by The Sea
An introspection into the work culture during the pandemic
Just a thought
An article about the stress of a decently-employed manager may seem insignificant considering the situation with the global pandemic and the people of the world reeling under the stress of risking death each time they step out their door. You can say the privileged few, like us, who can work from home and keep themselves safe from harm do have the cream of the cake and we are not denying that- It is a very big relief that we are not forced to travel and interact with people every day!
Luckier than Most
Each day people around the world meet and pass by strangers and friends- never knowing who is safe to be around and who may be a carrier of a disease that may or may not infect them depending on many factors and in some parts- your luck and the state of your health on that particular day. With that in mind, it is a boon to be working in the IT industry and for companies that have the provision to work remotely from the relative safety of one's home. But everyone has their own smaller problems and here I would like to talk about one of ours.
Life Before the Pandemic
Until the pandemic, we had settled into a monotonous routine which very closely matching the french saying Métro>boulot->Dodo.
It would start with Métro(Travel) where we travel up and down city traffic hoping to reach somewhere on time or trying to get home before midnight.
Then would come to Boulot(work) where we would work 7-4 or 12-9 or other variations of the 9-5 job that we had grown accustomed to serving as jail time.
Last would be Dodo(sleep), where if we were lucky, we would get the occasional coffee break or lunch. Maybe a bit of TV after work and a few hours of sleep before the routine starts off again.
At that time, most companies would try to be courteous- you are expected to work only while you are in the office during office hours. If anyone was to call you after you leave work, the conversation usually started with “Sorry to call you after office hours but....”
When the pandemic hit and the world went into lockdown- the balance of Métro>boulot->Dodo was disrupted. As Noone was allowed to leave the house it meant no one needed to travel from work.
Now, there is no distinction between Office & home and the concept of office hours was lost. 'Work from home' means that home is the new office, therefore there is no need for the boss to be hesitant to disturb someone at 11:30 on a Saturday night because “my employee is always at the new office regardless of what time of day it is”. With each subsequent lockdown extension, the work hours grows to include all hours of day or night leaving no room for anything else in life.
The Unlucky Hero
Coming back to my husband specifically, he comes in the delicate position of someone with great power and responsibilities with no power of his own. A mistyped number by his subordinates would result in a loss of millions for the company sales unless if he is quick to catch it in time. His required mentor would have to be Mad-eye Moody from Harry Potter, screaming “Constant Vigilance” every half hour.
Meet the team
The hierarchy of my husband’s team doesn't help either as well. For understanding this better, I shall try to relate it with a few pictures
This is my husband, Anty (), a manager in operations just trying to survive and not get crushed under a boot.
His subordinates, the ladybirds (), who will do what they are told if they know how to do it based on past experience only.
His peers, The scorpions() in Sales, who will do only the job description, even if their own clients are struggling.
Then comes his Boss, Vincent-the Unicorn(), the smart accomplished guy who will do only the work he feels like doing.
Vincent's Boss, Larry the Peacock (), who is interested only in big data and the big picture. and his peer (and boss of the scorpions) Carry the Crab () who prefers to snap before knowing what is happening.
Lastly, the clients , infuriating on most occasions when they choose to not follow the procedure.
Why my husband Is stressed Out
Reason 1: How stuff operate
The clients start the day off with “Anty, We forgot the procedure and now we are blocked, please help” and people tell them “It's okay, Anty will do it”
His subordinates () then walk in, “Anty, We did 75% of the work." and people tell them “Its okay, Anty will do it”
His peers (), start complaining, “Anty, This is not working! No, I won't do anything about it. I told you, if anyone asks, I’ll say it’s your fault".
That makes Carry () the Scorpions boss go around saying, “My team told Anty 5 minutes ago to solve their issue and he did not solve it within the first 4 minutes. This is not the way it should function. Management, do something about it” for which Larry says, “I’m sorry that Anty is not doing his job, The work has been re-assigned in name, but in reality, Anty will do the work and the new person will get the credit.”
Then comes his Boss, Vincent () who goes with “Anty, I don't feel like doing these tasks. So you do it and I’ll give 0.1% of the credit to you” and he gets “Vincent, Excellent Job!!”
When Vincent chooses not to do tasks he doesn't want to do, Larry () gives everything to Anty with- “Anty, I know you have 17 other stuff assigned to you, but do these 10 more, finish by today and make it a report so I can present it to my boss.”
Finally, after everything is done, people tell Anty (),: “Anty, we had 100 problems, you solved only 95 of them! This is not what is expected. Also, You didn’t do your actual work!!”
Reason 2: His Role in the workflow
Anty’s tasks come up in highlight only AFTER there is a problem and usually when things go wrong beyond the control of people on the team.
When you are only called to help when stuff goes very wrong, you automatically become associated with “stuff going wrong”.
Reason 3: “Hey Anty, Any updates?”
By and By, with every problem routed through Anty. People have stopped trying to solve their own issues. The job profile for others has become, ‘something happened, I told Anty, my work stops there. I will ask only Anty’. Even if Anty points out that ‘you just need to ask This person and they will solve this issue’, they still come back to him.
Reason 4: Taking a break
If by any chance, Anty even remotely suggests that he needs a break- “Okay Guys, I’ll be taking a day off because I’m nearly dying of exhaustion. Will be unavailable from 1:00 pm today.”
The Entire team: “Anty, we asked you for 10 tasks to be completed by 5:00 pm, but since you said you won’t be available, please complete these 15 tasks by 1:00 pm”
Reason 5: The Insignificant Department
Unfortunately for Anty, he belongs to a nearly insignificant department of the organisation. Other departments receive help and support faster than his department. On top of that, when someone at Anty’s level is asking someone at a higher level from another department to help out, the other departments tend to feel- yeah maybe it’s not that huge a deal if only the lowest guy is bothered.
Reason 6: The Stakes
When the department is earning close to nothing, with the Pandemic shutting down a majority of operations, any problem left unsolved costs the department millions. Normally, when your department is at such a loss, you would think that the highest leg of the hierarchy would be the ones who would actively follow up and try and get the problems solved the fastest way possible.
But here, the responsibility to figure out what went wrong and solve it is on Anty. Be it the highest level or the most insignificant one, Anty has to solve the issue and ensure that sales happen.
So that’s my husband’s life during the pandemic. He is the Accountant who was hired by a department of Firemen to put out the fire of a 13-storey building. They send him into the fire with a single pail of water while they stand back and call him up every 5 minutes to tell him there is a fire in a different part of the building than the one he is standing in right now which requires his immediate attention or else it’s his fault if it burns down.