Saturday, 27 February 2016

The more things change

Recently (and by that I mean cumulatively speaking over the past six months), things at work have been breaking down. Communication, software, discipline, the will to live. All of them have been directly influenced by the departure of a manager. They knew months in advance they would be taking anything up to a year off. They did nothing to, temporarily or otherwise, plug the gap they would be leaving. Neither did they impart necessary information to any of the people left behind.

‘Left behind’. I say that like us staff were forgotten luggage. It’d be more fitting to describe us as ‘abandoned’. Because that is what happened. Left to fend for ourselves, with no instructions, no insight, no experience, no leadership. You get to guess what happened next.

Some of it was good; it brought out the best in some, the hitherto undiscovered talents of others, the ability to share, protect and plan for our own little team and fuck everyone else. Not because we wanted to, but because you can only do so much in your twenty plus hours of indentured overtime a week, and you have to start putting your own department in order before you have any time for anyone else.

Some of it was bad; stress levels accelerated at an alarming rate. The priorities were dealt with and everything else fell by the wayside. Other departments began to get shitty with things not being done how they’d always been done, even though how they’d always been done was wrong and we were putting things right, and processing everything the correct way.

All of this caused friction. All of this caused shortness of tempers, heated exchanges and complaints. It did not, however hard we tried, bring about better conditions for anyone.

At this point I should explain that I feel about nine hundred and three years old. Like Dax, I’ve had many lives - I’ve lived on another continent, I’ve done so many jobs and had to assimilate so many differing situations, be so many different people. Couple that with a writing hobby where you study conflict as a tool to change things, where you have to extrapolate what consequences will follow, where you know that ‘Dances With Wolves’, ‘The Last Samurai’ and ‘Avatar’ share a cookie-cutter. Take all that, mix it with acknowledging how frustrated you are with offering to effect change and being shut down every time, and you stand back and have Dax moment.

Wait, 24 year-old you says. Look at the pattern. We’ve been here before, haven’t we? Back in 2001. And what happened next? Do you want that to happen again?
Ah, says 39 year-old you, but this is different.
Is it? says 36 year-old you. Because from where I’m standing, this looks like Badly Run Business of 2013 all over again.
Do you seriously want to have to stand by with towels and mop up the aftermath again? says 28 year-old you. You and I both know that’s where we’re headed.

This time I listened to myself. Everyone has a line that they draw, that if something happens to cross that line, you know you’re out and it’s time to act. This time I stopped myself redrawing that line. I kept it where it was, and the moment it was breached, me and my faithful companion Billy the MacBook Air got on the net and trawled for jobs. I received offers, I went through them, I attended interviews, and I was offered a job a week later.

Now to another vexation. I told my boss (her title is manager but she’s never done that in her life, so ‘boss’ it is), that I needed an afternoon off to attend a job interview. She was happy I was looking for things. I don’t understand her logic, but she was not obstructive in any way so it made it easier for everyone. I kept her informed of the selection process. When I came in with my letter of resignation saying I was working the whole of February as my notice, she was not surprised at all and congratulated me.

Here’s what didn’t happen next. She knew she was leaving the last day of January. She did not attempt to hire anyone to work in my stead. She left knowing that I was leaving, and there would be no-one and nothing to replace me.

At this point I had two options: be completely fucked off for the staff I was leaving behind and rant and rave about getting someone in to replace me, or simply leave it for someone else to deal with. After all, I was leaving for precisely this reason; things get left for others to sort out, and I was done with being that person who made it their business to sort this shit out, sheerly because no-one knew enough to be able to do it or no-one knew enough to realise it was necessary.

I should also tell you at this point that I was shouted down (literally shouted down, in an office full of my co-workers) by my boss for providing help. I was told to ‘stop interfering’ and it would get done. 1, this made me lose all respect for the person doing the unprofessional and frankly quite childish shouting, and 2, made me change the criteria I use for choosing my battles. Priorities shifted, things were clarified for me, and I decided there and then that nothing could save this company from going to Tartarus in a speeding chariot and it was literally not my job to care.

So I worked my notice. I did everything I was asked to do and more. The staff bought me very generous gifts, considering it would have been them contributing to and making the gifts and leaving card happen. Everyone congratulated me, wished me luck, had kind words to say as I exited the building for the last time. And for the first time in a long time, I felt optimistic.

I start my new job on Monday. Whatever happens and however weird it feels to be working somewhere new, I’m trying to prepare myself by breaking the last mindset of the last two years. STOP thinking ‘do you really expect this place to do anything right?’. STOP thinking ‘why did I think this would work?’. STOP thinking ‘it’s only eight p.m. so I’m not technically staying late anyway’. It’s all behind me, all done, all over with. I won’t have to pay for parking any more. I won’t have to be there until stupid o’clock to get things done. I won’t be having to fix other people’s monumental fuck-ups and make reparation to government departments or offices. It’s all new, all fresh, and it actually feels good to be so optimistic.

Of course, over the next few months as I get used to the job, this will all change. I’ll get to know all of the new company’s shortfalls, all their problems, all their cons. But I’m confident (says 39 year-old me) that I’ve seen how bad things could be, and I’ve come through that ok. The actual worst that could happen now is the company being perfect and going out out business three months from now. Seriously - everything else has happened to me in my work life, and I’m ready for it. I’m just not ready for it to be a good place to work. But that’s something I can happily adjust to.

For now, I’m just going to enjoy the fact that I have something new to work on. It’s going to change my whole life, in terms of how much free time I have, and how much I don’t have to worry about things, and the extra money I’ll have to pay off credit cards etc. due to the modern going-rate they pay instead of the adjusted pounds, shillings and pence I was getting up until yesterday.

It’s a new day, people. You thought Mulder getting his groove back because he shook a lizard man’s hand was uplifting? It’s got nothing on my enthusiasm for getting stuck into a new job on Monday. Nothing.

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