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Saturday, 31 March 2007

"Tread carefully for you tread upon my means" with apologies to W. B. Yeats

I fought the law and the law won. Actually it was the Job Centre and we didn't fight it was more of a white flag of surrender by me.

After proving all my current worth, emptying out my wife's fine and large collection of threepenny bits ("Leave my fine threepenny bits out of it" Mrs Prize) on the Job Centre floor for counting, photocopying an additional 15 sheets of evidence that they wished to have, been fingerprinted and giving a DNA sample I have been told that I am not entitled to Job Seeker's allowance until mid June and then only for 15 seconds when it will be promptly withdrawn again until the year 3000. I might be exaggerating a tad here but I am getting nothing, rien, nada until July. And then I will have been unemployed 3 months and will have to undergo interrogation to find out why I am such a slacker and am not working picking soft fruits or something.

I understand. I am a reasonable man and there are many people in a lot worse position than me but why did I have to undergo all this to be told that? As I had been paid in lieu of notice then I was automatically excluded from the allowance until that period of notice was over. We might have waited until then, I feel, before the metaphorical strip search of our finances.

Anyway the Job Centre is full of very nice, friendly people and it is all pastel colours and none of the furniture is screwed down. You even have timed appointments for signing on, and very prompt it was too. Eighteen years ago, when I first signed on, I was given a signing on time of 0930 and turned up promptly the first time to find that 30 other people had exactly the same signing on time and we were held in a queue that Disney Land would of been proud of, snaking around the Job Centre. Some very enterprising new age travellers would always try to sell me mind altering substances whilst queuing and, whilst admiring their commercial initiative, always thought that there might be a more appropriate time to do this.

The Job Centre also has a fully interactive computer-based, touch-screen, job-search facility in nice soothing pastel colours again. I put in my criteria and searched the whole database including Europe. And got in return 'No jobs exist with that criteria. Would you like to be a sous chef?"

However, I could not apply for my mortgage protection policy until I became officially unemployed which I now am. The MPI form itself was 10 pages long and required a further 10 pages of supporting evidence and can you find a working photocopier when you no longer go to work, can you cocoa?

Now it is a simple sum. We have £x and it costs £y to live. That's why the outplacement scheme is so important.

Easy then.

Friday, 30 March 2007

"Take care to get what you like or you will be forced to like what you get". G B Shaw

I'm on an outplacement scheme for four months. Think of it as a sort of boot camp for unemployed, or soon to be unemployed, management. What they do is take you, shake you upside down and inside out and put you in a fit state to find a new job. They employ people that the SAS won't take because they are too rough.

It's both great and scary at the same time. Look, you've been in your last job for how long? 10 years? You know how to get things done, how to write reports and look your colleagues in the eye and stare them down. "Hah, Finance thought they could get away with that little trick did they, but they didn't know about form CD16 that needed authorisation from HQ. Won't try that again." And so on. You know how the internal recruitment process works and have followed it and know it well.

Now in the big, wide, uncaring world here's the thing. They neither know or care about form CD16. They want to know one thing and one thing only. What can you do for my company? What the outplacement team do in Room 101 is take you apart and make you fit for purpose which is simply to enable you to answer those questions in a CV and interview without mumbling, breaking into an embarrassing sweat or shouting for your mummy.

Take CVs. Well they took my CV and shredded it and said let's start again shall we? They can't put an earring in a pig's ear and make it look pretty but they can make your CV stand out from the other 600 that will have been sent in. You have to be reduced to tears and murderous thoughts during the process but we'll let that pass for the time being. They make you really concentrate on what you did, not your job description, and use the acronym of CAR. Challenge, Action, Result and not the usual CRUD which stands for Challenge, Retreat, Underperform, Delegate. They reduce your novella to a two-page, finely honed version of the F1-11 able to fly off a recruiter's desk shouting "Look at me" - like a Howler in Harry Potter books. Make no mistake this is serious. There is only one point to a CV and that is getting an interview. I'm now on version 238 and counting - but I've had two interviews in the last two weeks.

Once they have done this, then it's interview techniques but before that - the big one. What do you want to do, what do you like doing? Well, needless to say, the psychometric tests show that I've been in the wrong type of job most of my career (though I did point out timidly that I had done quite well really) and that what I should have been is...
a lumberjack, sleep all night and work all day.

Then you have to decide what to do with this information. Apply for every job in sight taking a shotgun approach hoping that someone, anyone, will employ you, or a more tactical approach and only apply for those that suit your values and that you reasonably believe you will enjoy.
At this point I have to apply the Tesco dilemma for debate - at the checkout with a cart full of shopping do you say "I hate my job but can pay for all of this" or 'I'm truly fulfilled in my career but can only pay 50% of the cost, why are you calling security?" Tricky isn't it?

I had a job a long time ago that I loathed but I needed the money. I'd rather work for an organisation that fits my values closely even if it means a compromise elsewhere (within reason of course, I don't want a job in the Antarctic.)

But it's like buying a house: there's what you want, what you will accept and what you buy. There really is no point in the short term, I think, in jumping for the first offer unless it's wonderful. Yes money is tight, holidays are cancelled this year and the future is very ambiguous at the moment. However you can do wonderful things with nettles and have you seen what Bear Grylls eats? I am sure we can reduce our weekly food bills by 75% by eating his recommended food stuffs. Raw scorpion anyone?

However I'm going off at a tangent. The outplacement is great, the team are very supportive and my CV can now jump buildings in a single bound. I feel confident that I can submit a well nuanced, grammatically correct, balanced two page document where the recruiter can go, at the interview stage "er, it's Ms Smith isn't it, and I see you have, er, a degree in fruit management and chicken basting, from (flicks over to second page), Orlando High?". Sigh.

But the interview itself. Now there's the rub.

Saturday, 24 March 2007

"Molford employer seeks full time person. Must be a person at all times and not sometimes be a pot plant, octopus or cloud". Framleyexaminer.com

"IT assistant required. We require a young enthusiastic assistant to look after the zoo's It. The It, a striking 13ft tall, seven eyed hairy creature oozing a foamy substance and moaning, has eaten the past three assistants and is now looking for a new friend." Framley Examiner

I am now unemployed. Not quite officially as I have not yet handed over an acceptable DNA sample or lodged one of my children with the JobCentre as a hostage in case I get a job and do not declare it to them within 5 secs. Since calling the JobCentre people (friendly and courteous) last Friday and having spent 1 hour on the phone to them with the pre-qualifying questions and then over an hour in the JobCentre on Tuesday proving that what I said on the phone was true, I still do not a.) know how much if anything, I'm entitled to and b.) when I'll get it. I'm quite well educated but this is not an easy process to understand so I now know how the Government keeps the unemployment statistics low. First you need a comprehensive filing system of all your personal finances that the British Library would be proud of and then the persistence of Jack Bauer in "24" to keep going to claim it. And not even Jack Bauer could complete this task in fewer than 5 days. They even wanted to know how much cash I had (really), and I half expected them to ask how many condoms I might be carrying in my wallet for the weekend plus the weight of fluff at the bottom of my wife's handbag in case it had some monetary value on the International Fluff Exchange market. Many people I have spoken to recently say they just do not bother claiming unemployment benefit as it is too intrusive into their personal life and that of their partners. Me, I say I've paid my taxes and Tesco do not mind where the money comes from to buy food. Well to a point. A Columbian drug baron may find their business politely rejected.

I am applying for jobs. Now. This minute. You would not believe the number of people I have met that have said words to the effect "You can take some time to chill out and have a rest." What? These people are mad and dangerous and should be avoided. I can do maths. I divide final payment into months survival and go "gulp". They, on the other hand, have never been unemployed, can't do maths or both. And think APR stands for And Purchase Right now.

Finding a new permanent job is like buying a house in my philosophy. What you want, what you will accept and what you finally get. We'll see. I can articulate exactly the sort of job I want, the people I'd like to work for and with and even the values that they live and work by. This organisation must exist somewhere, probably in rural Shropshire and is so good that it is kept deliberately secret so that they are not overwhelmed by job seekers wanting to work there.

Local job ads are a source of fun but not jobs. I've undertaken a variety of jobs in the past as a student -worked on a refuse truck, cleaned cars, delivered cars, washed plates at a large hotel, been a car park attendant, a bar worker and a sewer cleaner. Yes, I can say that, in my ode, "Composed on the ramparts of Raglan Sewers"
Earth has not anything to show more fair
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty and smelly.

I thought I might do some part time work (even though as a 40% tax payer this means that I'll have little left after deductions - but it might be more than the dole if only I knew what it came to. Which I don't.
I see from this week's local paper that I could be a Sous Chef (Native American cook?), part time bathroom fitter (DIY is an anathema to me, I have to read the instructions to put a new light bulb in), a "room attendant" (cleaner?) or, and I quote, "an additional client manager who can be just plain old experienced". So much for the age discrimination law then.
The ones that really intrigue me are the earn "OTE £1000 a week, call this premium rate number, car and nightstick needed" and particularly the jobs printed in dayglo colours tied to light posts at busy roundabouts that say "OTE £5000 per month (or other outrageous figure) own car and jar of vaseline required. Call Estonia 1234567."

Not that desperate. But don't you just want to call the number to find out what it involves?

Thursday, 15 March 2007

"I shouldn't have said that. I really should NOT have said that." Hagrid. Film version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Do you have an inner dialogue? I do. Especially before important meetings and it's almost always work related. I mean I don't have them if I go to the doctor's for example or at the checkout at Tesco. I like my conversation to be spontaneous and free flowing at that point. Or perhaps I'm too lazy.

I like to mentally prepare my potential conversation like a game of chess. My opening gambit, my feint and bluff, and then checkmate. I think 'I'll say this then they will reply with that point. I will counter that point, repudiate their accusation and refute their arguments. They will be left gasping with the skill of my finely honed logic and the devastating put-down of their puerile schemes. They surrender. I will win the day.'

Do you have an inner dialogue after meetings? I do. Usually along the lines of 'but they didn't counter my points as they should, where did that fact come from? why did they say that? why did my brain suddenly empty of all my arguments leaving me gasping like a fish out of water? they did not play fair, they would not listen, why did I say that? I cannot believe I said that. I am an abject loser.'

I'd rather face a clever opponent rather than a stupid one. At least with clever ones you know they will dissect you logically. You're dead but cleverly dead if that makes it better? Stupid ones do stupid things - you may end up badly wounded.

And so it was on the day of the redundancy itself. The signs were not good, several vultures hanging around the HQ building, a body bag outside the MD's office so that the corpse of my career could be taken to the local landfill site and, of course, the white sealed envelope on the MD's desk. Usual stuff, considered your skills very carefully blah, blah cod expression of regret ('Anything for this ex-employee, oops, to do?' they shout to their PA, 'No? Right off with him and sharpish.'). Then the letter. Remember this is my fourth time so far fewer nerves this time.

I won't bore you with the details but I'd been promised something in writing. I'd anticipated this and my inner dialogue was prepared. Well they say that no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy and they are so right. I transfixed him with my best stare (stare at the eyebrows I was very well advised) and started with some probing questions like 'This is your signature buddy and you wrote this, got you bang to rights.' He said they would not honour it, things had changed then got cross with me, I got cross in return and there was a fight in the playground.

And the winner is? Me, by a clear knockout but I had to use their own formal procedures and the law against them. Not quite the firm handshake, manly nod of the head and then riding off into the sunset and future as I'd hoped. Based on my own statistics clearly the probability of my going through a redundancy that is handled well is 16% and falling rapidly.

So any advice?
1. It is an unwritten rule to get everything in writing. Do so. Make notes of any meeting you have, dates, times who said what (and be truthful, don't enter the world of the inner dialogue). I guarantee that despite what is said to you then the other side will make notes whether it is claimed the conversation is off the record or with 'no prejudice". You don't have to show the notes to the other side at this stage but if you can get them witnessed shortly afterwards by a credible witness then even better. Then you can claim that your contemporaneous notes are more contemporaneous than their's.

2. If you think you are right stand your ground. Know the law, talk to the CAB and any other free source you can. Use the formal procedures against them and don't be tempted to skip them. If they have made a mistake then it's a procedural error which might mean breach of contract and that could cost them.

3. Do a cost benefit analysis. It is all well and good wanting the MD to crawl naked over broken glass whilst shouting out abject apologies for his most humble error of judgement and then carrying out ritual disembowelment if all you wanted was the terms of your contract applied correctly. Remember that Industrial Tribunals can sometimes rule perversely and there is a cost to all of this. Though more for them than you. Probably.

4. Try to leave on good terms. It's a small world and we don't want to slam any doors shut do we? Well yes in my case and if someone's face had made contact at the same time then all to the better. Though I dream of some of the ne'er do wells I've met in my career coming to me for an interview or to sign off a huge business deal and then seeing the horror on their face when they realise that I hold their future in their my hands.

A man can dream can't he?



Monday, 12 March 2007

"Waiting for Jobo" S Beckett (possibly)

There is a parallel universe. I know this to be true and it involves recruitment consultants.

They call you up and say "Would you be interested in, for example, 6 months consultancy work in San Francisco and name your price, the client I have is gagging for you".
Naturally you say "I'll be on the next aircraft and here's my first invoice".
They reply "Get back to you quickly, go and buy some sun tan cream".

And then silence. Absolute total silence.

This has happened to me in the last 10 days. I had a call a week ago. Same scenario as above. "Got a client in urgent need of some consultancy in a country a long way away, would you be available in April and a what price?"
"Yes" I reply "and I'm cheap".
Following day - "They like your CV we'll be back". And that was the last I heard
Now I've been around the block and I know about these sort of things and how it actually works but what's wrong with a quick email to say sorry but it's all off? 2 minutes work and you've acted like a professional.
Same with a potential job. "Yes they've got your CV and it all looks very positive, call you on Monday (last week)".
Hey, still here.

Consultants work in a different universe to a unique set of time frames measured in eons and not hours and days.

Hallo, anyone there?

Hallo? Anyone

Hallo?

Thursday, 8 March 2007

"Yesterday all my troubles were so far away". (Beatles)

Like a rabbit caught in the headlights of your (soon to be ex-company) car you are there in front of the suddenly revealed Albert Pierrepoint of the company. What started out as a day of meetings where nothing would ever be decided (and why are Sales always 11 minutes late for the start?) and, if something had been decided nobody was quite sure exactly what it was, the day has turned into something that you couldn't control.

It could be like this
The MD's PA calls; she is strangely distant. "Could you come to a meeting, yes right now please".
You bound into the MDs office full of fake bonhomie with your voice an octave lower than used at home so it sounds commanding and authoritative. Perhaps they've signed off the capex for the defluffaliser, the budget submission was cravenly too low, the request to fly to New York for a meeting has been agreed. The day is pregnant with possibilities. And you never saw it coming.

The first time.
I had no idea that anything was wrong. I had a call to the Sales Director's office, not unusual in itself but usually the precursor to a telling off for something. No pleasantries, no expressions of regret. A letter given to me rather brusquely. I remember the phrase distinctly - "you are surplus to requirements".
Surplus.
To requirements.
I don't remember much else about that meeting except the promise that any redeployment would mean the salary would be preserved. Withdrawn 24 hours later with no explanation or regrets.
The drive home was just a blur, in my new, large executive car of just 24 hours. To be honest I had to stop in a lay by for a while to compose myself. My wife asked me was I ill as I never came home early. I shared the news. Actually I blurted it out on the doorstep as I came into the house. Interest rates were at 12% and rising, we'd doubled the mortgage to move to the area within the last year and we had a six month old baby. They were to take my company car and my wife's car (I was entitled to a car for her as well). I had one month's notice. For 48 hours I could barely function it seemed.
And get this. I went into work the following day. I still can't believe I did this but I think it was basically denial. The truly amazing thing though is that being made redundant is like having it publicly announced you have a terminal and highly contagious disease. No one would talk to me properly, I was shunned at lunch time and no one would meet my eyes. Except of course for the others that had also had the news. We sat around like zombies, the living dead and a complete embarrassment to the company.

The second time
Now this was easier. The whole company was being closed (200 people) and it was announced 6 months in advance. Further more there was to be a bounty for those people who stayed to the end, statutory redundancy plus an ex-gratia payment, counseling and out-placement to help you find a new job. We were kept informed, spoken to as valued employees but, basically, there was to be a phased redundancy for all individuals so that the last person to leave would be the janitor as he locked the doors and turned off the lights.
The call came when I was in the car in Milton Keynes (and it's not been my favorite place since). MD's office tomorrow please. And it was the end but..the letter was handed to me gently, the position explained, thanks given, "can I help?". Still the same result but humane, respectful and strangely hopeful.

The third time
I saw this coming; well after it happening twice you begin to get a feel for the signs. In this case the MD stopped talking to me for several weeks beforehand and, you know, if the MD stops talking to you it's cause for concern. Over the last few months several others had also gone so it was likely.
Now by this time I had developed the stiff upper lip, the impeturbable you can't shake me attitude, I'll take it as it comes. However inside it isn't like that. There's a conflict between the "for goodness sake get it over with" and the "I'm really nervous, I know what unemployment is like, yes cleaning the toilets would be an acceptable alternative to being a member of the senior management team." At least you're dealing with the same sort of stuff during the day.
His PA committed a sin (and I'll always be grateful). She rang me the night before and told me that IT would happen the following day. I can't tell you how much that advance information helped. I was calm, collected and in control (see The first time for the exact opposite reaction). I could look him in the eyes, which is more than he could with me, and act with restraint and dignity (though if evil thoughts could kill then there would have no more than a small pile of cinders on the floor). And I left the office and I went home and I felt OK. I was in control.

The fourth time
With this sort of luck I'd expect lightening to be striking every time I left the house.
The signs.
The MD stopped talking to me several weeks beforehand.
Meetings were cancelled at short notice.
Projects that were considered mine were handed to others.
A regular trip to Europe was given to someone else.
A chalice full of a greenish steaming liquid was given to me by the MD who urged me to drink deeply and quickly.
We had one of our periodic meetings known to him as a 1-2-1 and to the rest of us as his opportunity to tell us personally how great and good he was whilst fiddling with his Blackberry. A general chat ensued, new owners, different ways of doing things, some jobs at risk.
And that was it. Letter handed to me. Job at risk and let us have a laugh at your pathetic attempts to justify why you should stay in the lifeboat. And I didn't care. Yes, very concerned at unemployment, finding a new job at 52 but when you get to the fourth time you realise that it is a problem that has to be solved. No one has died. Money will be short and it will be worrying but it will be solved.

What doesn't change though is the breaking of the emotional contract you have with an organisation. It is something that I have learned and that is, for me, a universal truth. The moment a company says it no longer wants you then you no longer want them. What was urgent and important no longer is. You begin to see the organisation for what it is and that is very uplifting. Like the story of the Emperor's new clothes the essential daftness of the organisation is revealed.

Technically I am still employed as I write this. The company suddenly realised last week that they had put themselves in a position where I could raise a grievance which might lead to an industrial tribunal. Industrial tribunals are usually heralded by the sounding of sonorous music as companies do not like These Sort Of Things and especially in this case as the MD would be hauled up in front of the Beak to explain his ineptitude. I had noted this but, oddly, decide not to point this out to them. Much underhand scheming has since taken place since, them not me, to avoid this which resulted in a stay of execution.

Tuesday 13 March - four years to the very day since the last redundancy.

Next - so what happens now? Starting to find a new job.

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

"When I opened your letter yesterday I could not believe it was true". Phil Collins

So the company you have worked for the last few years, and probably quite a lot longer, has decided that your dedication, long hours, days and weeks away from the family, stress levels of an RAF fighter pilot in a war zone, worry and countless writing of reports that are always ignored has decided that you are surplus to requirements.
And in many cases it's exactly like that as you end up feeling like an old filing cabinet. One day full of very important documents of new products, proposed new services and very important minutes of crucial meetings that you will use to forensically destroy Marketing's next proposal. The next day the shredder for the lot of it. How does it actually happen? What do they do? What can they do?
The law (in the UK).
A quick scamper to the USA. A friend there worked for a company for seven years. Came to the UK, went to Australia, had lots of strokey beard meetings about new services, worked directly for the CEO. 4 days notice and no severance pay. In the States they have an "at will" contract where either side can bail out.The UK at least has some safety net called a contract (hollow laugh) and redundancy pay (work out just how little they have to pay you). But more of that later.
You have a contract of employment right? Read it lately? Ever read it? It's this that is used to determine how you are "terminated" and it will be used in evidence m'lord.
Advice: look at this site run by the DTI http://www.dti.gov.uk/employment/employment-legislation/employment-guidance/
It tells you all you need to know about the law.

Yes but how does it happen? From the sublime to the ridiculous is the answer.
Here's some personal examples.
  • UK company closed down, everybody loses their job. MD takes personal interest in every member of staff (200), meets everyone on their last day, wishes them well, thanks them for their contribution and sends them off (and, mark this, his wife is dying of cancer during this process). Company arranges outplacement support, counselling, and a generous severance payment. This is a great company. I'm not making this up, "I was there" as Max Boyce used to say.
  • Restructure 1. Multinational company invites entire sales and marketing team to conference arena (500 people). CEO presents new structure with PowerPoint presentation and invites everyone to come forward and see their new jobs. If your name isn't on the slide, no job. This is an arrogant company and deserves to do very badly for many years, which it does actually. And that feels so good.
  • Restructure 2. Multinational company says nothing at all to staff. Monday morning staff arrive and find brown envelopes on their desks. Brown envelope equals no job. This is a stupid company and comes very close to closing its operation in the UK two years later. It still can't retain staff and probably still wonders why.
  • Restructure 3. UK company taken over by American organisation with delusions of international expansion. IT Director photographed next to CEO for company newsletter after winning prestigious award - asked to leave the site the following day. By the CEO.
  • Restructure 4. Meeting with Sales Director, position made redundant (done properly and according to procedure) but with promise that if redeployed that salary would be maintained. Promise withdrawn in 48 hours, no explanation ever given.
  • Restructure 5. Meeting with MD, (done properly and according to procedure), asked to work period of notice and "please don't tell any other staff as it will unsettle them" (lack of empathy there I feel), and then with just a few days to go a "ah, seem to have made a mistake here, now you have to stay." No apology for the stress and worry then?
  • Restructure 6. New owners with the attitude of Attila the Hun with "a remember that general talk we had the other day about things looking sticky for a number of people well that was actually the start of the consultation period. You still here?"
So you see it can all happen humanely with a real feel for staff and their contribution or at the other extreme you might as well be a piece of furniture that is being discarded. My very first letter of redundancy actually said "you are surplus to requirements." Lesson here - seven years I worked for them and went in to work on the day my first child was born. Think on't.

I've done a fair amount of statistical work and see from the above that from six examples, only one was handled properly. That makes a 16% chance that yours will be handled correctly. The question is, do you feel lucky?

Thing is then, if statistically you are likely to be handled badly- how do you feel when you get the letter? That's next.

Monday, 5 March 2007

How do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans (Woody Allen)

What signs are there that you might be facing redundancy?
Tricky this one.
From experience it seems to be based on some of the following:

Finally deciding to buy something expensive that you want (but don't need) that you've been putting off for possibly years, finally saying "yes let's do it" and finding the next day you are off to the workhouse. Only problem with that theory is you'll go through life always putting things off being thoroughly miserable and live on offal in a tent as you consider that something awful is always just about to happen. Like people born in Yorkshire do.
Possibility of "it" happening: Negligible to high. Advice: Enjoy life and live in the moment.

Saying to yourself words to the effect that "I'm doing OK at the moment". Hubris - the Gods of Fate just love that. Now this happened the first time when I'd just got a very large executive company car and 24 hours later...
Possibility of "it" happening: Negligible to high. Advice: Enjoy the car, smell that new car smell and, if it's a BMW remember that the laws are different for you and you can legally drive exclusively in the third lane on a motorway 1 metre behind the car in front until they move out of the way.

A new MD. They love change, they love to do things differently and change stuff around. They love to say "Look here! 4 minutes and everything is going to be different. I am now the CEO of consolidated HooHaws and The Rinkydink Corp and that makes me important and able to pull wings off flies and stare at you." They do not ask whether it is sensible, that what they are proposing means the only person that understands how the IT system works has just been marched off the premises or whether closing something down will mean chaos.
Possibility of "it" happening: Medium to high. Advice: Get on with it. What can they do, sack you? Well yes of course. However, do not brown-nose, suddenly start working excessive hours and laugh uproariously at every utterance the new MD makes. It doesn't fool him/her, it doesn't fool your colleagues (they know what you are really like) and they will plan your downfall behind your back. Do what you do and do it well. You have no control over what happens anyway.

A new owner. Worse than the new MD as they have just gone through the due diligence, think they've bought a lovely shiny new toy and then find out it's riddled with maggoty things that no one told them about in the finely crafted presentations in the expensive hotels. "If only they'd asked us, we'd have told them there were unexploded bombs in the fields, the customers actually hate us and the contracts we have are more worthless than an England footballer's shirt from the last World Cup" all the management say. But they, the Board, don't let you go anywhere near them otherwise they wouldn't have bought the pile anyway.
Possibility of "it" happening: High. Advice: You can't change anything but check all your insurance policies and start prudent saving. And the same thing applies again about brown-nosing -totally ineffective except in amusing your colleagues.

Large losses. This is more like it. Everyone can see that large losses on the P&L mean trouble. The early signs are a retreat into management speak that actually means nothing but sounds good to the plebs and grunts in the workforce (that's you and me). The first indication of potential trouble is the "We must do SOMETHING NOW!" from the Senior Management Team" (why the hell nothing has been done earlier when the iceberg first hit and water started flooding into the boiler room is, of course, a mystery to all). This is followed by the quest for "quick wins", the picking of "low hanging fruit" (I'm feeling nauseous), the ludicrous demands to stop ordering pencils, biros and stationery (always a good turn around strategy that one, almost as good as the time when phone calls were cheaper in the afternoon so no one could call anyone until 1pm). Anyway the accepted wisdom when Large Losses are experienced is to construct a hit list of employees that are expendable. Now, if you are lucky, you are one of the people who constructs the list and on the principle that turkeys don't vote for Christmas you should be OK. Don't bank on it as someone will have another list with your name on it too.
Possibility of "it" happening: Medium to high. Advice: You can't change anything but check all your insurance policies and start prudent saving. Do not talk in management speak - it's mostly rubbish and designed to stop clear ideas being discussed.

Several senior people start avoiding you. This is a good indicator that something is up. When you are used to doing a task and someone else is volunteered for no good reason, raise an eyebrow in Spock fashion (Star Trek, not the child care expert, though in many businesses that would be an asset) . When you are not included in meetings you used to go to, even if they were deadly dull, raise both eyebrows in a surprised look. When your colleagues, who used to try and pass on the their worst jobs to you, start to hang onto them with zeal then start to look around very carefully at the organisation. Time perhaps for a good conspiracy theory of corporate musical chairs.
Possibility of "it" happening: High. Advice: You can't change anything but check all your insurance policies and start prudent saving. Don't start running around being terribly important but use the time to make sure you have all those network contacts you promised you would make but didn't get around to. Should have.

Complete surprise. Had to have this one as it happens. There were no indications, none of the above, boss is genuinely upset (but secretly relieved it wasn't them that had received the news).
Well it's happened. How we handle this is comes in a later blog.

Sunday, 4 March 2007

Here we go again

Here we go again. New owners of the company, it's almost Spring time so therefore it must be redundancy time.
This is the fourth time for me. The first time I was in my mid 30's. The second time my early 40s, the third time my mid 40s and now I'm in my 50's. Each time so far I've fought my way back but this time every one I speak to says (with inward suck of breath) "this will be tough". Might be but then I do like a challenge. Whether I will feel this way if I'm out of work for 8 months...well we'll see.
Right now I'm in the "consultative stage" which is a corporate way of saying you are in the ante room for redundancy. Yep, technically I still have my job but in a week I would not lay money (as I'll need all I've got) that I'll be offered a different job. After three times you get a feel for it. I believe I have many skills. However being skillful at losing my job is one I rather would not have developed