Welcome to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Locke & Murrow Promotion and Career Advancement Survey (PACAS). This industry leading process empowers YOU, the employee, to take charge of your career.

In this first section, we want to hear about YOU! Tell us who you are.

One would assume that one’s employer, especially one of such modest size, would have some grasp on “who” one is. But alas, I see that is not the case.

I find myself wondering what utility such personal disclosures would have for advancing my career. I also find myself intrigued by the philosophical and psychological implications inherent in Locke & Murrow, a corporate entity, asking what constitutes my, all caps, sense of “you.” I suppose, on these occasions, one is expected to delve into one’s history, outlining how one was sort-of destined to work here. Even without digging too deep, I can assure you that that wasn’t the case.

Yet, here I sit; so, something in my past must have marked me out to the Fates as “just the sort-of person the Public Relations arm of Locke & Murrow looks out for.”

I grew up under the loving eye of two ordinary people. My father was a civil servant and my mother was a school teacher. I had no brothers or sisters. We had a family dalmatian that was, of course, named Spot. We lived on Barkley Street amidst the cool violet of wisteria, and the rich American scent of mown lawns. In a sense, my childhood was almost comically idyllic, the sort-of origin tale that often serves as a prelude to some earth-shattering tragedy.

In my case, the only “tragedy” was the chaos of my education (especially that cauldron of hormones and angst that is high school). I also vaguely recall a morning of sheer panic when I woke in knotted up sheets that had been scandalized by pubescent byproducts. Even today, I still meet my poor mother’s gaze with a sense of shame and pity. Forgive me, dear mother.

I went to the nearby university, like everyone else, and I was, by all accounts, a fine student. Upon graduation, I took a position at Locke & Murrow, because no one else offered to hire a young man with a literature degree. Also, it would behoove the author(s) of these questions to proofread: it’s FY 2022 now.

In Detail, provide a narrative that outlines the complexity of your day-to-day duties. (TIP: Use the Situation, Action, Frequency, and Impact (SAFI) model to efficiently explain your promotion candidacy)

As I stated last year, I will not use this inane writing model. It is formulaic to a degree that would gag the producers of modern television with its banality. It is also somewhat of a contradiction, as such a prescriptive writing method is anathema to good narration.

I am loathe to engage in any exercise that would be confused with braggadocio, but that seems to be the way of things in the corporate world. Very well then; I shall play the game as it is meant to be played, as reticence to engage in it shall only lead to the advancement of lesser employees, many of whom no doubt hold personal vendettas against me, owing most probably to my open disdain for the silly trinkets on their desk (Barbra Mallory); my inadvertent query on their due date (the very not pregnant and very male Mike Matthews); and my visible annoyance at their obnoxiously loud phone voice (I believe even the automated and/or aloof Human Resources department will know of whom I speak).

Anyways, I am a, quote unquote, hard worker. I say this in this manner because I do not find my work difficult; in fact, it’s maddeningly simplistic, so much so that I often find myself searching for more tasks. Of course, this is easy to do when I am on a team with lazy, ineffectual Neanderthals like Blanche More, who is usually too busy selling cosmetic kits or protein supplements or whatnot from whatever Multi-level Marketing opportunity she is entirely absorbed in at the moment.

Even so, I am routinely finished with an entire day’s work before lunch time, much to the chagrin of my co-workers, who feel my performance reflects negatively on them. If there is any God, or even competent management at this firm, then they would be right.

We want to empower you to meet your goals. What goals do you have? What training can we provide to help you empower yourself?

Perhaps my background as a literature student is what causes me to shudder with nausea at the needless repetition of the verb empower; perhaps my distaste merely comes from having a functional set of ears (which may not be true if I am forced to sit next to this obnoxious buffoon much longer).

I have always struggled with these questions. It is obvious to everyone that they are generated by apathetic parties who are, clearly, running out of things to ask. My goals? How could I begin to answer such a thing in a manner that is both honest and palatable for you, my overlords? “I strive to be the best at what I do.” That is, undoubtedly, what you want to hear, ipso facto, that is my goal. That’s just the sort of intentionally vague cliché that appears to animate the world these days.

For training, I would have assumed that the company itself would have some idea of what was needed for my advancement; alas, “empower” truly serves as a stand in for “do it yourself.” Very well. I feel I would best be served in my endeavors with training focused on a proper handshake (firm, but not too firm), golf lessons (as, judging by my supervisor’s weekly absences, this is vital for getting ahead), and some sort-of sexual harassment seminars, as the woman I work with are radically uncomfortable around the majority of the senior partners.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? In 10 years? (TIP: Be specific! Being clear can make your dreams a reality!)

Ah yes, the vacuous sibling to the previous question. In five years, I imagine I will be seated in this exact spot, filling out the same silly forms, groveling for an increase in pay or status that will inevitably be withheld for some arbitrary reason (probably related to budget, despite quarter after quarter of record profits).

Who’s to say where any of us will be in ten years? Perhaps the oceans will finally rise and submerge this whole, rotting city. Perhaps that lunatic Dane in the mailroom will finally make good on his threats to burn this place to the ground. No one knows. By then half of the board will have died away and been replaced by yet more bald, leering deviants. In reality, I will be sitting right here; like Sisyphus, I am damned to this Hell.

I also wish to touch on the absurdity of the “tip” for this question. When did it become romantic to pretend that stating one’s goals made them more likely to occur? Are we, as a species, so deluded as to think our meaningless ambitions can be spoken into the vast, uncaring universe, and that said universe will then realign its immense machinery to accommodate our silly whims? We really are doomed.

What are your biggest weaknesses? How can you grow in FY 2020?

I really am starting to wonder what year it is. Have I fallen into a gap in the continuum of time itself? A cursory glance at my calendar verifies that it is, in fact, FY 2022. That it is the year of our lord two thousand and twenty two. Surely, there is someone double checking these questions?

There is perhaps no sillier question in the pantheon of the corporate world than this one. Many an employee has agonized over the immortal query: what is your biggest weakness? A woman who sat next to me for a few years named Gladys would fret this question ever year.

I remember her wondering if she was supposed to write something that implied an openness to growth (whatever that meant), or if she should write an answer that would subtly convey actual strengths (such as being too timely). I don’t remember what she decided; I usually use this space to describe my inability to enjoy James Joyce, a weakness that cost me the admiration of many a professor and one lovely coed named Tabitha, who had words from the “Anna Livia Plurabelle” section tattooed on her shoulder.

Thank you for taking the time to fill out this year’s PACAS. Please use this space to let Human Resources know how you think we can improve this process!

For the longest time, this section was my favorite. At first, this was because I was the cautiously optimistic sort, who believed he truly had been empowered (that foolish word again) to provide meaningful feedback. I know better now. Last year, as a test, I used acrostics to expose Mr. Mearle’s newest trophy wife’s affair with Lyle in Accounts. I even colored the first letters in a fetching scarlet! Of course, no one reads this, or any of it, and so their sordid affair continues. Lyle from Accounts was actually promoted to Business Manager, a rather pointless position that probably affords him ample time to think outside the box with the alluring Mrs. Mearle.

In previous years, I supplied input about why this process was broken, nonsensical, and a total waste of time. I provided a link to a Forbes article, dated January 14, 2018, called “Performance Reviews are Pointless and Insulting—Why do They Exist?” by one Liz Ryan. Of course, nothing changed.

I believe nothing changes because the PACAS system we use was thought up and implemented under the direction of one of our former vice presidents. This man spoke entirely in buzzwords and drove an environmentally responsible sports sedan. Thus, he was heralded as a genius and, even more unfortunately, as an innovator. And thus, in the spirit of this genius innovator, management doubles down on this exhausting process.

In my time with Locke & Murrow I have expended (i.e., wasted) over 100 hours writing about why I should ascend to greater heights. I think about the totality of our staff and the hours they have similarly wasted; and I am amazed that anything ever gets done around here.

In truth, I have become very bitter in my time here. While I have had some constructive conversation with Dr. Waverly, the lovely psychiatrist HR recommended to me, I can’t help but feel my life passing me by. When I am asked these stock, vague questions, I find myself dismissing them, as facing them would force a confrontation with my own failures and inadequacies. Perhaps that is how I will do things next year, provided Locke & Murrow don’t institute the tyranny of a character count.

William Monette was born and raised outside of Detroit, Michigan. He holds an MFA from Columbia University. He currently lives in Washington DC with his dog. His work has previously appeared in The Great Lakes Review, The Ponder Review, Typishly, FLARE: The Flagler Literary Review, and SHARKREEF.