Monthly archives "December 2014"

Honesty is the best policy, isn’t it?

honesty is the best policyI have to thank my friend for allowing me to use his story – you know who you are, here it is – I hope it’s accurate!

A few days ago, I emailed said friend as we were arranging a catch up and I asked him how his new job was going.  He’d been at his new place for a couple of weeks by my reckoning.

He answered with a tantalising ‘Which new job?  New or new new?’  When we caught up at the weekend, he elaborated a little further.  As with all jobs, promises were made at the interview – his overall job description was provided, and discussions held over where the role would be heading.  When he got to his new role he found out that the person who had interviewed him, and whom he thought he would be reporting into was leaving shortly (and had known but not mentioned this at the interview stage).  On his first day in the role he found that two areas he had been told he would be overseeing had been moved to other people.  He had been told there would be lots of hands on work.  There would not.  The role had changed significantly.  He was understandably a little unhappy about this but persevered.  A couple of weeks in and things hadn’t improved, so he thought it best to speak to his new boss to air his concerns.

His new boss, instead of assessing the situation, reassuring my friend, or attempting to find a workable solution, decided that my friend’s honestly voiced doubts and concerns demonstrated his lack of commitment to the role, and made the decision to let him go (with a relatively healthy goodbye package, to be fair).

When we caught up and started discussing this, the question my friend asked, and that has stuck with me is this – ‘Is honesty the best policy?’  Should he just have put up and shut up, or at least waited a while to voice his concerns?  My opinion then, and now, is Yes.  In this type of situation, honesty is the best policy always.  If he hadn’t said anything, this unhappy situation would have continued.  And why spend longer than necessary in a situation that is making you unhappy?

Unfortunately, I think honesty was clearly not a value embraced by the new company he joined.  They had been anything other than honest with him from the start.  They knew the role described was not going to be the role he would occupy but didn’t tell him.  They knew the boss he was being interviewed by wouldn’t be the boss he was be working for but they didn’t tell him.  They knew this might affect his decision, so they didn’t tell him.

I think he was completely right to hold on to his values and ethics, and I think it took strength of character to raise his concerns and be honest and upfront.  He was willing to make things work.  His new company was not.  Which doesn’t make for a good match.  So whether it was their choice or his, not being there any longer is also the right thin for him.

This sorry tale has a suitably festive happy ending though – he remained honest at subsequent interviews, telling prospective new employers exactly what had happened – and he has been offered a great role at a new company – the ‘new new company’ of the initial email.  All’s well that ends well.

Merry Christmas!

I think it was the film ‘Love Actually’ where one of the characters says ‘At Christmas you always tell the truth’.

So here is my truth, today, on Christmas Day.

It’s been a wonderful, exciting and slightly scary ride getting to this point.  This time last year I was actually working in my worst ever Horroffice, thinking ‘why me?’.  A couple of months later, I got the idea for the book and pinned the title on a post it note to my wall.  Then there were some notes on potential chapters, just ideas really, which turned into a first draft.  I found an amazing business coach, who introduced me to an awesome book editor, who has helped turn it from a rough collection of ideas into a book.  In that time I’ve worked at a couple of other Horroffices, and I’ve had long periods of not working in a contract and not earning anything at all, mostly because I’d rather be at home, working on the book.  It has at times been stressful, and I’ve wondered whether it would actually happen, and if it did, whether it would be worth the pain.  I still don’t know whether it’ll all work out, but that’s ok, because the journey has been as valuable as the outcome.

Throughout it all you’ve been here, keeping me company, and encouraging me along the way.  Thank you.  For taking the time to read and comment on the thoughts I’ve shared with you, for the likes, shares and retweets that show me I might have something worth sharing.  You’ve kept me going.  And I now have an actual book.  One that’s going to be published and available to buy soon.  I can’t wait to share it with you, this next intoxicating part in our little odyssey together.

In the meantime, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a New Year full of wonderful new adventures and much love and laughter.

From Heena & Simba. xxx

Heena. x.

The Office Bug

SneezingTis the season to catch a bug, to get a bug and to give a bug.  I don’t mean computer bugs, nor the insect variety.  I mean colds, coughs, infections – I mean the seasonal office bug that’s rampant around now.  I’m currently sitting here, typing this blog at 10pm, with a streaming cold and a cough that is giving my stomach muscles more of a workout than a session with a personal trainer.  It’s taken this long to get to writing it because for most of the day it has been all I can do to drag myself out of bed for paracetamol and water, and then collapse under the duvet again like some kind of hyperventilating Victorian maiden.

I texted my boss this morning to let her know I wasn’t well, and wouldn’t be in today.  Even though I know I would have been absolutely useless if I’d dragged myself and my nasty, rapidly multiplying bugs and germs to the office, I still felt guilty calling in sick.

What is that all about?  Why do we feel so guilty when we are genuinely ill and have to call in sick.  As a contractor especially, if I don’t turn up I don’t get paid.  It’s that simple.  So if I call in sick, I really am too unwell to work.  But even when I was in a permanent role, I remember how guilty I felt about calling in sick.  One company I contracted at recently even had a policy where if you were absent through illness three times in a row during a twelve month period, you had to have a meeting with HR to explain why.  What if you were only off for three one day periods, with colds or bugs?  And is that worse than being off for two one week periods with a bad back?  Is there a league or points system for illnesses – which ones are acceptable and which aren’t?

I understand that there are some people who work the system, who see sick time as extra holiday time, and I know employers need to keep an eye on that.  But I honestly think the majority of people are honest, hard-working and don’t need an extra layer of guilt at a time when they are already feeling rubbish.

What happens though, is that people worry about being away from work for too long.  And they worry about the amount of work and hassle they will be coming back to, having been away unexpectedly for a few days.  So they drag themselves in to the office far too early.  They’re not rested, they’re not well, and they’re not ready to deal with their in-trays.  But in they come anyway.  And then they cough and splutter and hold meetings with colleagues to catch up.  And their bugs, which are still multiplying and having a field day, hop over to have fun in someone else’s nervous system.  So all of a sudden, three of four other people start to feel unwell.  Then they’re off for a couple of days each.  But the vicious circle doesn’t stop there.  Because they too are worried about being away for more than a day or so, and they too drag themselves in earlier than they should.  And so we now have a whole team that is still recovering, is not working at optimum level, and is probably still spreading germs.  And because people are not feeling well, it takes even longer to recover, and it;s even easier to get ill again.  You get the picture.

It’s no surprise then, to learn that last week all I heard in the office was coughing and spluttering, and no matter how many vitamin supplements I took, I knew at some point I was going to catch the office bug.  Short of wearing one of those hospital masks, how could I avoid it?  And surprise surprise, after a team meeting in which over 50% of those in attendance had tissues to hand, or were coughing into their coffee, it was my turn.

And so I’m at home.  What I won’t be doing though, is rushing in when I’m not ready.  I’m worse today that I was yesterday, and I know I won’t be well enough tomorrow to go back.  So I will take the hit to my finances, and I will take the hit to my credibility (because dragging yourself in when you’re not well is almost a badge of honour in some offices) and I will stay in bed and recuperate.  When I do go back, it will be safe in the knowledge I am better, I am ready and I am not infecting my colleagues.

Out with the old

out with the oldIf you read my blog post a couple of weeks ago you’ll know that I had a very odd day, where lots went wrong and lots went right, all in one day.

Unfortunately, the ‘stuff that went wrong’ theme didn’t end there.  Between then and now I’ve had more – much much more.  An exploding juicer (I was making green juice at the time and it looked like The Hulk had been to visit – bits of green coloured fruit and juice rained all over me, the pooch and the kitchen like the weirdest green confetti!), as well as some other minor breakages or accidents (my phone, miraculously, is still going strong despite having been dropped more than once onto a hard floor surface this week), the biggest thing to break down on me is my trusty little laptop.

I have to admit to having a more than normal sentimental attachment to my laptop.  I bought it with the money from my first contracting role, and it was a bit of a celebration of my new employment status after leaving my long-term corporate role.  It has seen me through four years of ups and downs, it has held documents from my coaching business, it has processed records for my retail business and most recently and significantly, it has been my companion on the exciting but rocky path to the new book.  As well as all that, it has held all my financial records, photos, and all the other random paraphernalia we all end up with, without realising quite how much we’ve got.  It also held my ‘to-do’ bible – my colour-coded, beautifully planned Outlook calendar – all gone now.  And before you ask, I am hanging my head in shame and mumbling the answer to your unspoken question – nope, I haven’t done a back-up since April.  So, eight months of the year, digitally wiped out, in one fell swoop – or hard disk malfunction to be specific.

It’s taken me a while to get my head around the loss of all this virtual property, as well as being without my faithful Outlook reminders, which tell me what I need to be doing, when and for how long.  I feel like I’m n a bit of a flux or no-mans land.  I know roughly what I have to do, I know I can probably get back the most important stuff I’ve lost, and I know I’ll cope.  My netbook was tiny, and I was actually thinking I needed something bigger now that I’m a ‘proper author’ – lo and behold, I am now in the market for a new ‘proper author’ computer.  And I also acknowledge that given the choice I wouldn’t go back to that tiny screen or keyboard.  But I still feel slightly sad and bereft.

I kind of felt that way about my juicer too – it’s been my friend since April, slowly and surely helping me back to better health.  I went into Argos yesterday to swap the broken old one for a new version.  They no longer did my particular make and model.  I couldn’t decide on a new one on the spot so the lovely assistant put the refund back onto a gift card for me.  Today I chose a new one, and when I went to get it, it was on sale.  I had enough money left to get a Chromecast, which I’ve had my eye on for a couple of weeks.  And I’ve just tried out my new juicer – it’s much more sleek and efficient looking, and the juice has less bits.  So actually, the old juicer breaking turned out to be a blessing and a bonus.

Which got me wondering what is going to be coming along in place of my trusty old netbook and my long to-do lists – I think it might be something delightfully delicious.  So, I am declaring that I finally give in to the Universe.  Letting go is ok – it creates the space needed by the new stuff that wants to come in.  I’m starting to really enjoy the ‘out with the old’ theme.

Can Interstellar teach us how to cope with the Horroffice?

InterstellarI finally went to see Interstellar this week, just as it’s coming to the end of its run.  I didn’t know much about the film before I went to see it, but I do love the work of its director, Christopher Nolan – Inception, Memento, The Prestige and of course one of my all time favourite trilogies – Batman.  (We won’t mention his involvement in the terrible Man of Steel though).

Interstellar does not disappoint.  In fact, it exceeds, outstrips and blows to pieces my expectations.  Don’t get me wrong – there are plot holes in there that are far bigger than the wormholes Mr Nolan takes us through with such visual exhilaration.  But boy oh boy – the ride he takes us on is well worth a few dodgy plot lines, and a little bit of clunky dialogue – it is by turns electrifying, terrifying and ultimately I found it euphorically uplifting.

But can this awe inducing cinematic extravaganza really teach us how to cope with the Horroffice?  How?  What have space and time travel got to do with the mundane world of daily to do lists and unmanageable workloads?

Well – it all comes down to the characters Nolan populates his masterpiece with.  Let’s take Cooper – the main man, the stellar space traveller of the title.  Cooper has a vision, a dream, a goal.  He trained for that goal.  He trained to be an astronaut.  Then his goal is taken away from him.  He toils the dust filled fields of his farm instead.  Not quite as fulfilling.  And he can’t or won’t let go of his dream.  Even when everyone and everything in his world tells him he should.

We also have Professor Brand.  A man who has set himself a mammoth mission –  to save mankind.  It drives him to become the very best he can be, get to the top of his field, and even send his one and only daughter out into the inky black galaxy to try to save the people he knows are slowly but surely being killed by the planet he’s living on.

Finally there is Dr Mann – a scientist who has the not insignificant goal of keeping the human race going by inhabiting  and populating a new planet.  A man prepared to live and die on this new planet, and never see, hear or speak to another human being from Earth again as long as he lives, in order to achieve his goal.

Pretty lofty goals, I think you’d agree.  Goals so big, so full of passion and so strong that failing isn’t an option, you’d think.

I have to warn you that if you haven’t seen the film, I’m about to reveal some plot spoilers – back-up now, watch the film and come back to the article if you need to – you have been warned!

So let’s go backwards in moving forwards – Dr Mann first.  He thought he believed in his goal.  It was a lofty goal.  A huge goal.  To be fair, it was actually Professor Brands vision.  But the part he was offering to Dr Mann was fundamental in the achievement of said goal.  Logically and rationally it was a truly stupendous goal – to save the entire species.  But it wasn’t enough.  For all its loftiness and importance, it lacked one vital ingredient – love wasn’t a part of the package.  I don’t mean mushy soppy lurve.  I mean the gut-wrenching, I need to do this or die trying because it is all I care about. all I can think about, all I can dream about kind of love.  Dr Mann had actually bought into someone else’s goal, and by the end of the film (or his part in it) we realise that the love he had was actually for the planet dying in another part of the galaxy.  The goal was far too big and galactic to keep him focussed when the road ahead of him became as uninhabitable as the new planet he was on.  Dr Mann had stopped caring about a place he didn’t love and people he didn’t know.  He just wanted to go home.  That’s what he loved enough to risk the destruction of the human species for.

But saving the species was exactly what Professor Brand was passionate about.  It was what he had dedicated his whole life to.  It was what he had dedicated his family to also.  At first glance, he was choosing to make the ultimate sacrifice – losing his one and only daughter to an eternity in space, and spending his last days on a dying planet without her.  Or so we thought.  But actually, what you saw beyond the surface was that Professor Brand had lost hope in his goal.  He hadn’t stopped wanting to achieve it, but he couldn’t see a way to adapt, a way to make it happen.  And with that loss of hope what he wanted, what overrode everything he did, was not his need to see the human race survive on Earth, but to know his daughter might survive away from Earth.  Sending her out there, where there was the tiniest glimmer of hope, was all that was left of his huge lofty vision.

What about Cooper?  Well, Cooper had always had a vision and a dream.  Then he became a parent.  And he had more dreams, but they were centred around his children.  He hadn’t lost his old dream though.  He was always a space explorer at heart, but added to that was a promise from a father to his daughter that no matter how far into the galaxy he travelled, he’d come back to her.  Everything Cooper did out in space, every time he saw what he thought was the end of the line, he found a way to adapt and to cope.  Every setback was yet another problem to solve.  Because his goal was so full of love that failure was just not an option.

And I think, for me at least, that’s the way Interstellar teaches us how to cope with the Horroffice.  It’s about making sure you have a goal in mind that is so strong and so anchored in love for the achievement of it, that failure is just not an option.  It’s about making sure the goal you’ve chosen is truly your goal, not a goal others think should be yours.  And it’s about taking every setback as a learning, about adapting what we have now to get us where we need to be tomorrow.  If all that holds true then we can be sure that we will keep that promise we have made to ourselves, and we can achieve our goals, however outrageously stellar they may seem.


In Her Shoes

red shoesThis week I walked in her shoes. Last week I started a new contract. Today I feel pretty good.  There is a connecting thread here, I promise.

After the horrors of the last two contracts I was a little nervous about this new one. What would the people be like? Would I be able to cope with the work? Would the company culture suit me? Or would this be yet another Horroffice?

It’s now been five days. Not a very long time at all. But long enough to start seeing how the land lies. It’s been a hectic few days. There is a lot of work to get through. Which is what it is, and also why I was hired. From the conversations I have overheard, the more senior team at least have been working incredibly long hours. There also seems to be a lot of tension in the air. Although on the surface everyone seems to get on relatively well with each other, it feels to me as though there is an undertone of accusation, or resentment or something. Something I can’t quite put my finger on. There is definitely an air of ‘It’s not my job to do that’. Which may well be linked to the workload.

Amongst all this, I have been getting to grips with new IT systems, new financial information, processes and so on. And I’ve been adjusting to new managers. One of whom I initially found to be extremely abrasive and sharp. Not rude. Not horrible. But very impatient, and wanting things done ‘now’ and then asking for other things to be done ‘now’ instead, even though she was the one who asked for the first ‘now’ thing. And initially I wondered whether I wanted to work with someone like that for the next three months. Because for the first couple of days her impatience and abruptness and underlying panic kind of infected me too. I felt constantly tense, and hurried through everything I was doing. And then felt out of sorts and exhausted. Hurried and tense is not my natural style. I tend to be fairly calm and relaxed and paradoxically that makes me more efficient, which helps me cope even when things are busy.

Over the weekend I did some thinking, and some chilling out. I decided that I was going to make this contract work for me. I wasn’t going to look for things to be tense about. I wasn’t going to stress. I wasn’t going to worry. After all, I am the temp. I am there to help. I am not there to stress. And because I’ve gone back to my natural setting, I’ve found myself getting back in flow with the work too. It’s all starting to come back to me, and I hope I’m starting to make a difference.

Taking a step back has also allowed me to realise why my manager behaves the way she does. I’ve been able to metaphorically step into her shoes. Being in her shoes is painful but useful – they feel tight, and uncomfortable and hurt a little bit. Which translates to – she’s under pressure, under resourced and over worked. I think she is naturally sharp, but I also think she’s just extremely busy and overwhelmed. And that realisation has made it much easier to cope with the abrasiveness. It allows me to see that there is no rudeness or malice there, just a need to get everything done. In fact, there has been kindness, caring and a naughty sense of humour. In amongst her crazy workload she reminded me twice to book an appointment for the dentist and get my chipped tooth fixed. And even though she was going to be in the office until at least 9pm, she made sure I was packed and leaving on time. So my aim is to stay in the role, work hard and lighten her load as much as I can, knowing I don’t need to take on any of the stress.

It’s been a good lesson to re-learn – to always avoid judging a person until you have walked in their shoes just a little. To judge character not by someone’s words alone, but their intentions and actions too.  And to always remember to go back to wearing your own gorgeous comfortable shoes, because they fit the best and will take you the furthest.

May the odds be ever in your favour

Odds in your favour“May the odds be ever in your favour.”  How lovely that would be.  As you may have noticed from my recent blog posts, it’s sometimes felt like the odds have most definitely not been in my favour.

And today has definitely been an odd day.  Here’s how it went.

I was still awake at 12.05 am, and as I couldn’t sleep I did that thing you shouldn’t do, but always do – I checked my email.  And to my surprise, there was an email from the National Lottery, telling me I’d won (not millions, but still, winning is winning!).

I got into my car this morning and the dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree – apparently I need oil, washer fluid and a brake change urgently.

It was my first day at a new contract, and having had two pretty awful contracts I was a bit nervous about this one.  I needn’t have been.  A team of about twelve women, all of whom seem to be extremely hard-working and efficient, can sometimes come acorss as abrasive but are actually very friendly, helpful and lovely, and a job I think I can really add value in – so an excellent first day.

This afternoon, as I munched on a sweet from the bag being passed around by my boss (see – lovely office!), I broke a tooth.

On my way home (having been told to pack up at 5.30 by my boss – another good sign!) I checked my email on my phone, and saw that the insurance company had paid a claim I was waiting to get settled for vet bills.

When I got home, it was to a freezing iceberg of a house.  I tried turning the thermostat up, but the boiler refused to work.  I tried turning it on and off a few times but the boiler still refused to work.  I tried that proven to fail trick of shouting at it and giving it a good thump or two – the boiler stubbornly still refused to work.  I gave up and admitted defeat.  For about half an hour I gave in to grumpiness and a few tears of sheer frustration.

But then, when I stop to think about it, I see the bigger picture.  It’s all about balance, as the lovely Judith pointed out when I shared my news.  Three lovely things in, three annoying things out.

And as I thought about it, I realised it is about balance, but it’s also about how that balance is shifting, in the right way.  Things are starting to come together.  And yes, the three annoying things are annoying and will cost money to fix.  But once they’re fixed I will have a car, house and mouth in better shape than they are now.  So even the annoying things are really just a kind of cosmic tidying up.  And when I look at it like that I feel like the odds are starting to shift in my favour.

May the odds be in your favour too.


Do or do not

Yoda 'try' quoteActually, the full quote from the Stars Wars Jedi Master Yoda is ‘Try not. Do or do not.  There is no try.’

It’s a concept that was reinforced as part of my NLP course.  I still remember the ridiculously simple way it was explained to me, and how just for one perfect shining moment it made things crystal clear.

Think about a pencil that’s been dropped on the floor.  You either pick it up or you leave it there.  In the moment that it drops, you make a choice.  You choose to pick it up.  You choose not to pick it up.  You don’t ever choose to try to pick it up but fail to pick it up.

And that’s kind of the essence of it – for me anyway.  ‘Try’ is a deceptive word.  It implies that there has been a decision and some effort will be made, but it doesn’t guarantee an outcome.  But actually, the minute you start a sentence with the word ‘Try’ what you’re actually telling your brain, and whoever you’re talking to is that there is a chance that whatever it is you’re attempting won’t actually happen.

My brother uses the word ‘Try’ whenever he doesn’t want to do something but doesn’t want to say no.  I’ve learned that when he says ‘I’ll try and make it’ what he actually means is ‘Nope, that doesn’t sound like something I want to do, but I don’t want to hurt your feelings or cause myself any stress right now, so I’m going to delay the moment I actually have to tell you I won’t be doing X or coming to Y’.

I do it to myself – at the moment I’ve been using the word ‘Try’ every time I think about exercising.  I say to myself ‘I’ll try and exercise tomorrow.’  I’ve been saying that for a week.  I haven’t yet exercised once.

We do it at work too.  ‘I’ll try and get that report finished tomorrow or ‘I’ll try and come in early to get a head start on Z’.  But what you’re actually doing is giving yourself a get out clause.

Don’t.  Don’t do it.  Don’t make half promises to yourself or to anyone else.  You deserve better for yourself.  And ‘Trying’ takes up a lot of head space but doesn’t lead to anything productive.

Instead, make a decision.  Yes or No.  Then stick with it.  I made a decision on the exercise.  I’m starting on Sunday.  And until then I’m not going to try to fit it in.  On Sunday I’m just going to ‘Do’.  Until then I’m going to ‘Do Not’.