The Fault In Our KPIs
Peace was all I had known. My world was a simple 9-5, existing harmoniously in the realm of our cherished sovereign. A world abundant with cyberslacking and smoke breaks. That peace would not last. Our leader’s downfall was made reality by those who had the least to gain from his rule. The oracles of his demise—the Accounts Department—plotted in darkness, chronicling our impending collapse in the pages of a Quarterly Earnings Report, exposing our benevolent lord’s supposed defects to the Upper Floors.
The powers that be responded unceremoniously; exiling a man who led us to great victories over waning morale and through pizza-party famines. They justified this cruelty with accusations of the worst sales quarter in company history, with claims of unprecedented lows in employee productivity. Their power was absolute. We were subject to their decree. Our leader’s end came and we bid him unceremonious farewell; a glum banquet with generic supermarket cake.
Then the Usurper came. The champion of the higher powers; tracker of idle time, architect of hotdesking, and reducer of toilet paper ply. Under his banner of “cost-cutting” and “productivity maximization” the opulence of the preceding reign was crushed where it lay; a few technical revisions in the scripture of company policy was all it took. Those who paved the way for his rise celebrated; reveled in the gore of his ruthless efficiency, rejoicing in the restoration of order and stability. We could do nothing but tolerate our fate; were told to be grateful for the mercy of the Usurper, protecting us from being downsized. We were bound by the tools of our oppression–their KPIs.
I was the last recruit of our departed leader, welcomed into an age of liberty, comfort, casual Fridays, and daily doughnuts in the breakroom. It was all I had ever known, all I ever wanted. When the autocracy arrived, I took up arms with the rebellion, those of us who refused to accept life under this tyranny of our corporate Big Brother.
We fought in the shadows, sowing disorder into day-to-day operations; agents of chaos fighting with periodic-mouse-moving apps and VPN browsers. Some brave folk fought openly, buying idle time by jamming wireless printers with large documents or growing facial hair that pushed the limits of an arcane dress code. The mutiny felt inevitable, our rebellion building a voice that hoped to overwhelm.
But we were no match to the resources of our enemy; we were chattel to them, waiting to be brought to heel. Several rebels were tempted by promises of greater sales incentives and slightly more coverage in dental insurance. Some abandoned our cause claiming they had seen the light: “Maximum productivity is the foundation of workplace fulfillment.” An insidious mantra designed to chip away at our plurality, our unity, forcing acceptance of austerity. We were to be cogs in the machine, only moving those above forward. Obscured from the nostalgia of our past lives by the artificial brightness of new, and hollow incentives, we succumbed, one by one, until I was the last.
The Usurper deftly wielded his power, turning my fellow rebels away from our path. The Upper Floors showered him with blessings; bonuses, extended contracts and promotions for his closest subordinates. I had been abandoned, left to the whims of efficiency and record-low expenses. I stood alone in the ruin of what had once been…homely.
In a moment of desperation, I seized an opportunity to delve into dark arts. It would extract a hidden price. A grimoire with the power to dispense anonymous criticism of the Usurpers regime: the Supervisor Review. I should have wielded it with more care, should have seen it for the trap it was, outing me to those who controlled my fate. My downfall was imminent and with it, the rebellion would be extinguished.
A trial was set, and the guillotine readied. It was not publicized as a punishment for my seething review, that would have been considered illegal, and a potential lawsuit. My execution was disguised as a performance review, an anatomic dissertation of my failures to match the KPIs bestowed by the Usurper. One final humiliation to carve open the wound of my pending termination.
Through an unseen miracle, I survived. My head did not roll, and a clemency unlooked for allowed me another 9-5. I was rescued by corporate diversity quotas, my mere existence just putting the company over their threshold. I was saved by the same holy writ that was manipulated by my oppressor: policy. I was deemed an irreplaceable loss, the product of hiring freezes and my disappointing-but-with-justifiable-potential performance. Instead, they branded me, a fallen outlaw now working in a probationary period with “performance-adjusted KPIs”. I was forced into existence as one of them, a white-collar turncoat, the lone iconoclast deprived of his vigour.
In time, I succumbed to their ways, dominated by a fear of the unknown multiverse of job-hunting, a growing appetite for stability that came with passing quarters and the cascading rot of the 5-to-9. I live as a cautionary tale, a symbol for those who yearn for freedom within corporate confinement; a modicum of flexure in a rigid system. To not be bound by the fault in our KPIs.
Moh Afdhaal is a civil engineer enduring the depths of construction project management hell in Sri Lanka. When he is not supervising a concrete pour, he is writing or reading fiction. Moh can be found on Twitter @mohwritesthings