Role Models Do Get Tired

The current situation at work as caused by the declining and imminent depletion of products to be delivered is undoubtedly testing each and everyone from the lowest rank and file up to the upper levels of management.

What I find more frustrating than the thought of eventually losing our jobs in few more months is the fact that no matter how I set my mind to make the most of my time, it’s only father time that is so available. After a couple of hours from the start of the working day, there’s no more work to be done no matter how I look for it.

It doesn’t take a lot of time to figure out what others might be doing as well after staring at the empty Outlook inbox. It is as if email doesn’t exist anymore. Whether people agree or not, this isn’t the workplace aura I used to know in my 12 years here. I can now really say that gone are the days when the cubes are buzzing with activity, when keyboards are tapped because of white papers to finish and not of multiple internet chat mates; when phone lines are loaded because of virtual meetings and not because someone is selling anything but company products; when people forget lunch because of deadlines and not because they have dozed off due to inactivity; and when managers are going to the cubes to check if everyone is on track and not because he’s got nothing to do as well.

Years ago, this setting is unimaginable. Someone getting idle is as taboo as committing mortal sin. But now, even the best have their own share of work void. It’s unavoidable but on the next days ahead those people I look up to will have lots of slack. I have come to accept it now that role models do get tired.

***

Mood: 3/10 Honks!

Changes and Transitions

The problem with having a rather routine task every week is that time flies so fast that by the end of each week I’d wonder what kept me busy, why I was busy at all, and my frequently asked question during every weekend, “What have I accomplished so far?” Sad to say, my frequent answer is, “I actually don’t know”, and sometimes worse, “None.”

Having these questions and answers may therefore just lead to a conclusion that during most part of the week I had another dose of the SSDD syndrome or simply put, boring days.

Luckily, as I reflect on what has happened so far this week, my days haven’t been SSDD at all. In fact, some of the days have been interesting enough that I regret at the thought of not having the 25th hour for me to write about it.

Last Thursday, I attended what seems to be among the best Front Line Managers sessions—despite being the last one. Initially, I responded to this invitation as tentative because for some reason I got the feeling that this session could be like any commencement exercises that are as predictable as clockwork. With this thought in mind, I dragged myself just thinking to make the most out of it and at least end it with a perfect attendance. Little did I know that a couple of minutes after the session started I’d be as attentive as if I was at home watching the Mythbusters on TV.

Team FLM
Ooops, wrong forum. I thought I was attending a trick or treat event.

The invited speaker was a former employee of our company. Beth Arriola was once our HR Manager. Although her name was one of the most familiar during her tenure, it was my first time to listen to her talk. She discussed the difference between change and transition—topic I’ve written several times, without knowing that although being seen as synonymous, both are in fact far different from each other.

To explain the difference between the two, Beth referred to William Bridge’s definition of changes versus transition. Looking at the meanings of these words—with the global recession going on I’m sure that these two are as popular as Obama and McCain—one will see that each has its own essence, and by understanding both will help guide a person to which one he is currently dealing with. The explanation she had on Powerpoint was the simplest yet the clearest I’ve read so far (or I haven’t read that much lately).

Beth
Beth explaining the role of a manager.

Beth made strong points. She advised everyone to have the mindset that there’s life after work—whether one is leaving it after 4 PM or leaving it for good. She also reminded us to keep our external networks connected. And more importantly, encouraged all of us to never let our self-respect and pride (Filipino) down even during this time of uncertainty. Kayang-kaya nga ba kung sama-sama?

 

On my way home that afternoon, I did realized that I’m quite lucky that I changed my mind and attended this final session. Had I skipped this one, another opportunity to learn (both about the subject matter and the speaker) would have been lost. And did I mention already that I got a free book, The Toyota Way, for having attended all the FLM sessions? I can’t wait to claim and read it – I’ll have 365 days to read it next year.

***

Also related to this topic of change are the news that made it to the headlines this week. I’m sure that everyone by now knew that Barack Obama had a historic win over John McCain as the first black American president.

But I’m also sure that not everyone knew about the recent Formula One’s (F1) event, which despite being the last race for this season was nevertheless among the exciting. This race in Brazil had me and wifey sacrifice precious sleep by waking before 1 AM for the live feed on TV and just in time to see the race start after a brief downpour that added the element of excitement – as if the close match between Ferrari and McClaren isn’t enough.

Eventually, Lewis Hamilton grabbed the 2008 driver’s championship title by one point (thanks to Timo Glock or Toyota) over Felipe Massa. And this one is another historic race in F1 as Hamilton being the first black driver to attain the most coveted title in auto racing.

I now wonder, if Michael Jackson’s changing color? My bad, can’t help it. She said anyway that “It don’t [sic] matter if you’re black or white…” Ti abi.

***

Erratum: My editor-in-chief (that’s my wife) said I can’t have a mood rating of 10/10 Honks and be happy – although I argued that the more I honk at other drivers the more I’m pleased. Anyway, to avoid further discussion, I’m now changing it – 1/10 is the highest. 10/10 is the grouchiest. *LOL*

Mood: 3/10 Honks!

At Work On Christmas

I’m now officially one of the Grinches. After 13 years of landing a job, last night was the first time I reported to work on a Christmas Eve. Normally during this time of the year, I’d either be in Bacolod or Batangas celebrating Christmas with my family. But change would happen and this year that big change came. My new job function left me no choice but to stand by it and be at work. Technically, to be a role model. Ahem.

So yesterday afternoon I had mixed emotions coming to work. I was excited for this first time event in my profession; and at the same time I was uneasy and sad that I’d be celebrating my Christmas eve without my wife or family with me but with my peers and people instead.

When I arrived at our plant I was surprised that it was relatively festive. The sight of employees with bags of gifts added to the holiday atmosphere. The smiles and greetings were unwavering and infectious. Whatever the reasons for the jolly characters were, I knew I’m surrounded by good aura for the rest of the graveyard shift.

Everything went the usual way just like any ordinary day when work kicked in. I was actually thinking I could be a nurse, a pilot, a fireman, a security guard or a doctor on call or any other personnel who is expected to work even during the holidays. I felt like I’m not missing a big event or a love one anymore. Well, not yet.

Break time came and a special dinner for all the manufacturing employees was served. The special meal was accented even more by a special dinner table setting. We’d be eating with candlelight. So by this time I was becoming even more convinced that working that night won’t be a big beal. I was even starting to enjoy it. The presence of the lechon worked like a charm.

Right after dinner, I was back on my desk doing routine tasks when I heard someone mentioned, ”Sir Christmas na po (Sir it’s Christmas already).” That’s when I glanced at the wall clock to see that it has just struck midnight. The greetings around the production line competed with the humming equipment and audible alarms. I returned the merry wishes but caught myself faking a smile. I suddenly felt sad. I felt a lump in my throat. I tried to contain myself. In a snap of a finger I missed everyone at home.

Probably this experience will stay with me until the next year. The feeling of having to choose between work and being with my loved ones would be a big dilemma. Something’s got to give. And whoever said before that “Work is just a slice of life, it’s not the whole pizza” is mostly someone who can afford to sacrifice that slice. Unfortunately I don’t have the pleasure of doing so. When that day comes I’d be the happiest.

 

Car-less Guy’s Random Thoughts

“An empty mind is a devil’s workshop” — Anonymous

Frankly, having without a car made me a bit uneasy especially now that the Christmas season is coming in fast. I miss going to the malls with my wife not worrying if we’re going to squeeze our butts in just to get seated in the jeepney for being the last two to get in. I miss the gift-buying activity not wondering how and where we’d place all the shopping bags. I miss going home late coming from a good movie. I miss getting stuck in traffic with me on the wheel and not having to think if my nose has clogged due to smog, smoke and dust whichever comes first or all of it combined. I miss waking up a bit late and not worrying that I’ll miss the bus to work. I miss the freedom a car gives me.

To shake off self pity I tried keeping my mind busy while being a passenger on a bus, in a jeepney or a friend’s car. With defensive driving out of my worries, my thoughts have wandered more. I became observant of other things I can’t see or think of while behind the wheel. I became more keen with what is outside the vehicle’s window. During these unproductive moments random thoughts settle in my head.

Why would charity parties intended to benefit the hungry street children are in lavish settings with overpriced food and normally attended by botoxed personalities. Can’t these people just give right away to charity? Or do they really need the TV and photo coverage to make it happen?

Why does a billboard going to Tagaytay show Inteligent Auto Paint Shop. Does its owner have good explanation behind the name? Is it humor, a play on words, an honest mistake, or an uninteligent slip?

Why would management of Coolmaster Airconditioing Expert allow its employees to be packed out in the open at the back of a wobbly pickup truck under a high noon heat. (We were on our way to a Christmas party and the sight of it drained away my holiday mood.)

Why would an official municipal vehicle with the words Responsableng Taong Bayan (responsible people of the community) illegally park along  Muntinlupa‘s road.

Why is it when majority is anticipating to travel by air during this Christmas season is also when Discovery Channel and National Geographic show programs such as Air Crash Investigation and Air Disasters. Either people from these shows hate Christmas travel or own a stock in the shipping industry. Out of curiosity searched Wikipedia and the result? December is not the highest among the statistics. At least not among the top three. (Data were extracted and tabulated using excel’s countif formula and sorted from lowest to highest.) Whew!

aircraft20incidents_zpsg6ujg5xr

Lastly, I don’t get it why the brandy I’ve been drinking since I bought it has kept me awake. I guess it’s about time I check the fine print on its label. I’d be damned if it contains caffeine. But then again my subconscious must be working on something else and wants me to stay up late. Something I should be thinking more with Christmas day only three days to go.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone especially to you wifey. I really miss you!!

Step In Their Shoes

 We call them stupid, litterbugs, lazy, morons, dumb, a**hole and any other names that may not be even found in the dictionary. Sometimes we call them just insensitive. But aren’t we? This week is one of the stressful weeks for me. Stress that comes from all sort of factors that even I wonder if I should be caring about it in the first place.

There’s the pressure from work that is a mixture of delivery and people management. People who seem not to work and don’t understand what is expected from them.

There’s the tricycle driver who drives like as if there’s no tomorrow and would be so willing to include you in their death wish.

There’s the jeepney driver who would intentionally park in front of a No Park Zone to spend time to wait for passengers despite knowingly causing a traffic jam right behind them. And the irony of it all is that it is in front of a traffic police or enforcer who looks like they have the worst case of cataract that blinds them of an ongoing violation.

There’s the homeowner who refuses to pay his dues because he feels that he is not obligated to do so and who would sometimes reason out that he has problems with finances but you’d find him smoking packs of cigarettes a day and would see his house lit brightly with Christmas lights and decors.

There’s the loan processor who doesn’t seem to extend a bit of customer care by giving advice to the applicant that his car loan application is sitting stagnant in his inbox for quite some time due to the lack of one simple signature.

And there are the street scavengers who would open up garbage bags and throw away its content in search of recyclables and never even caring to fix it back thus creating an eye sore in the process.

Sheesh. The list goes on.

So today, while on a day off I keep reflecting what must have gone wrong for me to suffer such stress. I can’t find any reason except that I too have been busy or that I could have been too self-centered or that I just lack  empathy.

Merriam-Webster defines empathy as”noun, the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.”

Ouch! I never knew Merriam-Webster could inflict such slap in the face. I only experience such guilt during mass’ homilies. Understanding. Being aware of. Being sensitive to. Such words played in mind just as caffeine would do to my bloodstream. It kept me awake, restless and uneasy.

Well, I have come up to some realization on my stress list. There must be a reason for each.

Just imagine not having eaten for quite a while and the only hope you’ve got is to pick and sell items at the junk shop in order for you to take your first meal after a couple of days. And with the other man inside the bus hating you just because you to failed to keep the street clean.

Imagine if you have to juggle payroll, separation payments and loan applications. Some want their last pay and another one badly wants a new car.

Imagine if you have got a really sick kid at home and the only way to buy those medicines is to work double time by either driving a tricycle or a jeepney and optimize its capacity even with the risk of getting apprehended by a police officer. And one of your passengers is just thinking of traffic laws and having to get to the mall to kill time.

Sometimes the world would be such better place if we stop thinking just all about us. Sometimes we need to understand why people act the way they do. With this we might be able to extend our help or at least lessen a bit of our expectations and in effect lessen the stresses in our lives. Sometimes we just have to step in their shoes.

****

P.S. I just can’t find any reason why a homeowner won’t pay their dues when in fact they are getting the benefits of the village funds. Ti abi.

 

Actions Vs Ideals

I was in a Leadership Enhancement Program yesterday and from start until the end of the whole session this notice was projected along with the MS Powerpoint presentations. “The lamp has reached the end of its usable life. Please replace the lamp.” Ti abi. Has our company ventured into subliminal conditioning? Is there a deeper meaning in that message? Well, it’s for us to find out I guess. Anyway, we had a rather interesting day.

During the first half we had a segment with an American and I was quite surprised when he frankly butted in when a participant was trying to highlight a point by saying “I think this is a cultural thing with us Filipinos.” The expat answered, “Actually, it’s not just you Filipinos who have this problem.”

What was being discussed then was about taking full responsibility when problems arise. I guess he hit the nail on the head with that answer. I learned from him that even other people from other culture in our multinational network would instinctively point their fingers to others to save face. The lack of ownership seems common. And that’s one of the reasons I’m always awed when Japanese (mostly during the feudal period) would commit harakiri when they know that they are a dishonor either to their family or organization. Bloody yet graceful exit. Come to think of it, isn’t it time we include a tantō inside our factory? I bet though that most likely it will stay pristine.

Another part of the program that amazes me most was when all of us were grouped into seven. Each team was to gather from each member his/her idea of a strong leader and then for each group to create a hypothetical person bearing those ideal characters.

After several minutes of brainstorming and discussion, the result was surprising. The common thing that most participants want is a leader who is a firm and tough individual. I almost blurted “but we have that one here in our organization!” It was a result both surprising and sad as it seems to show that we fail to match our acts to reach our ideals.

We want a leader who is firm and tough, yet we get offended when he takes over.

We want great roads and infrastructures, yet we don’t pay our taxes completely.

We want clean surrounding, yet we spit and throw our trashes anywhere.

We want road courtesy, yet we drive just like how the other damn drivers drive.

We want health, yet we fail to do something about it.

We want jobs, yet we don’t do it properly.

Everything we do on a daily basis, basic or complex, entails responsibility. Most of the time we need to make a conscious effort to do it well so that at the end of the day we get to go home, kiss our wife (and kids), have a beer, go to bed and be honest with ourselves that today we did something that matches the one we have been dreaming of to happen.

Meeting The Most Hated Person

A difficult conversation you have been dreading will go a lot better than expected today — it turns out that other people have been whispering in this person’s ear and have been warning her or him about the thing you have been wanting to talk about. So this person is ready to talk to you, and ready to work with you. There is going to be a great deal of positive collaboration in this day overall. Every idea will lead to another, more exciting idea. Keep going!” – Sagittarius Horoscope, June 19, 2007.

Working in a company that is (or was?) known for being a great place to work, it is surprising to know that there is one person that stands out as the most hated. He’s known as SH. And I’ve been thinking, the acronym happens to mean So Hated. Well that was what it really seems to be until the day I met him.

On June 19, I was one of those privileged (or doomed they say) employees to meet SH for a forum. The moment I learned he’ll be on the “hot seat” for this meeting, I had mixed feelings of eagerness and anxiety to be in it. Since he joined our company a couple of years ago, he had created so much confusion and fear in most of the meetings he would attend. Ask any person and more often than not, you’ll hear bad comments about him. This time its my chance to meet him up front.

Upon his arrival in the room everyone seems to tense up a bit as he started calling the names of those present–getting to know the enemy, I presume. I was the first one to shoot the question as others are starting to gauge the atmosphere of the meeting. Some are probably composing their statements as it would have to be in English–SH is an expat.

For a first time meeting and to say the first question “…I’ve heard terrible things about you…What do you think is the morale of the people working with you…” seems to have been shocking if not improper. But it had to be done. It had to be asked.

Almost without blinking an eye, he seems to have anticipated that such question would come up. I guess he is fully aware that he’s one hated man indeed. I won’t elaborate on his answers but he did well. It was direct, convincing and rational. He explained his strong policies and management style. He mentioned that the very least thing on his list of working as a manager is to be a pleasant and popular person. He’s now among the strong leaders I look up to.

After the meeting all 11 attendees walked out as a convert. All seems enlightened. He’ll need to talk to 3000 more. Hopefully he can turn the tides for the company. But that’s another story.