Sunday, 8 February 2015

Facing the music

In late-2014 moans on life, I avowed to wait until one year since taking up a new job passes by, before confronting benefits and drawbacks of the job change. Mere half a year into the New Factory (current employer) have gone by, but I feel overly tempted to get some matters off my chest, therefore I will indulge in sharing my thoughts on the blog…

Fully grasping why and wherefore I have decided to quit the job with the (previous) Employer involves going back in time and recalling the run-up to theday I handed in my notice. Then and now I can confess I drew a lot of pleasure from the previous job. I worked with wonderful people and although in the last months of my almost four-year stint there quite often people threw me off balance, from the current perspective I see there was really little to complain about… Just to quickly remind (also to myself) what drove my decision to move to the New Company:
(1) the Employer was in the phase of continuous downsizing – it kept losing good customers and kept laying off staff to cut by costs, however cost reduction failed to catch up with dwindling revenues,
(2) the Employer had no strategy and no ambition to grow; while competitors reported higher market share and profits, the Employer bucked that trend; I could not stand the lack of vision and motivation to outperform other players in the industry – how can a respectable CEO claim market will grow by 10% next year, but the company he is in charge of will shrink by 5% and feel comfortable with this…?,
(3) I feared if I would not have been redundant (with hindsight – I was on the informal list of employees to be retained), I would have been assigned repetitive tasks below my competencies,
(4) I totally did not identify with how the strategic investor and executives hired by it ran the company and (just like many other employees) considered with ill-running as mismanagement,
(5) given all the above, I felt my job was dead-end and despite hard work, my outcomes of my work had no chance to translate, in the long term, into my salary, in other words, money I was paid there was unsustainable.

For the next nine month the Employer has been drifting without direction (one announcement which appeared in the meantime is not meaningful in that context), but in the coming months, it should come to the crunch… Course of actions after 30 April 2014 proved had I stayed, I would not have been laid off, but tens of other employees, working in regional offices across Poland, were affected by the on-going downsizing. I pre-empted the prospective redundancy and decided to pursue my career outside the corporate structures of the Employer, having at the back of my mind the job change could be a nasty experience.

First weeks, or even months in the job are hardly ever a bed of roses. The worst shake-down period is gone, which means I do not need to rely on my colleagues’ support in getting around the new organisation. I believe it is also long enough for the first summary.

As for the upsides, no doubt there are plenty of them…
(+) Unlike the Employer, the New Factory has a clear strategy, ambition and vision how it wants develop and grow. Its senior executive are “right men for the job”. Whenever a problem is identified, solution to it is sought immediately.
(+) The New Factory is client-oriented and these are not only hollow words. Unlike most corporations whose employees can be busy all day doing presentations, analyses and reports, without having to focus on clients’ needs, the New Factory centres around its clients, who simply constitute its source of income, while reporting is whittled down to bare minimum.
(+) There is little tolerance for loafing about, incompetence, unreliability – in contrast to how the Employer put up with employees lazing away (this also contributed to me being worn down by that job), the New Factory enforces work efficiency.
(+) There is no culture of staying overtime – you are expected to work smart and efficiently during your working hours. Of course from time to time it is necessary to stay longer to close the deal, but this happens in every private company.
(+) The New Factory invests in its employees and their development – so far I have participated in more trainings than the Employer sent me to over almost four years.
(+) From financial perspective only, the improvement is visible. Not only earnings are above-market, but job security seems higher and perks are more generous.

Yet the benefits are counter-balanced by downsides…
(-) People…
(-) People…
(-) And once again people. To be fair it has to be stressed most people I work with are quite decent, but the atmosphere in the organisation is spoilt by the ‘less decent’ minority and the majority of decent folks re suppressed by overwhelming skurwienie (I have coined the term to describe with one word the state of mind of some employees and  relationships between people).
(-) Skurwienie can manifest itself in several ways:
- a new employee cannot reckon on much support from fellow colleagues and for sure not for voluntary support and I mean early days of new job, not to mention later,
- whenever you go on holiday or are sick do not expect someone will look after your stuff,
- if you generally are helpful to other people, colleagues perceive it as not as genuine help, but as an attempt to show your manager you can do something better than the person you want to lend a helping hand to,
- the atmosphere of rat race is devastating, one’s success is frequently pursued at the expense of other team members,
- your slip-up is a reason for your colleagues to be cheerful,
- all in all, end justifies the means,
- actually you can have a frank conversation with a person, but this only can be an eye-to-eye talk. If three people gather around, atmosphere of mistrust creeps in.
(-) The relationship with the boss is nowhere as good as with my boss at the Employer’s. With my previous boss, we were exactly on the same wavelength and I would not overstate if I said we understood each other without words. Here, it is exactly the other way round. Even if my boss and I communicate in plain Polish, communication is poor. The other story is that my boss is kind of dim-witted, she fails to comprehend many straightforward issues (other team members encounter the same problem) and whenever she does not understand something, she flies off the handle quickly and the situation gets only worse. If she has to deal with really intricate issues, I suppose she only pretends she understand what she is being told, since asking any question would only lay bare her glaring incompetence. Fortunately, since the beginning of February, a line manager has stepped in between my boss and me, so my interactions with the boss will be less frequent. I consider this change positive. The relationship with my line manager is even better than correct, however she still keeps her distance and seems to be wary of me.
(-) Overall contempt to other people displayed by my boss and some of team members. All other people are stupid, can do nothing right, their work is worth nothing, etc. Only their performance and outcomes of their work are superior.
What I described above does not afflict the whole New Factory. Skurwienie is characteristic to the team I have landed in. From my sounding ahead of the decision to change the job I learnt it would be nasty and it is. Since early August two people have left my team and continue their careers in other units of the New Factory. Efforts to hire new ones go in vain, since either candidates do not live up to my boss’ exorbitant expectations, or if they somehow pass muster, eventually they refuse to take up the new job, because it is known on the market this place (this team) ‘stinks’.
(-) Mutual control mechanism… Back at the Employer’s there was a unit dedicated to control the quality of your work. Once in a quarter they picked up sample of what has been produced by a specific team, put it under a microscope to look out for the tiniest errors employees made and produced merciless reports. Nobody liked them, but it was their function in the company. Here control and audit functions are kept within the team which means in regular time intervals you have to inspect what your colleagues do and pick over their mistakes. It is all done in order to ensure superior work quality. Needless to say such practices definitely enhance good atmosphere…
(-) The general disorder. Maybe it is because the strategic investor of the New Factory is from Southern Europe, maybe also because of people. There are details that wind up me such as lack of templates for frequently used documents, lack of neatness in document layouts, etc., too flexible procedures and inadequate enforcement of them. I try to combat this stuff and in my own work I have set myself higher standards and recently it has even been appreciated.

Despite more than getting by and with prospects of getting ahead, I do not see myself in the New Factory in the long-term. I can do my bit well, I will not fit in with the atmosphere of skurwienie, in which I will never feel comfortably. Being a misfit and working in unfriendly atmosphere, in unhealthy relationships lowers an employee’s motivation and leads to faster burnout. With thicker skin and having grown somewhat immune to skurwienie, I will soldier on here for a year or two more. What dissuades me from taking hasty decisions, apart from short stints looking bad in a CV, is that finding a satisfying job in the industry is a challenging task – people hold on to places where it is good, while job openings appear for positions in places where it stinks and staff turnover is high. Faced with a choice to stay in a shitty (in terms of atmosphere) place with which I am already familiar or swapping it for another place with a possibly shitty atmosphere, having to work overtime and for less money, I reasonably opt for the former…

1 comment:

Michael Dembinski said...

Sounds like massive investment in team-building and team training is sorely needed!