love your presentation but will bitch about your font size and type.  These are the guys who will request another 10 page deck to a question they have when a simple answer from you at the meeting should have sufficed.  And these are the very same guys who, when they get into The Adminisphere, are handed their Golden Parachutes just in case they have to jump or are forced out of that Ivory Tower.  Or if it falls.  Oh, and one more thing…they will not hesitate to turn on each other and eat their young.

My old job used to involve incentives for a group of individuals in the bank; roughly 6,000 of them in fact.  I had a $28 million budget which I consistently managed to the penny and usually saved the Bank a few million dollars a year because there would be no waste.  I probably could have saved them a lot more, but we had the usual threats of legal action of a bonus wasn’t paid because of “X”, even though they really didn’t deserve it. (These were the real whiners in the economy, Ladies and Gentlemen, the ones who have and want MORE.)  Rather than deal with the lawsuit, we paid them to shut up.  I argued against it, it wasn’t the right thing to do in my book, but hey…it was their money.  If they wanted to spend it and waste the shareholders’ good faith, go ahead.  Such were the typical directives that came forth from the mighty Adminisphere.

I used to do quarterly bonus cycles, and one of those cycles just so happened to fall right during the first two weeks on September.  After the 9/11 attack, we had no office to go back to.  I worked out of my home, while others worked out of other corporate locations close to them while our building was supposedly being cleaned and decontaminated.  We would have a daily conference calls at the beginning and end of each day to review what we had done, and what we needed to do the next day.  Business partners who I dealt with (including the Adminisphere) had my home phone number where I could be reached so we could continue doing business as usual.  A number of people knew I was caught in the middle of the attack and were sympathetic, but just continued to go on as if nothing had happened.  Only one Executive really took the time to talk with me, ask about my family, was there anything she could do, etc.  Thank God for her, because without that one, lone soul to cling on to; my impression of Corporate America would have sunken even lower than it already was.  For the most part, it was all about the money.

Even though I was totally at the edge of a breakdown in those early days after the attack, I still managed to pay 6,000 people ON TIME and UNDER BUDGET.  Months later, my Boss (who is worthy of several posts on his own…definitely at another time) who was a complete and total anal retentive individual was harping on me for some little thing.  Maybe it was the size of the font in a deck, maybe it was his incessant looking over my shoulder to make sure that I worded an e-mail properly…who knows.  One day, I just turned to him and said, “You know , after 9/11 I managed to pay everyone on time with absolutely no waste in the budget, even though I was a basket case.  You think that one person ONE PERSON would have just said a simple , ‘Thank you for your hard work’ to me.  I just wanted to hear a thank you…I wasn’t interested in money.  Just a simple thank you note from some one Senior that would have been nice to have in my file.”

His response: “It was your job.”

It was at that moment that I realized that Corporate America and I were heading on an inevitable collision course that would come to a head a few years later and culminate in my having a nervous breakdown, going on disability, and eventually leaving the Company altogether.  It was at that moment that I realized that no matter how much hard work I put into my job, how hard I worked to get up high in the ranks, no matter what I could ever do…it was all for THEM.  THEY OWNED ME WHOLESALE, and that’s the way it is with anyone working for Corporate America today.  Just ask the 12,000 Lehman employees who are out of a job while their CEO walks away with a Golden Parachute of $22 million.  Just ask any poor soul working in an office, pushing papers, and keeping the economic engine running in a way that no one could imagine, and certainly no one recognizes.

After 9/11, people acknowledged the heroes of the Police and Fire Departments and First Responders (rightfully so).  The forgotten, Unheralded Paragons of that day and the days after were the thousands of people who worked in the Financial District and kept this country’s economy moving.  If it weren’t for them, then America would surely have collapsed economically seven years before it has.  If it weren’t for the Unheralded Paragons, going back day after day and endangering their physical and mental health, America would not have been able to exist.  Today, they still perform their thankless jobs for their Corporate Masters, upholding the economy while getting no recognition at all.  No ceremonies.  No bonuses.

Not even a thank you.

“If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.” – James Madison

TOMORROW: A Danger To The Republic Part III

3 responses to “The Unheralded Paragons

  1. So let me be the first to say “thank you”. Thank you and all those who did continue doing their jobs the day after and the day after that…

    in early 1980s I worked for Texas Commerce Bank (their building is the Chase bldg in downtown Houston that has all the windows blown out with confidential documents strewn up and down Travis Street — talk about your not exercising proper care and control… but I digress) in the Corporate Trust Department. I was a secretary – nowadays I think they call ’em “administrative assistants” but really, a secretary, to a AVP and and AAVP on a Trust team — teams consisted of three people the AVP, the AAVP and the secretary. During my stint-in-hell, my mother had the misfortune of being diagnosed with throat cancer… she was also the girlfriend of the Senior Vice President of the Corporate Trust Department. hmmm… how well do you think I was liked and or trusted by my AVP who felt that the SVP had forced me upon her by simply asking if she’d interview me for the job she had open.

    Anyway, my mom was in the hospital recovering from having a tumor taken out of her throat. She was in a room, alone, with a tracheotomy tray standing by in case her throat might swell up and they needed to perform a trach… Did I mention she was also at the end of a hall, probably 10 rooms from the nurses’ station? Anyway, this woman I worked for was leaving town on personal business I might add, at noon. My other team member was gone that day, and I had finished all my rollovers of short term jumbo cds where people were making more than my annual salary on million-dollar-plus 30 day cds. I told her that I would be leaving at noon also to go to the hospital and sit with my mother… my aunt and I had been taking turns since she’d come out of surgery two days before. My aunt, an RN, had said to me that we needed to do this because of the trach tray, the fact that she was alone in the room with no roomie, and her distance from the nurses’ station because if she had a crisis she might not even be able to call for a nurse it could come on that quickly. Sooooo… back to the office…

    Let’s call her “Sue”. “Sue” said to me in the most disgusted tone of voice imaginable… “WHEN are you going to turn your mother over to nursing care?” I answered her “When they take the trach tray out of her room and there is no chance of her suffocating to death before someone can reach her. I will see you Monday.”

    I didn’t work much longer for her. After my mom had her radiation treatments, Ed, who was a fine man, and it has always made me wonder how he’d rose so high in that organization, took Mom to Florida for a couple of weeks R&R with her sister and her husband’s beach house in Fort Myers. That week, they (my AVP & AAVP) told me how we were adding a new 4th person to the team, she would be some kind of an assistant — they were doing this with all the CP teams and I had been told by Ed that one of these slots was mine. Around two in the afternoon on a Friday, “Sue” explained to me that I would not be getting that position and that all the others had been filled as well.

    I wrote the most satisfying resignation letter I have ever written…

    “I quit. Effective immediately.” Packed up my stuff and, because I was an environmentally conscious person and took the park and ride to downtown Houston, called my cousin (who is now an Ops Manager at another brokerage house that shall remain unnamed because she still has a job) and she picked me up.

    Thus Endeth my Association with the Whore of Babylon, also known as the Financial Corporate America.

    Sorry to hijack your comment field with my own rant just to be able to say “they suck”

    I am glad you’re out. Ed always said that the worst part of climbing to the position of SVP in the banking industry was that he did not get to see his children grow up. By the time he was my Mom’s friend, he’d had a grandchild and would marvel at all the wonderful things babies and toddlers do as they begin to explore the world. My Mom asked him about it once… didn’t he remember his kids doing these things… he said no mostly he was either on a train going from Philly to NYC or back, or just in the office until late hours when his kids were doing things like eating, bathing, playing, sleeping. he mostly remembers his kids as tousle-haired sleeping beauties.

    You are very fortunate… you know your kids.

  2. Wonderful post, and might I add that this is a fairly accurate description of the depths of depravity Corporate Canada is capable of, also. I think “Adminispheres” are virtually the same, no matter what country they thrive in like the leeches they are.

  3. Pingback: Milepost 100 « Intersections In Real Time

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s