Monday, July 23, 2007

The beginning of the end

This will be a rare posting. Rare in the sense that it likely won't happen again for a long, long time and not rare as in raw and uncooked. (Half-baked, perhaps).


I woke up about a week ago and realized that I didn't really feel like blogging anymore. I didn't like the grumbling and crapping on my boss (whether it's deserved or not). Truth be told - I started to worry that I was leaving a bit of a trail. I even went so far as to start to clean out and delete some entries.


I looked at it like weeding out my garden.


The problem is that I just don't have a hell of lot to say right now. So I was contemplating taking a break (don't worry - it's me, not you).


The freaky thing is that the next day at work. BAM! My link to the blog - any blog - is blocked. Completely and utterly cut of. I personally think it's completely unrealistic to expect to work the entire time I'm there, but I suppose that's why I'm not a big-wig.


I don't think that I can muster up much energy to do this from home. After waiting for the dial-up to kick-in, I'm usually ready for bed.


So, in true Celestine Prophecy style, I'm going to see it for what it is. A sign that I was meant to bid adieu for the now.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Lesser of two evils ?!

I'm having a hard time deciding which of the following scnarios that I went through this week was worse:


Scenario #1- Going through two days of a workplace audit, where I was "nominated" lead rep - which is a nice way of saying I was the sucker in charge of leading the auditor around and taking the brunt of his social ineptitude. Perhpas it was because of all my practice with others.


Picture the creepy guy that you knew in high school that couldn't hold a normal conversation, look you in the eye, and became overly animated about really weird things.


Got him pictured in your mind?


Okay, well I just spent two days with him.


Scenario #2 - I went bathing suit shopping today. Enough said.


Both involve intense scrutiny and the pointing out of flaws, weaknesses, and areas of opportunity. Both leave you shaking your head wondering what the f#ck you did to deserve this and saying, thank god I don't have to do that for another few years.


I am really at a loss as to which I would chose to do again.


But only if I was FORCED to chose.


And smacking my head against a brick wall wasn't an option.


I'm leaning toward the audit....




Monday, June 25, 2007

Delayed Reaction

Summer blogging - Warning the frequency and content of my summer entries are likely to be erratic. So take what you get, when you get it...my mind is on vacation.

What I learned today: seeing is believing.

Like if you see someone running around looking busy – you are likely to believe that they are busy. I am living proof of this.

For the past week and half, maybe even longer, I have been completely distracted even though my workload is as heavy as it ever has been. Perhaps even more. I’m starting to think that my level of distraction is directly proportional to the amount of responsibilities I have.

If I see someone that rarely leaves their office and I see that they issue novel length emails, then I believe that they are irresponsible and inept managers…I mean people. Okay, maybe that’s just an isolated instance. No doubt all others who do the same are perfectly functional people. Uh-huh.

So, how much of what surrounds us should be taken at face value. People’s authority, the level of their expertise, the ability to handle stress, their friendly nature…how often is it just what we see (and thus believe) and not what is truly behind the surface?

Most of us aren’t honest enough to totally admit mistakes or own up to what is really going on, which is why I always find it fascinating when people speak their mind. Sometimes I don’t want to hear what they say (la-la-la-la…I can’t hear you…) because it makes me uncomfortable, but generally I think…wow…I can’t believe they just told me that.

I literally walked into an old friend yesterday. It’s the most “fortuitous” meetings (his words) that I’ve had in a long time. I haven’t seen him in about twenty years and I bump into him basically in front of my house. And I live in the boonies. I knew his parents lived down the road from me, but my understanding was that he rarely makes it back (lives in Toronto).

Anyhow, I certainly didn’t expect to see him strolling along the road with a baby strapped to his chest. I almost didn’t call out since I wasn’t sure if it was him. I did and it was.

This was my first “crush”, the first guy to make a small, yet painful stab in my heart, and probably the only one I actually wondered about once in awhile (not “what if”, but rather “I wonder what he’s up to”).

I invited him in to meet my family and we chatted for a bit. Not having kept in touch, I only knew about his professional news (he’s a musician) and I didn’t want to assume he was married…so I asked where “mommy” was. Without hesitation he said that they had gone for a walk, gotten into a spat and each walked away in their own direction.

I was so completely surprised to have him admit that. I immediately thought of 50 other versions that I would have used, but then realized – wow…I can’t believe he just said that. I haven’t seen him since high school and he’s chatting us up like we just spoke last week.

I believe that he is one of those people with whom what you see is what you get.

Lately I have found myself surrounded more by this type of person. Sometimes the honesty can be hard to swallow, but for the most part I don’t have to second guess whether they are “just saying that”. It’s certainly a refreshing change from the disappointment that comes from realizing that you’ve been played by someone you thought was in your corner.

The scary thing is that when your first impression is based on what you see, it’s generally after the fact that the dis-belief sets in. Which would explain the time delay between when someone is screwing around at work and the time that they actually get called on it.

For my sake, I hope that I can get this distraction thing under control before my delay is up!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Let me give you some advice

One of the beautiful things about working with a diverse group is that there is such a wide range of experience and personalities. It would be deathly boring if we were all the same – how could we move forward, brainstorming would become staring contests, and office jokes would all fall flat.


It’s a wonderful thing to work with a group of unique individuals. People we can go to when we are unsure of what to do. People we can bounce ideas off. People we can do the above and then completely disregard.


I don’t know about you, but if someone asks my opinion and I share it with them, I do not automatically assume that they will do what I suggested. In fact, sometimes I would rather not, since it makes me feel responsible for their choices. No. I would rather someone listens to what I have to say, mull it over, mix it with their own views, and then make an informed decision.


However, if I ask a few people the same thing and they all give me the same answer, I’m more likely to go with their suggestion. Not thoughtlessly, but I would like to think there’s truth in numbers. I’ve learned is that this generally true. Unless you are polling a cult that blindly takes all their directives from an egomaniacal, power-hungry freak.


Speaking of egomaniacal, power-hungry freaks...


When I see my boss listen to HR’s recommendations, listen to my recommendations (which were quite similar to those of HR), and then decide to go in other direction, I have to wonder.


I wonder what amazing insight does he have?

Although he readily admitted that he isn’t very good at reading body language and the subtleties of people’s answers, he has suddenly become adept at figuring out the best candidate based on staring at pieces of paper.

Oh, and the one he liked the best. The one who he felt he would work best with.

Except….he isn’t the one who will be working with the new person. He may not even know where that person is located and what they are doing (based on current trends). He may even forget (and likely deny) interviewing and hiring this person.

So, what I’ve learned is that it is futile to ask other people’s opinions if you do not plan to take them into consideration. If you have made up your mind already, then go with it. If you are that confident in your abilities, don’t feel you need to humour the rest of us by "asking for input".

I realize that sometimes it’s necessary to just get a sense of what others are thinking – even if you are pretty sure you know what you are going to do. I do this. Most people do this. It’s those that make a habit out of doing this that made me realize that it’s an incredibly annoying and useless practice.

Lesson learned – if you continually disregard the advice that you solicit from others, they are bound to get irate.

They may even contemplate feeding you ridiculous suggestions in the hope that you actually run with it.

…hehe…

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Build a fence if you want, but don't sit on it

I like themes. I like something that ties everything together. I have been contemplating this for the blog; however, I don’t know if I can commit myself to one theme. Up until now – the common theme has been "me" and while that may be a fascinating subject, maybe there needs to be just a bit more to it.

The one thing I’ve tried to do is learn from other people’s mistakes. Vicariously experiencing other people’s troubles has allowed me to cringe along with them, but not actually have to go through the pain. It’s like participating in a life-size version of What Not To Wear.

So, for the next little while I think I’m going to try and focus on this. What I’ve learned to do (or not to do) based on those around me. Now, some may say this is taking the easy way out – that you have to live the experience to truly benefit from it.

So? I will pull my share of uh-ohs and doozies, but come on, it’s just not as fun to write about your own shit.

To start things rolling, here’s what I’ve learned about continually sitting on the fence, or if you want a more polished way of putting it, the inability to make a timely decision.

My muse for fence sitting is my boss. Actually, my boss and his boss.

I can appreciate the need to process information and make an informed decision; however, I get very impatient with double-speak and stalling tactics that are meant to detract from the fact that you have no clue what to do. It is also meant to mask the fact that you don’t want to take responsibility for your choices.

Throughout the interview processes, my boss was quick to make judgement, but slow to commit to a thought.
His most used terms say it all: "I don’t disagree with what you are saying" or "I feel the same, but differently". It is completely aggravating to have someone try and dance around the situation and refuse to give a concrete answer.

I do not have time for that. I do not have patience for that. And I certainly do not have respect for that.

Sitting on middle ground does not mean you are being diplomatic and fair. Tailoring your answers so that everyone feels that you are agreeing with their point of view is not a crowd pleaser – literally and figuratively. Refusing to take a stand and be accountable for your role and responsibilities is not hands-off management – it’s poor management. In fact, it’s non-management.

I do not have all the answers, but I sure as hell try to find one and then have an opinion. I’m willing to change my mind and admit that I was wrong, but to do so, I actually have to make a choice.

Although it’s annoying as hell to hear, "whatever you want" or " you choose" when it comes time to decide what restaurant you are going to eat at. I can live with it. It’s not a high-impact situation and the only fall out is that we are going to eat where I pick. Again.

I’m not talking about this type of indecision (although it does drive me nuts). I’m referring to the type of indecision that results in a worse choice than had you been blindfolded, spun around, and reached your hand into a jar to pull out the answer.

At least you would be able to justify the choice by pointing out that you had no clue what you were getting into.

You don’t have that luxury when you are dealing with the management of people. You can’t say – I didn’t know that they were like that. You can’t stick your head in the sand (or bury it behind a computer screen) and hope things will resolve themselves. You can’t ignore obvious issues and then quickly point your finger at someone else when things fall apart. You can’t apply a Band-Aid to a flesh wound and expect it to get better.

So, I’ve learned a lot from my boss. I’ve learned what not to do in a managerial role.

I’ve learned that the only true decision he has made is the decision to not make decisions.

I’ve learned that the supposed "soft skills" are the strongest part of the foundation of a good manager – without them, you have a technically competent (?), overpaid worker with too much responsibility and not enough skill.

I’ve also made a decision. I’m gunning for his job.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

More tales from the other side of the desk

I made it through eight interviews yesterday. I find it very interesting, but at the same time very mind-numbing so it’s a bonus when you have someone who breaks the mold.


I interviewed a candidate who I’ve seen before. In fact, he is my no-show from a previous session. Actually he arrived 15 minutes late for a 25-minute interview and pleaded ignorance (I just found out). I see a lot of familiar names, so I didn’t make the connection when I selected him for this session’s interviews.

When I saw him in the waiting room I recognized him immediately. My first thought was "greeeeat" and then my second thought was, "okay – maybe he deserves a second chance".

Whoever said that first impressions were overrated was dead wrong.

This kid is beyond being on another wavelength – we’re talking about another universe. When I asked him about how he stays motivated in work he proudly declared that he has a "minimalist" attitude. This intrigued me until he expanded that this means that he does the minimum amount of what it takes to get to the next step. He claims that he applies this logic to his overall living, his contribution to the universe (?), and work.


He sees no value in expending unnecessary energy. (Like thinking before you speak?)


I felt really awkward. Clearly I was in the wrong place – I thought I was at an interview. Too borrow my daughter’s term, "my bad".

To be honest, I almost burst out laughing. He followed this up by saying that the only conflicts that he’s really had with co-workers involve working in a job that he saw no point in, oh and his supervisor whistled all the time.

I can forgive him this since he had the eye-opening experience of finding out that being an adult doesn’t necessarily mean being "grown up". At his last term, he was very disillusioned when his respectful perception of people who are older than him was shattered when he found out that they swore and joked around all the time.

I’m thinking that a marathon viewing of all episodes of The Office is needed. Stat.

Anyhow, he won’t be joining us in September – unless a managment position opens up.


** And the saga continues.... I'm in second round interviews for the permanent position. Three interviews today and then it moves into decision mode. I'm confident that this will be an excercise in frustration and definitely fodder for the blog. Stay tuned.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Tales from the other side of the table

I have to say that aside from the obvious benefits (experience) that I am getting form participating in interviews, I find it incredibly enlightening.

Recently I was one half of an interviewing powerhouse (the other half being my starfish of a boss). We interviewed all eight people that applied. That was mistake number one. One that I would like to say for the record, I had no say in the matter.

Previously I could only imagine the diversity of the people that are out there. I’ve now been witness to some of the most interesting interview tactics and answer. If you are in doubt of how to proceed at your next interview, may I suggest the following:

1 – Pretend that you don’t want the job. State that you know you make more than the position will pay and that you will not take a pay cut. Make sure that you emphasize that you will not be able to start until September. As a parting thought, leave the interviews with this gem – “I don’t want to brag, but I probably know the most about the business in the building”. (That’s a seller when you are applying for an entry-level position)

2 – Play the sympathy card. Tell us you want the job so that you don’t have to move out of the city (because you have another job lined up). You want to stay with your girlfriend so that you can start a family.

3 – Tell us nothing. Hem and haw about the answers and admit that you don’t know how your experience relates the to position that you are applying for.

4 – Admit you know nothing about the job, but that you are sure you can do it.

5- Your only motive for applying: to get off shift work (honest, I know, but perhaps not the BEST thing to say in an interview)

6- Why should we hire you? Everyone likes me. (They won’t if we give you this job)

7- How do you resolve conflicts? I don’t have any. (I beg to differ…)

In this day of self-promotion, I find it incredibly humbling that many people can be so open and honest. To a fault.

I know I’m picking on the interviewees – those that are under the glare of the spotlight and are nervous. Truly, if I were to pick on my interview partner, this blog entry would be MUCH longer. I suppose I’m just fascinated at the range of the human behaviour.

And so continues my covert study of the average person in average conditions. Don’t tell anyone though. If word gets out that I’m not really working for the company, but in spite of it, then all hell could break loose.

Of course, that would also be interesting to watch…

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Spidey-senses are tingling

Despite the release of the latest installment in the Spiderman series, I’m not talking about the movie, but rather about what it represents. Real life.

It’s true. While almost all of us are free from the burden of slinging webs to keep the balance of good and evil, we are all subject to the perils that the lowly Peter Parker goes through.

Go with the crowd or be yourself? Save a kid who is about to be crushed by a collapsing building or write an exam?

Oh, the endless decisions needed to be made.

Yes, aside from the obvious unique qualities held by superheroes – we all go through similar issues and we all have those instincts.

And that’s what all this blather is about. You say intuition, I say spidey-senses.

There’s a guy that was hired about a month ago on a contract position. He seemed like a quiet and diligent worker. I rarely spoke to him, but did make the occasional effort. During one of my attempts, we discovered that not only did we go to the same highschool, but also he was there the same time as me. He even knew my brother. Apparently, my brother isn’t surprised that he is known – I believe he even used the word “infamous”. Huh. Uh, yeah.

When we got over the completely small world deal, we went back to barely talking. Then I began to notice something. More and more this person, who I will refer to as the new guy, began to figuratively let his hair down.

And by letting his hair down I mean flipping out on pieces of equipment that didn’t do what he wanted and bad-mouthing another co-worker. Huh.

Call me crazy, no wait, call him crazy but if you are on contract and are applying to be hired full-time – the term “best behaviour” comes to mind. Once again, to clarify what I mean by best behaviour, I mean not doing things like taking ten smoke/coffee breaks a day and walking around like you run the place.

Pheesh, me and my old school mentality.

Now I’m sure many would be happy to point out that on more than one occasion I’ve let out a grumble about work. I’ve even slammed some of my co-workers (but only once or twice).

I also subscribe to the principle that I can say what I want about my friends/ family/ co-workers, but don’t you (someone not in those categories) dare do the same. I have been known to defend friends or family members for things that I know they likely did, but I just didn’t like the fact that it was someone else saying it.

The new guy reminds me a lot of a guy I dated for a brief time during high school. (Of course, other than my husband, I have never dated anyone for a long time, but that’s irrelevant.)

This one guy was prone to extreme mood swings and outrageous outbursts. It started off badly, with him telling me he loved me… the very first night we went out…in front of all his friends who stood there in complete awkward-ity…and this was only after knowing him for about a week.

I had a strange feeling in my gut, which now I can easily identify, but back then I thought it was only nerves and the large popcorn from the movie.

The clencher was standing by and watching him totally and completely freak out on his mother and sister, cursing and swearing, as I could never imagine. I remember thinking that if this guy is capable of saying shit like that to his family over sharing the television, what would he say to me if we got into a real argument (and you know that with me, at some point, there will be one).

Again – my brain was a-buzzing that there was something wrong with this. And there was something definitely wrong with him.

And this is why my spidey-senses are tingling now.

I’m getting the same vibe from the new guy. He’s morphing too much, too quickly. He’s feeling way too comfortable and confident in the way he slams things and people down.

I'm not the only one to notice this. Others, who typically don't raise an eyebrow at men behaving badly, have noticed that this he seems off. The term "postal-potential" has been mentioned.

Use whichever cliché works best for you, but me thinks the guy is a ticking time bomb and I’m not sure how much time is left on the clock.

...T-minus 10 and I’m off to practice my defensive web-slinging.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Jealousy.

I have a wide range of feelings that I have access to, but one that I rarely pull out is jealously.

I do toy with envy sometimes, as in being envious of people who can pull off certain styles or envious of my kids complete trust in others.

So when I feel jealous - I know it's serious.

I just finished reading a book that I first read in high school. Like many things from high school - I didn't truly appreciate it. Things like why my mother couldn't stay awake past 10:00pm - I COMPLETELY understand now. Like how savings don't remain savings forever. Like the ability to go out Friday night, work all day Saturday and still have more than enough motivation and energy to go out Saturday, topped off with homework on Sunday. You just don't realize how easily lost those things are.

So, back to the book. To Kill a Mockingbird.

As I mentioned, I just finished it and was happy and then completely pissed off. I am jealous - yes jealous - that I didn't write this story. I'm not exactly sure what it is, but the story, how it's told, and the message - I loved everything.

There are many books that I've read and forgotten. Some I've read and will always remember for good or for bad. Some that I will read over and over again because I enjoy the story. And then one's like Mockingbird that make me wish that it was mine. That's how much I like it. maybe not enough to name my daughter Scout (hello Demi?), but I wanted that story to have come out of my head.

I've had this feeling before in other areas. Like music. I jealously wish that it was me playing the piano when I listen to Tori Amos (even though I can only play that one that has two parts - that virtually anyone can learn in ten mintues). I've always wanted to learn, but never have. So I'm left being a wannabe.

It's even happened with speaking. Listening to someone like Rick Mercer intelligently rant on - both making me laugh and think. He's brillant and I'm jealous. I so want to be him. Well, we both like men!

I am working on drawing inspiration from the things and people that I covet. I think that perhaps I will some day come out with a good story, some day learn to play the piano, and some day become a witty gay man.

That's a way off though.

I still have to wait for my jealously to rippen from that greenish shade.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Waste management

I don't think that parent-teacher interviews will ever lose their strangeness to me.

There is something inherently humbling about sitting across the desk from a teacher, even if you aren't the student. It completely brings you back to grade school mentality (for those of us that actually moved on from it).

For some reason I've always felt like teachers just knew. They just knew that you did your project at the last minute. They just knew you passed notes. They just knew that you didn't know the answer to question #6, which is exactly why they ask you it.

So tonight, I thought for a second - this teacher just knows that I bailed early from work. They just know that I skipped out for no valid reason, other than I felt compelled to. So while they were saying, "she's doing very well", they were thinking, "if this kid has her mother's work ethic, she's in for it".

Of course, the teacher didn't know and, if they did, couldn't give a crap. They would probably envy me for my short time off....if they didn't have a PD tomorrow... and three months vacation on the horizon.

Yeah.

And speaking of education. Today's work topic was reducing waste. We had a training session on how to optimize the business and workplace. Good ideas. Not terribly sexy and exciting, but important nonetheless.

So we did these break-out brainstorming sessions on what type of waste we have at our site. I was at a loss for ideas when I was told that like Scrabble, no personal names could be used.

You want waste reduction and cost containment - there's about 195 lbs and $70,0000 worth sitting at in a hard-walled office down the way.

Talk about a one tonne challenge! I could suggest a whole lot of waste removal..where's the company phone list?

Unfortunately this type of suggestion wasn't what the session had in mind.

Like a good student, I paid attention to the session. I participated. I behaved, most of the time. And like all good students - I was rewarded.

Granted it was self-rewarding, but I just knew that I deserved it.

Monday, March 26, 2007

It's in your head

Warning: this post has the potential to offend people who get real migraines – I am not talking about you, I’m talking about The Others

I’ve already decided that at my next job, I’m going to have a condition called Migraines. This terrible affliction comes out of nowhere and forces, yes forces you to stay home. They rarely occur on the weekend, unless there is a scheduled event that you don’t want to attend (or you feel you aren’t receiving enough attention), and almost always happen in the morning.

I know people that get real migraines – I’ve seen what they look like and I feel their pain. They know what triggers their headaches and do their best to avoid them.

I also know other people who suffer from what they call migraines. I’m not a doctor, nor do I profess to have superior medical knowledge; however, I believe the following:

- a headache is not a migraine
- being tired is not a migraine
- feeling stressed out is not a migraine
- not wanting to go to work is not a migraine
- being pissed off at someone and looking for a way to use some emotional blackmail is not a migraine
- wanting to go home early from work is not a migraine
- overeating, particularly crappy food, and feeling bloated is not a migraine
- being hung-over is not a migraine
- needing attention is not a migraine
- walking around and telling everyone that you have a migraine is not a migraine

In a world of too-much information, we have the ability to self-diagnosis just about everything from mental disorders to physical ailments. Type in “ache in head” and suddenly people are looking to book a MRI.

Why?

Is it that it’s embarrassing to admit that you might actually just have a plain old headache? Or is that in this day of terrible viruses and diseases, it’s unbelievable that what you are feeling is normal and uneventful. Or are people just so out of touch with their bodies that they have to rely on others to tell them what they are feeling.

Then, there are some who cannot accept that what they are feeling is common. They must be different. They never get sick, except about 6 times a year. They never get headaches, except for those nasty migraines that hit them right before a long-weekend. They never get injured, but cannot exercise because of a bad back and a weak knee.

They are walking contradictions – I’m the picture of health, but only if you squint your eyes and tilt your head to the side.

And I’m thinking that maybe I should join the ranks.

Maybe I should label every out-of-sort feeling I have as a migraine. After all – they come on suddenly, no one can prove otherwise, and I don’t have to have any other symptoms or signs – just my word.

I would do this, but quite honestly just thinking of the logistics gives me a headache.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Sigh.

I’m teaching E how to play chess and he has picked up the concepts very quickly.

He takes a long time to think about his moves, which is a good thing in chess (not so much when it comes to picking out a gum flavour at the store).

During the game last night, he spent more than a few minutes studying the board and double-checking with me how each piece can maneuver.

Finally, he looked up and asked why the King is the most important piece when all of the other pieces do the fighting, moving, and sacrificing (his new word of the week). He added, the King doesn’t really do anything – it can only move one space at a time and without protection it will get killed. So, how come it’s the most important?

(Silence)

I debated how to answer this one since six seems awfully young to be jaded.
I told him that’s just how the game goes.

He’ll find out soon enough that it’s also how life can be.

Especially in the work world.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Survey says....

I’m a bit at a loss of what to chat about, but still feel the need to say something.
Generally, I’m okay with comfortable silences – particularly during car rides, but the sight of a blank page is somewhat disheartening.

Okay, I’ll blurb about work.

Yesterday we sent out (yet another) survey to our group to help our grassroots Associate Engagement team find out, more specifically, where people are hung up and what we should invest time into.

Sending out a survey is easy. Coming up with questions that will get you information you can use and that won’t turn people away is much harder. We drafted up some preliminary questions – I posted them in a common forum so that the group could review them (which incidentally, no one did and this completely pissed me off because it totally wasted meeting time – WHICH happens to be one of the group’s beefs…ineffective meetings).

Deep breath.

So, after hashing and re-hashing we finalized the questions and sent them out. Predictably, a few people that grumbled and even one (ole hatchetface herself) refused to do it since the questions were stupid and the whole exercise is pointless.

I should take a second to point out that she is leaving our fine organization in exactly 7 working days. So forgive me if I am uncharacteristically anti-HR and say – who gives a flying f&ck what you think.

The amount of time these people spend actually arguing against the process would have been better spent filling in the damn survey or attending a meeting to share their infinite wisdom about the workplace.

Anyhoo…the survey is out and now we wait. And wait. And wait.

I hope that most people will fill it in. We did it through a web-based site which allowed “confidentiality” to those people who feel they cannot stand behind their ideas. We left plenty of space for comments so those who like to write excessively long missives that drone on and on (and use only commas as punctuation) can add their thoughts.

It should be interesting to see whether people are just so freakin’ fed up with the process that they will just fill it in with average readings to keep it balanced or whether they will actually put some thought into it.

The million-dollar question is whether the results will tell us enough for us to develop sound recommendations.

Then the billion dollar questions will be whether our sound recommendations are accepted and followed through by those in power.

It should be interesting since I know that most of the complaints and areas for change center on the fact that those in power are not doing their jobs. So how much hope can you hold out that people who aren’t doing their job are going to do something about the fact that they are not doing their job.

A hundred people were surveyed and the Top ten answers are on the board. Describe the response of associates when asked what the likelihood of management admitting that they are f&cking up and agree to change their ways.

10. Not likely
9. When Hell freezes over
8. Ha!
7. Yeah right
6. Are you on crack?
5. You’ve got to be kidding me
4. I don’t see that happening
3. Never
2. (snickering)
1. (silence and eye-rolling)

There you have it.

I’ll keep you posted in the real responses.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Give me an "E" !!

Do you here the drums?

It’s the beat of our new bandwagon. It’s called employee engagement and it’s coming to our company.

There are two major schools of thought on this and it can be broken down to managers (“we don’t have time for this crap”) and non-managers (“yeah, we could use with some improvements around here”).

The sad thing is that the whole concept is so misunderstood. Employee engagement doesn’t mean getting more money, it doesn’t mean getting a pinball machine in the lunchroom, and it certainly doesn’t mean that you are going to love every single minute that you spend in this place. Alas, many do think this and have set their standards at this level – they are doomed.

Realistically, making a couple of easy changes might get things going, but when the dust settles – you are left in the same position.

To me, it’s more about removing obstacles than motivating me. Remove the obstacle of managers that are unable to make a timely decision, remove the barrier of the “us and them” mentality when it comes to communication, and get rid of the “we believe in development – but only in theory”.

When the sign up sheet for the road trip to betterment went up, I could have predicted the names that would go up. Of course, mine was there. I’m of the mind that I shouldn’t complain unless I’m prepared to do something about it– and man, I like to complain.

Where is this going to go? I’m not sure, but if the increasing number of articles in newspapers and business magazines are any indication – this is a growing area of interest. I knew that our company isn’t unique with respect to this issue, but when three people bring in the same article to post on the bulletin board – you realize that it’s on many people’s mind.

As predictable as the sign up sheet scenario, was the lack of manager visibility.

It might not be fair to say that they are in hiding. However, they are.

It might not be fair to say that most of the responsibility falls on them. However, it does.

It is, however, completely fair to say that without their buy-in, nothing is going to change.

Way back when, someone had the brain-iac idea that women should be allowed to vote. Of course, this was a bad idea since things have only spiraled downward from that point. Child labour laws, pay equity, equal opportunity employment…were all evil ideas spawned from the fact that people wanted more.

Perhaps it’s unreasonable to expect more than a paycheque for doing a job. Perhaps it’s selfish for me to expect that the place that I spend the bulk of my waking hours be healthy and stimulating.
Perhaps.

However, the drums that I hear are beating out a different message. It’s hard to tell whether it’s a incoming parade a call to battle – either way, I’m willing the join in.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Fun and games

I’m getting really sick of being at work and I’m also getting sick of my own griping and complaining about being at work. I don’t just mean the “I want a new job” complaint, I mean the “I’m bored” kind of whining.

As always, I come to a point when I realize that I need to either do something or shut the hell up. I’m not likely to stop talking, so I have been thinking about how I can make the workplace more enjoyable.

Let me clarify that I mean something beyond thinking positively because honestly, if positive thoughts were that powerful, I would have a lot less issues…since they would have all been canned!

So, thinking back to when I was a kid (and even what I tell my own kids) when they are bored – I use to make up or play games to pass the time. However, after going through my repertoire of childhood games and realized that we’re already playing them here.

6 Games that are played at my work

1. Hide-and-seek: I like this one. I have a few good hiding spots that I like to hole away in and get some alone time. Unfortunately, others have figured them out and can find me easily. Still though, this is one game worth pursuing – an organized, albeit covert, game of hide-and-seek with a few people in the group.

2. Telephone: This is the one where one person comes up with a sentence and then whispers it to their neighbour. This neighbour then whispers to his neighbour and so on and so on.. until you get to the end and the last person has to repeat what was said. By the time it makes it to the end, the message is so bastardized that it’s hardly recognizable. At work, this is called the rumour mill. I need not implement this one – it’s a thriving activity.

3. Tag: This is euphemistically called “delegating”. I’ve always hated tag. I suppose the sub-categories would be fit too – frozen tag is what they play in the government building (right, bro?).

4. Musical chairs: this is something we play whenever someone schedules a meeting or info-session in a room where there are more people than chairs. Although there is no music, it’s a bit of a race to see who will get to sit and who has to remain standing. Unfortunately, the people left standing still have to stay in the meeting – they can’t just leave. And there’s no prize for being the last one with a chair.

5. Hopscotch: This game can be played with only a few people here. It involves throwing out a comment at the appropriate place and time and then tiptoeing around certain subjects. Failure to do so will result in being nagged, criticized, and lectured on why you need to do things a certain why, in a certain order. The justification is always the same: “Because we’ve always done it that way”. It becomes more challenging as you move to higher numbers because there are other people’s rocks in the way.

6. What time is it Mister Wolf: This is a tricky one. It’s the one where you ask your supervisor/ boss when something needs to be done and he constantly changes the answer. For example:
“When do they need this report, Mr. Wolf?”
“Sometime next week:
“When do they need this report, Mr. Wolf?”
“By the end of this week”
“When do they need this report, Mr. Wolf?”
“This afternoon”

So, technically speaking, if I am looking for fun and games – it’s all right here, I need not look any further…well at least the games part.

I’m going to have to work on the fun part.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Woe is me...

How to be a modern day martyr in five easy steps

1. Do helpful things with no other thought other than “how good this will make me look”.

2. Tell anyone and everyone, at every possible opportunity, about what it is that you are doing. If you realize that you are doing exactly what you are complaining about, such as being unappreciative of others, be oblivious and continue with the sob story.

3. Choose desired word and repeat frequently: “I am so tired/ exhausted/ worn out”. Looking like shit provides that extra bit of plausibility.

4. Practice turning every conversation back to you and the things you are suffering through - extraneous details and embellishments are recommended.

5. Body language is very important: sighing, rolling eyes, slumping shoulders, shuffling feet are good at conveying your message. Conversely, standing tall – as if you are about to be burned at the stake for the world’s injustices – is also effective

I was going to suggest that we make February “Martyr Recognition Month”, but then realized that if they received the recognition they so dearly deserve – they would no longer have a purpose.

Crap, I better call Hallmark back.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Standards

Is it a bad thing when you start to have high expectations or higher standards? Is it a sign that your taste is improving or is it a warning that perhaps your vision is being narrowed?

I’ve been hemming and hawing over this after a book discussion gone bad – the book was pretty much forgotten and we were debating whether Tim’s puts MSG in their coffee (I still say no) and soon we were talking about the quality of the hotel room we were sitting in.

First off, no we don’t typically have our book meetings in a hotel room. Seven women, one bed, and a bottle of wine…book club is not the first thing to come to mind. One of the (founding) members, who had the audacity to move to Halifax, was back in town for a few days and we took advantage of this.

So, back to my original train of thought.

We were discussing how we’ve become accustom to a certain standard of rooms and level of service. This was somewhat of a surprise to those in the group that have done a lot of traveling, staying in less than ideal hostels. At the time, these places were great and served their purpose. They were, by no means, third world conditions but the certainly didn’t leave a chocolate on your pillow each morning.

And this line of thinking is not limited to accommodations – it’s how we travel, what we eat, the service at the store, the quality of clothes we buy. When did this happen? When did we become “snobs”, as we jokingly referred to it.

Lately I’ve found myself actually passing on things because it’s not what I’m use it. Simple example – chocolate. Never in a million years did I think I would ever pass on a piece of chocolate, but honestly if it’s not dark (and preferably 70% cocoa) then I’m not likely to have it. I feel sheepish just writing that, but it’s true. I’ve become a chocolate snob..uh..I mean connoisseur.

It use to be that I would be happy with having mediocre or average value most of the time, and splurge once in awhile for something higher quality. Now, I’m not really interested in the average and will go without until I can have the good stuff.

Now, compared to some, what I consider high quality is shabby. Then, to others, what I consider average is higher quality to others. So, what is it that makes us move from one level to another?

When we began out book meetings, many of the group lived in one-bedroom or even one room apartments and we thought nothing of sitting on the floor. So, it was rather funny that a few years later we find ourselves commenting on how are going to manage the group of us in a decent sized hotel room.

Of course, this was only a fleeting issue. We overcame our reservations in a flash, threw some pillows on the floor and cozied up to talk about the book. The size of the room had no effect on our talk – we still yayed or nayed it, we still questioned the premise, we still agreed that the book could have been about 80 pages shorter (particularly with regards to a certain…um…mano y mano scene).

Fortunately, for us, good conversation and friends are not something that you can improve on. Our standards and expectations are likely to remain constant.

The space may have been smaller, but it was more than enough room.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Check mate

I like playing to occasional game of chess. I’m okay at it and use absolutely no kind of formal strategy. It actually amazes me that there are defined plays and moves for the game. If you know the moves and see that your opponent is using a particular one – then you know what’s coming, right?

So, I’m a bit more of a maverick player. I look at my next one or two moves and hope like hell that my opponent doesn’t read it on my face.

I’m trying the same idea here at work. I’m through moving my pawns one space at a time and put them out there, not really caring whether they get pegged off on not. I’ve decided to start using the “important” pieces, the ones that make you cringe if they are lost.

The knight (the horsie) is a weird piece because you just never know what the player is up to when they use it – they can go this way or that. You would assume that there is an attack planned, but you just can’t tell…

I’ve set up a meeting with Mr. Starfish to discuss my future in my job. I’ve termed it “reverse” development since they ask us to lay out plans for what we want to do over the year for development, but I want to know what he sees me doing for the next year, two years, and even further.

I know this will throw him since a) I avoid talking to him one-on-one and b) he probably hasn’t even considered my future. I’ve given him a day’s notice so that he can have time to ruminate and write a six page email about it.

I think he will come up with nothing. He will double-talk me to tears and I will leave with no answer.

And that, believe it or not, is my plan.

I want to then be able to go one higher than him and say, look – I talked to Patrick and asked him this burning question and he had nothing to encourage me.

I’m not sure where it will go from there (remember, I only really look at one or two moves ahead), but I will reassess my plans when I get to that point. I’m not concerned that Patrick will figure out my game plan…I’m sitting waiting for him to realize that it’s 2007.

I suspect that I will get somewhat of a similar response since my boss appears to be cloned from his boss, except without the fat-blocking gene. Then, do I go to another level or do I just sit back and see what happens.

I do know that one point I will get tired of tiptoeing and the Queen will come out - then its game on. It may be primitive as far as strategies go, but it can still be effective.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

House of Mirrors

One of the weirdest attractions at local fairs is the House of Mirrors. Standing outside it looks so completely easy that you don’t even want to waste your time (and coupons) on it. You stand there and watch a bunch of people bump into walls that are obvious (to you), but apparently not to the people inside. Where’s the challenge – isn’t it common sense?

Invariably one of the kids wants to go through and so you do. Once inside it starts okay, but then you get a bit over-confident and start speeding up and not really paying attention to where you’re going. Suddenly your face is pressed up against a window and you feel like a loser. And it’s likely that the people standing outside watching are thinking the same thing.

I’ve come to realize that raising my kids is like being in the same mirror maze. You would think it’s based on common sense, but suddenly wham! there’s something you didn’t expect. Whether it’s an inexplicable meltdown, a sudden change in mood, yet another food aversion, or just too-much-energy to deal with on a Monday night…it all feels the same.

The funny thing about mirrors though is that they reflect. When you are wandering in the maze, it’s not only frustrating to get stuck, but also having the joy of seeing your confused face from fifteen different angles.

There may not be a group of strangers watching me fumble my way through things at home and our outings are generally pretty calm - so, I do have some protection there. However, I do have two dynamic mirrors that not only show me what I’m doing (by doing the same thing), but also by showing me how my response looks.

In my arsenal of mom weapons is The Look. Although I try to reserve this for good, it can slip out when I’m tired, exasperated, or at my wit’s end.

I know it is effective because it generally stops the offender in their tracks – this is good when they are about to do something that will rank high on my What Not To Do List. It’s rather humbling though when you see someone’s shoulders and face drop when The Look is misused.

With great power comes great responsibility. (Who new that Uncle Ben was such a wise man?)

Mirrors show you a lot about yourself and it’s not all pretty - like those horrid dressing room mirrors with the crappy lighting that make you look lumpy and pale. However, you’ve got to look past the toothpaste spots or, if you have a young girl in the hosue, lip gloss lip marks.

It might be more important to focus on what your eyes might be saying than whether your crow’s feet have deepened. How about the clenched jaw? Or the creased forehead? Your make-up may be flawless, but that means squat if you look like you’re about to rip someone a new one.

I’m not suggesting smashing your mirrors any more than I would suggest losing the House of Mirrors at the Fair. Seven years of bad luck aside, mirrors serve a purpose: they let you take a quick check on what things look like.

I do my best not to see myself in my kids – they are their own people, with their own idiosyncrasies and quirks. However, I can see is me reflected on my kids – how my actions and words look and sound.

Here are my keys to navigating through the damn House of Mirrors (which is a loosely veiled analogy for parenting):
- take your time
- keep your head up and use your hands so you don’t smack your face into anything
- don’t follow others, they may not know where they are going
- don’t worry about the people outside who may be watching
- it’s not a bad thing to check what you look like in the mirror (once in awhile) – you might be surprised by what your facing is saying

With all this in mind, next time we hit the Fair, I will give the House of Mirrors the respect it deserves – it’s not so easy and it certainly can be a challenge. Of course, there’s still a chance of looking like a dork.