Carrying The Wheel

Whales don’t actually swallow people: that’s just a bible story. I think we all know that. What does remain is the idea of a person who carries bad luck with them. I don’t think I am generally lacking in luck, but there is one area in my life where I am most certainly an auger of all damnation. Truly.

I do a job where I am able to manage my work to best suit the set of tasks I have. The upshot of this is that, although I have a line manager, I do not have a supervisor. My work feeds in to the work of others; I am not simply completing a series of banal tasks until I clock off at the end of the day. This is not a situation I knew existed before I entered the world of work, but I am very glad that it does.

In a short space of time I have had seven line managers, including the current. That includes two company directors, two heads of department and one gestalt entity. They have each left under a cloud of sorts. That is where my malign influence comes in, or so it feels to me. Some of my past line managers have been mentors of varying capabilities; others have only been there as a conduit to leave booking systems; others still, merely rubber stamps for performance reviews. It has varied.

The first line manager – at the time the General Manager of the company I then worked for, but later our Sales Director – was a flighty bugger to say the least. He would pop in to the office at the dead of night and drop a pile of work on to my desk, with a post-it on top, and then vanish for a month at a time. He was great for a pint and a natter, but terrible to nail down for an actual serious conversation about my future endeavours. His departure happened in the space of a heartbeat, in which it was simply announced that he had gone. We still don’t know why, but we do know he’s fine.

Next came a rather lovely chap, who I always found to be rather intimidating. The reason I found him intimidating was that he knew precisely what he was doing, and he was driven about doing it. He had been with that firm since his dad had run it, and a lot of department heads were members of his own family. Far from nepotism, they are all still very good at those jobs today. His managerial style with me was hands off and self-starting. To that end he gave me a huge amount of faith in my own abilities, even if we rarely spoke. He wisely left for health reasons, and is very widely missed.

Next came a complete fucking lunatic, and my second Director. He flitted with ease from vice-presidencies to directorships, all around the world, leaving complete fucking havoc in his wake. His comeuppance came about when he threw me in front of the lions and revelled in the fact that I was rightly torn apart. In the build up to his departure, almost all of his top team are alleged to have threatened to leave if he stayed; extreme bargaining. My big beef with the guy was that he made me travel too much; his concerns for my external responsibilities were far less than those around him.

The director passed me on to one of his subordinates after almost a year, but didn’t tell her that she had any responsibilities. As such, that led to a very comfortable relationship, with absolutely no level of scrutiny, and a line manager who encouraged me to max out company expenses. I declined, but it was nice to know I would have support if I were to claim for my lunch while travelling. She didn’t fit in at all well with the rest of the team, and as soon as the director gaily skipped out of the back door, she was pushed out of the front. Which is a shame, because I liked her a lot. So I took over her job.

I love a good interregnum, I do. After my line manager was ushered out, and our directorate was left without a director, we were all in limbo. I inquired about this, and was told that I now came under the aegis of the HR department – notoriously fucking useless at the time, with an inability to even feign common human decency – and that I was seen as good at managing myself. I got on with my job, as I had become accustomed, and waited to see what would come next. Once I was under the wing of a new manager the HR department were unceremoniously fired. There was much rejoicing.

New job; same old me. My next line manager was the head of the department, and he seemed like a perfectly nice chap. He was very experienced in running that kind of department; he brought with him a lot of energy, drive and positivity, and he inspired confidence. He rebuilt the team to work like a well-oiled machine, introducing clear lines of reporting and development. Confidence amongst the team was at an all-time high, and we felt like a real team of experts, poised to take on all comers. It’s a pity he had to go: I really thought he had broken the cycle of temporary bosses once and for all.

Luckily, before his departure, he handed me over to one of his deputies, in a well-timed (some may say prophetic) restructuring of the department. She’s my current line manager, and I think she’s very good at what she does. The problem is that she is still in post, so I’m not going to write another word about her. I do not think that would be fair at all. Instead, some lessons learned from the experience.

Firstly, I have noticed that I have a tendency to work hard and not care what is going on around me. I think this may have stood me in good stead. I also help others whenever they ask, and care about keeping to my word. This has been the case throughout all of the jobs I have had over the past two decades, so it may well be a case of me being the common factor in this mode of good behaviour.

Second, I have noticed that this rolling wave of colleagues is the new norm. We change jobs far more than our forebears, and that is the way it is. Perhaps we’re all flighty buggers, only prepared to sit in the same space for a couple of years at a time. We’re a people for whom boredom is anathema. Last but not least, I found a job I really enjoy, not a set of colleagues: you can’t control where they go.