I was in the military for twenty plus years before moving into the corporate business world. After leaving the military, I worked at startups on the SF Bay area peninsula. Corporations swallowed the startups, and I ended up with IBM, where I stayed for fifteen years.
I preferred the military over the corporate world most of the time. Corporations paid better and demanded less work of me. The pay is a benefit, but the less work meant the jobs were less satisfying and less spiritually, emotionally, and mentally rewarding. Our sense of time in the military was much different. Now meant NOW in the military. For civilians, now was a blob of indeterminate time that can stretch from a day to a year.
Other differences were noted. Corporate employees had less sense of unity. Morale seemed worse. There was a greater sense of malaise, of “Here we go again.” Civilians had far less accountability, too. In the military, screw up, and the laser beam of ownership and explanation found you fast.
I liked the ownership and accountability, because they also quickly recognized you. The other good deal to me when I was in the military were assignment rotations. Every two to four years (it varied by rank and assignment), I moved to somewhere else. While on assignment, I could change duties and responsibilities, and even units. That kept things fresher and more interesting. Keeping it all coherent was a strong understanding of the mission. The mission didn’t change.
It wasn’t so in the civilian world, except when I left companies and joined another. My job at IBM changed three times, but I had many, many bosses in those years. IBM did a lot of restructuring and re-organizations. They started many projects (and most of them faded away). They had great ideas but poor execution. New products were often exciting, but the finished product rarely seemed to fulfill the initial promises.
That was my life with the corporation. Your results may vary, but I found that with U.S. Surgical, Tyco, and ISS, as well.
Anyway, wherever I was, I often thought of this song as I left one job and went to another. Here’s “Take This Job and Shove It,” by David Alan Coe, performed and released by Johnny Paycheck in 1977.