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Corporate Culture Shock

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Last week I ended my illustrious career as a flight attendant, and started my new job as a mobile phone specialist. The two companies have roughly the same number of employees, and I’d guess about the same number of different positions. The difference between the jobs is obvious; however, the difference between the companies is more than I would have ever thought.

I never thought anything about the airline or the way it functioned until I started my new job. On the first day of orientation I was told about all the different careers and ways to move up within the company. We saw a video about the CEO, who had once been a lowly hourly employee. It was odd for me to see something like this. When I started with the airline, as a flight attendant, I went through six weeks of intensive and intimidating training, during which there was never a mention of being anything more than a flight attendant.

In my two years as a flight attendant I was repeatedly told by my parents and grandparents that I had to work hard for the company. I never understood why this was a big deal. I was never going to be anything more than a flight attendant at the airline. It took me just a few months to figure out that no matter what I did I would not be noticed. So I didn’t feel the need to drop everything and run to the phone every time the schedulers called to give me a flight. I knew that if I didn’t answer the phone it didn’t matter; I could call them back within an allotted amount of time and nothing would change. It didn’t matter if I proactively called to ask for a flight, either – they wouldn’t think any different of me. There was nothing I could do to make a difference in how management looked at me, short of punching someone or opening the aircraft door to reveal the escape slide.

My parents and grandparents never understood why I had this feeling about work. I kept telling them it was because this was a new generation with different work ethics than the ones they had grown up with. This wasn’t true at all, though; sure, work ethics have changed somewhat, but I came to realize it was the company itself that was making me think like that.

During the training for my new job, it struck me. The new job and the new employer reflect what my parents and grandparents had always told me. If I work hard within this company, there are many different ways for me to gain personal and professional experience. This just wasn’t happening at the airline; in fact, I felt like I was working backwards in personal improvement. I didn’t care about work because the airline didn’t care about me, as long as I came to work and didn’t upset anyone.

I never thought that I would understand what my elders had been saying. I thought they were crazy. I thought that they didn’t understand how companies operated in this generation. I thought that every company was like the airline. I never imagined that a company so big would actually care about providing more professional education and personal growth for their employees. A recent study found that “employees at the 173 participating companies and nonprofit organizations said what matters to them most is not pay and benefits or how their managers treat them. Instead, they place the greatest importance on how engaged employers are with their workers, the direction the employer is heading and how decisions are carried out.” It’s good to see that some companies still care about their employees, even if they are growing by leaps and bounds each year.

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About Brit Linstrom

  • Sounds like this is is a good move you made. I know exactly what you mean about not going that extra mile. I learned early on as a flight attendant that no matter what favors I did for scheduling or the airline, they would never pay them back;-)