Friday, December 23, 2005

Christmas in PC World

There is a really interesting post at Damian McNicholl’s blog regarding attitudes to the traditional Christian festive greeting in the USA. I am tempted to assume a mantle of euro-snobbery*, but I will resist. I don’t think anyone can argue with Damian’s logic in how to offer season’s greetings to those of other faiths. I work in a major Irish company that has employees from many different cultural backgrounds (a primary result of outsourcing), and it was only at the office party ™ the other night that it actually dawned on me that half the office don’t even celebrate Christmas. It does not prevent people getting into a holiday mood though and wishing each other “Merry Christmas”, because when it is translated into office parlance it means simply “Isn’t it great that we get out if this kip for a week? I hope you enjoy your break and come back in one piece in January”.

So, feck it, Happy Christmas! I suspect blogging will be light for the coming week, but you never know…

*Is that a McWilliamsism? In fact is “McWilliamsism” now a McWilliamsism or should we continue to refer to it as neologism?

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Departures from Smirny Central

Our office party ™ was held last night and was, all in all, a wholly uneventful evening, despite which, I still managed to end up “under the weather”. That weather being Vodka clouds, with sporadic Mr Fog patches.

My esteemed colleagues (steamed colleagues might be more apt) had started drinking at close of business, so, needless to say, the inane prattle was rather unedifying by the time I arrived fresh and sober after my ritual tantrum about my weight, followed by the now traditional tardy taxi ride into town (why do they take the bookings?).

I don’t remember drinking that much, but maybe therein lies the problem: I don’t remember very much at all. I just hope that I didn’t say anything hugely offensive or untruthful.

The most exciting thing that happened for the entire evening was one of my colleagues almost getting thrown out by the bouncer for dancing suggestively. What larks, eh?

The office party ™ signals the ending of all serious attempts to feign usefulness in the cube-farm for another year, and is swiftly followed by a mass exodus as we culchies run for the hills; back to mammy for the Christmas. There are certain rites associated with the culchie at Christmas, nicely summarised by Planet Potato .

Books I have lined up for my holiday reading at the mammy's:

Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin

Ronan Bennet’s Havoc in its Third Year

The Irish Writer and the World by Declan Kiberd

…And of course multitudinous magazines, newspapers and websites.

I never get through all the reading I plan, but I love that sense of failure a redundant plan induces, don’t you?

Sex and the Urban Crisp

I heard on Newstalk (and read on the Examiner) this morning that Hunky Dorys have had objections to their current advertising campaign upheld by the ASAI as it was offensive to women. For those who don't know, the campaign features two different ads, one depicting three scantily clad, nubile young women in bed, the other shows three hunky man-boys in their underwear. The text asks: “Which one would you throw out of bed for eating Hunky Dorys?”

Despite the equality of the offensiveness, apparently the ASAI received 60 complaints from the public, all of which were with regard to the objectification of women. I am not entirely sure where I stand on this, but it does seem to indicate that there are double standards in operation. Surely the depiction of men as sexual objects is as deserving of complaints from the public. This is advertising for a snack food whose target groups are predominantly of school-going age. More worrying still is the idea that, in the advertising industry which is supposedly populated by young urban sophisticates, the very people who have had the benifit of years of feminist debate and equality legistlation, actually thought that this was a good idea.

Sure 'tis all a long way from the packah-a-tayhos we grew up with.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Christmas in the office.....

So it's Christmas in the office and the Secret Santas are about to be unveiled. I wonder what I'll get. A spirit of cheer pervades the cube farm and no-one is doing any work of note. I myself am writing this!

The office party is tonight. No doubt I will have a blog about that in the morning.

On a separate note....I gave a Christmas hamper to a guy from another department without whose goodwill I could not do my job. Well, all I can say is that, based on the effusiveness of the thanks I received, the previous incumbent of my current role must have been a right stingy b*stard! I checked with others and this person has never received a gift from our department before. Why do people's contribution get overlooked so often? Is it only salesmen who actually get thanked or shown appreciation? Why are operations considered second-class citizens? It reminds me of that joke in "The Office" when David Brent said in reference to the warehouse, "Don't go down there. There are working class people down there."

I have mentioned before that we are an outsourced department, and that this is an issue for me. However, if you think my attitude towards this is "ranty", as Beth Bond posted, there are worse than me in here. One colleague of mine refused to go to our Christmas lunch today, as to do so would mean sitting at the same table as "outsourced field scum". He himself is outsourced field scum, but clearly he sees a world of difference between his role (managerial) and the others who have no problem working in an outsourced function. Why do we have this attitude? I know that mine stems from the deeply felt belief that I have come down in the world, and that my current job is a bit too "yellow pack" for me.

Back to the gifts thing. It did make me feel good , so does that take away from the gesture?
Underneath it all I know that this can be leveraged for that extra bit of help. When it comes to a conflict of interest between my department and another similarly positioned one with which I have to compete, and this person holds the key to the allocation of resources, will his decision fall in my favour?
Do we all think like this? I have purchased gifts for my team as well. Did I do this to make them feel appreciated or rather to make myself look good?

Both perhaps.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Male (mis)managers

I am not surprised to read in today's Independent that the management of AIB were complicit in the wholesale rip-off of that bank's customer base, or that a general culture of scapegoating and buck passing has prevailed there.

Oh where have I seen that before?! Hmmm. In my last job? In my current job? Alas and alack it appears to be a management strategy widely deployed in many high profile Irish companies (at least those for which I have worked). I actually left my last position because any attempt to get at the truth behind the gross mismanagement of staff and company resources was white-washed. But sure, what would I know? I'm just one of those females they let in from time to time to balance the scales in the eyes of the equality authority.

Just today I asked a senior manager to confirm the plan of action for the next quarter in terms of head count. And just today I was subjected to ducking and diving and the general refusal to sign any decision off. I am forced to make that decision now. Either way I lose. If there are problems I will get the blame. If things go well, he will get the kudos.

Is it just men who engage in this practise or am I raving? Auds at appears to believe that the lot of female professionals has improved and that inequality among the sexes in the workplace is a thing of the past. This is a well debated issue at this stage, however if it were true, why is my biggest problem right now the fact that I do not have access to the golf club and the associated reciprocal arse-covering that is engaged in by that particular subset of the wider community.
Who has got my back?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Corporate Whoredom

The worst day is the one when you come to realise the mediocrity of your life. How you have settled. The things that were important to you and you let dwindle to nothing…or worse…you retain the illusion that you are working your way around to them. The procrastination is what kills it eventually. That thing you love.

You see I am an outsourced worker. Outsourcing employees must surely be the most invidious practise emerging in Irish corporate life. I don’t have the problems that underpaid Polish workers in Irish Ferries will have if that company gets its way. I am not paid below minimum wage, I have a managerial title, but still something in the structure itself is wrong – I can no longer identify with the job that I do and the company for which I ostensibly work.

I have been trying to figure out why this position in which I now find myself seems to bite at my very heart. Is it a pride thing? I did leave a very comfortable, seemingly respected job in the FMCG sector, where I had things known as “benefits”. Now, it appears that I don’t even have sick pay! The mileage allowance is 10 cent lower than industry average. There is no such thing as a pension…hell we barely have desks.
OK, that last one was a bit of an exaggeration.

Still, it’s as if the soul has been sucked out of me. I don’t recall if there was an exact moment in which I finally realised that this was the case. I mean there must have been a point at which it could have gone either way for me, but I made the fateful decision to nestle in the desiccated bosom of corporate Ireland just a moment longer, and then all was lost.

Nothing is any good to me anymore; I don’t like to go out; I have abandoned all my interest in literature and history ; and, to top it all off, I can’t even bring myself to do any work. I am on a silent protest: It has become the driving force in my life to get away with doing as little actual work as possible. This is just not me. Where has my personality gone?

And how did I find myself in this mess? Simply put, I was lied to during the interview process. I trusted a little weasel who I should have known on first meeting was closely related to Gollum. But it goes deeper than that: I have been lying to myself all these years. I have been working to fulfil others’ expectations of me. I have been willing to hang my identity on others’ expectations of me, and when that outward perception of success was stripped away I was confronted with the bitter, naked reality that I have been a willing and even eager participant in the gradual erosion of my sense of self.

The only kernel of me left in this shell is the belief that I was meant for better things. It is this persistent conviction in itself that has perhaps led to my discontentment.

I have always wanted, in a kind of a loose, undisciplined, and directionless way, to be a writer. Now, if you ask me to narrow that down, I could not. My biggest fear now is that any talent or skill I accrued during my years in university, when I read and wrote voraciously, has been stripped away by the last 8 years, spent pouring over Excel spreadsheets and Access databases, long since defunct.

What has any of this got to do with outsourcing? Absolutely nothing, other than the fact that finding myself in a degraded, yellow-pack job made me realise for the first time that I need to change, and that I need to carve a direction for myself. Up until now, I only had direction by default, because I had to go somewhere.