Archive for March, 2016

It’s all about me (not)

Because of my job, I am unavoidably assaulted with “news” about the current “presidential race” (not sure if “presidential” should be in quotes – as in the things going on are not worthy of being called presidential; or if “race” should be in quotes – since the current fiasco is more long-winded (dare I say boring?) than a cricket test match).  After having spent nearly 20 years overseas (i.e., not in the USA), I learned to appreciate other news sources (read: BBC).

And part of the exposure to politicians is having “issues” thrown in my face, over and over and over (ad nauseam).  Topics I guess I should be concerned about, but just can’t.

In my quest for preparing our Twins for their future, I search (“surf”) the web looking for what I think they ought to know.  Facts that should influence their opinions; which of course should then affect their actions.

Two stories on the BBC World Service tonight made me pause.

One was on the  convenience of food.  Specifically, “Is Convenience Killing Us?”  At issue was whether or not “hyper-processed” food was leading to better health, either in the west (USA, UK), or in the east (Red China).  One commentator in the podcast wondered what was compelling us to conclude that everything else we fill our days with was more important than what we eat.  Basically, we are wringing our hands over our bad choices from a plethora of products.  The Twins are approaching their ninth month, and are being weaned – time to start a kitchen garden at least.

(I do love the irony that, we are moving to a new house that will allow a kitchen garden (fresh, homegrown tomatoes!) and reduce my commute to the job I hate by about half.)

The other article was on water.  Of course, everyone knows how consumed Americans are about gender orientation.  This really is shameful considering how many people either don’t have easy access to water, or the water that is available is, well, not suitable for human consumption.

There aren’t many words accompanying this article, which will make it a “quick read.”  Mustafah Abdulaziz has traveled around the world with his camera, and 70 large-scale photographs are on display in London; a handful are available on line.  Consider:

I don’t know how far the children in Sindh Province, Pakistan, must travel for water; but, judging from the background of this photo, it is a really, really long way.  And judging by what they are carrying, they won’t be carrying much water back home.  And, when do they have time for soccer lessons and baseball lessons and … ?

That 57 million people in Nigeria don’t have access to clean water makes me wonder if the photo of a group pulling water out of a very primitive well are some of the lucky ones.

(If you’re not real sure how many people 57 million is, the 2013 National Health Interview Survey estimates something less than 1.8 percent of adults in the USA identify themselves as homosexuals.  This is on the order of about 2 million people.  Presumably, they all have access to clean water.)

It took me awhile to understand one of the photos.  The caption was frighteningly clear: in India, 140,000 children die every year from diarrhea caused by bad water.  Looking at our Twins, I can’t even begin to imagine the heartache for the parents.

Besides learning how to type (on a manual typewriter, no less), I often wonder what I learned in high school.  But I apparently learned to love learning.  I hope to instill the Twins with this love.  I do know my parents taught me (by their example) to love to read.  Ultimately, I hope they learn that this life is not about them – they have already taught me that much.

 

 

Let me count the ways….

Quite by accident, I just happened upon an article titled, “17 things the boss should always say in a performance review.” It was purely accidental, because I would have had to have cared – like I once did – to go look for something like that. You know, if I was a boss, I would be burning the candle at both ends to find nuggets like that. I’m convinced my boss has never even seen a headline like that, let alone read, or studied that kind of material.

Of the 17 topics in Jacquelyn Smith’s “Business Insider” article, not a single one came up in either my “performance review,” or my more recent “salary discussion.” Not a single one.

Rather, my boss informed me that his “spousal unit” – is that supposed to be some cutesy way of referring to this wife? – has given him permission to retire anytime. He emphasized the point by saying “2015, 2016, 2017 …” Not sure if his dumbing-down was for my benefit or his. I still can’t figure out how his retirement plans figure into my life in any way.

His next major point was to say that a lot of people leave looking for more money, only to come back when they find out the grass is greener on this side of the fence. Huh? Is that encouragement to leave, or just another way of saying, “take it or leave it”? A previous boss (third level) was fond of saying we should vote with our feet.

Smith would have a boss open up with “How are you feeling?” or “I’d like to hear your thoughts on how you think you did this year.” Me, too. Just once.

By a very convoluted path, I found myself in what is essentially a “call center.” Imagine a call center for any product or appliance you have in the house, or driveway. If it breaks, or makes a funny noise, you’re not going to call ghost busters, are you? Nope, you call the manufacturer; there is a highly trained, highly experienced team standing by, around the clock (literally 24/7/366) to answer technical questions. In my case, the product is airplanes and they often have passengers on them – put yourself in their shoes (might not be very difficult, if you’ve flown very often).

The call center I was in up to a year ago handled older model airplanes – airplanes that I had years of experience and training on; the call center I have been in the past 12 months handles the latest-and-greatest model (a single model). So, with no experience and no training, I sit at a desk with a couple of phone lines and three computer monitors linked to half –a-dozen databases, in a room with around ten others.

My boss says I did well over the past year. I remind him that I have had no training at all on the one model we support. That was worth a salary increase of precisely 1.75% “Celebrate the positives”? You mean like I didn’t go postal? Smith says, “Reinforce the person’s strengths. Recognize what they are doing right and give them an opportunity to expound on their achievements.” Really?

As far as asking me what I could have done better, or differently, or where I might see my greatest potential for growth and improvement, I’m sure that never occurred to him.

And, a plan for improvement, whether my words or his? Hah, that would be a joke. Even more ludicrous would be him saying “I’m here to support you. Never hesitate to ask me any questions that arise or share concerns that come up.”

The positive note that charade ended on was that it ended. As we were walking down the hall, back to the call center, he asked, “How are those two little ones?” My Twins are eight months old; that is the first time he has ever asked anything about my home life. If you have babies in the house, you know it is not “business as usual” when they arrive. I know he has kids – he talks about them frequently (though he talks about fishing more).

Many moons ago, I was filled with piss and vinegar (or youthful enthusiasm, if you prefer), and I was going to be “a somebody” in the company. I never had a horizon as to how long I was going to stay; I never had a limit as to how high I was going to climb the corporate ladder. I learned two things going to classes at night to earn my MBA: (1) hard work was not enough – career progression has more to do with who you know and less with what you know; and (2) it wasn’t worth a marriage and an estranged daughter. In other words, the enthusiasm I brought with me 30 years ago has been beaten out of me.

I long ago stopped looking for anyone to say thank you, or in my potential to grow or develop as a professional. I have instead, put my energies into my new family and my Church. In the early days, I didn’t have time for anything but The Company. Now, I have no time for The Company.