Work – a few reflections on the first week back.

This is not a moaning post. I say that for my benefit. Setting out the rules. Trying to corral thoughts and shape meanings direction.

I am very tired. I underestimated the energy that returning would require. I started the week on a high – desperate to get back into the maelstrom. I whimpered to a bit of a stop yesterday with a sickness virus (which my Mother and Father and Baby now have). Today I am drained of energy.

Nothing at work has gone badly. It was good to see colleagues. I felt exhilaration that by Wednesday my contributions at the BIM (Big Important Meeting – the one upon which the future of the organisation appears to rest) were sharp and were adopted. I have begun to put together the changes which have occurred in my absence – I have begun to process the problems and to develop solutions. I look forward to more meetings and to doing.

So, what is different? Because something is. And I suspect that a post like this would not exist if there were not a “but” just lingering there in the background…

The “but”… Now… Ahh… I sense a bit of dissonance between pre-burnout me and new me. I sense a detachment that didn’t previously exist. And there is the tiredness. And a new sensitivity to previously unconsidered personal limits. A certain confusion as to what really matters to me.

And the truth is that what does matter to me now has shifted slightly. I never have been a one for status and formal position – though latterly I know that I was beginning to be seduced. I have decisions to make about how I position myself in the organisation. About whether (and this is shocking to me even now) I reduce my hours (shock horror though no big decisions are being made just yet).

I have also been a bit shocked that the organisation I left 13 weeks ago appears to have lurched a little further down. Two completely unconnected individuals ended up crying (yes, really crying, real tears) in response to my gentle how are you? People whom I previously assumed were robust and would survive regardless – are off sick. Principle IT folk will shortly finish their contracts and will be gone. An already depleted band (due to restructuring, redundancies and early retirements etc) will face reduction again. There are a few maternity leaves amongst the gaps – absolutely wonderful for them, though admittedly maybe not so wonderful for those left behind – particularly when the skill gap is one that will be difficult to fill.

And that is just the essential backroom folk – the ones who ensure the front-line are able to continue working and that the infrastructure which supports field staff (and which I am certain that field staff are not even aware of needing) remains robust enough to support them.

If you turn to look at the staff who remain in the field – well, the low morale, the stress, the heavy workloads and build up of backlogs, the confusion and the disgruntlement regarding organisational change, the anger over pay freezes, the lack of trust or confidence in management (at any level) – all suggests a bit of a powder keg waiting to blow – or worse, a series of major mistakes waiting to happen.

I have always maintained that workload is manageable even in this dark period – but that management of that workload must change. The difficulty? That change takes time and that resistance to changing the ways of an organisational lifetime runs deep.

Add to that the implacable denial and refusal to recognise that public sector cuts are here to stay – that there is no general political will to reverse them and that the Coalition Government agenda on the need for cuts has largely been accepted as a “given” – and you have a recipe for very ugly resentful and angry Public Sector workforce.

My own skills are largely the bizarre ability to pour oil on troubled waters. To comfort and reassure beleaguered employees. To find the third way – or previously un-thought of solution. To mope up interpersonal mess. In other words, I oft times practice the dark arts – spinning and schmoozing and manipulating. None of which sounds pretty or reflects well upon me – but I do try to stick to an honest line and to protect people as best I can. I have standards honest.

Given all that though, maybe it is obvious that I might be under a fair bit of pressure attempting to grease the wheels…

I started by saying that this wasn’t a moaning post. But I wasn’t entirely sure what type of post it actually was. Now I see it was a personal taking stock post.  Self-indulgent and boring for any reader – so apologies to those who’ve made it to the end…