I don’t suppose there will be any official notification. No proclamations. No drums or trumpets. There’s likely to be nothing but my own angst and deep disappointment to mark the passage of what I’ll always consider a golden age.
You see, by the time I get back from taking a bit of time off next week, we’ll have already passed out of the era of “maximum telework” and begun phasing back towards “normal” operations. As it turns out, we’re opting not to observe any of the lessons of 2020 and making preparations to restore things to precisely what they were before the Great Plague. Passing on this literal once in a lifetime opportunity to create a better way to work, we’re going to take a knee… because our particular Olympian god doesn’t get a warm fuzzy unless he sees asses in seats. It would be laughable if the outcome wasn’t so utterly predictable.
After 18 and a half years on the job and with 14 years left to go, I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that the best, most rewarding fifteen months of my career are about to be over. It’s hard to imagine a circumstance more suited to my personal and professional temperament than the one we just worked through. Watching what worked so well being garroted to suit one man’s vision is damned near heartbreaking.
If there’s ever a time in the next 14 years where you think I’m sounding bitter about a stark refusal to embrace new modes and methods of “accomplishing the mission,” there will be a good reason for that… because I don’t plan on passing up an opportunity to continue agitating for a workplace that isn’t mired somewhere in the land of the gray flannel suit when it comes to their philosophy and practice of management.
It won’t make me the most popular kid in class, but fortunately I’ve had a lifetime of experience in knowing how to carry that role.
If there was any remnant of the Before Time I thought the Great Plague would manage to kill off, it was the whole concept of the office retirement / going away party. For eight months now, medical advice has been to severely curtail unnecessary social interaction (ex. graduation parties, weddings) and for the last few weeks the wisdom of traveling to join family members for Thanksgiving and Christmas has even been called into question.
It’s bad enough for people who need to show up for jobs that can’t be done remotely (and even worse for those whose job can be remote, but prevailing management culture prevents or discourages it). The goal there, in the absence of proper vaccination, should be in minimizing the number of people occupying the same workspace to the maximum extent possible. Pulling more people into that space for something as blatantly needless as a farewell luncheon feels like approaching the very height of an unnecessary activity.
People want normalcy. They want to do things that way they use to be done. I get it. Wanting to put more people that necessary for continued operational requirements in a room for the sake of a pot luck lunch, is, in my estimation, an absolute jackass move and you’ll never convince me otherwise… but by all means, I welcome an explanation of how it in any way “supports the mission” without unnecessarily increasing the overall risk to every person in the room and any person who might be in the room after the fact.
I’m sure it’s well intentioned, but a farewell luncheon in a confined space is just a bad judgement call from people who should know better. So yeah, I’ll be skipping the COVID luncheon, thanks.
It’s fun when people spend months ignoring all the information you provide for only to discover as deadlines approach that they don’t have a goddamned clue what they’re supposed to do. It’s as predictable as the rising sun.
Sure, it’s sad and unfortunate, but not in any way my problem. Some people will go to heroic efforts to keep others from looking like a turd in the punch bowl or failing outright to meet the objective. I’m never going to be your guy on that score. If you’ve repeatedly failed to follow directions, I couldn’t possibly care less if you look like an idiot or who’s going to see it happen.
I’m very sorry you planned to roll the dice and expect me to lead the charge over the hill to bail you out of trouble. You misread the room in a big way there.So good luck or whatever.
I’ve done well for myself. I’ve taken advantage of my educational opportunities all along the path of life. Occasionally I even think that I’ve done better for myself that a simple boy fron down the crick really has any right to expect. Don’t think for a moment that I take any of that for granted.
I’ve seen a lot of the world and had the opportunity to have some truly remarkable experiences. At heart, though, I ultimately think of myself as a technician – a wrench turner in the data economy. I’ve tried the whole management and supervision thing and we’re all better off for my having given it up.
Mostly, I really just want to be left alone to do the work. That’s where my talents and interests are applied to the most effect.
I’ve said it before and it bears repeating: Hard won experience tells me that I can either spend six hours doing the work or spend those same six hours sitting in meetings talking about the work. If I’m doing the latter, there’s absolutely no progress being made on the former. Putting more simply, I can talk about the damned work or I can do the damned work. I cannot, however, do both simultaniously. Personally, I know which one I’d greatly prefer.
However, my opinion on the subject is clearly not of any great significance. If it were I wouldn’t regularly be spending 50% or more of my days sitting around jibberjabbering instead of getting the job done.
1. Other duties as assigned. I can do my job – the heavy analytical lifting – or I can do the other duties as assigned – issuing keys, setting up new employees with laptops, filing, hole punching, and flipping slides. However, I lack the gift of being in two places at once so you’re going to have to pick between those so I know what you actually want me to spend time tending. I’m good either way, but choose one and you’ll get a seriously good analyst, close the other and you have a spectacularly overpriced secretary. The choice is utterly yours.
2. Being other than on time. Although I’ve been doing it nearly every working day since January 2003, people always seem surprised when I shutdown and head for the doors on time. You may work for love. You may work for pride. You may even work to give your short time on this rock a sense of purpose. I’m a simpler animal. I work for money because I know my time isn’t free or limitless. Think of it what you will, but you can always be assured that when I’m “on,” you’ll get the best product I can manage, but I will be equally dedicated to preserving my personal time at almost any cost.
3. Free stuff. My news feeds and the media channels have been filled with talk of everyone who wants “free” stuff these last few days. They want a $15/hour paycheck guarantee for entry-level unskilled labor – essentially a request for “free” money since their economic activity doesn’t command such price in the marketplace already. They want “free” higher education. They want “free” healthcare. They want “free” housing and “free” food and maybe even a “free” phone. I may be a poor simple hillbilly from Western Maryland, but it strikes me that what the most recent round of protestors really mean is they want the stuff and they want other people to pay the bill. Precious little in life comes for “free.” Someone, somewhere, has to pick up the check. It’s not presently the popular thing to say, but in my mind being a grown ass adult mostly means being able to make your own way in the world, paying your bills, and being a responsible and productive member of society… or maybe I missed a memo somewhere. In that case, where’s my free shit?
1. Being filler. So a funny thing about events is that when you plan one that people are interested in, they tend to show up. When you plan an all day snoozefest, they tend to avoid it if they can. The easy solution to this problem is just to declare the snoozefest a designated place of duty for the day and *poof* you have an instant packed house. The problem of course, is even though you can mandate that people be somewhere in body, you certainly can’t force them to be present in mind or spirit. So instead of working my own projects – and tending to my own nearly sold out event – I get to be filler. Because a 2/3 empty auditorium looks bad… and not looking bad is far more important than actually doing good.
2. I’ve spent the week basically regurgitating the same seven or eight points for people who either didn’t bother to read the source material or were incapable of understanding it. Since many of these people have fancy titles like CEO, Vice President of Whatever, Owner, and Doctor, I have to wonder who exactly is out there keeping the lights on in the business community. I’m sure they’re all very busy, very important people, but a bit of basic reading and comprehension really doesn’t feel like too much to expect… and yet it is.
3. A monopoly on good ideas. Just because someone has a star on their uniform (you know, like the Texaco man), we really owe it to ourselves not to fall into the trap of assuming that he or she is the font of truth and all good ideas. No one, not even the high and the mighty have a monopoly on good ideas. Telling truth to power is hard work. It demands personal courage, but if no one else in the room is brave enough to correct the man in the big chair when he insists the grass is purple and the sky is green, we’re not doing anyone, including ourselves, any favors.
1. Purpose. I don’t think everyone needs to go around all day every day at 1000 miles an hour with their hair on fire, but I do think we would all be better served if people would at least drive with a sense of purpose; as if getting from their point of departure to their destination was actually important to them in some way. Instead, what I find most every afternoon is a mass of people wandering the highways and byways as if they haven’t a clue where they are, how they got there, or what they’re supposed to be doing. Even if we can all agree to move with purpose between the hours of 4:30 and 7:00 PM, I truly believe the world would be a better and more harmonious place.
2. Flashing Lights. While I’m on the topic of roads and transportation, this might be a good opportunity to give everyone a refresher on flashing traffic lights at an intersection and what they mean to you. Red, almost universally means stop yes, even when it’s flashing. Unless Mr. Williams taught me the wrong skills lo those many years ago in drivers ed, yellow flashers hanging above the intersection mean proceed with caution. It should be noted here that it is not an alternative method of telling drivers to stop. Sitting in your car at a flashing yellow light yelling at me while I’m sitting at a flashing red makes you look like an asshat or maybe more like an ignorant skank. Possibly both.
3. Doubt. I like to ponder. Having the time to sit and think has always been important to me. Unfortunately I also have a tendency to spend an inordinate amount of time dwelling on slights both real and imagined. I’ve been afflicted with that particular problem since I was a kid. Although I’ve learned plenty of coping skills to keep those rough edges from showing too much, I still feel it acutely. I hate how even a momentary doubt can seep in and color every other thought and decision for days on end. I hate that I sometimes take counsel of my fears despite all my best efforts to the contrary. It’s without question the one element of my personality that I’d most like to change.
If I’m ever in a position to direct the work of others, I will not walk off at “quitting time” because I have an itch to start my three day weekend and leave my people holding the bag on a project that I am responsible for delivering on Monday.
Conversely, when in a position to be directed by others, I will not let the mission fail because of poor leadership from those providing the direction.