Corporate Culture

My cousin rolled her eyes at me over her cup of cold coffee. When she lowered her glass, I saw she had developed a chocolate-cream-covered mustache.

I had just asked her how she liked her new job in the big city. In her first week, she had sent me about a hundred messages, all photos of her new workplace, the free meals, and unlimited candy, and the dorm rooms with their cozy bedspreads. The company even gave away free gadgets to employees.

Yet here she was three months later, the life drained from her eyes. I’d expected her to be more excited to talk about the new startup in the block.

She explained. And when corporate employees confess, it’s not pretty.

She got free food three times a day. And unlimited coffee, snacks, and chocolate (dark, too) anytime she wanted. And if she wanted to blow steam off, she could go next door to the playing area to shoot darts or pocket some carrom coins.

She spent over ten hours at work. She didn’t while away or go for tea breaks across the street. She could have anything she wanted from the pantry. And she could bring it back to her desk, working between bites.

She didn’t have a proper mentor either because most startups don’t believe in micromanagers and hierarchy. And with flexible office timings and unrestricted internet access, the only thing that stopped employees from watching porn all day was the creepy open-office setting. But no one felt bad about scrolling through Facebook because that was a part of a healthy productive day.

At first, she loved her job. With no boss to boss her around, it seemed like paradise. However, a few weeks later, she realised she was going nowhere. The company was doing alright; they had received foreign investments and decided to upgrade the playing area with a badminton court. But despite the fresh startup fever, work had become rather dry.

She thought about work while eating, she talked about work while playing, and worked while she travelled, too, (on the company’s free shuttle services) to and from work. Her colleagues stayed over at the office because they’d work all night, and the office beds seemed more comfortable than the one at home.

But they had the weekends off. So they could feel like they had a life. She knew she had none, though.

Just three months into a job, she wanted out. She couldn’t imagine giving up the benefits, but she knew she wasn’t growing where she was. However, if she made the move, her family wouldn’t understand and pressure her to go back in. She felt stuck, wishing they’d fire her.

As she paused to take another swig of coffee, I smiled at her. The lure of corporate culture. Fancy on the outside, finicky on the inside. I’ve seen a few of them myself.

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