Someone at work thought I was a Doctor, you know. PhD and everything.
Someone else said to me "the word on the street is that you're really brilliant."
I play around and enjoy myself.
There is something deeply flawed here.
In the credit crunch, we will no longer be getting complimentary fruit baskets, or chocolate biscuits on a Thursday morning. People are up in arms.
In my evil sidekick's firm, they're lucky if they get paid at the end of the month.
Balance, perspective, yes? No?
I just received an e-mail from a faceless drone somewhere - headed up "Budget 2009 - PLEASE READ".
As opposed to what, exactly?
While I don't think it's likely that anyone will ever send out an e-mail in our place headed "PLEASE DELETE WITHOUT READING". there's some merit to putting a hint in the header of an e-mail. Some of this is already done with priority flags - but a long time ago I realised that these relate only to the priority of the sender rather than the recipient - so they're effectively useless. One colleague used to send out all her e-mails marked as urgent - my autofilter assumed they were spam and deleted them unread.
But tagging e-mails might be useful, if done properly. "INFO: ", for example, for things the recipient might find useful, or "HUMOUR: " - obvious really.
Just a thought - I need to kick it around a bit more.
I live a double life at the moment.
By day, I am mild-mannered spreadsheet guru, working my way through tables and formats and formulae, working out thousands of meaningless numbers that I can then spew into a pretty graph.
By night, I am spending almost every waking minute answering security questions, in a desparate effort to prove that I am really who I say I am, and that these towels I am buying are for drying myself with and not for concealing weapons of massive distraction.
As a result, I finally have some tips for people who are considering moving house and therefore spending a chunk of money.
That last one's crucial. The banks would love to be easier to deal with, really they would. They've got better things to do than check up when you were last on the electoral roll, or get you to try to remember who supplies your electricity. The reason that they have to do this sort of check is a consequence of some criminals, a few stupid people, and massive pressure from consumer bodies. Think of that, the next time you are trying to get your bank charges waived.
A wise man once posited that it's true what they say. Things happen for a reason, but your time's coming around.
Today was probably the first day of the rest of my life. I exposed myself (no, not like that) to a new company, a new culture, and on day 1 I got whistled off to an induction day, when I was induced along with a few dozen of my peers. A disparate and bizarre bunch in many respects, but that's not important right now. Here's what's important.
I flew business class there and back. My old company was a firm economy company. I don't need to fly business class, far from i, but I am writing this from a business class lounge - something I couldn't have done in my old company.
I got to my hotel and I got a nice letter saying that I'd been booked in at a table for dinner, but if I arrived later I should just put my dinner on room service and the company would pick up the tab. In my old company there would have been a polite reminder that overnight out-of-pocket expenses would have to be met from my own pocket.
This was then followed up by a day of HR puff talking about the company culture. There were some actual members of staff there, who actually seemed to believe the message. In my old company, those people would have been far too busy to attend, so it would have been a mass of trainers.
The fact that the message from the HR day was backed up by the comfort of the travel and everything that I've seen anyone from this company say or do, actually made me think that maybe it was heartfelt. Obviously, I was working for the old company for so long that I developed a hard cynicism due to the carousel of HR policies. Here, I am cautiously optimistic.
This comes across as a company where they expect the staff to behave professionally, as opposed to a company where they expect the staff to be thieves and fraudsters. I dare say that they'd clamp down pretty hard when you stepped out of line, but it's a different approach and one I value.
Of course, this may all change when I actually have to do some work.
Let's just say "Ah jaysus" and leave it pretty much at that.
I'm sitting in Edinburgh Airport. Yesterday I was in a small village on the west coast of Ireland. By Friday I could be in Leeds. And I have no idea where my head is, as they say, at.
There's no doubt that this will go down as an interesting year. I've gone from a position of relative discomfort with my job but comfort with my lifestyle to a position of relative comfort with my job, but a position where I am looking at other jobs in a series of crazy and ever-more-eccentric steps that are taking me further afield and further from where I thought I would head when I set out on this curious journey. But in the mean time, I am thinking about a little old lady who lived in Hong Kong.
Obviously, I'm writing this from a Spectrum Interactive doodad in an airport so I'm not going to look up the details of the precise location or the precise name of the gentleman involved. However, about six and a half years ago I passed the bottom of the staircase leading up to her apartment. It was on a street with a leafy park next to it - odd enough in Sheung Wan - and outside her front door she had a small shrine.
There's nothing too uncommon about that - a small red and gold shrine, a picture of a god, a few sticks of incense. The memorable thing about this one was that the image in the shrine was not a conventional god, but a model and an actor who was known for removing his shirt and occasionally more.
When I lived in Green Street in the late 1980s, I was faintly titllated by greetings cards with the same photo in it. I wasn't certain what it meant back then, although I think that both Mr Twinky and I have probably worked it out by now. Same guy in the same pose in a card that opens to reveal his charm. I never plucked up the nerve to buy the card, not even as an amusing joke for one of my friends. But I guess that the little old lady in Sheung Wan was more courageous than I was.
I like to think that at points in her life she had difficult situations to consider, strange new opportunities and saw strange and marvellous things. I hope that she did, because while it's a scary position to be in, as far as life shaking events go, deciding where to go next in your career is proving to be a fascinating experience. I'm lucky, though. I have a good job to start from, and the support of my evil sidekick cat and his plans for world domination (now on stage 3 - membership of his fan club still available). I have my health this year, and I've got my professional qualification and an OU course under my belt this year.
It's the waiting that's killing me, though. So many other things depend on whether I am offered another job, which one or two I am offered, and there is only so much that Mr Twinky and I can do until this is all resolved.
Hopefully it'll work out well - but I am going to go home and set up a shrine to beefcake just in case.
The phone rang on Monday.
It's all pretty mad around here at the moment - lots happening, none of it of any interest to readers of this august journal, and I'm now working on four projects. At least that's what I'm doing in theory - in practice, I am falling behind with all four. But my head's not really focussed on work anyway. It's already miles away, thinking about working for the Sontarans as a fifth columnist.
Except for two things, one of which was this phone call.
I was interviewed by two Sontarans on Tuesday. I might have met one of them before - it's hard to tell as they are all clones. This was in a grey uniform office in the boondocks, ran on until eight o'clock, and left me feeling slightly zonked. I've not heard back from them yet, but the thing I've realised this morning is they completely failed to excite me about the job and I've no idea if I actually want to go and work for them.
This phone call was a cold call for a recruiter for a job that really interests me. Really seriously interests me. So much so that I can't stop thinking about it, and that's probably distracting me from the Sontaran opportunity. The only thing about the new job is that it's abroad. In a foreign country. So I'm not going to go for it at all, but I still can't stop thinking about it.
We've got a saying here in foreign, something about interesting times and so on.
After my disastrous experiences with Torchwood and the Federation of Earth Reptiles, last week I went for a coffee with a very nice Sontaran Gentleman. This could be him, but it probably isn't because they are all clones, you know. He was a somewhat affable chap, and seems to be looking forward to seeing me again. He's not offered me a job yet, but I kind of hope he does, because he bought me a coffee and if I see him again it's my turn.
I've been very busy recently, taking over the world. I've been to Scotland this month, and London, and I'm going back to both this week. I've finished my course (hurrah!) and I've fallen behind with my housework. So it's all good stuff, I guess.
But the possibility of going to work for the Sontaran Empire is frustratingly tangible. Send in the clones.
So Torchwood didn't want me. Feck em. Their loss. Moving on...
Tomorrow I have an interview with a local company for local people. They make snow globes, and they are looking for someone to help them pump snow in to them. And when it comes to pumping snow, I am overqualified. I am determined not to make the same mistakes I made when I was being interviewed by a Cyberman.
Of course, I don't really know what mistakes I made last time. I've got a few ideas, though, so I'm determined not to say I'm brilliant at eating cheese. Fortunately it's not an interview for eating cheese.
At the same time, both of my projects at work are now kicking in to top gear, and I'm now spending five hours a day in progress meetings. Incredible when there's no progress.
In other news, I'm being stalked by the ghost of my ex-wife, an albino monk, and a videoconferencing suite.
And in other other news, my final assignment for my course is due in two weeks and I have no time to even begin to think about it.
Some of this may not be exactly true.
I survived the second interview for the job at Torchwood. This wasn't a simple interview, oh no. This was a three part triplicate interview with people from all over the universe.
The first part of the interview, the bit that probably went best, was with Adam Adamant, a genteel cravatted man-about-town transported from the 1960s by a magic helicopter through a space time tunnel. He was charming and foppish, well-manicured, and we discussed a variety of topics of global interest - the tea trade, whether the current situation in Zaire could be expected to continue beyond Christmas, and the art and poetry of Mary Tyler Moore.
The second part of the interview was with a highly accelerated woman who lived life at twice the speed of the rest of life - speaking on helium, fitting eighteen minutes of speech into a single breath, and barely letting me get a word in edgeways. Just as well, because I had virtually nothing to say to her.
The third and longest part of the interview was with a Cyberman, which was nice. 142 multiple choice questions ranging from "which of these three options is a sum" to "if you were attacking the Daleks in the skies above Thoros Beta, would you fire the Photon Cannon first, or would you go straight to the Anti-matter destabiliser?" Throughout, the Cyberman used a monotone, which I found a little off putting, but at least he didn't electrocute me with an electrifying death grip.
Of course, it ended on a cliff hanger.
To be continued...
Some would say that it's courting disaster to fly on September the 11th. Others would say it's the safest day to travel, thanks to the extra security that will be in place. Some would say that it's foolhardy to go to a meeting in a tower block in London on the 11th of September, but I say that Torchwood Tower is probably the safest place to be, thanks to an overwhelming defence shield made out of alien technology and string.
And anyway, I'm going to meet Chrissie Watts and have a wee look through the gap into the next universe plus one.
There's an obvious risk, of course, but I figure that on 11-9, extra security measures will be in place, so it will be harder for her to sneak in a bust of Queen Victoria to bash me on the noggin with. Unless she's already got one in her office. Damn, hadn't thought of that.
Hopefully, all will go well with this interview and I'll be working for Torchwood by the end of the decade. I'm looking forward to the evil schemes, the theft of alien technology, hiding a cyberwoman in the basement and flirting outrageously with men, women and any particularly sexy computers, aliens, and beings from other planes. Indeed, there's a fairly good chance I'll be exposed to some time travel experimentation and there's a good likelihood that I'll end up living in the 1930s. I'll have a better idea next week.
I went to the doctor today, for a check-up. I left the office at 12 and got back at 3, and in the middle of that I did a lot of sitting around and was subjected to an invasive and embarrassing physical examination.
That's what I told them at work, because I couldn't really tell them that I'd gone for an interview.
It's all interesting times round here, again. My job just got a bit better - I'm attending the Board meeting next week, going to some fairly serious meetings in London next month, attending a conference and I've joined the communication and media committee of a local industry body. We're talking about moving house again, I got 89% in my last assignment on my course, and so it's the perfect time to be looking for another job.
The last couple of interviews that I went for were when I was desperate to leave my job, and I think I came across badly. Now that I'm finding my job suddenly interesting again, I'm much less fussed about whether I get the job that I'm talking about. They seemed quite interested though.
Second interview looking like Monday.
I have a teensy weensy confession to make.
For some years now, when people have asked me what I do for a living, I've fudged the issue. I used to say I was studying to be an Actuary, because I was, you see. I'd get dragged in to one of a range of conversations then - what is an Actuary? When will I die? Should I take out a pension? You must be rich, buy me a drink.
Then, as time went on, it got more awkward.
- What do you do? I'm studying to be an Actuary? Still? At your age?
- What do you do? I gave up studying to be an Actuary but because I've got a huge amount of experience I'm doing the work of one but I'm not allowed to call myself one.
Frankly, I was having too much fun. I was helping set up new companies in India, and giving technical support to the profession in the Philippines.
Anyway, cutting to the chase. My profession changed its rules. As of yesterday, I'm properly qualified, I've got new letters after my name, and I can go in to that conversation properly.
- What do you do?
- I'm an Actuary.
- You must be loaded, buy me a drink.
I'm a wee bit grumpy today. I am bristling, giving out my grumpy signs. The ones that say "fuck off", only without using words. It's a bad day to wind me up.
Maeve wanders over. "Did any of you take forever to log on this morning?" Yes. We all did. There was a major upgrade over the weekend. There were e-mails about it last week. But you didn't read them. I'm talking to someone so I can't tell her this, though. She goes back to her desk and reboots her computer. It crashes, and she has to use someone else's until lunchtime.
Nuala calls me over. "There's something about the way you express things that I find hard to understand," she says. She then proceeds to read something out to me that I've written. She inserts words in to it. I ask her why she's doing that. "Because that's how I'd do it," she says. But it's not what's written. I let it slip. She's off on holiday tomorrow. "Why do you want everything related back to Sterling?" she asks. I don't. I just gave an exchange rate so she could exchange things from Sterling to Euro. But no, she's misread that too. Then she comes out with a complete howler. She really has failed to understand a word I've written. She's just decided what she wants to do and made me write something that she can then change and tell me I was wrong all along.
Maeve calls me over. "I can't get this computer system to work right." I tell her who she needs to get in touch with. She gets in touch with them. They cock up. This is probably because Maeve has the communication skills of a potato and the personal charm of Nosferatu. She sends me a one-line e-mail asking if something is right. I send one back saying "no". She tries to call me. She sits two desks away. I put her on to voicemail. If it's not important enough for her to get off her arse and waddle over to my desk, it's not important enough for me to reach a few inches away and pick up the telephone.
My evil cat Mr Twinky calls. The bathroom looks fabulous. Just not fit for human habitation. Could we possibly spend another two nights in our rented suite.
I take this completely in my stride.
The office bitch rolls up to me. She's all business suity squeezed in to tight clothes that show off the figure that she's had since she was twenty and she's still insanely proud of now she's nearly a hundred. Straight in to my personal space and leaning over me like a vampire ready for that final necking. Lovely.
- Why did you invite Bob and Jim to the meeting this afternoon?
She organised the meeting. She wanted the meeting. She wanted me to run the meeting. As far as I was concerned, that meant I was going to invite as many people as possible who would be on my side. Because meetings with her are always about picking sides and hoping that the CEO will be on the same side as you. So I explained patiently why these people had something to contribute to the meeting that she hadn't organised very well.
- Where's Ken? Is he dialling in? Do I have to get a conference call organised?
She already organised the conference call. It was on the notification of the meeting. Which she hadn't read. I pretended that I didn't know this and we checked it together. At this point I started leaning forward.
- Why aren't Leonard and Evan coming?
They're not coming because we've got no idea what the meeting is specifically about so we're damned if we're going to waste the time of all four of us and get us all annoyed. I find a marginally more subtle way of saying this, while at the same time suggesting that maybe she shouldn't bring all her team.
In the end, she doesn't bring all her team, I bring half of mine, and I look like I've compromised, when really I've brought in yet another person to be on my side. I've lived through the stress of the pre-meeting mindgames, and the meeting itself is...
Weirdly, it's okay.
Later, the office bitch leaves on her broomstick.
It's getting on for the end of the year.
It's been an odd year in many ways, and almost none of it has made it on to the web. That's a good thing, of course. One should never splatter one's dirty linen in public, and I'm not about to do it now. But there's something that I can mention, and I'm delighted to do it here now.
Despite the illness, the awfulness of work, the stuff I'm not even going to hint at - despite being accused of some fairly awful things by one of my colleagues, and not being certain if the accusations weren't justified, despite wondering what on earth I was doing with - well pretty much everything - on a couple of occasions.
I think most of it's behind me. I think almost all of it's behind me. The health stuff, the work stuff, the other stuff. All behind me. Well, pretty much.
So I'll take this opportunity to wish myself a happy new year.
In this day and age, it's odd that I feel that I have to compliment good service.
Gone are the days of "the customer is always right". It's been replaced by the RyanAirHeads and the EasyNothing mentality of "you get what you pay for". I can kind of sympathise. I've handled a lot of complaints.
Earlier this year we had a big one. A real doozy. I almost resigned over it. But I discovered today that the guy who complained was so happy with how his complaint was handled that he wants to become a repeat customer. This is a good thing, really it is.
Complaint handling in the internet age is weird, though. My company still has some human faces out there, but most of the time you're complaining to a mailbox. No emotional response, just a flat acknoweldgement. But even with us, I don't talk to the person doing the complaining - I talk to the person that he complained to. In some ways, this is a good thing. I'm pretty busy, but I am also not a real people person, and the more someone complains the less inclined I am to help them. A good reason, simply stated, always gets a more generous payout from me. A whinger gets what they deserve, and no more.
Which brings me to the little surprise I've had recently. I purchased a little something from a famous internet retailer. A present, to be sent to an address in the UK. And last night, at 9pm, I filled in their online form to say that it hadn't arrived. Not their fault, obviously. Well, maybe, but not necessarily.
I got the confirmation immediately - so far so good. An hour later, I got a mail asking me to confirm a couple of points.
Today they've re-shipped the item. It's all been very painless, and let's face it, it could have been handled by a computer, and probably was.
Somewhere along the line though, be it when they were programming the computer, reading a screen in Bangalore, or filling in a form wrong somewhere, instead of posting it by the usual cheapest bidder route, it's been posted special delivery next day service. All of this - the wrapping, the gift, the postage, and the extra upgrade for the princely sum of no additional money. How good is that?
Who knows if it will get there? Well, tomorrow, I'll know. I'll be tracking it on line. It means that the Christmas present that I ordered first now stands a fighting chance of being there in time for Christmas. It's turned a negative experience into one that's actually delighted me.
If there's one thing I've learned from the last few years, it's that experience and hands-on knowledge mean absolutely nothing after a certain point. Nor does the ability to focus on one thing at a time. No.
What matters is knowing a tiny little bit about everything, getting someone else to pull together a lot of reports about what other people are doing and pretending it's your own work, and belittling people. It's the belittling that gets to me. It's not big, and it's not clever. But if I'm going to advance in my career, I'll basically have to stop being nice to people I respect and stab them in the back.
Understandably, this isn't a good mood to be in, most days.
There's so much to annoy me about my current job, but I suspect it would be the same no matter where I worked unless I was to throw in the towel and become a knitting inspector. Or something like that.
I think that it's fair to say that changes are afoot at my current place of employment. The last two weeks have been affectionately described as the night of the long knives, and my formerly loyal sidekick Minion has been one of the casualties.
I say formerly loyal but I should also say formerly sidekick. For the last six months, whenever I try to get her to do anything, she tells me that she's too busy. And I don't want a stand up row with her, no matter how close I come. And I come close quite often. But for six months I've been the person she runs to when she needs an ear. In the last two weeks she's been running a lot.
She's young. She's scared. She's full of bravado and fire and fury. And when she sulks, it's an emotional vacuum - she sits there in a dark pool of anger, draining me of my will to exist. I've been feeling... beseiged for a while now. She doesn't help.
I don't have much oomph today - indeed, it's probably fair to say that my get-up-and-go has got-up-and gone. It's quite infuriating.
To do my job, indeed to do any job I suspect you need a bit of arrogance and pride in it. You need to be able to stand back and say "I am the best widget-inflator that I can be" or, ideally, "I am the best widget-inflator in the world."
Now, I know that I inflate a damn fine widget. But I have people near me, indeed people who I can't avoid eye contact with, who are evil. I say to them "I have inflated 24 widgets this morning, and I have refreshed two grommiters for you" and they say "And what about the other two?" And this brings me down because I refuse to rise to it.
There's nothing more disheartening than telling someone something and them replying by saying "and when were you going to tell me this?" because the answer is invariably either "now", or "I would have told you twenty minutes ago if you hadn't been gassing about your holiday." And the really annoying thing is that I have no escape route and only one ventilation shaft left for me to explode into. If that makes sense. Which it doesn't.
I have an evil colleague.
I don't think that she means to be evil, I genuinely think that she means to be good, and aims to spread joy and light through the world. However, she has the social skills of a dead rat, the body language of a predator and the business knowledge of an earwig, and all of these conspire to make her evil.
Unfortunately, her evil is currently manifesting itself as a battle of wills with myself, a battle she will lose as
a - she is evil
b - she doesn't know what she is talking about and I have loads of experience
c - everyone knows that she is evil
I have taken the careful precaution of complaining to my boss in such a way that paints me firmly as a saint, refusing to take things further in the interests of everyone living a happy life together. He has taken the sensible next step of forewarning her boss. Clever man.
Although she is still evil, in the Time Bandits sense, if she has a nasty accident I will feel very guilty.
One of the things that interests me - and I am interested in everything - is the difference that scale makes.
For example, one person leaves a tap running when they leave a house - there's no major harm done. But if everyne left their taps on 24 hours a day, full blast, we'd seriously drain our water supplies. One person drives to the corner shop, and they're only out of pocket a little, and they don't miss EastEnders. Everyone makes unneccessary journeys and we're depleting the world's fuel resources at an enormous rate.
As has been noted, I work for a global evil multinational, in a bizarrely ethical capacity, and among other things my jobs include giving away free money that actually belongs to pensioners to people who complain that we are not psychic when they haven't filled in a form correctly. We've recently had some announcements that some people that we've never heard of are leaving and being replaced by some other people we've never heard of. Minion is not happy.
"Why do they bother telling us these things, and tell us them so much?" she cries. "Surely they know that we don't care about them? What makes them think they're so important?"
In a sense she's absolutely right. There are three layers of management between her and the Board, and the changes will have no immediate effect on her. By the time the changes get to her they will be sanitised and organised and presented, and her life will skim along happily like a mayfly.
I reckon that the board of any company think they're the heart of it. They set the direction, they decide policy, they represent the company in the rariefied world of the press and the markets. But while they're completely right they're also completely wrong. The heart of the company is people like Minion, people who deal with customers, people who deal with complaints, people who just turn up and do a job.
And just like anyone with two hearts, big multinationals sometimes get attacked by Giant Spiders, collapse, and then get up later looking very different.
But I digress.
"Dr Oddverse, I left a note for Derek to say we'd call at Nine - can we sit down in a second and plan our approach?"
This is Keith. Keith started a month ago, and although he doesn't report to me, he has quickly worked out that as far as getting stuff done is concerned, it's much better to talk to me than to our boss.
Dermot has been working here for a few weeks longer. He's pretty much in awe of me when it comes to work. He's noticed that I'm busy all the time and that people come to me all day to tell me things, to ask me questions, and that I never seem to have time for any of them.
Part of this is pure show, obviously. Part is the basic fact that I am damned good at my job. But I'm not as good at it as people think I am. And I tell people that. But they don't believe me.
There's a lesson for us all here, and I'm not quite certain what it is. I think it is that Knowledge is Power. And that sharing that knowedge is even more power. I am pretty sure I've said that before though.
It's been quite a week. Nice, different, and unusual.
My head is full. I need a new one.
My plans for this weekend are to win the Lotto, give up work, move out of this shitty country and set up my own, turn back time, bring a new age of peace and prosperity to the world, and maybe read a newspaper.
We won the table quiz last night. Little bit of background here.
I work for a small company. Two years ago we were a larger company, but we sold off most of the company to another company that can't be named. We still work with our old colleagues, but the working relationship is best described as "a strain". So the bit of the company that we sold off were having a quiz night and invited us to submit a team, because basically we still like each other. Nonetheless, it's a bit rude of us to win it.
For the second year in a row.
We took our winnings and put them behind the bar - it's only polite after all.
There is a malaise in modern business. Or at least the corner of it that I work in. It works like this.
If someone calls you, or comes over to talk to you, sends you an e-mail or even just starts talking to you, you are supposed to stop doing whatever you're doing and start dealing with them. This hit me particularly badly yesterday afternoon, when I came out of a two hour meeting with lawyers to be faced with a barrage of complaints and queries, which started before I had even sat down. For forty-five minutes, I had a queue at my desk, including one person who came back after half an hour to ask how I'd got on with the piece of work that she had asked me to do half an hour earlier.
Is it any wonder that in our place, nobody ever actually does anything?
Today is bliss by comparison. I've had two phone calls, both of which were pleasant. I've had no meetings. I've talked to two other people, but we started with a bit of small talk first. There was no sense of rush or urgency - and I've achieved an awful lot more.
But I know our office, and I know our management. It won't last.
My boss is away this week. Usually this makes my life stressless, but this week it is causing my blood pressure to rise, my duration of displacement activity to increase, and generally my overall level of snappiness to increase.
All in all, not good.
This is mainly because I'm trying to do his job - which is principally shielding our company from a lot of shit.
This is the downside of being a big multi-national. This is the stuff that they don't tell you about. There's an external belief that big multi-nationals are strong stubborn juggernauts. There's a reason for this.
Let's say I was working for Marks and Spencer. I don't, but I keep my job off this page thank you very much. My job would be involved in making sure that the Autumn collection was in the right stores at the right time, looking the right way. I'd be dealing with little stuff though.
Like, say a man in Guatemala had invented the world's longest lasting pants. He'd spoken to a buyer, and the buyer had come to me for a decision about whether or not to stock them. I'd take one look at them, see that the reason they lasted forever was that the legs were sown shut, pointed this out and asked the buyer to go away.
Time wasted on silly pants so far: Ten Minutes.
Two days later, I would get a call from the head of Buying. He'd decide to put the decision about stocking these pants to a board meeting. I'd ask him why. He'd point out the durability, the fact that they would cost $0.10 each and we could sell them for $20. He'd give an estimated sales volume in the millions. I'd point out that repeat sales would be unlikely, returns would be high, and there is no hole for you to put your legs through, and he would acknowledge that, but say that nonetheless he wanted to put it before the board.
You can't really argue with that. Time wasted so far: Half an hour.
But then it gets good. I'm the one who knows what I am talking about here, after all. I'm the one who has to prepare the board papers, I'm the one who has to circulate them ad nauseam. I'm the one who has to produce in depth financial analysis of why we will make no money at all selling pointless pants.
Time wasted on that: Three fecking days. Three days going in to the detail that is required to explain to the board why it is that the proposition makes absolutely no economic sense.
Then my paper goes to the board meeting. The board meeting runs late. I'm sitting with my boss, for half an hour, nervously waiting for "our slot".
And guess what. The board members aren't stupid. Nor am I. I put a picture of the pants on page 1, and we never get to page 2, far less page 27. I get laughed at, the Head of Buying pretends it's all my fault - after all, he presented the idea in good faith, and it's just my analysis that's let him down - and we all go home.
Dermot started in our office last week. Forty something. Very softly spoken. Male pattern baldness, but a shaved head, so it looks fine. Pale blue eyes. Nice fingers. No sign of a wedding ring. Something about him set my "spider sense" tingling. There was just that something in the way he spoke and the sort of stuff he spoke about that made me think that he might be spiderly inclined.
The day after he started we went to the pub, and he met Mr Twinky briefly. Mr Twinky backed me up on my suspicions.
Today, Dermot showed me the pictures that he carries in his wallet. Of his babies. They're both cats.
My colleague Triona will know for sure by this stage. I could ask her, and she'd tell me. But it doesn't work like that. It's all about hints and allegations, a game, almost a pursuit.
It's a game I have traditionally been utterly crap at.
Many many years ago, back at the dawn of time, I started working, and I met some guys around my own age who were working in the same place over the summer. One in particular we'll call Duncan, although his real name is Terry. I don't know if Duncan's spider sense was set off by me, but my spider sense wasn't set off by him.
But I remembered him vividly, and in particular I remembered a conversation we had where he suggested that I might give him some extra tuition. If I'd said "yes", then both of our lives might have slipped off in very different directions. Who can say? I bumped in to him years later. He remembered me. He remembered conversations we'd had too. We had made more of an impact on each other than I thought at the time.
Maybe I should pay some heed to this experience. Maybe I should not even think about it, as ultimately whether Dermot is a spider or not is a matter of no real importance. It's just that part of me thinks it would be nice.
Nuala, What I Work With: Don't you have things you hate?
Myself, in my best Scottish accent: I can't stand burnt toast. I loathe bus stations - terrible places full of lost luggage and lost souls.
N,WIWW: Have you been sniffing the liquid paper thinner again, Sir?
MiMBSA: And then there's unrequited love. And tyranny, and cruelty.
N,WIWW: Too right.
MiMBSA: We all have a universe of our own terrors to face.
N,WIWW: You're obviously tired. Want a coffee?
Elizabeth, Glamorous Project Manager: Oh, hello. (clearly surprised, disarmed, even, by the healthy look in my eyes despite lack of sleep).
Myself, hero of the universe: Morning, Elizabeth, how are you? (always aiming to disarm them by appearing interested).
EGPM: Weren't you supposed to be in the meeting this morning?
MHotU: Nope. Was it good?
EGPM: But I invited you.
MHotU: And I turned you down.
EGPM: But I checked your diary and you were free.
MHotU: You tried to hold a meeting for 8.30 on a Monday morning. Of course I'm free. Only an imbecile would try to hold a meeting then.
EGPM: (Impersonates a fish)
MHotU: I'm keen to attend, though, and as the project sponsor for this piece of work, I can't actually let you go ahead and do any work until I've attended a kick-off workshop. Can you reschedule?
EGPM: But... but... everyone else has already had the workshop.
MHotU: That's excellent. That means that when we have the real workshop, you'll all be really well rehearsed. I can do Thursday.
I work with a lot of people with secrets. We don't talk about anything openly because people think that if they know something that you don't, then that puts them in a position where they need you. Or at best, that you can feel superior to them. It's a very easy trap to fall in to and it's one that's ultimately doomed to failure.
In the great, and beautifully accesorised, world of the closeted homosexual, the knowledge that you're special is one of the reasons to stay in that cosy little closet. After all, if the world doesn't know you're gay the world can't judge you, can't bias itself against you. It's easy to believe that by keeping your sexuality from, say, your conservative middle class parents, you're protecting them. And at the same time, you've got a secret identity. By day you're shy and retiring Colin, working away at your office job, great at picking ties and a comfort to your mother, and at night you're Wankman!, superhero of the internet, clicking and flicking your life away. And that's nice. It's safe. There's no risk, there's no change.
In business, having secrets feels like it makes you an asset. The company needs you. Bollocks. It makes you a liability. The company doesn't need you. It doesn't even need your secret. If your secret was important, it would be somebody else's secret, or everyone would know it. If you're secret is something major, like knowing how to do something, then it just means that every time that thing needs done, you're the chump that gets landed with it. You're worth more than that, surely? If your secret is something trivial, like knowing where the key to the stationery cupboard is, then you should really grow up.
But I'm not denying that knowledge is power. What depends is what you do with it. Keeping it secret doesn't help anyone. Sharing it empowers other people, and helps people respect you. Sharing knowledge is honest. Protecting secrets is deceitful. Which reputation would I prefer?
Bit ranty, bit random, sorry.
It's a sad fact of life that good quality customer service and good value for money rarely go hand in hand.
Oops. I was a bit more controversial than I meant to be in my opening statement. Never mind - leave it for now, as long as I can justify it a bit, I'll be fine. Now where was I?
Lets talk about, say, banking. When I was a kid, current accounts paid a reasonable rate of interest. They could do that because they earned huge amounts of money on my ï¿½3.50 wage check, and by passing only some of that on to me, they could afford to keep things like their branch network - just as well, because we didn't have the internet back then. We'd only just mastered the post-it. Everyone was happy, though, especially the people in the banks who had jobs where they could sit and file their nails, except for the lunchtime rush - when they would go out for lunch.
Two things to remember about those times. Firstly, you walked into a branch, and you were immediately placed in a queuing system. It was called a queue. You could tell how long it would be until you were served by counting the number of grannies with wheeled shopping bins full of coppers. Secondly, we had huge inflation. You could walk in to a shop with a pound, hoping to buy thirty penny chews and come out with 70p, but by the time you got to the checkout the price would have gone up.
Inflation - despite being hugely popular at the time - was felt by some Emus to be a bad thing. There were probably other people who thought it was a bad thing, but mainly it was the Emus.
So we abolished huge rates of inflation, and brought interest rates down. Prices stabilised, pay rises fell, and the only place left for crazy money to be made was in the Property Market - mainly appearing on home make-over shows.
Sadly, low inflation meant lower margins for banks. They were faced with three choices.
1. Charge people for using current accounts.
2. Make less money.
3. Cut costs.
Charging people was, frankly, probably the fairest thing to do. However, if you're the first bank to do it, you'd lose all your customers. No bank wanted to be that stupid. So that left two options.
Making less money probably also seems fair. After all, if you've been creaming money off your customers for ages then it only seems fair to cut your margins a bit - or maybe even deliberately make a loss, just because that's what sort of a caring organisation you are. The obvious flaw in this would be the drop profits, the drop in share price, the drop in available capital and thus dropping interest rates and all of your customers leaving.
Things not looking good for banks here, unless they can cut costs.
Now there's a common myth that needs mentioned here. Chief executives are remarkably well paid. I'm not saying if they're overpaid, as that's a subjective matter, and I'm doing my damnedest not to delve into the fantasy world of hubristic empire-building here. The biggest bill in a bank network is for the branches. Bricks and mortar. Salaries. Pension costs. Chairs, tables, nice lights, security screens, coffee machines, rotating things to put leaflets on, posters in windows, shiny signs outside, and somewhere for pensioners to sit while they count out their stacks of pennies, that total almost a hundred pounds.
If you're going to cut costs, there's only a limited value in reducing the cost of your CEO. Cutting your workforce isn't your only viable option if you're going to "survive". But it's one of the most attractive financially, and bizarrely it's possibly the one that's most focussed on the majority of your customers.
Not all of your customers. You are going to piss off some of your customers. And the more you cut back your service, the more customers you are going to piss off. But it may be more palatable than some of the other options open to you.
Of course, it reaches a point where your service standards slip to really unacceptable levels. Where your call is on hold and you'd love to slam the phone down on Richard Bloody Clayderman and that would teach him, eh? When you want to point out to the woman in India who's quite clearly reading from a script designed to enable your insurance company to build up a profile of your shopping habits that it's really none of her business what your next-of-kin's first pet rabbit was called. When you just want to say "Why can't things be like they used to be?"
Things can never be like they used to be. Remember that. Remember that every corporate trend in your country is the result of the market forces at work here. Some are cultural, some are political, some are financial. If you want cheap and cheerful, you get cheap and cheerful. But cheerful isn't always helpful. A smile and a kind word costs nothing, but good customer service has a hard financial cost which - quite frankly - is going to find its way to the consumer somehow. The combination of good quality and low cost is seldom found, and when it is, it is fleeting.
Be careful what you wish for, because everything comes with a catch.
It's a balmy spring morning, unseasonally warm. The sky's just the right shade of blue, there's a bird somewhere, and far above, a jet leaves a vapour trail. I'm lying on the sofa, reading a book, enjoying fresh air, sipping my daiquiri and wearing my Barcelona Pavilion "Less is More" tee shirt.
The tee shirt is a prime example of what I'm thinking about today. Essentially, it hasn't changed since it was invented. It's a design classic, that has one purpose, and does one thing. Sure, there is scope for endless variation there. You can change the fabric, the size, the colour, the cut, the design. But the tee shirt is a classic.
The Swiss Army knife, on the other hand, proliferates. Its designed to be multi-purpose, to be a hydra of tools. It works, though, because it works within boundaries. There are dozens of versions of the Swiss Army Knife available, each specialising in different areas, but each working within the same basic shape and size.
I work in an environment where we've got a number of very bright, intelligent, and versatile people. We're all capable of pretty much anything that we are asked to do. In some ways this is great. However, when we're all asked to do a dozen different things, our effectiveness reduces. We can do anything, but we can't do everything. We're like buckaroo. Put too many things on our backs and we kick.
But - unsurprisingly - I have digressed.
The ideas that I'm waving vaguely towards are:
Work thoughts for the day.
Once upon a time, I had an employee, I'll call her Minion, although her actual name is Nuala O'Buiffneaghain. She's blonde and she carries a big stake. I gave her a small job to do, just to srt of ease her in to the world.
She does this job very well, but she seems to spend all her time doing it. This is frustrating for me, as I have other things I want her to be able to do, but in the mean time, I'm aware that because she is handling it, my life is easier. Today, she's come down with a cornucopia of infections. And I'm handling her mail. The job that I used to be able to do in half an hour a day now easily takes up a full day, due to increased demand. I'm only just starting to realise how good she is. She deserves a bonus. Which is nice, because as soon as she comes back in to the office I get to give one to her.
But in the mean time, I'm up to my eyes in her work.
Once upon a time, there was a presentation. This was a proper corporate presentation, sent out to people, so they could give it to clients. I didn't see it until it had been signed off, by people who really should have known better and who put a number of well-meant mistakes in to it.
Later, the presentation was revised. And sent round for comment again. And two people have been asked to comment - firstly the guy who signed off on it last time, full of mistakes. Secondly, me. The commentary reads "Alan - I'm copying you in on this because I noticed some references to [one of my many areas of brilliance] were wrong, and realised that you hadn't commented on it the first time round.
I will take the opportunity to deconstruct it. But I shall not crow victory over the original signatory who is significantly senior to me in the organisation and really should know better by his age...
Let me start with an example. 7.15 this morning. I arrive at work, whistling a jaunty little tune, the strains of Little Britain still ringing in my ears, ready to grab the day and look in to its yes (not around the eyes, into the eyes). In one hand I have a pot of muesli, gathered from the corner store at some crazy price. In the other hand I have an overpriced and undersized Grande Mocha-lite Decaff Lattecino. I sit down.
Almost before my arse cheeks have delicately come to rest of the rough padded surface of the chair (which is the same colour that a 1980s Pringle tanktop would be when it was being regurgitated) I've been asked to review two documents, to reschedule a meeting and to send out four documents.
I wish I was exaggerating. There's a culture here that seems to believe that just because you are in the office and sitting at your desk, you cannot possibly be busy. This is frankly silly. However, it's hard to say that you're busy when your computer hasn't been turned on, your coffee is still hot and you're pausing with your muesli mid-way to your lips.
Interestingly, though, over the last couple of weeks my attitude has mellowed. I'm no longer struck with a feeling that this will only get worse, because frankly it's about as bad as it can be. Any new work that gets thrown my way doesn't cause me any more problems, but remains just as undoable as the last five or six tasks I've been given to juggle. In a way, this is liberating. It's not great for "the company", but that's not my problem, is it?
It's curtailing my blogging activity, obviously. No time for vaguley-thought-out rants about books for a few days. No time to discuss the intricacies of selling stuff on ebay, or the slow but steady progress of decluttering. That time will come again, though. Oh yes.
Update: There are people sitting around chatting next to me. These are the people who are expecting me to work for them. They're in Sales, so they have no volume control. They have no idea how distracting they are. They like to walk around the office talking on their mobile phones, so that everyone can be a little bit disturbed by them, rather than just a few people.
I think I may have reached breaking point.
It's an interesting one, because I'm not hugely stressed by this fact. I'm quite calm about it, in fact, which makes me think I might be right. I don't like making emotional decisions - except about my emotions. I like to make decisions that are, for whatever reasons, right. Decisions that I may regret later, but would that I would be able to look back and say "I may have made the wrong decision, but I made it for the right reasons". It's a thought process that has led to me not regretting any major decision that I've made in the last ten years or so. (I regret lots of things, but not the big stuff). As you may have noticed, I've digressed here.
In the last week or so, I've applied for a new job, with a different evil multinational. It's a job I can do, and a job I'd quite like to do. It's in a new area, an area where I'm not hugely trained, but I could do it, and do it well. This is all good. I don't know yet whether I'll get an interview, and I don't know if they can afford me. I should find out in the next day or two.
In the mean time, I was asked this morning if, in my boss's absence, I was formally taking over part of his job. I haven't been asked to - but I realised as the question was being asked that this is exactly what I've been doing over the last few months. I've had vague unformed thoughts about asking for a formal re-definition of my job in the last couple of weeks, and I've held back because it felt like grabbing "territory", staking a claim and blowing my own trumpet - and also because it would involve removing a word from my boss's job title, giving it to me and making me his equal in the organisation. It's hard to say that in a politically sensitive manner.
So I may be at a crossroads. I could go in two ways, or I could trundle along as I am. I don't think that's likely. It doesn't feel right.
Ah, interesting thoughts for a Monday morning.
As I believe I've mentioned before, part of my job for the evil multinational corporation involves giving away money. Usually there's some reason for this, given to me in writing by one of our salesmen.
Picture the scene. I'm sitting in my corner office, views of Kuala Lumpur clearly visible below me. It's a quiet day, so I am idling, browsing blogs and stroking the solid oak of my desk with satisfaction in the knowledge that when potential corporate customers walk through the door of my office they will be suitably awed by the financial strength of the company that allows us to buy real wooden desks and not the plywood workstations that they use in the evil multinational down the road.
Nuala, my glamorous assistant bounces in. She's particularly perky today, and she adjusts her bosom as she presents me with a begging letter. "Here you go, Sir," she says. "It's a letter from one of our salesmen, justifying why we should give an extra four hundred baht to this elderly lady."
I grab the letter from her hand, a little more brusquely than necessary. This is a game that we play often. Sometimes I give her paper cuts. When that happens she hits me. Playfully, like. I read the letter. It's all looking good until I realise that the third paragraph is ungrammatical and contains four - no, five - spelling mistakes.
"Oh, sweetness," I swear. "Take this away. Make them go away and learn to read and write."
Nuala peers at me over the horn rims of her spectacles. "Now, now, Sir," she says. We then have a heated debate. Which I let her win.
I still maintain that my point is valid. If our sales men - who represent Evil Multinational on a day to day basis - can't spell, then what will the people they're dealing with think of the company? If they can't communicate clearly to their own colleagues (and I am absolutely brilliant at my job and an utter expert in my field), then what are the chances that the people they are talking to misunderstand what it is that our salesmen tell them?
"Yes, Sir, I know," says Nuala. "But in the mean time, poor Mrs Higgenbotham shouldn't suffer because of your entirely justifiable prejudices, now should we?"
And she passes me another bag of chocolates and another can of Vaca vermelha, just to keep me quiet.
Today, I am sitting at my desk in the office, working away at a little project we like to call "migrating all of our files from one IT system to another". Sounds dull as dishwater, is dull as dishwater. So far, so tedious.
There are a number of bad things about this. Firstly, there's the fact that it will now take me ten minutes to log on in the morning rather than ten seconds. Secondly, there's the fact that because the new system is more "secure", all of the applications I use will run slower.
One of the more draconian security features, however, is the introduction of a nifty little firewall sitting between me and you. And you and you. But not you or you. "Personal sites" it seems are dangerous.
So my only hope for sanity appears to be to print off the internet before I go to work in the morning, so I can nip out for a quiet "smoke" and read it...
Part of my job involves giving small amounts of money to people when they complain loud enough. As a consequence of this, the world is often a fairer place, and the giant multinational for which I work makes lower profits, which they then pass on in the way of reduced dividends to their major shareholders, who are predominantly pensioners. In this way, I make the lives of our elderly friends a slightly worse place, but make the lives of the people who complain a little better. There is no karma in this. There is a moral here, which is either that one should always complain, or that one should never complain, but I am not certain which.
Every day I receive somewhere between five and fifteen begging letters from people asking me to do them favours. If I think they've got a good case, I say okay. If they are clearly taking the piss, I tell them where to go. If I think they've maybe got a case, maybe not, then I probably make them happy because that's the kind of guy that I am. Anything for an easy life.
I've had a couple of doozies recently. I think my favourite was the one from someone else in the company asking me to give away £1,000 each to four different people (total cost to pensioners, about £4,000 - don't ask why, because there is no good reason for this). The justification for this wasn't that they deserved it, or that we'd cocked up, or any of the usual stuff that would have made me say "yes, here is some of my corporation's profits". It was "because if we do it, we'll get another 60 cases just like this". So that's a potential cost of £60,000 over and above the £4,000 that you're asking for.
I asked him to go 50:50 on it out of his own pocket.
I used to panic. I used to get worried about work, about friends and their problems, about myself. I used to react, to over-react and to react really inappropriately.
There was absolutely no point to this at all.
I used to spend hours analysing events. What I'd done, what I'd said, who I'd said it to. I made mistakes with people, I screwed things up, and all of that sort of stuff. And then I'd sit alone, running through it, reliving my mistakes in glorious exaggerated detail, until, eventually, I became physically ill.
There was absolutely no point to this either.
At 11pm on 10 September 1997, or thereabouts, I basically abandoned this crazy self-destructive lifestyle and embraced a few basic tenets that make my life a better place and allows me to be quite comfortably career oriented but being 99% certain that I'm not heading for a nervous melt-down when I hit forty. But the basic one is one that parents try to drum in to their children. I'm going to sum it up in it's clichéd form.
Do as you would be done by
Sounds simple, doesn't it. Sometimes, it's incredibly hard. It's about thinking before you act, counting to ten before you open your mouth, treating people with respect, regardless of whether or not you think they deserve it. It's not for their benefit, though. It's for yours.
I just wrote a nice long e-mail to someone about a potential business deal, and I wrote it and rewrote it at three times. Every time I wrote it, there was a message screaming out of it, written between the lines. The message I'd written was full of good sound business phrases, but when I read it back, I realised that the meaning behind it was clear. "You are an idiot." "You are wasting my time." "Go away."
I nailed it on the fourth rewrite. After a break, when I went away and cleared my head. He's happy now (although he's also gone away and will be leaving me alone). But more importantly, I'm happy. I could have seriously cocked up, escalated the issue and in the end I could have made my life worse. But I've let it go, rather than bottling it up. I've treated him with the respect that he probably didn't deserve, and it wasn't easy. If it was easy, everyone would do it.
But enough about me. How are you?
The worst thing about coming back to work after a couple of days of sick leave is the fact that everyone comes up to you and asks how you are.
"Fine," I say, not wanting to offend anyone.
"You're looking a bit pale," they say. And I shrug. I've no idea if I'm looking a bit pale or not. The doctor asked me if I always looked this pale when I saw him on Thursday. I shrugged then, too.
"It'll be Stress," said Neasa, putting the emphasis on the capital S there. "You should take it easy. And you look really pale."
Dermot's line - after he had told me how pale I looked - was to ask if I was sure I should be back at work. I told him I wasn't infectious, contagious or disabled. He laughed.
I'm worried, though. Mainly because I don't know what's wrong with me yet. I suspect it's related to stress, but only because being stressed makes you more susceptible to stuff. I'm fighting back against that, bringing out the big guns for fighting stress - humour, tolerance, indifference and blame-shifting (good one to try with bosses - "I am stressed. This is due to poor management. I will sue your a$$" - but only works if you actually sue).
Work greeted me with a barrage of e-mails. One for every fifteen minutes I was away, usually requiring half an hour each to answer. My favourite was "Just to check if you'll be attending the meeting this afternoon as I haven't received a response from you yet. Everyone else has replied. Love, Assumpta". I went round to her desk and guilt-tripped her. She told me I looked pale. I just caught my face in a mirror. I actually do look pale. See, I should listen to people.
It's always a worry when I realise that I am surrounded by nincompoops. When I look at e-mails in complete incredulity, wondering what bizarre marriage of cousins spawned the creature that sent them.
I try not to talk about my job here, but this is what I have spent half an hour doing this morning.
I review technical documents. I was sent an updated technical document for review. As far as I can see, there are two changes, both of them minor, and one of them wrong
So far so good. But the document that has been changed to reflect these two points is the document from a year ago, rather than the version from six months ago. Someone's picked up the wrong document, updated it and sent it on.
Another technical document. This one has a number of changes. On one page, in the first column, all of the bullet points have been changed to end with a full stop. In the next column, the one bullet point that already had a full stop has had that one removed. In the footer at the bottom of the last page the phone number has been highlighted and the phrase "needs verified" added. Our phone number hasn't changed in six months. She could have tried ringing it. 10/10 for being thorough, 1/10 for perspicacity. And she's corrected the grammar in a sentence that blatantly contradicts the sentence before it and hasn't questioned that point...
I got a very snipy e-mail from a customer. I don't deal with customers, usually. In this case, I don't really want to deal with him at all. I did a bit of agonising and then realised that we have whole teams of people who are supposed to deal with customers. I'm supposed to do my job.
Looking at them coldly, none of these are major. They're frustrating, and on a better day I'd be able to cope. Other people are allowed to make mistakes, after all. People are allowed to keep asking me questions if I've been helpful to them in the past and haven't politely asked them to piss off.
I'm not really surrounded by nincompoops, I know that. It's just sometimes it feels that way.
There's got to be a happy balance, I often think.
Working, as I do, in the Public Relations area of an obscure wing of a generic financial services company, I often find myself working on eighteen documents at once, all of them boring. There's an interesting mix of attitudes kicking around.
I try to make my documents clear. I'll often use two pages for a letter when one would do, because I include graphics, or spaces between the lines. You look at one of my documents on a screen, and hopefully you can tell that it's been crafted to make you want to read it. Obviously, my ideas about readability evolve over time, but you get the idea.
I've just been working on a spreadsheet. The aim of this spreadsheet is to take all of the salient information needed to make an important business decision, and contract the whole thing on to a single page. So it has the following design features:
It's this last point that annoys me. This is a document that I'm supposed to prepare to allow people to make a decision, and I can't give these people half of the information they want. And they want it on a single page because they're looking at a dozen of these, so each is only going to get a minute or two of time.
The trick therefore, if I can't present all of the information they need to make the correct decision, I should only present that information that supports the decision that I need them to make.
And so, because of form design, I am put in a position where a factual document has to become a political document. Which is not to say that it couldn't have been a political document before, but I try to avoid playing these games whenever I can.
Information design is often as important as the information itself.
Ignore people who try to engage you in a conversation from a distance. This includes by telephone. If they can't be bothered to get up off their bum to come and see you, it's not important.
Find people in the office who appreciate sarcasm. Talk to them, a lot.
If you take work home in your bag or briefcase, bring it back unopened the next morning.
Only do overtime if the alternative is ironing, or if there's some sympathy in it for you.
At the end of the day it's only a job.
Choose winners. Except you can't always choose winners, so if you choose losers, then just shrug and chalk it up to experience.
Don't get rid of anger, because you shouldn't have any anger. Replace it with despair, or with a world-weary cynicism.
If all else fails, vodka.
Most of the time, I choose not to write about my work. This is because my work is very boring.
Got up, went to work, pissed a lot of people off, went home
That would sum up my typical day.
However, yesterday was different.
The phone rang. "Hi Doctor Oddverse, it's Dougie. I've got a big case for you - it's 20 million quid. Can we take it?"
"Dougie," said I. "No. Fuck off. You know as well as I do that we've got a process for this. There are eight forms to fill out, and you're not supposed to call me directly. I don't approve these things over the phone, I'm really busy and you're pissing me off."
That made him quiet. And it made me feel much better. I decided to hate him for a while, but I couldn't really manage it. After all, he was sweating his guts out over a sale that could make him a couple of grand and could cost the company a couple of hundred grand. I hold purse strings, and that makes me evil.
"Tell you what," I said. "Do me a favour and I might be able to sidestep a procedure or two. It's all very hush-hush, you know."
And I was about to do him a favour, when I got distracted by Seymour. Seymour is one of those guys that every office has - the eight foot tall middle-aged guy who's never been quite comfortable with his bulk. He's softly spoken and loves jazz. Anyway, he was sitting on the floor crying because his girlfriend Enid had left him. So we bought cake.
It's probably for the best. She was never good for him - she used to rap his knuckles with twigs for some reason.
It's all go round here, I tell you. You couldn't make it up.
I've been doing my current job longer than I've done any other job in my life. It's getting to the stage where it's routine in some ways, and in other ways I am now so much of an expert at my job that all of the little shite queries come my way and take up my time. I need to move job, and in a company that only has fifteen people left there's not much scope for that.
I feel a couple of career-related conversations coming on.
The trick with setting up a network is:
For a variety of spurious reasons, our network is being changed. Sixteen of us are being migrated from one server to another. There's an awful abuse of the English language. Shhhh, don't mention it and nobody will care. For me, they did this last Monday night. And by 9am on Tuesday morning, everything was fine, except that I can't access our own intranet. So no great loss, really.
But they'd done something wrong. So on Thursday night they remigrated me and spent an hour rebuilding my profile from scratch. That makes me sound like some horribly scarred victim of plastic surgery, or someone who was in an accident and had do be reconstructed for an open-casket funeral. Yum.
This was okay. I still couldn't access my company intranet, but still didn't really care. And a few things needed tweaked here and there, and they mislaid the top fifty most important e-mails that I was working on thinking about replying to, filing, or deleting. But other than that, and the fact that I couldn't print for half a day, everything seemed to go all right.
Today, my PC thinks that it's 2.30 on Saturday morning, and won't let me change my settings. It invented a new hard drive. Twice. And told me that I was using it and would lose data if I tried to delete it. And I can't open Excel without Excel trying to edit a macro on a hidden worksheet that I didn't know I had.
Tomorrow, who knows?
Bloody difficult, really.
First things first. Just like finding your perfect mate, finding your perfect job is never going to happen. So don't wait for it to happen.
Decide what you want to do. It should be something that you're good at already, but something that you could do better. So you've got the skills to do the job well, and the ambition to excel.
Put yourself in a position where you're aware of what jobs come up in that sort of field.
When an opportunity arises, grab it. Don't be scared, because you've got nothing to lose. Don't talk yourself out of it. I had a mortgage, friends and family nearby. I moved half way across the world, and I still have the friends and family (although further away, obviously), I have new friends also, and a new mortgage. It would have been easy to cling on to those comforts, but I was prepared to let them go.
If the job you're thinking of applying for means an extra half hour on the train every morning, and you're having serious difficulty in working out how you're going to manage, then you're probably not as interested in the job as you think you are.
So you've got the interview. Go to the interview. Sell yourself. Don't sell someone you're not, or someone you want to be. If you act a role at an interview, and you get the job, you've screwed yourself. You've lied your way in, and you've got to either keep up the lie and make yourself unhappy or be yourself and make other people realise that you were faking it at the interview. So sell yourself, but be honest while you're doing it. And make sure they realise you can do the job as it stands, but you've got ambition to improve things.
And remember, they're always going to ask what your biggest weakness is. So have an answer for that in advance, and make sure it's a good one. So, your weakness is a tendency to focus on work that is interesting, rather than your weakness being a tendency to pick your nose and examine the contents.
So you get through the interview. You've sold yourself, and hopefully your prospective employer has sold itself to you, and you actually want to work there. My favourite ever interview ended with me having a tiny tiny opinion of the company that had interviewed me, and the good thing about that was that when they turned me down for the job I was actually relieved.
They tell you if you've got the job. If you haven't, and you've picked the job properly (remember, it's got to be something you're already pretty good at), then accept that, work out why you didn't get it, and remember that for next time. But hopefully, you've got the job.
Remember, however, that this isn't your job. Not yet. This is someone else's job, someone that you're replacing. You need to shape the job and mould it. And this takes time.
You can do the job you've got, but you need to make sure that the right people know this. Your strengths and weaknesses will hopefully become obvious, and hopefully your strengths are also the things you enjoy. There's a plugging away phase. In general, I've found it's often about a year.
That's how long it takes for people to realise that your strengths, and realise that they can employ them more profitably. So come the next reshuffle, your job should edge closer to being one you love. This works even better if you're involved in the discussions about the reshuffle.
Well, that's pretty much how it worked for me. But I was very lucky. The next job move I made was full of compromises, which is why my job now is kind of moderately sucky, although the consequences for my private life were all highly beneficial.
At the time I accepted this job, I just wanted a job. In the two years I've been here, it's changed dramatically, but every time it changes I make damn sure that I'm pushing it closer towards being a job I can love.
Because, as they say, I'm worth it.
At the beginning of the week, I had the beginning of a cold. It didn't get very far, and probably peaked around the time I was in the pub on Tuesday, drinking vodka because I couldn't face anything with a greater volume of liquid than that.
As the week progresses, I'm feeling better and better, which is great. But largely due to the crapness of the last couple of days, I've still got very little that I feel like blogging about.
Which is odd.
Last Thursday, my company (or at least the office I work in) announced a major restructure, which will, in practice, involve me leaving. But it's not quite that straightforward.
I work for company A, which is a management services company supplying services for company B, which has no employees at all. Both are subsidiaries of company C. Clear so far?
From Monday of next week, company A is being sold to company D. A small group of employees, myself included, will be leaving company A at that point and will be transferred to company B, which will still be a subsidiary of company C. Company A will still supply services to company B. It's all very clear, really.
In the mean time, I'm getting all sorts of e-mail about how exciting it is going to be to work for company D, even though I won't be. Interesting times.
Unfortunately, out of a desire to keep my blog and my work life fairly well segregated, I can't go in to much more detail than this.
Today, the website woman took me aside and asked me if she'd done something to offend me. She hadn't, but I've been horrendously busy and so on, so I haven't said hello, or done much small talk making, and as we don't work on any of the same projects I don't really have any reason to talk to her.
I wasn't deliberately avoiding her, but now she's made me feel like I have, and so I now feel incredibly low as a result of doing nothing. The thing is, that now that she has done something that - while it hasn't offended me - has upset me, I have an urge to confront her. Or avoid her. And I can't do either.
Been in the office an hour. Want to go home.
This is the high level view of what's happened.
A decision was made. A year ago. It was a stupid decision, but what the hell, it was made, and should have been implemented. It wasn't implemented.
At the time, all I did was communicate the decision. I'd still have a copy of the correspondence if it hadn't gone the way of all flesh back in May.
Anyway - decision made, not implemented, no worries, I'd sent an note to the people who had actively decided not to implement this, setting out the consequences, and they had sat on it.
It all blew up yesterday. Not too bad, but enough.
And now, the people who should have implemented the decision are blatantly refusing to believe that the decision was ever made. And I can't prove them wrong. I'm trying to play mediator, saying look, we can review the decision, but it was made, and you guys didn't implement it.
And this morning, they're saying that a different decision was made entirely, and I should have made changes to marketing material as a result.
Been in the office an hour. Want to go home.
I've been going through a whirlwind of exciting and fun meetings and training courses!
Last week was the great fun thing that was our Employee Forum, where I narrowly missed becoming Vice Chairman! Whee!
Today, I was due to have a time management course, but I had to cancel that because of bad time management! Instead, I get to go on a course about press handling! Fantastic!
When I was a kid, I got to go to external courses in London. Whee! London! I got to stay in a nice hotel and go to the Industrial Society for hours and hours. We didn't have mobile phones then, so nobody could call me directly. If my boss wanted to get hold of me, he would have had to call the Industrial Society, leave a message, and then I could have called him back at a break. Verging on civilised.
Now, my boss doesn't even realise I'm going to be at a training course today, and will therefore do his usual trick of calling me every five minutes.
Keith and I have been nominated for our company's Employee Forum.
This appears to be a talking shop that achieves nothing.
What happens will be as follows.
There'll be a top secret project. At the beginning, senior management will know about it. They'll then tell their key employees, and sometime around this point, the woman who sits next to me will know about it. Nobody will tell her, but she will know, in scary detail.
There will then be a series of top secret briefings of the key employee team, and nobody will know about these despite the fact that they'll take place in the board room amid mild giggles. Eventually, a communication plan will be agreed.
Five minutes before the main announcement, the Employee Forum will be told. That's me and Keith. Except that at least one of us will also be in the 'Key Employee' group, and we'll know already. And then I'll tell my team, and the woman who sits next to me will chip in with all the detail that she knows.
Of course, that's all assuming that we get elected. Although as we're standing unopposed, I suspect that's kind of guaranteed.
I've written before about the awfulness of e-mail.
Sometimes it's useful. An easy way to send a document without slaving for hours over a hot photocopier. Sometimes it's a waste of time - like the endless movie files of people having sex at ball games that I used to get sent while I was in Hong Kong. Sometimes, conversation would be easier, quicker, and less auditable.
It was only this morning, as I was sending a file to one of my performing monkeys that I realised that e-mail's only an interim solution. People use it because it works, but it's not the only communication paradigm that could be employed in an office environment.
Currently: Charlotte runs our intranet. Whenever a new section is opened (usually to be consigned in to the realms of non-updated hell fairly quickly), she sends out an e-mail to all staff to say that there's a new section on the intranet.
Short-term: She could at least include some information, or a link to the page on the intranet
Longer-term: An ICQ/Messenger style interface. A quick pop-up in the bottom right of the screen tells you that the site's been updated. If you close it, fine. If you don't close the pop-up in the space of a few seconds, it disappears, but there's a flashing icon on your taskbar to tell you that you've got unread announcements.
Live life in the information age, yeah. Where new news is old news before you've read it, where yesterday's news happened ten years ago, where you're a has been before you've been born. Whatever.
I was just a human being, that's all I was. The dodgy link in the approximate chain of loose cannons. Everyone wanted me to do things, and everyone wanted them done now, and I just sat in the middle, wanting things done right, and actually doing nothing at all. Deep breaths. Deep breaths helped me through the day.
Between leaving work at 18:00 and arriving at 08:30 the next day, I've received thirteen pieces of mail. Another twenty arrive by 09:00. Most of them - complete shite. Nonsense mails that I shouldn't have got, that I've just been copied in on because people think that just by sending me an e-mail it means I'll read it, means I'll know what it says.
If I did that, I'd never get any work done.
So I skim through my e-mails, forward some on unread, reply to some saying 'This is a load of nonsense'. I throw another 20 bits of pointless correspondence in to the mailstrom.
e-mail is dead. It's not an effective means of communication any more, if it ever really was.
It's backed up by it's old rival, the telephone. The telephone isn't so much used for communication, it's a tool by which you change someone else's priorities. I don't take internal calls any more. If it was really important then they could come and see me.
There's no peace to concentrate, no physical space to find your headspace within. You can't do everything, so why should you do anything? Language evolves to retrofit. Urgent means 'Ignore Me'. Quick means 'Ignore Me'. Personal means 'I'm marketing - delete me'. All day is spent trying to whittle the stack of mails back to the level it was last night. And sometimes it feels like you're winning, and sometimes it feels like you're drowning.
Over the last couple of weeks, the work environment here has become much less pleasant in a huge number of ways. Some are small ways, like the removal of pot plants, and some are large ways, like a huge quantity of additional paperwork which has to be gone through for things that I could previously have given approval to myself. It looks as though power and control is being reined in, to a particular select group of people, and this may be true. It may leave many of us feeling disempowered and angry, and it may or may not leave the company in a stronger, leaner position.
It's change. Change always shocks, and you can either ride with the change or fight against it. I've tried fighting, but I prefer riding. This is the first time I've seriously thought about walking away.
After the stresses of the last few days, and given that - on average - my lunch hour lasts for fifteen minutes, today I took an hour and a half. I probably couldn't afford it, if I'd thought about it. My time would be spent more productively at my desk, perhaps. But because I had to go to the post office to pick up my new modem, I was out of the office. And I walked back to work.
Ninety minutes. On my own. With little apart from the music of Ian Broudie to keep me amused and happy. And it was glorious, and it was sunny. And it's improved my mood enormously.
It also gave me a chance to change my shirt in to one which didn't smell of coffee. But nobody said anything when I got back to work.
Today, we had our regular monthly manager's meeting that happens every month on the first Thursday. It's a bit of a joke, though, because it's always rescheduled so that the CEO can attend. For example, this one clearly happened a week late.
Now, at the end of this one, the CEO had the balls to stand up and complain about poor attendance. He's got about 60 managers. We're all very busy. There was about a 70% attendance, which is not bad for a rescheduled meeting. But he's complaining to the wrong people, surely? We were the ones who actually attended, after all?
It's a lot of nonsense.
I'm hoping for a reasoned response to this one from a mature person with years of HR experience, but who is really looking forward to their retirement.
I hate 'Business English'.
You know the sort of stuff that I mean. "With reference to your previous correspondence of 23rd inst, it must be advised that Joe Bloggs has been tasked with deliverable 3(c) and 41(d) subsection 2. Deliverable 8 will not now be delivered, but will be deferred due to governance issues."
I spend a lot of my time checking marketing material for cackness. That's what I do. And every piece of communication from a business is marketing material.
My favourite this week is the letter I received from a credit card protection company which advised me that 'Due to the Republic of Ireland's commitment to the Euro, your premium will now be taken in Euro.'
That word 'commitment' in there is one of the main reasons that I cancelled the policy. After all, Ireland has been using the Euro for fourteen months now. That's more than a commitment. That's full acceptance and adoption. And after fourteen months, making a sales point out of it is just nonsense. It shows a lack of understanding of what the Euro is, and how it has impacted on daily life in Ireland. It makes it out to be a big thing, which it completely isn't.
It's a very british view of matters.
And when a financial company doesn't understand the currency it's dealing in, it's time to make sure you don't give them any money.
Today, my boss has mentioned the fatal word of death for the first time in forever. "Firefighting".
Firefighting is the word that directors use when they're getting shat upon from a great height as an excuse for the fact that they're running around either achieving nothing, or making impractical decisions that cause more problems than they solve.
And of course I let myself get sucked into a big sucky vortex of suckiness, never pausing for breath, but trying to escalate the problems, taking infinite action points and making interminable lists of people to call, none of whom are available. And none of it works.
You see, you can't fight fire with fire.
I've known this for ages. For years, even. I've put it in to practice in my personal life, and to an extent at work. You fight fire with calm. That can be bloody infuriating for people around you who are panicking, and see the issues getting dealt with one at a time in good order. It can veer over into ignoring problems and hoping they go away if you're not careful. But pouring fire on fire is never going to work. Ever.
Talking of fire, the fire alarm went off in our building on Sunday.
Given that the subject of pensions is somewhat in my field of alleged work, I probably shouldn't comment on the great pension debate that has been raging here in my absence. Brushing aside Gregg's solitary grey hair, and pausing only to ponder where on his body he found it, the main points raised have been:
My company has just offered a choice of sticking with the final salary scheme (but reduced) or one of those money purchase thingies. I don't have to make a decision yet but I think I'll check with someone who should know pensions. Seems to be a lot of this Money purchase thing going around now and I think my company is a little unusual in not ditching the final salary scheme altogether. I'm still worried though.
Part of this is kneejerk reaction, and fear of the unknown. You're being asked to make a decision that you didn't want to make, and that you're probably unprepared to make. You're right in that your employer not ditching the final salary scheme is unusual.
I see the development of great big hippy communes for the elderly developing, with us living in tent cities on someone elses land, growing our own vegetables and fruit, donating our expertise to one another (highly useful if you're a plumber or a hairdresser, but fairly awful if you're a...an actuary- oh sorry Al, I didn't see you there- at least you've got cooking, amongst other skills, to fall back on). We would be visited periodically by "Save the Wrinklies" bringing vitals such as wine and roast duck from well-wishers on the other side of the country, but always always anxiously listening out for the wolf scratching at the canvas. We would share out our rations of alcohol because of the immense solidarity in our community, and get totally plastered all the time. We would eat anything we could grow, whcih worryingly, in Britain, may mean starving for 3 months of the year unless we invite people who can pickle and preserve (WI??) I see it all now, and it's all so plausible...
In the good old days, families used to have three or more children to support them in their dotage, to work the farm etc... In today's world, the self-supporting commune idea generally works, up to a point. And that's the point where you have to pay for medical support. It would have to be backed up with a sound financial model, which is exactly where an Actuary would come in.
Douglas - do check with a Financial Advisor, but IMO you'd be best trying to hang on to your Final Salary scheme, unless you've got outside provision and can risk seeing your company pension dwindle greatly. Everyone I know who lost their Final Salary scheme has seen their expected annual pension slashed by about £10,000 (while their employers profited nicely). I should clarify further. Final Salary is better than Money Purchase. You will lost initially when the money is transferred, the chances are that you wil continue to lose until you eventually retire. But Final Salary is far from perfect. If a company over-stretches itself on a Final Salary scheme, doesn't have enough money to actual pay the pensions it has comitted itself to, it can simply declare bankruptcy and you'll end up with nothing. This is rare, unlikely, bad business, your FS scheme is better than MP, but there's still that risk. The whole thing about switching to MP started in the 80s (under Thatcher - pensions being one of the seemingly infinite number of things the bitch fucked up), and it's really just another of the games we play to prop up capitalism. Investing in shares with pension money makes little sense, and is an unbearbale risk - especially when you look at the portfolios agreed upon - from the view of the person whose pension scheme it is, but it's a way of keeping money going into the markets. It's a great big con, basically. But, as I say, FS is still a risk. The best thing you could do is to opt out of a company scheme altogether and invest the money where you want to - government bonds, trusts, stick it in under your floorboards. Take control of your own destiny. That's my advice, anyway.
And I hate to say this, but probably wrong.
There's some valid points in there, but in general to say that FS is better than MP isn't really a valid statement. Really, it all depends on what you're looking for in a pension. If you're looking for something that will give you a secure income when you retire, and you're certain that you're going to be at the same company for the rest of your working life, then you probably want Final Salary. If you're likely to change job any time in the next few years, then you're probably better off with Money Purchase. At least that way you know what you're getting when you leave, rather than the actuarial fudge that you get from a Final Salary scheme. MP is almost always a better deal than putting money in bonds, trusts or floorboards, solely due to the tax advantages.
Final Salary schemes are also disproportionately weighted by gender. You need to have a lump sum at retirement that's enough to provide income for the rest of your life. If you're a woman, you're going to live longer, so you need a bigger lump sum. So you could argue that women get more benefit out of these schemes than men, so men would be better off going via money purchase, and cutting out this subsidy.
There's more to this topic, far far more. But I'm really not giving anyone advice.
So far this week, Mr Twinky's had three interviews. He's been offered three jobs. This is giving him a scary air of confidence, which is undoubtedly well deserved. It's not all doom and gloom and scary job offers though. One company has decided that they weren't interested in meeting him. Which seems fair. Because if they did meet him, they'd probably end up offering him a job, and that would just add another new dimension to the angst and confusion that is his scary three-way job choice.
I am unbearably proud of him.
I decided a few years ago that while it was okay to be stressed in some senses, like the adrenaline rush and so on, it was counterproductive to escalate that stress by worrying about it. After all, it's usually largely out of one's control, so the trick is to accept that, prioritise and deal with what you can, and accept the remainder on the principle that life, basically, sucks. With me so far?
So this week, I'm doing five major pieces of work, all annoying, and there's a minor domestic worry, which only really has the impact of reducing the amount of time that I am happy to spend working. I'm busy, but I don't think that I'm showing external signs of stress, and I don't think that I'm feeling panicky. But I'm having strange flashes.
Last night my dreams included a bad computer-animation of Liberace.
I'm two sessions into a four session program of training to be a better manager. It's full of acronyms like MSC, that stands for Mayer-Salovey-Caruso which is not hugely informative unless you want to know the names of the guys who came up with a particular theory. Like most training courses, it consists of writing down common sense, and then seeing if you can make an acronym out of it. It's what normal people would do if they actually had the time to stop and think about what they were doing. But I (as usual) digress.
My training disillusionment stems from a training course I went on first where the trainer asked us to define certain common English words. We came up with definitions. He then gave us 'training-speak' definitions. Not dictionary definitions. In some cases, things that overlapped with the dictionary definitions, but not always.
What do I mean by this?
And other protacted bits of ire disguised as education. It kind of prejudiced me against that course, and thus by association, all training ever given by anyone. I've not got a problem with defining terms to aid communication, but changing them is a different issue.
So I sit in the top floor of this office. And it's basically a big glass box somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere. And I face South. What this means in practical terms is that in the morning, the sun shines into my eyes through the windows on my left, and in the afternoon it shines in through the windows on my right.
My corporate university just gave me a mouse mat. It's got a picture of happy smiling people on it. The main reason that they're happy is that they don't work for us.
It's nice to get presents like this around 48 hours before leaving the company, and I am so excited, that I have ordered a mouse so that I can use the damn thing. Or I may let it double as a frisbee.
I sent out a farewell e-mail to all of my staff this morning, and I've had a couple of replies. I think that this one sums up my reasons for being here.
And I personally thank you for the understanding and patience you showed to me, and the actuarial knowledge you shared with me.
We've moved office. And although we have more space allocated to our team, most of it is empty. The four of us who remain are stuck in cubicles that are smaller than the ones we were in before. The network isn't in place yet, so we can't get e-mail. There isn't a pantry, so we have to go upstairs if we want a drink. And the guy that organised the whole thing is mincing around looking smug. I am fighting my violent urges.
I'm in work this afternoon, on a one-off project. This involves sitting in a room with confidential documents and attempting to put a value on another company. This sounds really interesting but is in fact soul-numbing.
The interesting point is that I'm only in this position because just over four years ago, someone in London did a similar thing and bought the company I worked for at the time. In the mean time, we're talking about setting up an American Head Office in New York, and I'm thinking that could be interesting...
We launched our corporate university today, amidst much pomp. This is the new buzz-phrase, and one that conjures up images of Hamburger University. It's the new name for the training department.
This is, I suspect, only the beginning of a trend. Next will be the Finance Department rebranding itself as a bank. The marketing department rebranding itself as an advertising agency. The IT department rebranding themselves as professionals...
I'm back from Vietnam - I got back yesterday. I've only got one more story to tell, and that's about Friday evening.
Seven in the evening, I am in a bus with four or five colleagues, and we pull up to a sports stadium. It's pretty big - not as large as a football stadium, but a decent size. The door on the bus is opened, and I am escorted by a beautiful Vietnamese woman in local dress from the bus to a small room labelled the VIP lounge. The local management team are there, and we talk and schmooze briefly before we have to line up to enter the main stadium.
So I queue, once more with a hostess on my arm, and I wait. The lights dim. There's a fanfare. And we march in. Past ten men holding eighteen foot high standards. Along the red carpet, in to the middle of the room. Then we turn, and walk towards the front of the room, and the stage. Huge screens flank the stage, and I realise that I've been on them, smiling, and thirty feet high. The walls of the room are draped with dark blue curtains covered with stars. And the room is packed. Sixteen Hundred people are watching us. And I'm part of this.
We reach the VIP tables, sit and watch as the standard bearers march on to the stage, and break into a dance routine. I'm told that these guys are actually some of our sales people. There's more humiliation to follow as my name gets called out and I have to stand and wave to the assembled throng. There's another dance number, and then the main sales pitch of the evening - because that's what this evening is, a motivational and awards night - the chance to win a trip to London. As the pitch is made, images of London flash on the screen, and at the peak, the curtains all around the room rise, revealing a panorama of the London skyline, then fall back behind the skyline. We are now in cardboard London in the evening. Firework streamers fill the sky. And another dance number - 'Welcome to London'. I really wanted to win the trip at this point.
The food starts, a typical nine course dinner, with luxury items like sharks fin soup on the menu. And the awards start too. Everyone in the room is a top producer, and most of them are getting awards of some kind, from a plastic plaque to a plastic plaque and a cheque for a million Dong (fifty quid). I present six awards, with a huge amount of pride.
We have a break from the awards, with another dance number, based around Titanic. More awards, and then they trot out the big guns - Vietnam's top pop star does a couple of numbers.
The evening ends with sixteen hundred motivated sales men and women. The evening ends with me exhausted, and impressed, and proud to be a part of this. The thing that gets to me though, is a conversation I had in the men's room with one of our unit managers. We were both passing water in to the same toilet bowl, and he was telling me in faltering English how proud he was to be part of this company. At that moment, he couldn't have been more proud than I was.
It looks like we might have found someone to work along side me. Ironically, it's the guy who went on a secondment to my old team when I came here.
The bizarre thing is that he looks just like Jasper. Very odd.
I want a proper job. The thing is, I know that right now I am in exactly the right job for me. I am valued, I appreciate that I am valued, and I get a nice amount of remuneration to compensate for it. I look, hypothetically, at jobs nearer home, and I see that the sort of jobs that will keep me in my lifestyle are the ones with long hours, lots of pressure, and qualifications required that I don't have. I have experience in India. I have experience in Vietnam. This probably won't do me much good in Glasgow. I worry about this sometimes.
Please be in costume BEFORE you board the buses to :
For those of you still 'angsting' about what to wear, the possibilities are broad. You can be:
Those NOT in costume risk 'tribal exile'. So we hope you will get into the spirit, creatively !!
This is our office Xmas party. The word Crap doesn't begin to describe it.
My company is launching a university. So far, we have appointed a dean, and recruited a head of faculty. We don't know which faculty yet. I like to think that this is how Oxford, Cambridge and Hull were founded. Some well meaning fop was promoted into a position of supreme uselessness and they needed to find a job for him. So they gave him a university, so that he couldn't do any harm. And thus were England's great seats of learning founded.
For the past few weeks I've been 'on hold' job-wise while the HR people put together a package to entice me to stay here - my secondment expires at the end of the year.
I was told this package about an hour ago. It's a promotion, with a new title and an increase in salary. The increase in salary isn't all that much.
In situations like this, I find it best to go with my gut. And my gut is saying run like hell. It's saying that this isn't a reward, it's a low offer, and I'm being shafted.
I really wanted to feel good about this offer. In the end it feels... disappointing. I'm coming over all angry now. I think I need to walk out of the office early and go and play a shoot-em-up in God mode.
Having noticed that the original choice of web site name has gone, we have chosed a replacement which is almost as good but will drive traffic to a small estate agent in Utah.
The individual who registered our site is the same individual whose mobile phone has been ringing unattended all morning. He can't spell the name of the company he works for.
Mind you, at least he is working, rather than slacking off writing his web page.
There's a presentation going on. It's to do with a website. It's telling us that the branding for this website is great, it's fantastic. It's telling us that this is why we want to launch with this name. It doesn't mention that the website with this name is already owned by someone else.
Why? I mean for goodness sake if a company is pretending to be a high tech company it should know about the web and if it's a marketing company it should know about intellectual property. Shouldn't it?
Scary factoid of the day: Estimated population of the world:6,080,141,683. Estimated population of the markets that I deal with: 1,459,952,418. That's roughly a quarter of the world's population. Fortunately, I don't know all of these people personally.
I've just been told that I am the talk of my organisation at all levels, and that my MD is going to put together the best package that he can to keep me here for another year. I've told him that if it was just up to me, it wouldn't be a problem, and that I would work for him regardless. However, now I have more than me to consider and that scares me and comforts me in ways I don't want to understand. So I have deferred the decision once more, waiting for an offer, which I expect before the end of the month. I don't know which way to jump.
I am a corporate whore, playing hard to get. I am also a media whore, using my split personalities for churlish gain and spurious kudos.