Wednesday, 30 June 2004

Not really Ready to Wear

My local dry cleaner
I have not been pleased with my local dry-cleaner for many reasons. At first you have to pay up front for a job you cannot guarantee would be up to standard.
Then, they do not seem to know anything about materials, you effectively are giving them carte blanche to perform a service you have paid for, that they cannot guarantee and you waived every right to complain by signing an "At your own risk" slip for anything that is vaguely of value.
Then, you take in a suit and it is treated as a separate jacket from the trousers, really, what is the point here? If perchance you have similar suits, there is no guarantee that they would be returned in the right pairing.
In fact, they never have been returned in the right pairing (the suits have proper and different but matching designer labels in the jacket and trousers), buttons have been broken and lost. It is just a lackadaisical approach to a service that should be a whole lot better. Pambo’s is the pits, in a fit of pique; I just had to mention the name of the place.
It really amazes me that the dry cleaner still gets any custom apart from the fact that they are a monopoly in my locality, they have nothing that enthuses me about their service.
A good example was when I did think of a situation where the service is substandard and what I would have to do. So, on that Monday morning I put on my suit only to find out that the lapel/collar was not pressed or ironed right. I took it back to the lady receptionist who could not see what was wrong with it.
Eventually, when she realised the error, she offered to have it corrected, which was fine, but I had to come back in two days. You must be kidding me, two days to sort out a simple ironing job. Did I lose my rag or what?
Anyways, that has lead to me seeking a better and sure service which hopefully has the service on-site. That is the problem with franchised outlets where they are just collection and delivery points, no added value service can be provided at best and no redress is possible in the worst case scenario, it is both a con and rip-off.
Shopping for a suit
So, on realising that none of my suits at home are nicely wearable for the fact that they need dry cleaning; the impulsive personality thought a spot of shopping is the done thing. So, here I was in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the capital city of Gran Canaria some 30 or so kilometres from Playa del Ingles where I am staying.
The first suit shop seemed to have all I want, but there was no fitter or dresser who spoke English. Now, for a T-shirt, you probably do not need any assistance, however, for a suit, you need plenty - to ensure it fits right and proper and especially deal with the trousers.
Whilst, I would be willing to learn Spanish, I really cannot confidently pick up another language when I am still struggling to sort out my Dutch. So, this fell through and I moved on to the main store Corte del Ingles.
This fits nicely
Whilst the first store seemed to have an in-house tailor considering the number of pins I could see stuck in most of the clothes, this store seemed to have everything ready to wear, or so I thought.
First, the helper can communicate in English, I use communicate rather than speak and I hope you can understand the subtle difference. I ask for a black or grey suit, which are all single-breasted with 2 buttons. I presume double-breasted suits are going out of fashion, recently, I have seen none in the shops.
Well, it is size 52 in the measurements that use in Spain; I suppose that equates to 42 in the English fashion shops. One thing I have not conveniently converted to is the sizes for clothes from the English notation to the Continental European standard, I am learning.
So, I end up with 2 suits, which I try out, one fits quite well, but the trousers need adjustment, the other was a something of an off-suit, I tell the helper and he recognises that fact. As for the trouser adjustment, I had to return in 3 days for it. Let me just assess this carefully and considerately.
I have just visited a "Ready to wear" shop with a formal clothing department. There are no bespoke services or fitters about, which would imply I could get a complete suit and walk out of the shop with my purchase.
Contrast this with my buying a watch with a linkages strap, we do a fitting and decide 3 links have to come off, in 15 minutes this is done by the in-house horologist. I pay and I have my purchase. One would think a trouser adjustment would take at most an hour using the in-house tailor.
From another perspective, if I pay about 400 Euros for a suit in a Ready to Wear shop, I expect to take it out with me, in a bespoke shop, it is understandable that you are being measured, checking the material you want from cloth and probably need to give it a week for completion.
The whole idea that on buying the suit, I have to seek out a tailor to shorten the length for another 20 or so Euro is too irksome to contemplate though I suppose I would still end up getting the suits anyhow. Logic, bargains and commonsense have colluded in an unholy alliance at variance to my reasoning.
My advocacy is for in-house services from dry-cleaners, watch sellers, suit and formal wear shops, even leather goods shops would punch new holes in your belt, or the shoe repairer would do it all whilst your wait, so should other services for the convenience of the many like me who cannot wait to see what you have already paid for transmogrified into something you wish you had not purchased.
A market opportunity is hereby revealed to those with the acumen to exploit a too obvious opening.
Phew! Shopping could be such a chore.

Tuesday, 29 June 2004

The Bush Doctrine

Pre-emptive thinking
When Dick Cheney introduced us to the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive action, which is to strike the threat before they strike us, many would have thought that was an unfunny joke.
Well, we learnt the very hard way; the logic follows that you choose an enemy, throw a few reasons about your decision to attack in the basket and then coerce your weaker allies to join in your bludgeoning of the tougher allies and the enemy.
In the process call every voice of reason irrelevant, lump all opposition with your enemy, justify that stance with any means possible and this is by no means unilateral.
As we know, you are doing a tough job, making tough decisions and taking well, liberties.
The Underhand
The read in the news yesterday morning that the coalition had performed the underhand to the representative exiles that constitute the new Iraqi government was as pre-emptive as you could get.
A bit of trivia informs us that nine were educated in the United Kingdom and eight in the United States and by consequence they know Western values and freedom.
It obviously pre-empted every thought and preparation for the original hangover date of the 30th of June 2004 no matter how unprepared they are for this onerous task.
Definitely, this has also pre-empted the almost definitely expected carnage that might have been unleashed by the insurgents on the day of the underhand, maybe smart, we knows with these pre-emptive actions.
However, I still contend that Western values of democracy, freedom and liberties may still not be as adaptable to the Middle East as the theoreticians of the American neo-conservative doctrine might have hoped.
Premature ejaculation
Excuse my use of a rather crude phrase, but it all smacks of a problem you cannot talk about, that bothers you so much and you wonder what to do.
All the worry only tends to complicate the problem until you read an advertisement placed by some charlatan with more degrees than a lake of molten magma in the classifieds of a reputable broadsheet newspaper offering a cure for all your ailments.
Desperation, curiosity and daring-do challenge all your faculties of reason in this inordinate quest for a cure which you never get.
The allegory only baffles you about what other pre-emptive actions might be taken apart from the others like awarding the Iraqi contracts to only America and its allies, then asking the non-allies to forgive Iraqi debt.
Consider the pre-emptive actions of officially sanctioned prisoner abuse then realising that you have forfeited moral high ground to seek an extension to your waiver from the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Now you take other pre-emptive by signing bi-lateral agreements with 90 little Bantustans to undermine the scope of the ICC.
In the obscure situation surrounding the sovereignty of the Iraqi government and the coalition who would now defer to Mr John Negroponte, the erstwhile US ambassador to the UN, now US ambassador to Iraq - I suppose it is a just reward from hothouse diplomacy based on faulty intelligence to another hothouse prison to protect you from the insurgents.
That apart from the expected pre-emptive - a misnomer - bargaining power that he holds by withholding funding, or releasing it at whim, the American troops who have done so well to maintain the security of the large Green zone in the middle of Baghdad do not pull out too soon.
Even I am being presumptuously pre-emptive about suggesting that. Another thing, Al Paul Bremer has left the country.

Monday, 28 June 2004

American misconceptions of a greater world

Nations and identities
It is with interest that one observes the way the general American public thinks about world issues.
At first is the anomaly of calling national sports finals the World Series, though rightly or wrongly, the provenance of World is probably related to some other function rather than the world itself, however, on first hearing it one would wonder what other countries are involved in a game primarily played in the Americas.
It might be something fundamentally wrong with the American education system that allows them to see American as a country and then every other grouping of people in terms of geography, race, religion or affiliation is pigeon-holed into an equivalent entity.
This gives rise to comparisons like America and the World, America and Europe, America and the Middle East, Democracy and Terrorism, Christianity and Islam and so on.
Yet, America only consists of just about 300 million people out of the 6.2 billion of the global population, a twentieth of human kind.
Them and Us
The way the present American regime has played up this issue is unfortunate, desperate and radically unethical. For all the goodwill accruing to America in the advent of the terrorist attack of September the 11th 2001, they managed to convert that account into an amazing deficit, just as they have the economy.
First was the pledge by the president to be a uniter and not a divider only to make the American society the most polarised along all lines of debate from the congress through to basic everyday issues.
Then allies who were unceremoniously challenged and riled in the UN with the view that only support for whatever America had in mind was the right way and any opposition was in favour of terrorists at best and made the UN irrelevant at worst.
The Rumsfeld theory of old Europe versus new Europe was interesting, considering it was the so-called old Europe that created the entity into which the new Europe had striven for years to join.
Old in some cases tempers the feisty with recognition of insight, wisdom and caution - all of which were lacking in America’s pursuit of its unilateral aim of deposing Saddam Hussein.
Them and us almost sounds like them and US (The United States of America), united they might be in name, and only in name as an entity.
Spain had the unfortunate situation of a terrorist attack perpetrated by Al Qaeda operatives which the then government tried to pin on local terrorists.
As the truth of the situation broke out, people for once reacted to the fact that a democratically elected government out to blatantly cajole and deceive its people is not worthy of the prize of government and leadership.
That lie was suppressed in favour of accusing the Spaniards of timidity, more so because the new government promised to withdraw their troops forthwith from Iraq and they did what they promised.
Everyone knows that Spain has suffered terrorist attacks for over 30 years, well before 9/11/2001 was hatched in the mind of Al Qaeda.
It was the most disingenuous thing to suggest; more places in the world have suffered harrowing terrorist attacks that the one in America was probably the biggest does not make the sufferings of others less significant.
America had thought themselves immune to attacks because of the Atlantic Ocean and the removal of weapons of mass destruction.
Well, the fact is that the terrorists trained in America for up to a year, and used nothing of the sort expected by the expert analysts that review terrorist activities.
Tom Clancy probably has more to say about hatching terrorist plots from what one can read in his best selling books.
Islam is neither a nation nor a people
This misconception is compounded by references made by supposedly intelligent commentators who have decried the lack of condemnation from the Muslim world about 9/11 whilst the Americans expressed revulsion at the events in the Abu Ghraib prison.
Just as there is no clear entity to identify a Christian world, Hindu world, Atheist world or some other belief system world and I can clearly state that the Muslim is not an existential entity of reference.
Rather it is simply people of the earth, scattered around the globe though more concentrated in some areas that adhere to the teachings of Mohammed.
Whilst the Pope in the Vatican is at times mistakenly considered the head of the earthly Christian religion, his remit is primarily the Catholic branch, there is the Anglican, Evangelical, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Coptic and so on; branches of Christianity, and so we have many branches in Islam, the more prominent being the Sunnite and the Shiite, leaders of these branches in the various countries are not a few.
However, we can clearly say that countries that are predominantly Muslim like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Indonesia, Morocco or even Pakistan can speak through their governments about their revulsion of these attacks, but America having alienated Iran, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan as terrorist supporters or part of the Axis of Evil; silence or glee might as a consequence replace expected commiseration.
You cannot make public enemies of states and then expect them to sympathise with your plight, no matter how heinous. It is a standard human emotion and quality.
No single country is a representative of global Islam, just as America is not a representative of global Christianity. There are more professed Christians in other parts of the world than America.
Whilst Al Qaeda has tried to create the notion of a global Islam through their pronouncements and activities, America has helped foster that view by lumping each regional terrorist event as a synonymous Al Qaeda and Islamic fundamentalism threat and event, they in turn have promoted this view as a Islam versus Crusader conflict.
I have my doubts about America being the leader of the free world, each nation is free according to what its people allow. More so, the nations of Europe have lesser impediments to their freedom than America, where their freedoms have lead to more restrictions through the surreptitiously named Patriot Act.
As we all have seen with communist states, the People’s Democratic Republic of Bantustan is never about the people, hardly ever democratic, republican for eliminating a monarchy but still having a corrupt ruling class, and surely, every country needs to have a name - in this case - Bantustan.
American has much to learn about the world; the geography is easy, but the people and their cultures are an entirely different matter; a lack of commitment to educate, inform and enlighten from their educational system and their press is what has failed the many who if they knew better might express better and intelligent opinions and vote objectively after good consideration of the issues at hand.

Sunday, 27 June 2004

How dare you ... ?

News
I have once been accused of being a news junkie, wherever that person got the idea from escapes me. However, I must say, I do like to know what is going on, locally and remotely, whether it directly affects me or not.
Something about just being informed is exhilarating and enlightening, especially the kind of information we are getting from the press nowadays.
As long as it is more of reporting than the analysis, psychoanalysis, autopsy and post-mortem, one is at least has the opportunity to form one’s opinions without bias.
For me, news is about what happened where and when - how and why should only be included to provide a balance background rather than a bias in favour of the subjective commentator’s views. I once dealt with a similar line of thought in  News, Opinions and Propaganda.
My hotel TV had only one English speaking channel, 6 channels pertaining to Tarot card gypsies - at times we should be out sorting our lives out than trying the sport of mountaineering in a swimsuit; that is my analogy - a smattering of Spanish game shows and lots of German fare, since this is more a Germanic haven, and Tenerife is the Anglophile haven.
I finally got fed up of listening to CNBC, the language was arcane, jargon, inscrutable and probably too pompous to be of any use to serious long term investors.
Programs like Closing Bell, Squawk Box & Power Lunch are typical of the pretentious restaurant patrons who pretend to be wine aficionados when they should simply seek advice of the waiter or sommelier in a more exclusive setting.
If the wine is rotten, you really cannot own up to choosing a bad wine, just as following the advice of the share and market hacks could have brought you more grief than comfort and success.
As they say, "A fool and his money are soon parted" having wisely followed the advice of charlatans. Do not get me wrong, there is good advice out there, but nothing beats understanding what you are doing through your own research.
Eventually, I fetched the remote control, retuned the TV, no BBC World, but up came CNN, good enough, they seem to have toned down on the propaganda, having had their fingers burnt a few times now with the bungle of America’s sham election of 2000 and the reporting of official policy on Iraq.
Basically, each news agency has to go out and do their research, analysis and gathering, then subject all that to scrutiny, balancing the news test with the truth test - maintaining standards of probity is no chicken run.
The dare mentality
There is growing tendency of the government in America to forget that they are part of an accountable elective democracy - crooked as that might seem - and not a theocracy of biblical omnipotence.
The advent of September 11 2001 and the terrorist attack on American suddenly made the front pages of every global policy. Even we all recall terrorism well predates 2001 and it has its causes.
No one becomes a terrorist because it is a career move, it stems from the deprived, dejected, despondent, disillusioned, disappointed, oppressed, abused, outraged, angry and uncompromising - that list in itself is hardly exhaustive, but accounts for the fact that terrorism does not occur in a vacuum.
Much dissent regarding the Patriot Act, the war in Iraq and coalition’s aims and Guantanamo prison camp has been characterised as unpatriotic almost reading as treasonable.
The questions being raised about going to war, the weapons of mass destruction, the neo-conservatives vision of a democratic Middle East, the role of Halliburton in the reconstruction process, the issues of stress or torture revealed in Iraq and extrapolated to Guantanamo and the tenuous link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda are being rebutted fiercely.
Fiercely, in the sense that we are told to shut up, how dare we question
  • the people we put into government no matter how wrong their policies about going to war or sending troops to war against the wishes of the people
  • the fact that no link can be found between Saddam Hussein and September the 11th, and whilst Dick Cheney recently denied he said there is a confirmed link, the wonders of recorded interviews showed that he said so in 2001
  • the values and actions of the soldiers in Abu Ghraib when Saddam Hussein was worse - I suppose this introduces a principle of degrees of moral grounds or steps, rather than a single solid and firm moral ground
    • With respect, if Saddam Hussein’s evil (call that a unit of measurement a Saddevil) equates to 100 Saddevils), then at 99 Saddevils we are still better on the moral scale than Saddam. A warped logic, but has been spewed out by a few commentators
  • ask to be privy to documents that are usually kept secret for 30 or more years then are selectively declassified to discredit opponents or affirm what is in fact self-righteous incompetence
Commands from on high
Amazingly, all the subjects of these news stories are now being buffeted at each stage, even the kudos Dubbiyew might has gotten from the Reagan pomp and pageantry would seemingly ebb away with another smart son of a president - Ron Reagan Jnr clearly articulate, focused and coherent saying the Republican Party is meaner and nastier than when his father was president.
More so, in tribute to his father, he made a statement about his father not wearing his religion on his sleeve like many do nowadays, this was read as a broad swipe at the sitting president. Scary considering Dubbiyew chatted to a higher Father than his father the first president Bush about the war in Iraq.
Well, I have nothing against prayer, but the same principle is chatting to a higher being for direction is what drives Osama bin Laden- the mind boggles.
America is a democracy, not a religious government, the way the religious right has captured the political conscience of the nation to the detriment of liberty and freedom of choice is amazing.
Everything protected by the constitution is undermined by an inordinate desire by the conservatives to crowd the waves, the opinions, the lobbies and the papers whilst arguing that the liberals are having more of a field day.
How is it that marriage has become a constitutional issue rather than a basic fulfilling institution of partnership?
The truth is that a Christian president does not necessary make a good president; neither does a secular one make for a decent one.
Clinton, who by those standards would be considered immoral and reprobate was intelligent, charismatic and put America in a position of esteem, which has now been squandered by the divisive and unilateral machinations of the sitting president.
Leadership is a matter of principle, courage and determination, your beliefs are supposed to reinforce the qualities of these virtues, the beliefs are not the governing principles in themselves.
On a lighter note
Allesio Vinci said, "Pizza with pineapple, that's a cake ... Pizza with cucumber it's an insult." I agree, how dare they represent those things as pizza? You've been warned.

Saturday, 26 June 2004

Holiday blogs

Dotting the I’s
Going through a few of blog recent blogs, I could not help but notice what happens when in the quest to get it all out and get out for some sun some things just do not look right.
When you fail to proofread your copy, everything from spelling errors, missing words, malapropisms, split infinitives and grammatical mistakes have a field day.
I could give the excuse that I am on holiday and cannot be bothered with sort it all out till when I return home. I however, do know that I could be meticulous to a fault in ensuring that what I want to say is what I am expressing clearly for everyone to read.
Now, everyone who reads my copy, does not necessarily understand the full context, I have the problem working in the Netherlands where I could be clobbered for not communicating properly with my audience, not because I have scripted rubbish, but because the level of understanding of my audience may not have been taken into consideration in my writing.
That is both a fault and an asset - a fault in that I am particular about precision, context, syntax and semantics, the quality of expression in language and English offers material for that kind of prowess, I would rather do proper than vernacular.
The asset value comes from the audience recognising that English has modes of expression beyond the pedestrian and the rudimentary; they in the process learn more of the language and eventually begin to use the language more proficiently.
Unfortunately, not too may agree with those stated opinions. Since I am on holiday, I suppose it is more about giving my whole system a rest rather than exercising the mentality of a control freak in getting everything absolutely correct, my excuse for this sloppiness is so lame, I suppose I am only human and as it were on holiday.
Best regards!

Friday, 25 June 2004

The context of career development

Experiences
I have been one to say that if my career depended on primarily what my manager thought of my prospects, I would be a basic computer technician in a Further Education college having done 14 years of service.
That is no exaggeration because; there are people who I met at that college who are still there contributing to the heritage and stagnation of the college, becoming fossils of never changing permanence.
My view of career development is radical and driven, you have to be number one in the reckoning about where you want to go and any assistance you get along the way should be viewed as a bonus.
Dependencies
Where an individual is in a permanent or full-time employment contract, your progress in that organisation is limited by the limitations of your line-manager’s vision for both him and then you, if allowances are made to entertain others in the manager’s quest for the top.
However, if there is good managerial oversight, there is a possibility of other people seeing more of your abilities and potential than the person you generally report to.
Progress in an organisation is monitored through an assessment of your abilities, your achievements, the benefits that have accrued from your service and what is considered your potential to bring more value to the organisation.
Being able to assess these parameters can be taught in the first three areas, the last however, requires natural management abilities that include leadership, the ability to appreciate properly excellent performance, mentoring skills and the selfless promotion of good personnel regardless of where they eventually end up.
That horrible interview question
I once attended an interview where that dreaded killer question was asked. What do you see yourself doing in 5 years time? To a confident, assertive and resolute person who has taken time to review where they want their career to be, it is a poisoned chalice to be handled with care.
Unfortunately, a 45-minute interview session is hardly long enough to judge the response of the interviewer. Well, I put in a 5-year project of improvement of skills, knowledge and influence, basically, I should have moved on and up in 5 years.
The retort came that I was going after the interviewer’s job. To which I answered, "I am only after your skills set". However, that was a revelation, that interviewer manager has probably never really given thought to where he expects to be in 5 years time for probably one or many of the following reasons.
  • He is entirely content with where he is
  • He has reached the pinnacle of his ambitions and sees no where else to go
  • He is averse to people who intend to improve themselves
  • He relies of on the organic/osmosis process of promotion that comes because it is there rather than because it is deserved
  • He has no ambition and will suffocate any ambitious underling
  • He probably knows nothing about visionary management
This list is not exhaustive but clearly indicates that it is within the prerogative of an interviewee to refuse to take up an offer where it is the apparent that you have been pigeon-holed before you took the job.
What you learn at the interview
It is not possible to guarantee promises or lies told to you when you interview for permanent employment contract except where you can clearly have those words stipulated in your contract.
That is to say, what effectively appears as a promise made by managers at interview has ultimately been an outright lie, promises made which are no in the gift of the interviewer. Oh! I have been lied to too many times, I wait for what is on the contract having decided if the job in itself commands enough interest to engage me.
You have to approach every job with your red-lines that are non-negotiable, whether they are up for discussion or not. This being, once you have signed the contract, you probably would never been in a good enough bargaining position after that.
Apart from what you are bringing to the job in terms of experience, expertise and knowledge these are the things you should consider to taking up the offer.
  • If you were to spend 2 years in the job, would you have improved your marketability?
    • By learning new skills
    • Assuming new responsibilities
    • Receiving relevant training that could also be useful when you leave the company
    • Had some decision making or opinion forming role when your input and initiative are appreciated and utilised
  • Are you taking up a role where your ideas are of greater import than your raw skills?
    • Brains are what move people within companies
    • How your contributions earn recognition and the respect of your peers travels through the corporate grapevine and eventually yields dividend
  • What are your manager’s prospects?
    • Whilst you cannot ask him that dreaded 5-years time question, you can probe him as to how you see the team going forward in the future and where does he thing core influence of the team would be as thing development
In essence, this should help ascertain if you are being interviewed into Great Expectations or Dead Man Walking. The last thing you want to do is submit yourself to a dead-end job.
Unfortunately, it might take some time to realise you are in a dead-end job, but you must always have an exit strategy, you first owe it to yourself and probably only to yourself to ensure you are where you want to be.
Understanding you
I was reading Re-Imagine! By Tom Peters in December and one of the comments that jumped out at me and records as very true is this.
"People … in enterprise, in government … are by and large well intentioned. They'd like to get things done. To be of service to others. But they are thwarted … at every step of the way … by absurd organisational barriers … and by the egos of petty tyrants (be they corporate middle managers, or army colonels, or school superintendents).
I had a blog on this topic, "Rules of the Manager’s chess game"
In essence, many of the things you desire to be in your organisation could so easily be thwarted by these petty tyrants who are usually, your manager and his cohorts. In my case, it has been both the petty tyrants and absurd organisational barriers which include timidity to deal with thorny issues and the political blame game of creating the worse context for providing solutions.
It simply indicates that you have to make your own decisions about where your career is going in the context of your life, rather than in the myopic view of where you are currently based.
The advantage of where you are currently based can only be significant if it positively contributes to realising that career dream, if it is a negative detour, then you have to find the right path elsewhere.
Never depend on promises as the source of your drive and ambition, because you would end up being blackmailed into positions that are untenable at first and then you will find it difficult to take a principled stance because you are beholding to your crooked benefactors.
Every decision you make should be right for you, your life and well-being depends on that first before you can be a good performer in whatever you do.
Finally, whether or not you get help, nothing in your career should depend on if that help is available, a goal is a goal; you just have to find how to get there. I for one have hardly had any help in making the giant strides I have in terms of opportunities, remuneration or influence.
I have just maintained a resolute stance in paraphrasing General Eric Shinseki - "They who hate change would hate irrelevance even more" You change to change the world.
I cannot afford to be irrelevant, so I embrace change, changes that hopefully would help me realise more of my potential in the quest to be the best in my field.

Thursday, 24 June 2004

The psychology of resignation

Post-resignation horse trading
You will notice in my notice of resignation to my manager, I made a few suggestions on how to handle my notice period. It so happens that my contract of employment stipulates that I give a calendar month’s notice.
The problem with that is the possibility of having to endure up to 8 weeks of not wanting to be where you already decided to leave.
In general, that should give your manager the impetus to arrange for a replace who would take over your duties in order not to precipitate a crisis when you leave.
However, in some cases, the boss busies himself in trying to frustrate your departure considering he possibly was instrumental in frustrating you out of the job in the first place.
The folly of that kind of attitude is the way it has the tendency to sap all available goodwill left to conclude the contract in the best possible terms.
Everyone who knows you are leaving are offered a forum to listen to every kind of unpalatable umbrage spewed out either by the manager or the leaver about each other.
Interestingly, I cannot suddenly have had a radical change in interest, commitment and loyalty which were in core principles on which my performance review was based without some extraordinary event of trail of events that have prompted my looking for greener pastures.
Our HR department can attest to a number of meetings where I expressed concerns about persons exceeding their brief, difficulties with effective communication and an atmosphere of indifference.
To this end, we have had an exchange of emails relating to the aftermath of my resignation without much progress on the part of my manager. They are listed below, however, with some analysis.
Letter 1 - To all parties with whom I am involved
Titled - For your information
Lady and Gentlemen,
I have formally notified the company of my intention to seek other career opportunities, I believe arrangements would be in place for someone or some function to assume my responsibilities at my departure which is by no means immediate [I have a notice period to serve].
Meanwhile, all already scheduled activities regarding Software Control & Deployment would run their due course to completion, the backlog of events would be cleared as much as is possible and practicable, neither would this development impact on the standard of service you are accustomed to.
It is however necessary to ensure any of your staff who liaise with my functions are duly informed, lest there be any information or service they might require before I leave.
Thanks for all the support and fruitful working relationship we have had.
My best regards
Letter 2 - To my manager
You will recall I suggested a possible negotiation of terms towards an agreeable end-date of my tenure with UPC.
I understand that you have to assess the workload and/or necessary handover processes needed to divest my responsibilities to your appointed successors to my function.
I have already informed all partners that use my services to ensure that they interface with me on whatever outstanding issues they might require my input for before I leave.
However, here are my proposals.
+        Fulfilling the 40 hour week over a 4 day week in the next month; making the end of that month my last working day.
+        Finishing at the end of the second working week of next month
I hope you can ponder these options and provide me a response today.
Thanks for your consideration and anticipating your favourable response.
Regards
Letter 3 - Manager’s response
Excuse the malapropisms, his English expression is not known for clarity
Hi,
I will assess the situation asap, but will not complete this before next week. This means current situation is expectation that you have to complete your work accordingly to your contract's terms.
From at least one of our customers I understand you yesterday have communicated directly to them and without a CC to your manager the re-planning situation for SC&D now undergoing.
Only positive effect from this was a longer list of urgent demands for SC&D actions communicated to me, if this was your goal - it was achieved.
Best regards,
Commentary:
This is a typical instance of making rules on the fly, I am not aware of any contractual obligation to copy my manager in on any of my correspondence as long as I am fulfilling my role and there is no particular need to escalate a situation for resolution.
As for the re-planning situation for SC&D, that is the first I have heard of any such plans, I have always suspected that one of the reasons our working relationship failed was because I am not clairvoyant, we cannot all be that talented.
Since this response given almost 2 weeks ago, there has been no movement on this issue since then.
Letter 4 - My invitation to a pilot leaving party
Titled - The long good bye project
Friends,
Since it appears it is going to be a rather looooong goodbye, I have decided I would first do a Pilot/UAT run before the Goodbye is accepted into Production, in the not too distant future.
This pilot involves putting succulent edibles in nutrition acceptance receptacles, masticating the inputs and ingesting the same after the momentary stimulation of your taste sensors.
Basically, it is cakes at 14:15 onwards today. Please join me in this test run.
Thanks and regards
Commentary:
This was really to make a mockery of the whole racket developing around my notice period. Also, since pilots have always been a luxury in my team before a major deployment.
This was an ample opportunity to introduce pilots as a standard pre-production step in a project.
Letter 5 - My response to my manager
I appreciate your response, even you said you were not surprised by my decision to leave and that my functions can easily be picked up by other personnel when you rebuffed my offer to come in to help in an introductory handover for anyone you might assign to take up my role. I could only assume you had already anticipated and pre-planned for this event.
My 2 years of service to you as affirmed in both my performance reviews should hopefully count for something to allow you consider my proposals more favourably and allowing us to part on usefully amicably terms.
Again, it is within your prerogative to hold me to my contract terms, it would not affect my level of professionalism and standard of service.
I have generally communicated with our customers with whom I have developed a good working relationship over the years and either of us would have had to inform them anyhow; the influx of urgent requests would have come anyway, either front-loaded to this time or back-loaded to my last few days.
What can be achieved would be achieved, the rest would have to be devolved to your appointed successors to my functions, the period of notice is to offer us all and good opportunity to handover effectively, not to suddenly try to perform miracles.
Best regards
Commentary:
My point exactly, we both have a responsibility to inform all users of my services that I would be leaving the company. If he had not made the about my role being easily picked up by others within the organisation, I would have been jumping the gun at informing people of my departure.
As a manager, if you decide to shoot yourself in the foot out of spite and ingratitude, I certainly would not be trying to save your face in order to inconvenience myself.
I want to give this job a clean break and move on, I do not intend for the regime of frustration to becloud me horizons no matter how much he now tries to redeem a failed situation.
Unfortunately, I have received no response to this reply. To fulfil all righteousness, I sent him a copy of the letter I send to our partners with a cover note. Also, by this time, my boss had still not informed HR that I was leaving.
Letter 6 - Cover Note
Hi,
This is the email I sent to the customers I deal with, it states that the already scheduled SC&D activities would be dealt with and the backlog cleared up as much as can be done.
I would be going off on holiday from Wednesday, I would like to know your decision on my proposals on Tuesday and I would be away till the first working Monday of next month.
Thanks and regards
Commentary:
No response. I do wonder when he would realise that I am not more affected by this immature "political" stalling attitude. In a masterstroke of acrimony, all this can eventually be forwarded to his manager the CIO.
Basically, if you cannot reason in a reasonable manner with someone, then all reasonable means of bringing reason to bear might have to be employed.
For now, I am exercising extreme restraint, after from the fact that I am off on holiday, nothing should mar the pleasures of rest, recuperation and preparation for the future.
Letter 7 - Before I left for a 2-week holiday
Hi,
I do not know if you have been able to assess the requirements and planning for SC&D in relation to my pending departure.
I am off on holiday from today and returning to work on the first Monday of the next month, you can contact me about your considerations by email and I would also be available on my mobile phone to discuss any new developments pertaining to this.
Thanks and regards
Commentary:
I am yet to receive any response to this after a week of sending this email. This also happens to be 4 working days after the next week referred to in Letter 3.
I suppose we only have to observe how this all plays out eventually.
Mind games numbing reason and killing feeling
I would suppose I have served due process and diligence in this matter, with my notice, my suggestions, my recommendations and patience.
I have offered him the initiative to dealing scrupulously with a situation that can deteriorate into a farce.
I do not intend for my standard of service to be compromised or deteriorate, but the simple decision to leave means I have lost all enthusiasm for that role, a last gasp at megalomania would not in any way improve this situation.
The only option left is compromise, for me, this is a dead duck manager who has run out of aces that could impact my future career.
Watch for a future blog reviewing my past managers.

Wednesday, 23 June 2004

A father and son

Overview
In some ways, I have always had a strained if not difficult relationship with my father. Where we have tried to make up, it was always been marred by circumstantial issues that introduce new strains rather than reinforce newly established communications.
Last week, I read with some poignancy the stories of growth-up men who wrote about how they would have liked to have a better relationship with their fathers whilst they could when their fathers were alive.
Immediately, I though about what things I would like to say, share and chat to my father about my experiences, my decisions, my life and obviously share of those things that have happened in his over the last 14 or so years. I still have the advantage of him being around and should make good use of it.
Similarities that belie differences
Many years ago, I thought my father and I were radically different and opposite people, whilst that may be true of some instances, fundamentally we are peas of the same pod.
Being born of African parentage, we have more of a patriarchal society where age plays significance in earning respect, proffering wisdom and complete deference no matter who have been wronged.
In terms of similarities, we are both the first born of our families, we could be quite obstinate, stubborn and resolute, all of which yields to a sense of pragmatism when dealing with tough issues, that at times is a fault, when more of a sleight of tongue is required other than frankness.
In areas where I thought I was more humane, I suppose that is because he is fundamentally African, strict and probably too straight-laced and principled compared to my more liberal European outlook with a bit of the English gentleman affectation.
Being the patriarch of the family, he has a force of personality that could be domineering, his charitable work is legendary, he has helped lots of elders, peers, siblings, extended families and he principally has been a village chief in all but name, long before he was honoured as a chief.
I am in those areas no match, my absence from that African societal structure means I do not have the angst and agony of living under his shadow or the aspirations to embark on activities I am not entirely equipped for.
In many instances, he is a first amongst equals and first amongst many, a very courageous man being whose life has been shared by his influence on many probably to the detriment of a closer relationship with us his children.
Contrasting my parents with my paternal grandparents, it is amazing how religiously tolerant my grandparents were.
At times, it appears the people of my parent’s generation who were probably the first to be educated and educated to a high standard simply had their prejudices and superstition accentuated and reinforced - it is an observation that fetches true conversing with my cousins.
For a meeting of minds
My father’s status has meant he has been deprived of the source of good advice concerning many issues he has had to contend with. His elders generally deferred to him, his peers probably envied him and listened more to him than recommended much to his favour, the younger ones just never did chat back.
It has meant that critical issues have not had the kind of scrutiny to make objective assessments where necessary, he has however, fared well regardless, he could have fared better in other circumstances.
My long held view about my father’s core competence which I expressed to one of his protégés almost 10 years ago, only really filtered down to him just 2 years ago, and he ruefully expressed the absence of advice from people who could have been more helpful.
Then I said, "My father is a brilliant accountant, but I have my doubts about his business acumen", such commentary can only in a matter of frankness come from a son, I suppose.
What I seek
There are a number of areas where we are at variance and those issues becloud the core aspects of just being able to communicate freely.
My father is well into his second marriage, it is unlikely that at 38, I can be persuaded of the benefits of a life-changing experience like marriage and having kids, when in fact, this kind of enterprise should have been embarked upon probably 10 years ago.
Bless him, he even suggested arranging one for me, I have never so clearly rejected an offer from my father as I did that one offer, even he was quite taken aback.
The African psyche suggests you are only a responsible and settled man once you are married and begin to have kids, well, I suppose if I were living in Nigeria, the pressure would have been unbearable to respond to what everyone expects, regardless of if that is what you want for yourself.
Basically, in Nigeria, you live what society expects of you, not what you chart out for yourself, at times, you might be lucky that those views work together.
Another area is where he wants to me to adopt his patriarchal mantle, whilst I am given to a modicum of magnanimity my sphere of influence is mainly in Europe and not in Nigeria, I do not intend to postulate and pontificate on what people should be doing in Nigeria, having not been there for 14 years.
Also, in the 19 years that I lived in Nigeria, it was rarely acknowledged that I was a native; I was mainly referred to as the boy who was born abroad. In fact, I am the product of 2 radically different cultures and I try to exhibit the best of both.
Many a time, I have been persuaded to get involved in some business venture, it is something I just do not have the mind for, I core competence is in computing and understanding how Information Technology can be used to help a business grow, beyond that, I have no clear career goal to become a trader, a manufacturer, a builder or even a free mason.
Once we clear away all this stuff by agreeing that our separate desires may not been subject to the compromises necessary to see them through in favour of either party, we can move on to the father and son talk.
I am proud of you
These are words every son craves to hear from his father, however, I have gotten to a stage where I am no more driven by the desire to hear those words.
However, I have those same words to say to me father, I am immensely proud of my father for his achievements, his sense of humour, his many community building activities, his stoicism and more so, his desire to reach out in the end to establish a relationship I have desired.
When my father was honoured with a chieftaincy title (equivalent to a status of deputy king, or something along those lines) last year, I felt he was most deserving of it than all his peers, I recognised all the work he had done in modernising our village, raising its profile, helping the people unto greater things in life and so on.
In a country where any megalomaniac with just 2 coins to rub together could acquire a chieftaincy title for a price, my father’s was a worthy honour bestowed out of gratitude and recognition for the work he had done over the years. I am glad that in those little windows of opportunity I have had to chat to him, I clearly recognised that honour to him.
Finally, we live in a world where many get estranged from their parents for so many reasons, causative or circumstantial, we however do not have centuries of life to live to be able to continue holding grudges for another one day, these people were once part of our lives by reason of their being our parents, they represent our roots, our pedigree and the source that creates our future.
If we can get nothing off our parents regardless of their failings, in the many areas where they have tried to be as good as they can be; that is not to say that some parents are not downright rotten, we should for once seek their blessings in many of our endeavours.
Blessings not in the sense that they have to vet what we do, but in the sense that they encourage and promote everything that helps make us just that much better at whatever we embark upon.
There is where I want to be with my father.