What is the working dream of middle America?

The question is not about the desire for possessions or personal relations, but what is the ideal working environment? Is it an office job? Is it working outdoors? Does it involve tools?

I overheard two gentlemen talking the other day at my gym. Permit me a moment to put this in perspective. My gym is in the suburbs, between a middle-class area and a very upper-class area. There isn’t much public transportation in the area, so most of the people at least have access to a car. The busy times are before nine and after five, so most people probably have jobs that fall between what are generally considered normal working hours.

To paraphrase, the conversation was about the working environment. Both men agreed that the best thing for job security is to go unnoticed. “If they don’t know your name after three years, you’ve done a good job. Oh who’s that? That’s Pete.”

At first, I was appalled. Is that really the dream, to go unnoticed? Don’t make waves? Don’t try to improve anything? Don’t try to advance? That can’t be it, can it? Then I thought back to my days of office work and I remembered a quote from the holy grail of movies on office life, Office Space.

Peter Gibbons: It’s a problem of motivation, all right? Now if I work my ass off and Initech ships a few extra units, I don’t see another dime, so where’s the motivation? And here’s something else, Bob: I have eight different bosses right now.
Bob Slydell: I beg your pardon?
Peter Gibbons: Eight bosses.
Bob Slydell: Eight?
Peter Gibbons: Eight, Bob. So that means that when I make a mistake, I have eight different people coming by to tell me about it. That’s my only real motivation is not to be hassled, that and the fear of losing my job. But you know, Bob, that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired.

Was there any chance for advancement at my job? Nope. I wasn’t in the friend zone with upper management. If I made any suggestions for improvement, I had to spearhead the project and sit through endless meetings. The meetings would end with the incorporation of the whims of the people above me, however ridiculous. If the new initiative was successful, I received a hearty pat the back, and not one extra dime. Come annual review time, I might receive a cost of living bump, but nothing more for my additional work, just excuses about the money not being available. Seems a great deal of money is tied up in my new project. Ironic.

Maybe the dream is anonymous mediocrity.