Tuesday, 21 February 2012

When is promotion not a promotion?

Simple answer: When it’s given to me.
In recent weeks there have been so many changes – I’m moving to a new position, billed everywhere as a “promotion” – but there’s no extra money or benefits, just a new job title, a new department and a whole load of work to learn the new responsibilities.
The dictionary definition of a promotion is: advancement in rank or position. I’m advancing in neither of these. It’s a sideways move, with little reassurance regarding current earning levels, despite asking twice. And being made to feel ungrateful for asking. Let me explain how this situation came about.
We have an overworked department handling the credit risk within our company. The Manager has been struggling to cope with all the European expansion for a while and about 4 months ago it was decided that two people needed to perform this job role. An uncannily similar situation to when my Sales Manager role was deemed too large for one person. They have struggled to recruit into this role externally for four months...they’ve offered a large salary but were turned down by someone with experience. Then we have an internal problem and all hell breaks loose on what is now reverently referred to as “Black Friday”. The Tuesday following I’m asked if I would be interested in making the move. I accepted. A change is as good as a rest, and I didn’t ask about salary up front because (strange as this may sound) I trust our MD. He has frequently displayed loyalty to those loyal to him, so I trust him. And decided that the details could be resolved over the coming days. The decision was made on 31st Jan 2012 but it’s now 21st Feb and I’m no closer to any resolution. Limbo doesn’t come close to describing the feelings of helplessness. On 1st Feb I had to write my own job advert, then watch as they advertise it freely with a starting salary I’ve worked by backside off to earn. Even though the new person won’t be taking on the whole of my role, the project management aspect of my role will pass to someone else...and I’m made to feel ungrateful. Of course, my role has been offered to a man. So I shouldn’t be all that surprised really.
I feel so angry all the time and am spending a greater proportion of my days fighting the urge to hide in the loo and cry. I haven’t done that for nearly two months now and was finding better coping mechanisms, watching my diet, my reactions, making sure I slept properly. But Sunday night I couldn’t sleep at all, it’s been getting harder since the announcement and I can’t find a level.
Despite the image of living in a modern, caring world, we don’t. Well, I don’t. I talk to HR and get commiserations and an eye roll, along with a reminder that I’ve been here long enough to know how it works...
And therein lies the rub.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Trying to cheer myself up...

Nearly time to "start the day"...and I want to do it with a smile my on face. So I clicked through a few stumbles and found this.

It actually did make me smile. Especially since my dog woke himself up farting!


I have decided that I must be approachable and undeserving of the fierce reputation I have. There are at least two directors who are intimidated by me, which I find odd. But still, I have been told on more than one occasion that people were "scared" to come and work for me, until they work for me and find that I try to be fair, reasonable, and about helping them improve their skills to help the business. It's the backhanded compliment I hear most: "I don't know why I was nervous to start in this department."

Today a girl who has recently been promoted out of my team was in our area. There was a bit of catching up and she was giggling. "With your hair like that, no I'm not going to say it, well, it's just that with your hair like that, just your hair, you remind me of the Trunchbull from Matilda, no offence!" No, no offence. Why would that comment be considered offensive, or hurtful. I told her I'd put her in the chokey if there was any more of that nonsense. I tried to laugh it off. I think that made it less awkward. She apologised twice during the rest of yesterday.

But it did hurt. It struck a nerve, and has me thinking about my reputation. It's not undeserved, if someone joins my team and has no work ethic, they probably won't last long. I won't put up with dead wood, but I don't chop it out at the first opportunity, it takes us quite a while to admit defeat. Instead I'll make sure we're clearly outlining what is and isn't acceptable and giving people another chance. And I don't hold a grudge, just because a person makes a mistake, or is used to being able to turn in 10 minutes late each day, doesn't mean they should be instantly dismissed. Second chances can be few and far between in the rest of the business. When we have chosen to lose someone from the team, it has been for the right reasons, but the person going is all that my colleagues see... In addition, I won't accept stupid tasks assigned to my team, because someone else is too lazy to learn how to perform that aspect of their own role. I willingly speak to managers who have team members trying to cut corners. I don't think it's fair that someone else should have an easy ride, while one of my teams is under enormous pressure, especially in the holiday season.

But therein lies my problem. Because I want my team to be successful, and because I don't have a supporting cast of ten supervisors I can delegate to, when I get assigned to "special projects" they consume most of my time, leaving the day job to wait it's turn. Let me define a "special project." We may acquire a new business, or product for our group, and it requires someone to take the information provided, and fit it into our structure, define processes, put in IT requests for the development to support it, liaise with our various credit and finance teams to ensure that the whole process is mapped and supported. It can take weeks. Because, as with the rest of this business, there is no project management or process mapping software to help. And the only starting point is the template I put together last time we did it, for the last time. These projects are important to our business, without the addition of new customer bases or product offerings we would stagnate. But they always seem to land on my desk because I'm "good at that sort of thing" and I "understand the systems". And there is nothing in my job description about absorbing them.

I was no where near as productive as I could have been yesterday. My brain seems to start on the right path, but then it just gets stuck, and I realise I've been reading the same short page of text for about 20 minutes. I'm still calm but apparently still not sleeping, because I've been wide awake since ten to five. Roll on Christmas, 10 days off, all in a row. I'm hoping I'll feel much better.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

A problem shared

Yesterday was slightly better. I didn't feel physically sick as I walked in. The day passed slowly, I spent most of time trying to focus, with limited success. Mostly I noticed the time and how far away from five o'clock it was.

One of the few other female managers came round, she is often joking that it can only be a few years before the MD retires and things may change. So she's holding on in there, saying "she's been here 12 years already, the redundancy will be worth it". I don't have the heart to tell her it probably won't. It'll be more like statutory redundancy pay, which is peanuts.

But this day she asked how I was, and I answered by telling her that I'd had better years, she immediately sat down. Because I've known this person for so long, I believe I trust her, so I told her about my breakdown on Monday and she said, that's uncanny. I did the same thing yesterday!

We went to get a coffee and commandeered the meeting room.

She was feeling remarkably similar to me. Except they've told her that he job will be split with a new manager. Who will be a man. But they don't appear to be able to recruit one. So she's in limbo, not knowing which bits will be her job in the future, or how things will change when a new manager comes in. I could see and hear the same frustration in her that I feel.

We commiserated with each other, decided we would set up a support group, and carried on with our day. But it's nice to know that maybe I'm not going mad and jumping at shadows.

I was too tired to update this last night, which means that on the plus side, I managed to get some sleep last night.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Not a robot...

So back to work after my slightly extended lunch break...to find I'm being waited for my one of the FD's - no meeting booked, just expected me to be there and available and ready to answer a million questions at the drop of a hat.

And I did. Feeling a little better. But not much.

I manage to get through the afternoon. I can feel some of the humour resurfacing and I feel normal again. Then I'm asked a question, about a piece of software I don't use, and I don't know the answer. I apologise and suggest who might know the answer. The person asking the question is one of the kindest, most respectful men I work with. And he laughed, saying "it's nice to know that you're not a robot". I must have commented, or pulled a face. I'm not sure which, I can't remember, because he instantly apologies and tried to take it back, "I didn't mean it like that, I just meant that it's nice to know you're human"

I tell him it's OK, I didn't take offence and he goes away happy.

But I think I am offended. Why would a simple off-the-cuff comment cause me such uncertainty? I have always prided myself on finding the answer. If I can't answer a question, I attempt to understand more about why I'm asking the question and what affects the outcomes. Thus, when I'm asked a similar question I can answer many variations of the original question. Apparently while being organised, and curious and competent, and trying to see "the bigger picture" I am ... what? Alien? Unfeeling? Cold?

I just don't know?

Oh dear...

About an hour ago my boss asked what was wrong, was the latest project a project too many? He got a rather flippant answer...but being a nice person he persevered. And I told him how worthless I felt in the workplace. In colourful detail.

Complete with tears. Why tears?

A man wouldn't have broken down and cried a man would have told his boss why it was important that he rewards him correctly...or else. I didn't say or else. What I said was:

I'm sorry.

And I am. I'm sorry I'm now a problem I can't fix...I'm sorry that someone else is going to have to understand this and help me find a solution. I've always been self sufficient.

He's told me to go home for a while. Actually suggested having a G&T then coming back after an extended lunch. What a nice boss.

I know he hasn't got an instant, "just stir and serve" answer...I don't know what I expect him to do with the rather emotional outburst I've just occluded his day with.

So now I'm heating up a big fat pizza. That's another one of my problems - I'm 5' 4" and unless I practically starve myself I weigh 11st 3lb. Almost always. But that's nothing new.

I haven't told my husband yet. I ought to pick up the phone and talk to him, he's usually very good at listening. But that will bring fresh weeping from me and I don't have the right to upset his day too. One of us having a shitty time is bad enough...

I did pick the phone up to the doctor earlier. In my head a voice was saying, "you don't need to be here, you're not sleeping, it's all their fault. Just call". And I did. It was engaged. Perversely that also felt like disinterest. I suspect I may need to talk to someone.


M x

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The beginning of the end?

I secretly cried in the toilet on Friday. Huge, gulping silent sobs. And I can't tell anyone.

I know I am paid less than my two male colleagues but my job description is slightly altered to accommodate this. Let me explain why I appear to have accepted this for so long. I love my job. There are no benefits associated with my job, but I've loved it for 6 years now.

The company I work for offers the following benefits:
A company mobile (blackberry/iphone)
A company ipad
A company car
A company fuel card

One of my colleagues has a blackberry has done for the two years he's worked there. I didn't get one. His job role doesn't require it, and he spends most of his time (that I can see) on it organising his personal life. Six months ago, I got a consolation prize - the manager of one of our regional offices was retiring and I got his Blackberry. But I only used it when travelling to our regional/European offices as I'm required to do.

Two weeks ago I was asked to give it back. For the new guy to have it. He's also getting an ipad (apparently we can "share" this). Oh, and they've given him a company car - apparently he'll need it for visiting clients.

So I have been bumped down the ladder. Not officially. But I am supposed to visit our European offices on a regular basis. I will be getting the train to and from the airport from now on. Taxi's, if no train is available. I'm going to do this because I have no need of a company car.

But this is background. This isn't what finally sent me to the toilet to deal with my frustration.
I was asked to provide the new guy with a fuel card. So he gets the full set. Still not wholly the reason I sat on a closed toilet with silent screams of frustration. The new guy got all this because he's a guy. There is an unofficial rumour that the MD will not appoint any more female managers, and hasn't done for over 2 years. There are 12 male directors, and one female director in our organisation who's been there since almost the start. And no promotion from within, the only way to be higher up the chain is to join the business from outside.

So I'm stuck, and feel physically sick at the thought of spending another day plastering a smile of my face and picking up all the bits they can't do "because I'm so much better at it". Somewhere along the line helpful teamworker became doormat.

But, I have been proactive. I have updated my CV and uploaded it to the same website where this job found me. I hope that it can work it's magic for me again.

M x