Diane Lee writes about the mythical workplace beast of Opportunity.

On opportunity

This is the 7th essay in the #26essays2017 challenge that I’ve set for myself this year. I’m doing this because I’m the first to admit I’ve become a lazy writer: allowing guest posts and series and cross-posting to make up the bulk of content on The Diane Lee Project across 2016. The brave, fearless writing that readers admired and respected me for has all but disappeared. This year—2017—will be different. I’m reclaiming my voice—my write like a motherfucker voice! 

Opportunity (noun) – a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do anything.

In Australian workplaces, there exists a strange, mythological beast. This beast is called Opportunity.

Opportunity is a mercurial animal that magically appears in workplaces during times of upheaval. It is hardly ever seen during times of peace and calm.

Employees love the idea of Opportunity. It symbolises all that is fair and good and just in the workplace. Where talent and hard work and going above and beyond is recognised and rewarded with a promotion or a raise, or both.

Managers love that employees love the idea of Opportunity too, especially in times of chaos. They love it because Opportunity is something that can be used to blackmail employees into doing whatever the hell the manager wants.

It works like this.

And I wanted to ram Opportunity down the throat of anyone who dared say to me: It’s a wonderful opportunity. I wanted them to choke on each letter, unable to breath as the words clogged their throat and they ultimately died a long, slow, excruciating Opportunistic death.

An employee is wooed with Opportunity to make him or her do something that they usually wouldn’t, like a job, a task, an activity or even a move to a different location. Sometimes actions that are distinctly unethical occur because of Opportunity. Personal preferences and integrity are sacrificed on the alter of Opportunity, with the vague hope that the God of Jobs (and not the Steve kind) will smile and annoint the sacrificee with a windfall.

I must admit, that in my eight years in the South Australian Public Service, I initially bought into the idea of Opportunity. I wanted to believe it was true. I wanted to believe that I was worthy of all Opportunities that were promised to me. That I was good enough, smart enough, me enough.

I wasn’t. In that environment—the South Australian Public Service—I realised that Opportunity only called on the compliant and the malleable. The easily manipulated. And controlled. And the ambitious at any cost. Generally speaking, of course.

I was not that person, nor ever would be.

Towards what would inevitably became the end of this period of my life, I muttered Fuck This Shit to anyone who listened, and it became my daily mantra.

And I wanted to ram Opportunity down the throat of anyone who dared say to me: It’s a wonderful opportunity. I wanted them to choke on each letter, unable to breath as the words clogged their throat and they ultimately died a long, slow, excruciating Opportunistic death.

Since I started work some 40 years ago (fuck! Has it been that long?) I can safely say that I can count on one hand the number of Opportunities—real opportunities—that came my way.

Opportunity, where I’m from, is a mirage, an illusion, a fairy tale.

At least, I that was what I thought before I came to Vietnam. Vietnam has changed how I view Opportunity, and it’s for the better.

And that’s the subject of my next essay.


Photo via Visualhunt.com.

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