No shame

Okay, this is another grizzle about work, just for the record.

I got out of the engagement committee about six weeks ago for reasons I explained at the time. It’s gone through a rocky patch since but has started to steady. The key guy on it has close links to me and is now running with some of the big-ticket proposals I put forward at the time – namely a proper rewards and recognition program, plus a wellness program. That’s basically my IP and so he comes to me often seeking guidance on it and general info – though, naturally, it’s being obstructed at a management level.

As each week goes by another engagement initiative is either announced or is seen as an obvious need. All of these, bar just one, are things I proposed back then and documented. At the time they were held up by office politics or personalities or the general disorganisation of the committee. I’m glad to see these things happening, but it twists the knife a tad.

This follows on from the creation of a new function on the floor which I first submitted as a proposal around the middle of last year. Back then it was ignored, or else I was told it was too advanced for this place. Somehow it got resurrected a few months back. Whether it was because of their good graces, or because they were scrambling, but at least this time they contacted me to get a copy of my original and very detailed proposal. That was the only reference to me – I wasn’t involved with or consulted regarding the set-up, or acknowledged in any other way. As it happens they’ve implemented it in a half-arsed fashion, always the way here, as if lacking the resolve to take the final step to do it properly. It’s a nice idea, and better than nothing, but lacks the metrics and reporting that was such an integral part of the initial proposal.

Now an email has popped up in my inbox advertising for a new role almost exactly as that I put forward around the same time last year. It’s an overarching role that should tie-in with the function I proposed as above while taking on additional responsibilities and being a conduit to related areas. Once more this was subject of a detailed briefing paper. It seems like it’s been adopted 15 months later, even down to the job title, but of course, it came as a complete surprise to me when I saw it.

I wonder if I’m entitled to be put out by all this. It feels a bit petulant. And, if I’m honest, I’m glad to see my ideas being adopted. What pisses me off is that after being basically pooh-poohed initially (for pretty spurious reasons), my ideas finally see the light of day but without any reference to me, without any input, and certainly without acknowledgement. As one of my colleagues said, pretty de-motivating.

I’d cop it easier if I was being properly paid. It wouldn’t matter so much, it would just be the product of my job. Here I am though, paid a pittance, on top of which they have the temerity to pinch my IP.

PS A day later and I feel a little embarrassed by this. Everything I wrote is legit, except it amounts to a mighty grizzle. It’s done now and I should be above feeling sorry for myself, and my ego has no business getting involved. Easier said than done, but time I attended to what I wrote the other day: just be.


Kindness and grace

The girls from the shop want to take me out for dinner – that is, the girls from the massage shop I sold out of four years ago. It was such an intense period of my life that it comes as a surprise that it was so long ago. Most of the girls from then have dispersed since, and many of them are back home in Thailand now. There’s a few still here though, and they’re the people I was closest to back then. I don’t see them a lot, but I probably catch up with them 2-3 times a year – which is surprising in itself given the time passed, and very gratifying.

This is what I know about Thais. They’re loyal and hard-working. The best of them are reliable and will bend over backwards to help. They’re famous for being gracious and friendly, but they’re also honest and uncomplaining. There’s no way I could have survived my time as a massage shop proprietor except with the active support of my staff, and the fact I got out of it by the skin of my teeth is thanks to their efforts. I’ll always be grateful to them, which is why I can’t do enough to help them when they need it.

That’s the other side of the Thai character. They want to shout me dinner because I’ve helped them out with this or that over the last year and they want to do the right thing and acknowledge it.

In my mind, there’s no need for it, but it’s gracious of me to accept it, so I do. Unfortunately, they have a tendency to contact me in the morning wanting to go out in the evening. That would work for me a lot easier when I was younger. These days I want more notice, particularly because of Rigby.

Right now I don’t know if I’m going out for dinner tonight or not. Whether it’s tonight or another time I look forward to seeing them again. In the toughest of times, they were people I could rely upon and were a rare friendly presence in my life. When I look back at that period of my life seems incredibly hard, and very grim. I don’t know how I survived it but know I wouldn’t have without the small acts of kindness and support from my friends and the girls in the shop.

Ups and downs

So, I get into work tomorrow determined to let things go and, of course, two things happen.

First one is someone does something inappropriate which basically threw me under the bus. It was recognised as being wrong and management scrambled to rectify the situation, but a lot of the damage couldn’t be undone. Safe to say I had steam coming out of my ears.

Then later in the day I have a meeting with the enigmatic digital manager, the guy ultimately responsible for the project I’m managing. We meet downstairs in a café and talk confidentially. Probably as I’m writing this (8.47am) he’s presenting to the board a strategy he wants them to opt for. It’ a departure from the present steady as she goes philosophy and is contentious with many. It accords with both my assessment of the business and my general philosophy. The things we do should be determined by an overarching strategy and be part of a roadmap in which one things leads onto another. Momentum is built that way and economies of scale achieved.

For this business it’s quite a bold strategy and there’s no certainty it will be adopted. If it is there will be a whole raft of related projects and BAU activities, and he wants me to be responsible for a great slew of the operational components of that. I would basically become a channel manager, which would suit me fine and satisfy much that I need. It changes the conversation from the other day – maybe there is hope here, and maybe I can move on.

The other side of it is if his proposal is not adopted. In that case he reckons there’ll be no place here for him and he’ll move on, and it’ll probably be the same for me It’s all a gamble.

What do I think? I know this place. They’ll aim for a safe compromise solution that satisfies no-one. It’ll blow up to the point they need to make a cal. Which call I don’t know – there’s a lot of politics involved.

The dying parrot

I’m still working hard, but it’s been a struggle the last few days. Normally I’m full of man juice, but it’s been on the wane since I got the news. I’m still at work but I feel a little like the man having caught out his partner cheating on him and persuaded to not do anything drastic, discovers the feeling has gone, the magic has fled, it is, as Monty Python would say, a dead parrot.

There’s no love in me after this. I’m a wholehearted character and I take pride in that. I invest heavily. I put my shoulder into everything I do. I’m self-motivated and enterprising, but I feel now as if I’m going through the motions.

I still haven’t been told why I missed on the job, though it’s becoming clearer. The appointment was announced on Tuesday. The job went to a woman I know and who none of us considered a contender. She was never considered a contender because no-one believed she had the experience – certainly not the technical expertise, and though she has leadership experience, not project management experience either.

I felt both disgusted and relieved when I found out. The surprise was general. I quipped that I now understood why I missed out – clearly experience is unimportant.

I like her in a way, but I’m not as enamoured of her as some others are. She’s generally friendly, and generally gives off the impression of competence, but she has a better reputation with her seniors than she does with her juniors. Had this job gone through a recruiting agency she’d have been screened out in the first phase because of her lack of experience, but there’s the rub.

My offsider despises her. He thinks she’s a phony. As soon as I heard he said “there you go man, that’s why you didn’t get the job”. He reckons I was never a chance once she applied. I didn’t know this, but apparently her brother is on the board and whatever she applies for she gets. Others have since told me the same. If this is true then it’s pretty rude, but probably more common than you think.

I’m not going to think about that too much. It’s pretty scurrilous in the end, and not her fault. I wish her the best. I may have a nasty taste in my mouth, but if it comes to it I’ll support her any way I can.

If it comes to it. The last few days I’ve felt like I just want to give the whole thing away. That’s not sensible, but I feel poorly treated and generally disrespected. I wonder what I’m supposed to do after this, and as if no matter what I do it will come to naught here.

There was another example of that the other day just to rub salt into the weeping wound. About three months ago I attended a vendor presentation, then came back and wrote a high level proposal by email and sent it off to the head of Ops. I articulated clearly a few points which might have a significant impact if adopted. I got zero response.

On Tuesday I was called into a meeting where someone else was presenting exactly what I had proposed months ago. While my email had been ignored this guy had mentioned something in the last month and been encouraged to take it further. Again, I’ve got nothing against this fellow, he’s just doing his job – and he’s a lovely bloke too, if a bit of a duffer. What bit hard is that clearly my opinion counts for nothing. This was my idea, and right in my wheelhouse too – it’s what I do well. But I was disregarded.

It’s hard not to feel put out right now. I sat there last night thinking I’m close to being depressed. It’s funny, I’m very open minded and sensitive and considerate. If someone’s depressed I feel compassion for them. I want to be supportive. When it’s me there’s a residue left over by that masculine juice. I don’t deny it but it riles me. It probably goes back to my competitive instinct – I don’t like to be bested, even by something as insidious as depression. (This is something I have to address one day as it goes to the heart of who I am).

I’ve felt this way before and when I do there’s a moment when I choose to defy it. I won’t go into my shell. That moment came overnight and the response is classic for me. Be big, H, I tell myself. Be bigger, smarter, harder, be better than the situation, go hard in your work, show the world why you are who you claim to be.

The ironic thing is that it goes against what I wrote a couple of weeks ago about hoping to live smaller. I believe that still, but there’s comfort in reverting to old customs, and protection in it too. Choosing to live smaller takes a different type of courage, and makes you more vulnerable.

So I’ll be big again. I assume this role and the world looks upon it and sees someone striding ahead making wisecracks, with no insight into the man inside. It goes against what I want, but perhaps it’s necessary sometimes. So I’ll fake it until in a week or so I’ve made it again. Story of my life.

Time’s up?

Last Tuesday I had an interview for an internal job my experience made me near perfect for. I came away from the interview less confident than I should be. It felt as if they were going through the motions, a view supported by the fact that not one question was asked of my resume – which details previous roles similar to this one, in a range of different organisations. Of course I was itching to share, but could only allude to it.

Everyone told me I was a shoo-in. I’d learnt that there had been no other applicants from this area, which should have held me in good stead given the work will be done in this department. I left the interview being told I would be told the outcome by the end of the week.

Friday came and I was very cool about the whole thing. Experience is in this place is that though something is promised it often slips, so I wasn’t holding my breath. As the day went on without any news though I became more dubious. It was not pessimism. I knew that if they were making a decision then their first priority would be to inform the successful candidate, and the others after. Chances are I had missed out.

I was still in the office at 5.30 Friday. I was having dinner with Donna and was killing time. The department head wandered around on other business but spotting me, called me into a meeting room. What followed was a 27 second conversation in which I didn’t say a word, the basic gist of which was that I had been unsuccessful and he would catch up with me next week to explain.

I was unsurprised. I probably felt disappointment. I felt a kind of anger, but held back on it not knowing who had got the job, and not knowing the reasons why I missed out. By my reckoning there’s maybe one other candidate the equal to me, and then it would be stretching it. Her advantage is that she’s been here a long time and is very efficient. The other options were, to my knowledge, strong technically, but had shown no evidence of the project or change management skills necessary.

I went out, had a nice dinner and a long conversation with Donna, who has just returned from a month in Europe. We discussed my situation and I shared with her my suspicion: that I have been denied this because supposedly I was difficult to deal with.

This is something that has reared its head in the last 6 months, but with very little evidence to support this. In fact, the few times this has been alleged to me no actual circumstances have been cited. The fact is I am more than usually popular with the rank and file who see me as easy going and unpretentious.

If I have issues it is with select groups. My direct manager wants me to engage more with the team leaders. I don’t like them much as a group because they’re basically jumped up mediocrities with pretensions to competence. It’s not actually that which offends me, rather it’s the tyrannical abuse of the small amount of power they’ve been given. It sits very poorly with me observing someone like that stand over their staff either making unreasonable demands or ridiculing them. I deal with them, but I’m polite and well mannered – almost always a sign I don’t like someone.

Otherwise I’ve been told I ask ‘too many questions’ – my response to which is surely scrutiny is better applied to the person unable or unwilling to answer such questions, rather than the person asking them? To be clear, my questions are all about process or the job at hand: what about this? What’s happening with that? And if this happens, what happens then? It’s the way my mind works, but also my experience, always looking a few steps ahead to anticipate issues and outcomes. In my day it was a part of risk management, something that barely exists here. I’ve been uninvited from meanings because I ask too much, but projects go live and predictable issues arise when they may have been prevented. I suspect there is some resentment towards me then, as if I said I told you so (I don’t).

The only other thing I can think of is when I raised the issue of incorrect budgets and the legal risk that posed. That was a very unwelcome discovery and made me very unpopular, even though I was doing the right thing: exposing a flawed and dangerous process. I was threatened with being banned from sales for blowing the whistle. I’m sure there’s still a residue of bitterness to me regarding that.

The other thing I wonder is that because I’m smart, strong and confident if it puts some people on the back foot from the get go.

All these are suppositions, of course. I might be told of a very legitimate reason why I missed out. I’m prepared to accept that, but it has to be good. If this line gets trotted out about being hard to deal with then I’m going to demand the evidence of that. It’s time for them to put up or shut-up.

I was asked if I was angry over the weekend, as if everyone thought I was entitled to be. In response to one such question I said I felt ‘brutal’. Whatever I felt it was heavy and implacable. It felt as if it might roll along crushing anything in its way. It’s rare that I feel that spontaneous, spiky anger that I would occasionally when I was younger. I’m not volatile in that way. That sort of anger can be violent, but can also burn out quickly. If it’s anger I feel these days it’s much more measured, and it is defused by logic. That’s how it has been. I’ve applied my mind to the situation over the weekend and come to work Monday unhappy at what has happened, but at peace with it to.

What that means is that I still expect an explanation, and a good one – and if it’s note I may take it further. Otherwise I realise the writing is on the wall for me here. I told a colleague before that I missed out and he was astounded. He couldn’t believe anyone could have got it ahead of me. Then he said, probably means you’re done here. He’s probably right.

The merry go-round

I don’t want to talk about work, but so much is happening that I must.

I hopped along to the interview on Monday feeling a tad sour because I didn’t want to be there. I’m sure it showed for the first 15-20 minutes, but then I got interested, as predicted. The job sounded interesting and not as full on as I thought it would. It’s a big organisation too and – this counts for me – housed in a great piece of architecture. Somehow I had presumed that the guy interviewing me would be a stuffed shirt, but he turned out to be a younger than I expected, a personable, humble guy, clearly switched on and interested in my take on a lot of the challenges he’s encountering.

What he was particularly interested in was my consulting and stakeholder management experience, and how I managed to influence change in that capacity. That’s his challenge, but he has a team of technocrats good at the technical stuff but with no aptitude at selling it.

I walked away more enthused than I went into it and with an open mind. The money is good which makes a big difference. I doubt it will happen but should have an indication by end of week.

Then here at work I’m flat out, including having to present at an ‘expo’ showcasing all the developments coming through the business. There were a bunch of us in the room and me in the corner with my laptop doing my bit. I didn’t know about this until the Friday before, but given my name was on the banner clearly it was something organised prior to that.

I did my spiel feeling parched by the end of the session. ‘Customers’ came through at regular intervals an in big batches, like Chinese tourists infesting a souvenir shop from the tourist bus outside.

I returned from my stint and an hour or two later a job was advertised internally which had me cocking an eye at. Business Transformation Lead was the job title. Within a few minutes my phone was ringing. A mate on the other side of the building asked if that was my job. He seemed to think that’s effectively what I’m doing now and basically it was mine to be had. Then my offsider said just about the identical thing.

I was very curious about the mechanics of the whole thing. The job hadn’t been mooted to me, though I’d stood beside the Ops Manager at the expo. On top of that the job is very similar to that I espoused a few weeks back and had ultimately rejected. What did this mean now?

I wondered if I was being set-up for this. I’m in the good books right because of my work. It’ll pass, but just for the moment, there’s a decent crowd who think I’m some kind of wunderkinder thanks to my recent work. On top of that, there’s a good argument that I was asked to do the expo in order to expose me to a bigger crowd. The Sales Manager, who did a presentation of his own, whispered to me that this was a great opportunity. So maybe it wasn’t an accident.

I’ve had my fingers burnt before, so while I’m willing to believe that I’m a good show for this – perfect if my experience and CV count for anything, I don’t take anything for granted. I’ll put my name forward, but if I don’t get it I’d feel very pissed off – so pissed off I don’t think I could continue here.

No stomach for it now

Tomorrow morning at nine I have a coffee meeting with a CIO about another potential job at another iconic Australian organisation. When I got the call I said yes, naturally, I’m interested but, you know what? I’m not.

I go tomorrow with a degree of reluctance. It doesn’t sit right in my stomach and hasn’t for days. I suppose I could call it off now, but I’m not yet at that stage.

It doesn’t take much for me to figure this one out. On the surface of things, I’m in the market for a new job. I want a more challenging role and a better salary. I’d like to work in a more professional and supportive organisation. No arguments there. What I’ve come finally to accept is that I have no real appetite for the great responsibility I would once come to grasp with both hands. This has been an uncomfortable realisation.

Right from very early on I was an unconsciously driven man. It was rarely an overt thing with me. I didn’t proclaim it, I didn’t think about it much, and if you met me you’d probably come away thinking that yes, I was pretty switched on, but also pretty laid back.

It was an unconscious thing because I didn’t really know anything different. If I was to do something then, of course, I’d do it to the best of my ability. I was drawn to better and more challenging roles largely because they were more interesting, and why wouldn’t I want to do something more interesting? Then the perfectionist in me wouldn’t allow me to stand by and watch as things were done not so well so I’d step forward, put my hand up. All these were innate to my character but combined they propelled me onwards and upwards. It worked well because my ego fed off that. Never in my life did I refuse a challenge, which mostly I took as an opportunity to test myself. I relished this. It was like adrenalin to me.

When I returned to the workforce after my break I wondered if I would be the same. I was relieved to discover I’d lost none of my smarts, and the edge remained. In many fundamental aspects, I’m no different. I still strived, I still wanted more, I was still impatient to achieve.

A lot of things underneath had changed though. I still had the energy, the focus, even the fierce intent, but the passion had subsided. I always wanted to be ‘the man’ before. I always wanted to be number one. Number two meant there was someone ahead of me. This is the thing though. Like the job a few weeks back, the job I’m meeting about tomorrow is a full-on, high-profile, demanding position, the sort I’d have loved before, but which – I know now – I have no stomach for.

In a lot of ways, it’s a tough realisation. You carry on with attitudes out of habit sometimes, and when habit begins to wane you do it out of attitude. Like I said, I’ve never turned down a challenge in my life – what does it mean if I start doing it now? It felt wrong, even unmanly, just to consider it.

In my mind I understand it better, my id if you like – it’s the ego I have to overcome. But then its the ego I’m trying to overcome in many aspects because it’s time.

I’ve had a bunch of jobs pop up lately, including two on one day last week. I wonder why it’s happening now, but I expect little of it. I expect at some point tomorrow in my conversation I’ll be enticed by the prospect of taking the reins again. The imagination will get going conceiving of what I can do and my mind busy figuring out the how of it. In concert with my imagination, my ego will whisper in my ear. I’ll be tempted, I know that much, but right now I go there because I said I would, and because – as a salve to my ego – to prove I still can.

Assuming I survive tomorrow’s meeting I have to consider what this means for me. Some of the reasons I find roles like this less alluring now is the work/life balance, and the belief that I should be writing. That means I set my sights lower. I can still earn a perfectly good salary and do good, interesting work without putting myself on the line.

It’s funny I speak of the ego here for I’ve been contemplating a bold and uncomfortable act that will expose me to many. A few of us are having mini-profiles of us published in the office. One of the questions relates to revealing something of yourself which is true but which no-one would believe. Originally I wrote about how I memorised pi to 155 decimal places when I was a kid. That’s a typically glib response from me.

Somewhere along the line, I wondered if I should reveal I was homeless, but wonder if it’s inappropriate for such a forum and self-indulgent.

The thought of everyone looking at me and knowing that of me is very uncomfortable. At the same time, I want it behind me. I’ve found that revealing these things goes a long way towards defusing them. The bloke who sits next to me is very open about how he ended up at AA and I marvel at such casual candour. That ain’t me – never has been, never will. I need to be more open though as I so often repeat.

I know I think more than most people, and I think that leads to more feeling too. Contrary to outward appearances, I feel a lot. For most of my life, all of that has been contained within me. I’m trying to let it out, but it’s slow and awkward. I think maybe it needs something like this, something more dramatic not to break the container, but to put a crack in it at least.

I’m very much in a dilemma about this, but must have it figured out by lunchtime tomorrow.