Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Home Alone

Dylan is sick today and cannot go to childcare. Jo stayed at home to look after him yesterday, and in an effort to balance things out (I get much more sick leave than Jo) I'm looking after Dylan today. At home. Alone.
Yes, for the first time ever I'm Dylan's primary caretaker over an extended duration (as in, longer than it takes for Jo to have a shower, go to the gym, or jump over to the supermarket). You know what that means: Poor Dylan!
Anyway, we've made a pact, Dylan and I: I'll look after him and he won't poo. Surprisingly enough, so far he's actually holding to his end of the deal, but I doubt it's got much to do with the pact; I suspect it is all to do with the diarrhea he had on me last night. And I do mean on me: I was feeding him with the bottle, an eruption took place, and because of the liquid like nature of the output the clothes I wore at the time are now spending time in a bucket with an evil solution that's normally used for cleaning nappies. Yes, it's another chapter in the untold saga of parenthood.
For the record:
1. Things are not as bad as they may sound; if you've ever looked after a pet you would have gone through much worse.
2. By the afternoon, Dylan broke the pact.

The annoying aspects of the day, so far, have been supplied by work. I seem to be at an all time low with work, some of which has been discussed here to one extent or another but most of it hasn't in order to enable me to keep my job.
Still, I think I'd be allowed to keep my pants on if I was to say that my manager called me earlier today and asked a few questions which made it sound very much as if "certain people" are doubting whether I'm taking a day off work for the right reasons.
He also urged me to do some work from home, which I don't see myself getting into mainly because looking after Dylan, especially when I'm on the sick side of things myself, is not exactly an easy job; I was told that "they do sleep", but then again, "I do need to eat and relax" and "I'm getting a day off anyway, why should I spend it on work instead of getting better" (words uttered only in my head). Indeed, a lovely state of affairs.
To be more honest, the work I'm expected to do at home is of the type I consider to be meaningless politics. It all follows a reprimand received yesterday from the very same manager for saying "no" to a customer. Apparently, our policy is to never say "no", but rather say "yes, and..." or "we will look into it". More than Dylan's germs, this attitude makes me sick.
I see two problems with this approach. The first is that this attitude represents a mentality of putting the emphasis on perceptions rather than actions. I can see where my manager is coming from: in a couple of weeks, no one would remember what words were used in the meeting, so when "no" turns out to be the outcome it would be just get smeared along; however, when a blunt "no" is said, regardless of why, an image on incapability is immediately generated. But that's the problem: we're talking about perception and perception alone; the actual outcome, in both cases, would be "no".
I prefer to maintain a relationship with my customers where they know that a yes is a yes and a no is a no. If they know that we deliver when we can - and they should know that - then we have no problems. If, on the other hand, someone was to ask me "can you get me to Mars tomorrow morning", I suspect everyone would agree that a "yes, and..." answer would be terribly stupid. Yet, that, in effect, is exactly what I am expected to do. I've been to the extreme manifestation of this scenario way too many times: we're gathered in a room, some wanna be hot shot manager presents us our agenda for the next few months, everyone is very well aware this agenda is more fantasy than reality, yet rarely does anyone say anything. Not in Australia, anyway; you'd immediately be labeled as someone who lacks a positive attitude and as someone who is not a team player. It appears as though some imported cynicism is required in order to bring everyone back to the real world, and I just happen to regularly carry a few tons of that forbidden fruit on me.
The be completely honest, I have been known to act as a politician during my career; it's one of the things you just have to do to survive. The real problem with the perceptions first attitude,however, is that it leads to an attitude of protecting one's behind. This is by far the dominant attitude at my office: Since too many people promise things they can't deliver on, their focus switches from making sure they deliver to making sure no one is able to accuse them for failing to deliver. Every action they do gets covered by a trail of emails handing responsibilities over and every chat you have with them feels like a meeting of the UN's Security Council. Eventually, projects fail and promises are not met, and then it's time for the Hunt for the Red Scapegoat - that is, the person who did not bother covering his/her ass, usually some low ranked new kid on the block who is not up to speed yet with "our way" of doing things.
From time to time, however, that scapegoat is actually someone who is not willing to play ball or does not have the time to join the circus. That's where I seem to be coming in lately.

No comments: