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Ferris Bueller

Life Moves Pretty Fast

Posted on 2010.10.08 at 14:30
Current Location: 75070
Current Music: T.A.T.U + Rammstein - Pruzinki
Tags: , ,

Work has been interesting (and by interesting I mean insufferable) insofar as we haven't had any projects for a couple of weeks - this is rare. Also serendipitous, as we've been given weeks of computer-based training to do on future applications and processes. In-between the spirit-crushingly dull online training, at least I personally have had some server outages and other unix distractions to keep my week bearable. Thankfully, I can navigate my iPod effortlessly with Rhythmbox, which turns out is MUCH faster than Amarok AND I don't have to download kdm libraries!

I'm back on schedule - that is to say, "non-Summer hours." I am a magnificent creature of routine and now that the kids are back in school, I'm *at* work at 0700 instead of my wife rousing me at 0900 for my daily conference call, usually not making it in until 1100 :/ Speaking of the 0900 meeting, after not saying anything for a month other than, "Nothing for the Group" I recently announced,

I usually listen to very thematic music throughout the day. However, this morning I've been powering through a lot of Rammstein - German Industrial - and I have NO IDEA how this may affect me.

Despite my lackadaisical week at work, I've had plenty of pre/during/post work activities which keeps me, quite literally - hopping. From the school's gear-up meetings (my son asked that I volunteer to be a parent-chaperon at 3-day overnight Adventure Camp), to the P90X my wife and I started (at 0400!!!) each morning as a sort of mild martial-arts replacement program until we're able to get back to that sometime next year. And we're still walking in the evenings which have turned blessedly cooler as Autumn descends and still reading "The Hobbit" to the kids. Busy, busy!

Professionally, things haven't been as rosy. We've been through a series of layoffs (the first I can recall in about ten years) with the threat of more to come. And though my wife and I have run through several exercises of our "emergency plan" of different scenarios over the years (one of which includes my job loss) I found it particularly difficult to lose one of my co-workers. So while this was our second cut in as many weeks, and reduced our already small numbers considerably (we've lost over 25% of our team in under a month without any decrease in work) increasing our individual load and accelerating on-call rotation, it was also unexpectedly painful.

And it seemed to me the hissing sound, as it were, of an opening sepulcher, punctuated by the stale odor which came behind; The Grim Reaper curled his bony hand in our direction and I heard a scream. "Behold, one shall be taken from you." And she was gone, and joy followed with her.

Now I'm not one to let external influences change my behavior. I keep my head up, and remind everyone outwardly that we all still have a job to do and to do it well. But inside, I think I died a little bit. We are all brilliantly executing our assigned functions, but no one's heart is in it, and I have not been motivated to write. Nothing I say here will ever change anything.

But I can try.


michelle1963 at 2010-10-08 19:48 (UTC) (Link)
I'm sorry about the situation at work. There's nothing more demoralizing than lay-offs and the threat of lay-offs. No one's heart can be 100% into the job when he worries about the laid off colleagues, and wonders if he himself is going to be next.

(Btw, our house is always your house. Don't forget that.)
ehowton at 2010-10-08 20:02 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you. And that's very sweet of you. No, I don't worry so much about myself - hell, I don't worry about anything which I have no control over - personally, I consider that a waste of resources. But now that I'm articulating this, I guess I'm not even worried about her; there's not a doubt in my mind she'll be just fine. I just hate what its done to the team.

We're a highly integrated unit - each of us with our own strengths and weaknesses - the kind of output we're able to attain is done so not from individual excellence, rather synergy. If I can comprehend profit & loss, how come management can't comprehend why they're so successful?

Its also entirely possible I'm just extremely selfish (in a Randian egoist sort-of way of course)!
(Anonymous) at 2010-10-09 01:15 (UTC) (Link)
I understand what you mean about the synergy of a team. When I worked in the lab, the people assigned to the shifts changed due to the need to cover weekends and most people wanting their fair share of weekends off. However, two 16 hour shifts on Saturday and Sunday were the only days I worked. It meant I got to work with everybody in some form or another--3 of us on days and 2 in the evenings. I was amazed at what a difference the make up of the team would make towards getting things done--or not. There were some teams that just didn't work very well together, and it was seldom because any one person wasn't pulling his or her fair share of the load; more that the work styles clashed or didn't complement one another. Yet there were some teams that were just awesome.

Don't get me started on management. I could tell you stories you'd never believe.
ehowton at 2010-10-09 01:27 (UTC) (Link)
This team is some of the best professionalism I've had the pleasure to work with in a decade - everyone in the team wanting not only to pull their own share, but knowing that if they didn't, someone would have to pick up the slack. Many places I've worked people will try their damnedest to get out of work, while we all will do nearly anything to prevent another from shouldering a burden caused by our actions or inaction.

Pride in the workplace.

God I love it.
michelle1963 at 2010-10-09 19:39 (UTC) (Link)
You're very fortunate!
ehowton at 2010-10-09 20:04 (UTC) (Link)
Don't I know it. What an odd mix of people and personalities though :P

I was thinking about your "two, 16-hour shifts" and the unique perspective that must've been; to see things few people get to see, basically the interactions which did, and did not work well together. Could you pinpoint any single item which was recurring in the dysfunctional groups?

I mean, even weaknesses can be turned into strengths if you play to them properly. Except maybe unwarranted narcissism. (Did I just say that aloud?)
Tomas Gallucci
schpydurx at 2010-10-09 03:19 (UTC) (Link)
Though this will do nothing to assuage your team's loss, there is a situation at work where everyone in a particular department wants a particular person to either pick up the slack, quit or get fired.

This same cycle was in motion when I first hired in to the company. In fact, I found out that with the first cycle, several members of a particular team wrote a letter asking for the dismissal of an employee before their initial ninety day trial period was up. That employee was allowed to work for over three years before getting the boot due to general incompetence.

Ironically, instead of thinning the chaff, the wheat is left to bear the burden, all the while upper management claims that there is no money to give any raises. Meanwhile, the company is hiring to fill a recently vacated position in the same department that is full of deadweight. I fully expect at least a 45% turnover rate in that department within the next six months.

There are few things I hate more than incompetent management.
ehowton at 2010-10-09 11:50 (UTC) (Link)
Conversely, as a manager, I've seen employees pull shit you wouldn't believe. I had this one guy who was "sick" either every Friday, every Monday, or every Tuesday after a holiday.

I found I got more accomplished when I played to their strengths - gave them tasks I knew they were good at and enjoyed doing, and find the same is true in my own team.

Management may be incompetent, but its your responsibility to overcome it and not let your own work suffer because of it.
Tomas Gallucci
schpydurx at 2010-10-09 13:20 (UTC) (Link)
I don't see how it is my job to do my job and someone else's job when that co-worker doesn't do their job. I don't get paid to do both jobs, so why should I work two jobs? Furthermore, if I am doing someone else's' job because they aren't pulling their own weight, shouldn't the deadweight be pruned so the team can grow?
ehowton at 2010-10-09 13:42 (UTC) (Link)
That's probably why you struggle.
Tomas Gallucci
schpydurx at 2010-10-09 13:47 (UTC) (Link)
Ya think?

Where would I be without ehowton's guiding light to illuminate my path. Ass.

The double-suck in this scenario is that the department that I'm talking about doesn't just do a kind of work, everyone does the same thing according to their ability. Namely, answering the phone and solving customer's problems. There aren't tasks that can be assigned according to strengths and weaknesses.
ehowton at 2010-10-09 14:00 (UTC) (Link)
Really? As IS Manager I got to see exactly how the Helpdesk Queue Manager ensured the right calls went to the right techs. Even in a narrowly defined "silo" environment where what few people I had appeared to "do the same thing" looking in, some were better at some aspects of the job than others. We had one guy who was better at identifying hardware anomalies which presented themselves as application artifacts and another who was better at navigating the numerous menu system than he was at troubleshooting. One guy could build & deploy systems faster than the rest and one was great as the customer interface.

All I'm saying is its your lack of willingness to excel which holds you back. "I don't see how it is my job to do my job and someone else's job when..." is a very poor attitude to have whether its justified or not and if you think management can't see the weak links in their chains you're gravely mistaken.

It is frustrating though, when it takes "over three years" to see that fruition. THAT'S what never ceases to amaze me. How long it sometimes takes.
Tomas Gallucci
schpydurx at 2010-10-09 16:51 (UTC) (Link)
Now that you put things in that perspective, I will concede a little ground.

We do have people that are better at certain things than others, but the manager never gets involved. The problem that we do have though, is that when there is a mistake, instead of dealing with the person that made the mistake, the entire department gets chewed out. I have a problem with that.

The problem with what goes on in the department is that we aren't assigned calls; all calls go into the queue and we call everyone back. So those that don't know what they're doing either take calls that are simple or they take everything so that they can claim to have "triaged" but in reality all they're doing is passing the buck because they aren't cutting down on the volume that is passed on to the people that know what they're doing.

The good news is that I'm not in that department anymore, so I shouldn't care. The bad news is that currently, they've got one of the developers working on integrating the ticket tracking system and the call log in order to try to get a feel for how long an average call for a specific problem takes. There's a few problems with this.

First, there isn't enough granularity with the types of calls. The call type is vaguely broken up by product and category. The problem here is that there isn't enough categories, so someone that is having a problem with turing on their machine when using a specific title of ours is a whole lot different from some dipshit that doesn't know the first thing about networking and blames us for "their program not working correctly."

Secondly, the statistics aren't going to be helpful at all. Instead of taking a hard look at the data, the numbers will be used to justify keeping the deadweight around. "She takes more calls than anybody and she has the shortest time on her calls too!" Oh yeah? So could I if I called up a customer and told them to eat shit and die. What's your point?

When the development came up in Code Review I was livid. I facetiously asked if they were going to include the audio of the call as a column in the data set. I later made another comment to whester (who, by the way, is having to pick up the slack I leave behind) that perhaps they ought to have yet two more columns for the nudies taken by the X-ray scanners (which of course my company doesn't have–yet) and the analysis of the weekly anal swabbing.

Tech Support is the department that holds everything together because that is the department that catches all the shit from both ends. If the turnover I predicted occurs, there will be no more company.

At least they haven't started welshing on the tuition reimbursement–yet.
kat_rowe at 2010-10-09 17:20 (UTC) (Link)
yuck. sorry about the situation at work. my sister's firm is having the same issues (but that's okay because top economists say the recession is over and has been for over a year now).

you and your friend (and your family and coworkers) are in my thoughts and prayers. hang in there, man *hug*
michelle1963 at 2010-10-09 19:47 (UTC) (Link)
The narrow definition recession is defined as a contraction in the economy. The economy did stop contracting a year ago and had in fact had some growth. Unfortunately, this hasn't translated to many employment opportunities, and people are still hurting.
ehowton at 2010-10-09 20:08 (UTC) (Link)
We were more insulated from the rest of the nation her in Texas, but until my wife gets another job, I'm not going to declare victory!
michelle1963 at 2010-10-09 21:16 (UTC) (Link)
The unemployment rate in Nevada is 14%. It was a double-whammy here. The housing bubble--prices shot up insanely, and builders were building like the bubble would last forever. When I heard about ARM loans, I could see the writing on the wall. That was about 2-3 years before things started stalling, then collapsing. The second issue is that Nevada's main industry is tourism, and so when the country is in recession and/or people are losing their jobs, Nevada's main source of revenue drops like a rock. Las Vegas is starting to see the numbers uptick a bit now.
kat_rowe at 2010-10-10 19:34 (UTC) (Link)

fracking hades, and I thought Ohio had it bad. yeesh *hugs you and everyone in the state of Nevada
michelle1963 at 2010-10-13 01:13 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. A lot of people out here need those hugs.
kat_rowe at 2010-10-13 22:26 (UTC) (Link)
sounds like the state needs more than hugs. sending prayers your way, too *hug*
kat_rowe at 2010-10-10 19:34 (UTC) (Link)
oh, believe you me i know. unemployment in this part of Ohio is 10.3% ... i shudder to think what it'd be like if the recession were still in full swing
ehowton at 2010-10-09 20:04 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks dude.
kat_rowe at 2010-10-10 19:36 (UTC) (Link)
welcome. hang in there, man *hug*
irulan_amy at 2010-10-09 18:49 (UTC) (Link)
Layoffs. Yipes. I can't imagine that kind of stress and losing co-workers and friends. I hope the work side of things looks up for you.

P90X and The Hobbit though, those are good things. Well, the results of the P90X are a good thing.
ehowton at 2010-10-09 20:07 (UTC) (Link)
P90X is for pussies. There, I said it. Yeah, it fills the gap between doing it and doing...nothing. So for that I'm thankful. But its a only a fraction of the intensity of Taekwondo. So far I'm NOT finding it "The Most Extreme Home Fitness Training Ever." I'll finish it nonetheless. Picked up "Insanity" as well. I hear that's more high-test. We'll see.

And thank you for your kind words.
nicetwins at 2010-10-11 00:58 (UTC) (Link)


I miss her too.
It seems in the past 8 months, our group has evolved from an intense yet fun place to work, to a stressful, overwhelming, unhappy place to be. And that stinks, because we had this great thing for at least 10 years.
ehowton at 2010-10-11 05:15 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Dude...

The dude abides.
thesweetestnote at 2010-10-18 16:07 (UTC) (Link)
Cheers on your health and fitness! ':D

..and the work thing just BLOWS!!! Stay chipper dear Howton.... I know you will... wine or no wine ';)
ehowton at 2010-10-18 18:07 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. But its going to be "with" wine. Oh yes.
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