Managing up…

I should give almost all of the writing credit for this post to a friend of mine who brought to my attention her belief that raising a toddler is effective practice for dealing with the average kind of management one encounters in the workplace. Now I’m just assuming these ideas are work to toddlers because I have no direct personal experience, but I can attest first hand that they can and probably should be applied to your interaction with management

The abridged list of ways to deal with the bosses that is also applicable to dealing with the tiny dictator of your own creation is:

– Explain that you can’t do multiple things at the same time. If possible, make them prioritize.
– Limit the choices you give them to just 2 or 3 things. Otherwise, it will take too long and they’ll come up with something crazy.
– There is great power in routine
– Lay the groundwork well in advance for any changes to the routine
– Catchphrases and jingles are your friends
– Celebrate the little things, like pooping in the potty. Sure, you figured it out a long time ago, but it’s important to validate their pride in doing something grown-up.

Set expectations, create a routine, and make sure you celebrate the little successes your local manager has. I’m quite sure these few steps will have you managing up your chain of command in no time at all.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. History. Throw the date June 6th out there and ask the average man in the street what the significance is, I’m willing to bet the dollar in my pocket that maybe one in ten could tell you that it’s the anniversary of the day America and Great Britain launched the liberation of continental Europe. I won’t even give you odds on them knowing that much of Italy had already been liberated by the time the Normandy landings took place. I’m a history guy, so the nitnoid facts and trivia have always been important to me, but I weep that for so many the pinnacle of American achievement is Keeping Up with the Kardashians and the vastness of our shopping malls.

2. Vaccinations. I’m not a parent. Baring some kind of catastrophic misfire on the range, I never will be. I intellectually understand that when it comes to issues of the health and welfare of their child, a parent is very nearly sovereign. However, in a world where polio, measles, and a host of other diseases that we collectively obliterated in the last century start popping up again, I’m forced to draw at least a tentative connection between those illnesses reemerging and the small but vocal group of parents who have decided that vaccines are bad. It just strikes me that as bad as the adverse reaction to a vaccine can be, getting the actual disease it prevents is quite probably worse. We take our lives in our hands every morning when we get out of bed… I just wish more people would realize that a risk assessment needs to account for both the probably of something happening as well as the severity of the negative impact if that thing does happen. Then again that assumes people operate from a place of reason. Fat chance of that happening any time soon.

3. Bergdahl. What he did or did not do while in captivity is a matter of open dispute. That’s fine. However, I tend to agree with General McChrystal, who stated it most clearly: “We don’t leave Americans behind. That’s unequivocal.” SGT Bergdahl is an American soldier. He was held by a foreign power and now he’s not. If there is legitimate evidence he violated his oath or otherwise broke the law, then by all means, drag him before a court martial and try the case. We don’t leave Americans behind. Period. That should be a sacred trust between the government and the people both in and out of uniform. There’s plenty of room for honest and frank discussion, but I have a hard time arguing that getting an American citizen back is ever the wrong thing to do. If he’s guilty, lock him away and lose the key, but if he’s innocent, thank the young man for his service and let him get on with his life.

Just me?

At just shy of the 35 year mark I’m starting to wonder if there’s ever a time when you can sit down in the house where you grew up and not be crammed into the 16-year-old-who-just-got-his-license role. Being pretty well along in life and having done ok in the job and education lottery, it makes for some tense moments and awkward silences. Or maybe it’s just me.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

Note: I know I missed last week’s edition, so you’re getting a “best of” What Annoys Jeff this Week that covers that last two weeks. No extra charge. Enjoy.

1. Meetings that start at 6PM. Saying this out loud is probably detrimental to my career, but I can’t think of any good reason aside from executive ego that justifies starting a meeting at 6PM when most everyone in the room start their day between 7 and 7:30. You either have no respect for their time or really bad time management skills. Either one of which is generally considered bad form by fancy business schools everywhere.

2. People with no sense of urgency. When I’ve been telling you for more than a week that something needs to happen by X Day, don’t be surprised, offended, or otherwise defensive on X+2 when I tell you what you’re giving me is too late to include. I don’t care that you worked really hard on it. In conclusion, you’re a douchebag.

3. Large volumes of small children. Individually and in small numbers, I’m surprisingly ok with (other people’s) kids. Pack lots of them into a relatively small space and it has a tendency to make me twitchy. It’s just that they’re collectively so loud… and fast moving. When you’ve spent your entire adult life living in blissful solitude, I’m not going to lie, a gang of 15 six year olds reeking mayhem and chaos next door is something of a shock to the system. It’s a shame that the uberwealthy hiring a hermit to live on their property to give it a pastoral feel went out of fashion with the Victorian Age. I think that’s a career path where I could have really set the standard for excellence.

4. “Scooter” People. If you’re going to ride the electric scooter at Walmart, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that you pay at least partial attention to what you’re doing. And by that I mean try not to drive it directly into my back while continuing your conversation with whatever slack-jawed yokel you came with to do your grocery shopping as if it didn’t happen. I have to admit it took real stones to give me a dirty look when I called you on it. Most of the time, I have an instinctive tendency to defer to my elders, but in your case I’ll make an exception. You, you muumuu wearing, blue haired battle-ax, are an asshat.

The sounds they make…

I was sitting on the deck last night enjoying a beverage, a book and letting the dogs do whatever they needed to do before locking up for the night. Around 10:00, I heard the neighbor’s screen door slam followed by a chorus of girly screams. If I sit quietly and don’t move too much I know they won’t see me through the hedge. Although the hedge provides great camouflage, it lacks the sound deadening qualities I’d really appreciate more of in foliage.

From across the driveway, I heard a rather insistent “daddy… daddy… daddy… daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy.” Each iteration raised in pitch just slightly until the end when I’m pretty sure only the dogs could make out the words. Sadly, his daughters’ attempt to get my neighbor’s undivided attention was less than successful. This led to a renewed chorus of “daddy look, daddy look, daddy look daddy look daddy look daddy look, look what I found look what I found look what I found look what I found look what I found daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy.” It’s possible that my ears were bleeding by that point.

Still, even with ice picks in my ears I was able to make out the most dire of their words… “Ohhhhhh… I want to play with the doggies” followed by shrieking that would make even the most dedicated banshee pause in respect for such superior sound generation. The jig was up. With a whistle, the dogs came running and we beat a hasty retreat. An hour later, with the TV on and at least one dog snoring in my ear, I could still hear them next door. I don’t know if they were successful in their efforts to raise the dead.

I’m sure the neighbor girls are perfectly good as far as children go, but the sounds they make cut through my head like the proverbial hot knife through butter. Sure, saying that out loud probably makes me a bad person, but on the list of things I’ve done that make me a bad person, it’s not even on the first page. If nothing else, I’m a man who recognizes his own limitations. Honest to God, if I could get a waiver, I’d move into one of those gated 55-and-over communities and call it a day. A small island off the coast of St. Wherever would be better, but I’m willing to take baby steps.

Deal breaker…

A few days ago, I was asked why I was so intransigent about not wanting kids and invited to come up with a post expounding on my view of what has been described more than once as a deal breaking issue. At an age when nearly all of my friends have settled in to the routine of child manufacturing and upkeep, it’s a fair question. It’s also a question I approached with some trepidation, because of the inherent risk of causing unintentional offense as I refine and clarify my own thinking on the issue.

While these may not be the best or most altruistic reasons, they are mine… at least my top five.

• People seem hard wired to think babies – their own, ones they pass on the street, any babies really – are adorable. That gene seems to have skipped me. My response is more along the lines of “Ohhhh look… a small scrunched up human.”

• I’ve heard my entire life “having a child will change everything”. That’s great and all, but I like my life. I like the things that are important to me now and I want them to continue to be important to me in the future.

• Having dogs has meant giving up a certain degree of freedom to travel and do things on short notice – but I can lock them in a cage for a few hours and go do what I need to do or drop them off at the kennel for a few days and fly off to whatever tropical place interests me. With a baby, that’s apparently considered “neglect.”

• It sounds selfish, and it undeniably is, but I’m my own highest priority. I’m not wild about the thought of completely subsuming my goals, wants, and priorities to a small human for the next 18-25 years.

• Kids are crazy expensive. I bitch about $200 vet bills and $50 a bag dog food. Want to guess how I’d react to a $500 stroller or thousands a year in private school tuition?

I’m not a militant kid-hater (unless they’re crying in a movie theatre or throwing food at a restaurant). I’m a three time Godfather. My friends’ kids are awesome. But when the end of the day rolls around, I’m not the one with the responsibility for clothing, feeding, and educating said friends’ kids and I’ll be going home to a house not strewn with toys, without crayon on the wall, grape juice stains on the carpet, or crumbs on the couch. Being Uncle Jeff is great like that. It’s having all of the perks without any of the drawbacks.

I just don’t see how this can be a point of compromise. It’s a binary sort of thing – unless there’s a lease-purchase arrangement that could be worked out – maybe two days a week and every third weekend. If there’s any uncertainly at all about the desire to procreate, it seems best to err on the side of caution. I don’t want to spend the rest of my days resenting the hell out a child or its mother for finding myself living a life I was never sure I really wanted. Maybe in my declining years, I’ll wonder “what if I had….” But those thoughts for a few years in my dotage seems like a far better option than spending the next 30 years wondering, “what if I hadn’t”.

For me at least, it’s about risk management. I’m mostly happy with the life I’ve got. As much as I love a good day at the casino, I’m not about to give up a sure thing now to roll the dice on the long shot that I’m wrong about all this. If that’s a deal breaker, I guess it is what it is.