Cha-Cha-Cha-Changes… Again…

Mood: Annoyed

I am growing quite tired at being upset by the people I work with for no real reason.

On display yesterday was another fine example of "what not to do" – yet another fine mess that was slowly and painfully played out over the last couple of weeks. For a group of people who claims to have specialist skills in change management, they don’t practice what they preach when it comes to dealing with their own crises and staff members impacted by changes in the workplace. And I’m over it.

After what seemed like an eternity of closed door meetings, secret teleconferences and hushed conversations, it was finally announced that our division’s NSW Manager was leaving the company. Whilst this was big news, it didn’t really impact me as far as my day to day activities or my project activities were concerned. And I could have waited to hear the news when the rest of the company would find out – on Monday next week, via an email from my General Manager.

A bit of quick background first. The company I work for has a quirky way of relaying news about departing staff members. Most of the time, a non-descript email is sent to all staff announcing the news on the leaver’s very last day (oddly aimed to arrive in our inboxes at around the 3pm mark). It was not unusual to receive something along the lines of "It is with regret that I announce Joe Smith has resigned and his last day is today. Please join me in wishing him well." If the leaver had been with the company for a few years, then the email may contain slightly more details to note the person’s achievements and/or involvement in high profile projects. And if the person was leaving on not so happy terms, it may take weeks for some to realise that Elvis has left the building.

I don’t agree with this practice. Considering we are asked to (and most leavers do) give a month’s notice upon resignation, if the departing colleague wants to tell everyone well before their last day, then they should be allowed to. Instead, there is this unnecessary shroud of secrecy about the departure and the leaver is usually told not to say anything to anyone until their line manager or general manager is ready to issue a circular announcing the forthcoming event.

So it comes to being that the NSW Manager will soon be leaving the company after nearly 9 years of service. A haphazardly organised "emergency" teleconference was convened yesterday afternoon, for which all divisional staff were asked to drop everything to attend, and at which the announcement was made. His last day will be some time in the week after Easter, meaning that he handed in his resignation some time at the end of February.

Now, let me reiterate that the NSW Manager’s departure has little to no impact on me from a professional point of view. I am not upset that he’s leaving – after all, his new job is exactly what he wants and suits him down to a tee, and we all need to look after ourselves. Good on him for taking the leap and moving into the next phase of his career.

What I am upset about is the way the Senior Management Team dealt with what they perceived to be a crisis. The way the news was handled saw a large amount of unnecessary nervousness and unease created amongst the staff members who had the misfortune of being based in the headoffice and were party to the dramatic scenes played over the past two weeks. Oh, and did I mention that the last time a sudden and unexplained flurry of activity took place, I thought I was going to lose my job after the division I was working in was dissolved?

Let’s start with the General Manager. She is a highly animated, highly energetic manager who, in my opinion, is very reactive. The more stress she is under or the bigger the crisis, the more animated and loud she gets. She is usually based in Melbourne, and has been spending a great deal of time in our Sydney headoffice over the past weeks. The first sign of trouble came in the form of an off-the-cuff comment – that she was going to be spending a great deal of time in Sydney in the coming weeks. The next sign of trouble was the great number of lengthy closed door meetings between her and the NSW Manager. Next came another comment as she was heading into yet another closed door meeting – "unless someone dies, I am not to be disturbed". The final nail in the coffin was played out like The Last Supper – she took the headoffice based team to lunch on Wednesday, during which she "paved the way" with some tidbits of information she felt we should have.

Then there’s the NSW Manager. He’s as introverted as the General Manager is extroverted. He was a site-based project director and rarely spent any time in headoffice. So little did the NSW team saw of him that when we were asked what we thought of him during our performance reviews, most of the team said "He’s a good manager but I wish I saw him more often." And then, suddenly, we got what we wanted – he was in the headoffice all the time, behind a closed door with either the General Manager or the Operations Coordinator.

And then there’s the Operations Coordinator. She is just as highly animated and loud as the General Manager, if not more. Her voice is so loud that even she knows she should not have confidential conversations sitting at her desk. Over the past few weeks, she would disappear behind a closed door to have lengthy telephone conversations in the quietest voice possible. And while I know she means well, she has the subtlety of a sledge hammer. Every time someone asked about the NSW "restructure" (which had been in the pipeline for months), she would say "I’m not allowed to tell you – you’ll find out in good time – watch this space."

So here’s what I would have liked to have seen:

1. The closed door meetings to have taken place somewhere else. If those meetings were that confidential, which they were, they should have been held in a meeting room far far away from the headoffice based team and other prying eyes and ears.

2. From the General Manager, less "flapping about" and definitely less of those comments that I found to be flippant, and because I found them to be flippant caused me a great deal of unease and discontent.

3. From the Operations Coordinator, any made up excuse as to why she couldn’t talk about the news. For example, instead of saying "I’m not allowed to tell you – you’ll find out in good time – watch this space", I would have preferred "I don’t actually know what’s going on; please feel free to ask the General Manager".

The whole thing was a mess. It didn’t need to be such a mess. The knot in my stomach grew every day, which did not ease even after the announcement yesterday afternoon. It was still there today, which only started unravelling slowly after someone scratched the surface just enough for the veneer to break.

I did not need to be upset for no real reason. But seeing that sudden and unexplained flurry of activity in the headoffice, and feeling the breeze as the General Manager flapped about here and there wound me up so much for no real reason.

I don’t like being upset at work. Yet there I was today, talking with a colleague about stuff that was totally unrelated to the mess, when all of a sudden the flood gates opened and I was bawling my eyes out as the stress of the last few weeks proved too much to handle. Now, really, did the Senior Management Team need to carry on like they did and cause that much silent stress amongst their staff? For a bunch of change management specialists, they sure don’t seem to know how to put their own house in order.

And it’s all official. I just checked my inbox and the email is there – albeit appearing in my inbox at 6pm on a Friday evening. Trust me, I could have waited to read it on Monday.


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