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.

 

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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.

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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.

Wanted: Evil Employees

Out of boredom last week I convinced myself, though  carless, to try watching a movie alone as I haven’t done this for a long while. After a hearty lunch of Wendy’s Bacon Cheeseburger, which I noticed by the way that its bacons are getting shorter and shorter every time I buy one, I picked Resident Evil Apocalypse out of the other three movies in SM Dasma’s homey cinema to spend my day off.

In the movie, Alice is portrayed as just among several “Alices” bioengineered by the infamous Umbrella Corp whose employees are now living several hundred feet under a vast deserted dried land. On the surface are hundreds of undead aimlessly walking and waiting for any human they can bite and infect.

After appreciating the fact that the movie started with Alice (Milla Jovovich) laying butt-naked and wet in the shower, I sooner got bored with it. I always knew that I start to hate a movie when I catch myself in deep thought while watching it. Some people would consider it a good sign but not me. I watched The Bourne Ultimatum last time and I was just plainly immersed in it despite the Hollywood boo-boos, it entertained me nevertheless.

I drifted away from this Resident Evil movie when something about its hi-tech underground headquarters caught my attention. In there are blinking red, green and white consoles, most likely computers that would humble even today’s Quad Cores, and a totally clean meeting rooms and lab. So what’s wrong with it then? Let me tell you.

Did anyone ever wonder where the technicians, janitors, laundry personnel and chefs are in that setting? Do bad guys in that corporation still need these employees to keep their covert operations running on a day to day basis? And do these bad guys require evil-minded employees as well?

Just imagine finding these classified ads:

“Umbrella Corporation wants you:

Engineers. Qualification: Must possess a degree in BS Computer Engineering or equivalent. Experience with an evil empire preferred.

 Chefs. Qualification: Must have cooked for Bin Laden. He/she should expect finding mutant mice running around the kitchen (if the evil lab technicians had a snafu).

Janitors. Qualification: Had experienced cleaning lots of blood. May perform some jobs with morgue personnel. And other than general trash, he may have to deal with disposing dead bodies. May be assigned to dispose non-performing Alices (I’d like this job).

Laundry Personnel. Qualification: Experienced washing blood-stained tuxedos. Must be able to press it properly in preparation for a spic-and- span evil officer’s meeting.

Barbers. Qualification: Must have good control of scissors and blades. Possible promotion to hit squad personnel if cutting is found precise.”

I’m also wondering if Payroll and HR is appropriate. Hmm, an aggrieved evil employee? Not applicable I guess.

So there goes, whatever empire or corporation we are all in, it still needs the blue-collar employees. Every one is still essential to an organization–from the managers to the grass root level. These suave, clean-shaved evil guys who attend meetings in suit and tie won’t even exist without the low-level employees.

After all there’s a bright side to this disappointing movie. Now I’m inspired. It now appears that there are still lots of jobs around. Only if I can find that newspaper with Umbrella Corporation’s classified ads. Probably an evil newspaper boy is out with it.

 

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.