In my experience within the business world, I've often heard about a company's "culture". People talking in business speak would say, "company X has a really great culture," or "I love how company Y fosters an innovative culture." Usually these phrases would be followed by discussions of their portfolios and blue tooth settings, and my attention would quickly drift away to thoughts of talking monkeys and wizards. It wasn’t until I entered my current position that the concept of a culture really hit home. In previous jobs I always thought of myself as one little circuit in a giant, Voltron sized machine. I was often told about the culture, but I never experienced first hand until now.
Maybe it’s because I’ve never worked for such a small company before. With only 16 employees, Traveltime (code word for my company’s name) is smaller than most accounting departments that I’ve worked in. Most of the employees have worked here for the majority of the Traveltime’s 27 year history. Over that time, a very unique “culture” has been created. It’s like a group of people that were stranded on a deserted island. They’ve never known anything else. It’s only a matter of time before they turn on one another and start worshiping a pig’s head on a stick. Or turn to cannibalism.
But this familiarity isn’t the driving force of the culture here. Far from it. I think in any organization, the attitudes and personality of its leadership slowly seeps into the nooks and crannies of its members. Traveltime’s fearless leader, someone I will refer to as Richard (actual name), is one of the most hyper-sensitive, reactionary, and ill equipped micromanagers that I have ever worked for. How he has managed to create a business that has survived for 27 years is beyond me. Over the last several months I’ve heard him tear apart his agents for lack of business, watched him give the silent treatment to someone who was leaving, and smelled the wasteland that he leaves behind in the bathroom (I’m not sure it’s human).
The last paragraph seems harsh. I’ve read it over several times, and I would like to water it down, but I’m having a tough time cutting anything out. As I was writing it, Richard was spraying venom because he had to answer a phone call. You would have thought that someone kicked his dog the way that he was reacting to the situation.
Most of the time he is friendly and cordial to me. I’m not sure why, but he seems to withhold his anger. I’ve never had to deal with the spittle and vitriol. Instead, my frustrations with Richard usually come in financial form. I’m the only accountant for the company. I pay bills, process journal entries, and produce financial statements. Traveltime’s financial statements are not pretty. There are losses each month. It’s not because the business isn’t doing well. Sales are up, costs are down, and new clients are on the horizon. The company is losing money because of Richard.
The line between personal and business expenses doesn’t exist for him. Richard wants a new deck for his house, Traveltime pays for it. A new Mercedes? Here’s a Traveltime check. Every member of his family owns a corporate credit card. I had to classify his daughter’s bar bills as a company expense last month. A $600 bill at an LA plastic surgeon doesn’t exactly scream "company expense" to me. Over the last four months, I have been complicit in more tax evasion tactics than the mob (okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but still, it’s been bad).
If you’ve made it this far, you might be asking yourself why I’m still here. Why participate in fraudulent activities in a hostile work environment? Well, for one thing, I nearly ended up on the streets before I got the job, and for another, it’s fun to watch everything unfold. Each day is a comedy of errors. It’s like I’m living in The Office, only less funny, and with many, many more curse words.
More to come…