What’s going on?

To those of you who check in regularly to see what news, you’ll know there’s not been much blogging going on. Not just recently, but, it seems, over the past year or so. I’m in two minds whether to continue or whether to delete this. Over recent months the blog has simply become a place to rant, a place to let off steam and to talk about stuff that really shouldn’t matter.

It has lost it’s way. I shall look for it. If I don’t succeed then I promise to make it disappear.

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A culture of fear

That’s what we’ve got where I work. People are always trying to cover their backs and keep their heads down, to stay out of the line of sight. It’s not pleasant at the best of times. For me, I report directly into the ‘c-team’ so there’s no hiding for me. It makes me a little bit cautious when discussing things in a ‘public’ forum. This week I had the less than pleasant task of running a meeting at the request of my c-level boss. It was always going to contain frustrations, strong views and some frayed tempers, but I didn’t quite expect it to get personal the way it did.

With a number of people coming from far away, there was much discussion about improving communications, and getting things done in a more collaborative manner. That’s no issue at all. I think we would all welcome improvements across all of the team, no-one’s denying it. The difficulties arrived when during a heated discussion fingers were pointed at specific people, comments such as ‘you’re to blame’, ‘it’s your fault’ and ‘you should have done more’ were mentioned. It became very personal. Very. Trying to steer things in a neutral way didn’t help either – it seemed to escalate the level of frustration among the attendees.

There’s no denying the facts. Business isn’t what it once was. But it is just that – business. Don’t make it personal. Don’t point fingers. Yes, we have a culture of fear, but don’t try to score points on a personal level. You never know when it might backfire in your direction.

I believe in karma, do you?

Tears after work? Seriously?

Today I left work barely holding it together. It wasn’t just one thing that got to me, but a number of things. The last thing – the final straw? A skype message from an employee. ‘if they think that xxxxx can replace you, I mean do your job, take over from you, they are wrong.’

Come on, seriously. How would you feel? When xxxxx sits next to you and was a recent addition by the new boss? I have to question what’s been said to make this employee feel so upset by the idea? Said employee is not known for ‘inventions’ of this nature.

Follow that with a call from the dragon lady and my evening has been ruined. I had red wine for dinner.

I feel guilty too. There are people in Japan with nothing…

More wine please.

Thankfully, my wonderful boyfriend was here, waiting for me when I got home.

Restructuring…again

A couple of weeks ago my company issued its IMS. In the statement we missed our EBITDA contribution by a few percent. In the same announcement we also announced a restructuring charge of between $14-18m. It sent shivers down the spines of all colleagues that have lived through such ‘restructures’ in the past.

On Friday it began.

Mid afternoon the whispers began in the office. The Skype messages went back and forth between colleagues worried for each other. And the rumours about office closures, and numbers of lay-offs spread like wild fire.

Today, I took a phone call asking whether the restructure had happened in our office, that it was rumoured to be happening today.

Unfortunately, it didn’t. I say unfortunately, not because I’m being flippant, but because I’m already mopping up the tears of my team members who are worried, no, distraught at the impending changes and over losing their jobs. I’m in no different position. I face being put ‘at risk’, just like all of them. None of us know. None of us have any clues. It’s the not knowing that is upsetting people. People add one and one and make three.

The atmosphere sucks. It’s oppressive in the office. It’s difficult to concentrate. It’s like waiting for the guillotine to fall.

Yuck.

So, here I sit, not looking forward to tomorrow. But, I’ll get up in the morning. I’ll put my face on and I’ll drive the 40 miles to the office. You never know, I might be home again soon. Then again, maybe it’ll be tomorrow evening before I’m back.

The UK is Snowbound?

The past week has been dominated by headlines of “UK snowbound” and “UK grinds to a halt” etc. There’s been widespread snow and falling temperatures over the past week in the UK. My parents have snow drifts up to 3m in height. I have three inches of snow outside the front door. My parents have been making a daily 80-mile round trip to see friends. I’ve been to work three times. The difference? Being used to the weather. And, being correctly equipped.

My first memory of living in the remote Glen (Glen Brerachan), I was 13 years old. Resentful. Wilful. Highly spirited. Disgusted that my parents would make me live in such a remote location. And then Winter hit us. We had white outs – I’d never heard of them before. We had snow drifts so deep that you could build ‘snow holes’ in them and hide. It was warmer inside the snowdrift than out. People abandoned their cars and walked to the nearest house, where they were welcomed as old friends (whether or not they were total strangers) and the entire community pulled together to make sure that old, young and needy were taken care of.

That year, I had three and a half weeks off school. The main road was closed for weeks. We had to wait for the local authority to bring a snow cutter into the Glen to cut through the massive three plus metre snow drifts. Even when the snow cutter arrived, we had longer to wait as there were cars abandoned inside snow drifts. Meanwhile, the community rallied around each other. The shepherd, Chic, loaded up his wife, collected lists of groceries from various households and drove in his Zeter (Russian brand of tractor) 20 miles to the nearest town. I learned to ski. It was the only way for me to get to the school bus.

I remember walking with my mum to the nearest village – 4 miles away – through the frozen snowdrifts to pick up essentials. It was a total winter wonderland.

Over the past 10 -15 years, the Winters haven’t really been that bad. They’ve eased somewhat and we ‘Glenners’ have defined this as ‘global warming’ – until now. To have heavy snow, as it’s been this week, as heavy as it is, is completely different. Unheard of. It would be OK in January. February even. But November? No way.

Today, in my Glen it was -22 degrees. My parents have  snow drifts that are three metres high and one of their cars is buried. They have to run the heating 24 x 7 just to maintain a bit of warmth in the house.

I worry about them constantly.

And I feel guilty when I complain that I’m cold. I’ve been in the South too long. I’ve gone soft. It’s 21 degrees in my lounge. I know my parents are about to go to bed and I know that their bedroom is a mere 6 degrees.

My parents have heating, thankfully. I will make sure that they’ll always have heating, but other, older people, don’t have a ‘me-type’ to help out and it’s not cheap to stay warm. What do they do?

Working hours

I’ve noticed a trend over the past few months – in my team specifically. When 5:30pm comes along, there’s no move to tidy desks, pack bags and put on coats. It’s become the norm to stay at the desk beyond 5:30pm. Most of the team are at the desk before 9:00am. The pressure we all feel from the business to deliver more and more is immense.

It can’t go on.

My worry, as ever, is that people give so much to the business that they become ill, things slip and then they leave because they can’t carry on. The worst fear for me, is actually one of redundancy. Our new CMO started this week and we are all waiting for changes to be announced. I don’t want anyone in my team to be putting  in 120% and giving too much of their personal time to then be faced with ‘your position is no longer needed’. For whatever reason.

Why do we, as professionals, feel the need to give over and above our contracted hours? I’m contracted for 7.5 hrs a day and while I expect a little bit of flexibility to occasionally do 7 hrs (because of a doctor or dentist appointment) I’m finding it more and more incredulous that we’re doing more than 9 hrs a day on a regular basis.

But, does anyone ask us to do this? No. We do it because we feel we have to.

I often ask ‘what would happen if we went home on time’? (As many other people do)? And, I think we’d adjust. The deadlines would be moved to accommodate this, and there’d be less stressed people running around. Well, that’s the theory.

For the past couple of weeks I have been shocked at how much I had under estimated the stress that would be caused by having a new boss on board. Stress in me manifests as health issues and insomnia. I watch and see similar things in my team.

I don’t like it, but feel powerless to do anything other than listen to them, support them where I can and be understanding.

 

Being objective

Staying objective!

There are times when what we do, in both our personal and work lives, that objectivity is some that is difficult to achieve. There have been times recently where the work life has been rather challenging. Today was no exception. I usually pride myself at being rational and objective. But when faced with constant criticism and scathing remarks it’s hard to stay that way.

So, how do people stay objective? I don’t have the answer. Maybe you do?