Playing the Fool

There are days when I watch what is going on around me and, truthfully, pay too much attention to what others are or are not doing.  This can leave me anywhere from sad to seething.

Oh I know that I should just focus on my work and those things that I can control, but it’s really hard to ignore situations and behaviours that are contrary to my work ethic.

I also know that I shouldn’t judge other people.  But I do. In my head. (Because I work in HR and in HR, we don’t judge…*snicker*)

I get irritated when people complain about the amount of work they do, but then continuously and purposely waste their time.  I get irritated when people complain about decisions that have no impact on them. Or play mind games. Or just flake out.

And most of all I really, really get irritated…when all of those things seem to work in their favour.

Yes, the crux of my resentment is that fact that I can show up and follow my understanding of the “right things” – and yet, and the end of the day we are all standing at the same line.  And I wonder, wait a minute…how did you get here too?!

Some nights when I return home and the reality of the day’s events have been fully absorbed, I wonder, “who really is the fool in this scenario?”

And often the answer is “me”.

I would like to say I believe in karma, but the problem is that it takes so damn long.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be careful for what you wish for

I grew up with a relatively equal amount of male friends and female friends. This started in grade school and stretched well into university and beyond. In fact, during high school, I would say that the majority of my friends were guys or at least it seemed that way.

At the time I felt this was the better option. Conversations with guys were less complicated – they were straightforward and not loaded with potentially misinterpreted emotional outbursts. They were calm, relaxed and it was no big deal if you just sat there and watched the TV show. I appreciated how direct they were with each other – no clouding what you really thought. Maybe someone got pissed off, but by the end of the day…it was over. They laughed at each other, swore, and didn’t talk about what their were wearing the next day.

And so, I hung out with them when I could because life seemed so much easier with them.  Had you asked, I would have told you that I would have more issues raising a girl than boy – I mean, how could I relate? I could I deal with all the drama?

Funny how time and perspective can change your opinion on things.

Like being the parent of a teenage boy.

Suddenly all those characteristics that I found appealing as a teen and completely irritating as a mother.

That calm relaxed demeanor without emotional outbursts seems more like living with an extra from The Walking Dead.

The direct, no BS way of talking…yeah well, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve said, ” it’s not what you just said – it’s the tone you used”, I could buy an island and escape the oppressing fog of disdain that I live under.

I thought my friendships from adolescence would have prepared me for raising a teenage boy. I believed that my teenage daughter would have been my nemesis – given that I actively avoided dealing with them when I was one. What I have discovered is that the only thing that these experiences gave me were false expectations and bad assumptions.

This is not unlike the manager or VP who is determined to fill their team with high-energy, career-driven, status-challenging people.

Why? Because that it is who they were in their early career – they pushed boundaries, crossed lines and rocked boats. And look at what they achieved!

But being one of these A-players is not the same as managing an A-player.

They can be a pain in the ass. They can be high maintenance. They can be insubordinate, disruptive, and plain ole irritating. I mean, why can’t they just follow the plan and stop questioning everything?

Why?

Because you got what you wished for.

The problem is that you didn’t really stop to consider what you were wishing for.

My Six Million Dollar Life makeover: Better, stronger, faster

When I was 19, I realized that my family, as I knew it, was coming to an end.  Oh there had always been warning signs, but they just seemed like a constant presence of smoke, with no flames.  However, there was a day when I knew there was more than just smoke – things were burning down.

All this may sound a tad melodramatic. After all, separation and divorce were not that unusual at that time and it’s not as if were the Waltons, despite how fervently my mom wanted us to be.  But it was still a very sad and unsettling feeling.

I was at an age that I was still young and self-absorbed enough to only really worry about myself, but old enough to head out on my own.  And that I did – determined to establish my own place and own family.

Now, fast-forward some 20+ years and I’m faced with the same sadness and anxiety that I felt at 19 when I faced the reality of what was out of my control.  My daughter is heading off (under much better and supportive circumstances), my son is distancing himself from both his parents (as is his god-given right and obligation as a 14-year old boy), and my husband and I struggle (together) to make sense of our careers, our future and what we want to do with it now that the focus is changing.

I truly feel as though I am on the cusp of my family unit, as I have come to know it, ending.  We all still need each other and will be there, but not the same way.  It will never be the same way.  I am really lucky to have the great kids that I do and the amazing husband that I have…not matter what I might gripe about some times…but it does scare me to think about the free fall that will happen immediately after we take this big leap of faith.

I understand that to make something stronger, sometimes you have to break it apart and reconfigure it in a way that is more effective and resistance.  I get this, but what we can’t overlook is that generally speaking, the breaking process hurts.

[Like the six millionaire dollar man, "...we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better, stronger, faster." ]

In the past few months, I have focused so much on the planning and execution of what’s to come, that I really didn’t put too much thought into what to do and how to handle the aftermath.  How to focus on that rebuilding and reconfiguring. And it’s become apparent that without this part, there is a potential for all the parts to just drift away.

I know this from experience.

And when it’s happening, I don’t need to hear any of the following:

  • Don’t worry you’ll get over it soon
  • Be grateful you can afford to send your kid away / have a job
  • It happens to everyone
  • At least you have your health
  • You need to embrace change

The last thing I would expect or want is a pity party, but some recognition that going through change is more than simply rearranging furniture or getting used to a new role – it has an emotional component that can leave people feeling vulnerable, and lost.

I may be a stronger person because of these changes that I have gone through, but I also recall how it felt to go through them and gratitude for the pain was not top of the list.

Life’s big questions

I’ve made no bones about saying that there is so such as thing as a stupid question.

cluelessnessdemotivator

Okay, I’ll clarify…asking a question when the answer is blatantly obvious or re-phrasing a question that was just answered, just so that you can ask a question (or were too lazy to listen to the earlier answer) is stupid.

We all deal with this.  Especially in HR, where we pull together and roll-out guidelines and policies that assume that those people working for us are fully functioning adults capable of making reasonable decisions.  Ah yes, the infamous “assumption”.

And you know that a policy roll-out isn’t official until someone asks a “what-if” question.  You know, the really obscure variation of what may possibly happen…and likely never will, but you never know…and it’s just good to know in case.

But I’ve come to realize that there may be somewhere that gets even more inane questions than HR: food blogs.

I love food blogs – they are my lifeline to new recipes, inspiration, and help when I need something that I can make with almond meal, honey, coconut milk, and chocolate. Stat.

What drives me crazy about food blogs (and I cannot even begin to imagine how those bloggers feel) are the questions.  I mean some are completely legit and useful.  Others…not so much.

Seriously people do you not have any kind of imagination whatsoever.  If the recipe is called cherry chocolate chip cookies, and you a) don’t like cherries, b) don’t have any cherries, or c) are deathly allergic to cherries then a) use another freakin fruit or b) don’t make these…don’t ask the blogger what to do.

Or if the first 10 people who commented asked ” what could I substitute for maple syrup” (although that begs that question, why the hell would you NOT want to use maple syrup…unless you have run out…in which case, my sincerest condolences).

So, these 10 people have all asked the same question and the blogger has patiently copied/pasted her answer to each and everyone, “you can use honey”, then WHY, WHY, would you ask it AGAIN?  Why would you not take a moment to see if maybe someone else had the same question. Because you are special? Because you are too busy to read the other comments? Or do you think that maybe the 11th time this question is asked it’s like an Easter egg and the blogger will reveal something new and exciting…like a portal to a secret ingredient list?

Honestly people.

I blame Google Search.  It and any other search engine out there that has made people slaves to the instant answer.   Can’t decide what to wear on a first date to a baseball game? Google it. You are allergic to all nuts and want to know what you can use as a substitution for peanut butter in a Peanut Butter Cookie recipe?  Google it (or be the 100th person to ask the blogger).  Wondering whether it’s okay to wear your capri yoga leggings to the office, as long as you wear a blazer with them?  Ask your HR person.

But whatever you do…do not try to figure these things out on your own…common sense is over-rated.

(Image from http://www.despair.com/cluelessness.html)

On-boarding, kool-aid, and my hippy daughter

I’ve both alluded and blatantly talked about the fact that my daughter is heading off into to that scary place we call the real world to pursue post-secondary education. 

I am both excited and nervous for her, but at least she’s heading to a place that had the decency to put together a solid on-boarding package, even if it’s a bit whacked.

Lately, I’ve taken to saying that she’s not really going to school, but joining a cult.

Okay, that may seem like an exaggeration, but if you had to sit through meal time after meal time listening to detail after frickin detail about the school, the classroom, the curriculum, the reading material, Ina May, the other students, the Facebook page the students have put together, the potluck they are already planning for Orientation week outside of classroom….well, then the word “brainwashed” and zealot come to mind.

In fact, the absolutely reverence with which my daughter informed me that one of her fellow students has actually visited The Farm made me stop and think about where the hell we were sending her. 

Now, anyone who knows me or who has read at least two of my blog posts will know that communal farms are not my thing.  In fact, communal anything that potentially threatens my personal space is not my thing. I certainly didn’t put this idea into her head.  

To clarify, she isn’t going to The Farm, she’s going to a midwifery school attended by people who have gone to The Farm.  We are supportive, but not THAT supportive.

But this isn’t about me.  This is about how my daughter, already passionate about a career that she hopes to do, is being welcomed in by an institution and by people that share this.  For a kid who has never been away from home longer than two weeks and who is making the gargantuan leap of moving from Canada to the US to live and study on her own this welcome is so important.

She will be the youngest student in the class, she will be living away from home, and she will be adjusting to not having teachers and parents nudging her along.  She is nervous and scared (as she should be), but at the same time, she has been reassured by the fact that the school has been sending out information regularly (when they said they would), providing clear expectations, and helping her connect with her fellow students.  In fact, she has already been Facebook-ing, emailing, and even had a call from people that were complete strangers, but within minutes they found their common ground.

I know there are a lot of programs out there that people and businesses find onerous and of little value.  It is a pain in the ass to put together packages and contacting with people who you aren’t yet working with – I mean, we all have work to do, right.  But if you stop and consider what it means to the new person – what impact it will make and how much easier and more reassuring their first few days will be.  Then you might think differently.

I’m not suggesting that you treat your organization and its on-boarding like a cult, but you may want to consider serving a little kool-aid when you meet the new guy or gal.

My life is no box of chocolates. It’s a book.

Ruby Tuesday # 31

My life is no box of chocolates.

It’s a book.

And like many books, there are parts that are better than others and there are whole chapters that you read and think…I do not remember a single thing I just read.

Right now, I’m living one of those chapters. Oh sure, on a day to day basis I can recall what’s going on, but I swear it’s forgotten by the time I wake up the next day.

Would I call it b Continue reading

The ties that bond us

There are so many layers to an employee-employer relationship. Some are very obvious and easily referenced – you will do XYZ from Monday to Friday and we will pay you. There are likely some picky little details like…if you don’t do XYZ the way that we expect, and then we may penalize you. Or if you have to work beyond the 40-hour work week, we may pay you extra…or let you take your lunch breaks.

Another layer, a less visible and less obvious one, is the psychological contract. Although not as formal, it is no less powerful than the employment agreement that people sign. Why? Because it’s based on unwritten perceptions and expectations of the business relationship.  It’s founded in the idea that if I work my ass for 60-hours to get a project done, then my employer is going to remember that and reward me…in some way…at some point. The principle is equity.

So what happens when this psychological contract is broken? The result can be devastating to an employee – there is a sense that they have been betrayed, used, and disregarded. Responses can vary but include resistance, disengagement, lack of productivity, and even sabotage.

I really hate hearing that employees (en masse, not just Gen-Y) have too much of a sense of entitlement…”employees expect to be given everything and don’t want to reciprocate”.

This is bullshit.

Oh of course there are people who fall into this category – there always will be. However they are not representative of the majority.

What I see are people who are giving up their family time, physically and emotionally draining themselves, and “sucking it up” to do what needs to be done.

And sometimes they hit a wall and complain. But that’s okay, we specifically didn’t hire martyrs…we wanted people who would challenge and push back.

Remember?

I certainly do.

However, when business decisions are made there are often significant impacts on the people. What some fail to remember is that for most employees, the first reaction is not to pull out that black & white agreement that says, yes…we are entitled to do this to you. What they typically do is reference that psychological handshake that was made that said – if you are loyal to us, then we will be to you.

And unlike a paper contract, a torn and damaged psychological contract cannot just be reprinted or taped back together.

Sure it may be the soft and mushy side of business, and maybe it’s the last thing on your mind when you are making hard choices, but that intangible and invisible bond is as important as any legal document and no amount of tape can put it back together when it’s ripped.