Thursday, 2 August 2012

Isolation vs Integration

Another blogger sparked off something in me that has really got me thinking...
So here I am in the "new" job...  I've put the quotes there as actually I've been here over 10 months now and rapidly it'll be a year so is it still "new"?  It feels it to me.  And there in lies a crux of issues that have been assailing me of late. Let me throw a bunch of things at you... culture, complexity, change, commitment, belonging...

A little history lesson.  I worked at the same place from 1991 - 2010 until I was made redundant, something I was happy about at the time, that old place was on a downward spiral and my mojo had decidedly left me and I found myself regularly the harbinger of bad tidings "We tried that three times before and it failed due to a, b, c etc.".   I needed to get out and get a change.  After 7 months not working I got a job with a small consultancy firm - I didn't mind the work and the fact that as a consultant you go into somewhere and can be extremely focused, most of the everyday stuff is just not relevant or of interest to you.  However I really really hated the life out of a suitcase not at home except at weekends flavour of life so after 7 months there I was looking for a local job, I found one with a respected company in it's field and was going to start there when another job I'd applied for just before the other one fell in my lap - I was stunned it is with a prestigious institution in the heart of London and frankly I never expected to get the job.  I took that job instead and here I am...

When I joined I knew that the department I'm in was in a massive period of change, essentially 2 or 3 departments all joining together and a root and branch organisational change under-way. I joined in the middle of this and it wasn't pleasant, the culture of the organisation is a bit "job for life", there is a relatively very low turnover of staff and due to a union dominated employer/employee relationship change takes a very long time and is frequently disrupted by the unions.  I understand some of why they do this, however it angered me at the time I joined.  Due to some logistical issues I was initially put in an office that was not with people I closely worked with, they were in another office block.   The reorganisation look longer than planned/hoped and it wasn't until April this year I was really in place in the job and we only located all together a month ago in a new office block.  The whole change process is still ongoing and much is still being said of transition rather than normalisation.

I realised - or rather I've been burying from my conscious focus! - through another blogger that my actions have been isolationist not one of integration.  I frequently lunch alone, reading books/blogs at that time - it has become "me time".  Maybe not a bad thing, but hasn't helped my feeling of belonging a part of here.  Also the institution is large, it doesn't have the normal structures you may be used to in a corporate world (where I've spent most of my working life) the whole thing is effectively a group of alliances to a brand but more on a sort of franchise basis than a wholly owned subsidiary.  This again makes understanding the politics, the drivers, the real objectives very difficult to grasp - a very senior may say something  about policy or strategy but really they have little direct authority to implement that completely they have to sell, cajole, entice others to that view point, all the time remembering that some of those they need to influence have the option of taking a large chunk of the organisations prestige, funding etc. with them if they decided that they didn't like that direction and would be better served in another similar institution.  The complexity is frankly baffling - I have found it a very hard environment to get my head around I can say.  The politics are just too complex to say and the lack of cohesive communications and conflicting prioritisations and decisions too numerous to keep track of.

So I find myself regularly faced with all the above and soldier on trying to affect some little part of my activities to be seen as a successful contributor to the overall.  I have to say though I'm struggling with the commitment to it, I keep thinking that the level of energy especially emotionally that I have to put in to dealing with the above is not worth the effort really. 

Now before people leap in with comments about leaving the job - I know all that etc.  I'm make one observation, my wife often says "You'll never be happy where you work".  Frankly, she has a fair point, I've always bitched about it, always taken probably too much to heart my need to be seen as this or that or the other and to deliver what I believe is the right result and my vision of my expectations it probably far too high to be healthy.   I come back to the AA thing about acceptance.  It is a good job, a very good job, with a very respected employer, in fact the place is pleasant to work in the majority of the time, the people nice enough it is just me wanting the unobtainable.


  1. The position sounds like a keeper to me. The sad fact is that 99% of us do NOT get to make a living doing what we love. We can't all be Bruce Springsteen. But I also think that Thoreau was wrong. We are not all leading lives of quiet desperation. There is a middle path.

  2. Funny you should say that your wife reminded you that you'll never be happy in your job...I have a dear friend whom I've known for 20+ years who just said the same thing to me. It is work after all. Hard to hear but the honest truth. So nice that you can use the lessons of recovery to get you through. You can focus on what really matters and get on with it!

  3. Could it be the creative temperament thing? Because I've always been that way - precisely what you describe. I think for me anyway, it's the mundane - the confinement, the sameness, the restlessness. And everything bugs me so office politics eats me up. I guess I'm just being immature and irresponsible but I think it goes deeper than that. Maybe you're feeling some of that. Just a thought.

  4. I have the feeling that I would also be profoundly unhappy in your position. I don't work well in a situation where undercurrents drain my energy — the "soldiering on" bit, through which I have lived in more than one position. Which is my way of saying I understand something of your plight. I also understand the wisdom of Mrs. F — my wife is very good at reflecting to me what is life-giving (and what is not) where I have been employed.

    I have no suggestions to offer. I simply wish you well in the acceptance — courage — wisdom process related to this employment.

    Blessings and Bear hugs.

  5. After reading this, the first thing I thought of was, of course, the Serenity Prayer and then Footsteps - my favorites. It seems as if you already know this and have processed these thoughts and bounced them off of Mrs. F. too. I think there is a part of all of us that tends to get mixed up in office politics no matter how hard we try not to. Sometimes it's simply unavoidable. I wish you the best.

  6. I sometimes find myself miserable, cause of my job.

    I have to remember that it is something that i DO, and not who i AM.
    Sounds like the job iteself isnt so bad, its a steady paycheck, and the people are pleasant... It could be worse.

  7. the only joy i find in my job (besides the benefits and paycheck) is looking after people. and it is more than enough - i'm in a position to help. to be an advocate. and so i do... other than that? paycheck. benefits. paid holiday. i am now working to live, rather than living to work... and i'm fortunate to have the job.

    ideally we could all love what we do. realistically? try to add value. try to earn the paycheck. that's as good as it can likely get. good luck!