Archive for February, 2006

Big day tomorrow

February 26, 2006

The meeting from hell is nearly here. 

Tomorrow I have to do a presentation after school to my department and sundry other staff.  I know that there are going to be a number of collegues present who are not going to like what I have to say. 

Quite frankly I know that some don’t want to hear it, but they need to.  They need to listen to what I have to communicate, think about it, discuss it openly, and then make a decision.  Similar meetings held recently in other departments have gone either very well or very badly.  I’m afraid that mine may fall into the latter camp rather than the former, especially as I’m seen as a safer target to express dissent in front of than other presenters.  I’ll be the person in the stocks on behalf of all those too powerful to be confronted head-on.

It’s also the last meeting in this round, which is always tough.  It’s the last chance to bitch and moan and make unreasonable demands.  The last chance to be a belligerent moron just because you want to throw your mass around in front of your peers, nevermind the poor schmuck who has to bear that weight.

What frustrates me about meetings is how people simply don’t listen.  Either they don’t pay attention or they hear only what they want to – either way your message is evading their grey matter.  I’m quite careful to try to do presentations in ways that engage people – in particular I use a lot of humour to hook people in and defuse tension.  Tomorrow will probably be the biggest presentation I’ve done so far in my career – perhaps not the biggest crowd, but potentially the toughest.  (Adults that is – I find the kids a different audience, with different challenges, but on the whole much easier to deal with.)

Maybe I should treat the staff more like I treat my students – pop quizzes with treats for the right answers, asking questions to probe their learning, having a break with a game if I seem to be losing their focus.  But somehow I think that would go down even worse than my original presentation, unaltered.  Teachers are a tough crowd; they know all the tricks.  But, surprisingly, when they have to talk to other adults they seem to roll out the boredom – in particular, declaiming in droning monotones that wouldn’t hold their classes for a minute but are apparently suitable for staff meetings. 

I just hope that they do actually listen tomorrow.  I know that some will have made up their minds before hand, and in some ways that’s ok, as long as they don’t monopolise the speaking time to a point where others get no chance to ask questions or voice concerns and opinions.

Sometimes I think audience members forget that the presenter is a human being too – they take it all out on the person standing up the front (I always try to sit if the group is small enough).  Sometimes “it” has nothing to do with the discussion at hand – maybe their car wouldn’t start this morning, or their partner didn’t do the dishes last night.  But I’m up there, with a big invisible “Bash Me” written across my forehead in subliminal ink, and I’m easier to confront than the car or the partner. 

Here’s hoping my meeting mojo is in full vigorous flower tomorrow afternoon – think of me around 3.30pm when I’ll be meeting my doom.

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Some people shouldn’t be allowed to be bosses

February 24, 2006

I couldn’t believe my ears hearing about this story on the radio yesterday.  Basically slavery is alive and well, in The Lucky Country.  I guess they mean lucky for the white and wealthy…

Unfortunately I hear less extreme stories of this nature far too often – bosses who seem to think that they have actually bought their workers, and as such can treat them like crap, even outside of work hours. 

This article reminded me of an organisation I know of that has a history of acting in a similar controlling way.  The staff require cars for their work and are allowed to take them home and indulge in reasonable personal use of said vehicles.  Seeing as how there’s basically no way for companies in this country to get around paying Fringe Benefit Tax on company cars (except for locking them all up in a gated yard each night and weekend), this is quite common here.

However this particular company (let’s call it Quasimodo) decided that they weren’t happy with getting their workers to fill out logbooks and provide evidence of receipts for fuel put in for personal driving, they actually put GPS chips in the cars.  And then every morning some idiot Quasimodo manager wastes a whole lot of time reviewing the routes that all these cars have taken since the previous work day ended. 

Why do the workers even know about this?  Because one of them got hauled into Quasimodo’s head office and was severely reprimanded for not getting home until 10pm when they had work the next day.  That’s right – in that company the boss not only owns you from 9-5, they also have proprietary rights over you 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. 

While this seems tame compared to the poor labourers who suffer regular, severe, beatings in the article I linked to above, it’s on the same continuum – it reminds me of those studies done a few decades ago, before things like Ethics Committees at universities, where one group of students were put in charge of another and those in control very quickly started to abuse their authority. 

Mr Purauto acted as if he were a god – and yet in developing countries this kind of “management” practice is probably reasonably common.  When I heard on the radio that the abused worker was paid 20c an hour I immediately thought of sweat shops and the forced child and prisoner labour many countries use. 

How can we do this stuff to each other?  How can we look at another person and not see a human being but someone so inferior that we can use and abuse them as we wish? 

Sometimes I just despair that we humans will ever evolve enough to avoid destroying each other and ultimately ourselves.

An Introduction to the Dumper

February 23, 2006

The Dumper is a woman I work with.  She is paid more than me (aren’t they always), and is in her 40s so you’d kind of think she might have her life together.  She likes to flounce around the admin block with her long brown locks whipping around in a manner I assume she thinks is beguiling, but it doesn’t work on me. 

She drives me so insane that I have taken to asking other members of staff if they will help me hide the body if/when I murder her, gruesomely, with my stapler.

She is an absolute master of the fabled Work Dump Manuevore.  She most commonly seems to dump on me, but I have also seen her put others in the schtick with the boss, or with anyone who happens to be handy.  She will cover her arse in all situations, above all other considerations – which is not helpful in the kind of work that we both do.  Teaching is supposed to be collaborative and collegial, after all.

To give you an idea of what she is like here is an example that is rather old, but I feel gives you a good inkling as to her true nature:

The Dumper, The Boss, another colleague and I were discussing a problem we had with one of my classes and how to move it forward.  We talked it all through and the Dumper raised her objections at the start but then later agreed to everything.  I pursued that course of action and what did she do?  Sent an arse-covering email, saying she had advised me against it, to not only the Boss but also a whole host of other senior colleagues.  Luckily they also saw that her interpretation was quite wrong and agreed with me.  Heh heh – big time backfire for the Dumper. 

This morning I overheard the Dumper telling the Boss that another colleague had only told her this morning about a big meeting this afternoon that the Dumper had to attend.  This was a total lie – the Dumper and said other colleague had been talking about it all week, for at least an hour a day.  The Dumper will basically bad-mouth anyone who gives her any work to do that she doesn’t want to do.  And she doesn’t seem to want to do much.

Golly, all that bile and I haven’t even started on the actual practice that gives her her nickname. 

Breathe in, Breathe out Ventoletta, repeat after me – one day she will die, one day she will die, one day she will die…

Traffic Marmalade

February 23, 2006

I usually don’t mind traffic all that much.  It gives me more time to listen to the radio and feel like I’m achieving something while I’m not actually doing something arduous.  I enjoy driving too, so even though I’m very very impatient about most things, I’m generally not too irked by the (relative) gridlock of the city where I live and work.

But today took the chocolate eclair. 

Why can’t people just indicate?  It’s not that hard.  In fact it’s not hard at all – you have to be able to do it to get a licence.  If you can breathe you can indicate, surely. 

I have a friend who told me once he “doesn’t believe in indicating.”  Ok now I don’t believe in God, I don’t believe in the Tooth Fairy, but I do tend to believe in things that are necessary to protect my life and those of others.  To not believe in indicating is like not believing in sticking plasters, or not believing in lifejackets – it defies commonsense – hell, it even defies belief!

But unfortunately there seem to be a lot of people out there who, like my friend, are tithing regularly to the Church of Latter Day Non-Indicators.  (I’m sure they are signed up citizens of Planet Crazy too).

Just one example from today:

I was stopped at an intersection, at the front of the lane.  Lights go green, we all start driving forward.  The car to my left (lets call it Fernando) decides it really wants to be in my lane so it just starts moving rightwards, bugger the fact that I am already in the lane.  I try to slow down to avoid Fernando, but then it decides it actually really really wants to be in the lane on my right so friend Ferdy continues the swerve right across, finally indicating right at the end of this maneuvore.  Having had to slam on the brakes I am somewhat irritated so I beep.  Just as well I did this because I hadn’t yet fulfilled my quota of abuse and swearing for the day.  It was quickly filled by the passenger of Fernando, who also met my daily requirement of offensive gesturing. 

I suppose I probably should have thanked them for not actually hitting my car, perhaps that would have sent a better message and we could have had a big love-in and swapped email addresses so that we could chat online later, with emoticons and everything.

Sometimes I really do find only one thing makes me feel better:

Survival of the fittest.

Both sides of the story

February 21, 2006

Doesn't seem much encumbered by fluidWell the latest thing to get me ranting is a bit close to home really.  A woman I used to work with, who was also my closest friend (so I thought) has decided I am a heinous cow, and I am now Persona Non Grata amongst her and others. 

Let’s face it – it irks me when someone judges me without bothering to ask for my side.  It has really irked that not only has someone judged me prematurely, they have then encouraged others to do the same. 

It’s a sign of disrespect – you don’t respect someone enough to bother finding out why they did what they did (or even if they did what they did).  You are judge, jury and (social) executioner. 

Of course I’m hypocritically going to indulge in rather a lot of judging on here.  But by the same token I’m also not going to use real people’s names, so there’s no actual real life consequences – they will, in all likelihood, never know of my judgement, possibly even never know of the rage they may have caused to rise up in me, threatening to propell my eyeballs out of my skull and clear across the room to splat squelchingly against the window and slowly slip slop slide downwards until they rest on the carpet, gently soaking it with blood and whatever icky fluids flail around in your eye sockets.

But I digress.

The point of this story is to vent my all-encompassing, spleen splitting wrath mild irritation at finding out that people I thought were my friends don’t care enough to actually hear my side or my reasons.    And in the close knit area I work in this may create problems down the track. 

The dreaded first post

February 21, 2006

The Boy Who Cried VentAlways difficult, the first one.  The first page in the new journal, the first word of that letter you’ve been meaning to write, the first time you lean in to kiss someone new (assuming you’re sober). 

People (by whom I mean myself) seem to read the first posts of blogs to find out what they are for, what their purpose is (meaning the blog, not the person reading, ye gads, if they ever worked out their true purpose many people would collapse into a gibbering heap and be unable to continue).  And maybe those readers hope to uncover a little bit about the author too. 

The purpose of this blog is simple.  It provides me with a place to vent.  I have many pet hates, and many irritations, and I suspect that there are those out there who share them.  

I’m doing this partly to get these stories out of my head (they are even more annoying than having Push The Button* stuck in there, trust me). 

The other reason is that I actually really like to write.  My day job requires me to write a fair bit, but it tends to rarely be something I can get my teeth into (unless I want to find myself without said day job). 

Comments are welcome, although of course I reserve the right to delete any comments and ban any posters.   Kindly also respect my pseudonimity.  It’s there for a reason, and I don’t have to tell you why, just as I don’t have to tell you who I am.

Can you tell I’m starting with a chip on my shoulder?  

Which is the perfect way to begin The Vent Box.

 

* Yes, I have it stuck in my head now.  Hopefully, after merely reading about it’s constant rotation within my skull, you will also have caught this evil evil meme.  Heh heh.