Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Ballad of the Middle Manager

I was just thinking yesterday of the album Fresh Aire III by Mannheim Steamroller, and how my original copy is old, tape, and missing. When I went looking for it I found a copy of Dr. Jane's Science Notes, and I took the opportunity to listen once again and refresh my memory of the Ballad, which is one of the more interesting and complex pieces. I had once tried to look up the lyrics online only to discover that they weren't here. I'm going to fix that. Someday I'll do the Anthem of Bureaucracy, too, but I don't think I'll do the Muscles of the Kitty Cat. Feline anatomy in Latin isn't my thing.

Yes, he's a Middle Manager, without a claim to fame
Except a high partition and a sign that bears his name
And he blusters to intimidate the members of his staff
Who wait until he leaves the room before they dare to laugh.
He makes no great decisions and his insights are but rare
But he calls a million meetings and he's almost always there
to record in finest detail what we do not need to know
And he turns it into memos which descend on us like snow.

Writing memos, memos, memos to directors and to stenos
Little squares of colored paper by the reams, reams, reams.
Writing any piece of rot that impinges on his thought
Even though it isn't worth a hill of...beans.

Yes he's a Middle Manager, he is without a doubt.
You know him by the quantity of paper he puts out.
He is slow to catch a meeting and he won't pick up the slack
And if you're a fellow manager he'll stab you in the back.
But behind the mounds of clutter that he keeps for their effect
He belabors second fiddle so the bosses won't suspect
That he's far outrun his talent so must over-compensate
Lest they find him out and send him back to monitoring crates.

Writing memos, memos, memos to directors and to stenos
Little clumps of colored paper, how they swell, swell, swell.
Though a manager efficient finds the spoken word sufficient
No one sees you have been working when you tell, tell, tell.

Yes, he's a Middle Manager, with collars snowy white,
And all he does is pass the buck, procrastinate and write.
There is no idea so trivial it fails to self-inflate
When typed on a Selectric or produced in triplicate.
He has no real importance so he has to make it plain
That he's got a busy writing hand if not a busy brain.
Immortalizing every word that leaps from pen to pad
And saving for posterity the thoughts he hasn't had.

Writing memos, memos, memos to directors and to stenos
Little squares of colored paper by the piles, piles, piles,
But the file clerk isn't smiling as she goes about compiling
Pretty folders of confetti for the files, files, files.

Yes he's a Middle Manager, and though he sort of tries
He's the prototype for whom the Peter Principle applies.
He will get no more promotions and should not have got this far
So he's always busy writing with his office door ajar.
He's got a silver fountain pen that's monogrammed in gold
And custom memo pads that are impressive to behold
But his output, though voluminous, is boring and absurd
And all that we can figure is they pay him by the word.

Writing memos, memos, memos to directors and to stenos
Managerial excreta that we dread, dread, dread.
But we know how to feel better, we turn on the paper shredder,
And we watch the pretty rainbows as they shred, shred, shred.

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