Nobody Cares

There’s a fun little anecdote over in the comments at the Grandad’s place:

I retired at 60, and I’ve never regretted  it. I worked for 43 years as a marine engineer and spent a vast amount of time away from my family. Now i have grandkids and have the time to see them on a regular basis. They are the family that I never saw.

Although I was obviously much missed by my outfit that I retired from:

*Ring Ring*

ME: Hello?

Company servant: Hello Nick. Just ringing to ask you to send us your ID card and your anti gas respirator.

ME: OK

*Click*

Bearing in mind that I was the longest serving person for the company in it’s entire history of just over 100 years.

One of the things I thankfully learned very early in my working life is that “the company”, meaning your employer, could not give two hoots about your overall wellbeing.  Cynic that I am, I have been joking for years that if I got squashed/kidnapped/blown-up in the line of work the biggest concern my management would have is that I hadn’t submitted my timesheet that week.

The idea that a company cares who you are or would miss you should you go is one of the most  common misconceptions employees have.  I’ve seen guys resign and expect people to give a shit.  “How come nobody even spoke to me about why?” they ask.  “What about an exit interview?”  They don’t care: you’re gone, somebody else will take your place.  “But they new guy won’t know what to do!” they wail.  “Who cares?”  thinks the management, if they were to think at all.

I lost my best friend earlier this year after a long illness.  When he was diagnosed he was thrashing himself in a job which kept him away from his family and took up almost all of his waking hours.  His efforts were genuinely appreciated as proven by his boss giving a wonderful eulogy at his funeral, but one of the things my friend told me was how quickly they replaced him.  He thought he was the only one who could do this job and as such felt he could never take holidays or work normal hours.  Yet within a day or two of diagnosis the military – for he was a serving officer – replaced him with somebody from a different branch.  The handover took a few hours followed by a single clarification meeting a day or two later and that was that.  The military were good to him throughout and they are missing a phenomenal soldier, but even he was stunned by how quickly they replaced him and how little they missed him in the role.

He told me had he not fallen ill he would have leaped from one assignment to the next, each one more demanding than the last, fighting his way up the rapidly narrowing pyramid that is a military career.  He’d have gotten far, too.  The diagnosis changed all that.  His entire outlook flipped and he effectively quit his work to spend as much time as possible trying to get better and, more successfully, get to know his wife and kids.  He told me shortly before he died that if nothing else, he got to spend a couple of years with his kids which he probably otherwise would not have.  He also advised me that killing yourself in a job is utterly pointless and one should concentrate on enjoying life more.

But he didn’t need to tell me that, I already knew.

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17 thoughts on “Nobody Cares

  1. And this corporate indifference is a good thing. Far too many people seem to think a job is actually a daycare centre.

    I eventually quit one job in the USA after a couple years because my employer kept pressing me to attend out of hours social events. These invariably left me goggle-eyed with boredom, and in my view did nothing to actually foster a better working relationship with anyone (quite the contrary in fact, I vastly preferred my co-workers when I didn’t know what they actually ‘thought’ about anything not job related). I had many friends in the USA but I did not work with any of them.

    Hell is indeed other people, but in the deepest pits of that hell, you end up trapped in a charmless generic function room with the air-conditioner set to ‘stun’, holding a glass of wine with a tin-like under-taste whilst listening to a CEO opining on why “Caddy Shack” was the greatest movie ever made. Oh. Fuck. No. After that, I was on a flight back to London a few weeks later, and would have kissed the tarmac upon arrival had they not used a jetbridge for disembarkation.

    I was working for them because they paid me, they paid me because I was doing the work they needed doing. That’s it, thanks.

  2. To be fair, I think work socials in the UK are generally not too bad. If you get pissed and embarrass yourself nobody generally cares the next day. Probably a British thing.
    A benefit of having children is that you have an ever plausible reason to avoid work socials. Hell, my boss was going for a drink and I said loudly: “but what about your wife and children!”

  3. The world appears to be divided into two types: those who find retirement a welcome release, and those that go crazy or die when deprived of their (seemingly) primary reason for existing.

  4. My old boy. Radar Engineer with Decca for over twenty five years, he performed very well through a period of rapid technological advancement, done some work with the spooks and Marconi as well.

    Racal bought Decca out. Racal organised for a twenty five years service celebration for him, flew everybody that was anybody to the event, by all accounts it was a great night, I didn’t attend due to being overseas. The following Monday he got a Dear John letter at 63. Broke his heart, he told me that if you are an employee don’t every think that you know what is going on in an organisation.

    He died suddenly at 67.

  5. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose, but the youngest son of a very old and dear friend recently died of cancer at the age of 50. He kept working at every opportunity despite the horrendous treatments. At his funeral I was somewhat surprised by the large turnout of senior execs from his company, and also from the large company who were his main customer. It reflected well on all of them.

  6. I left a job and two younger colleagues left shortly after. One explained to a chum “If the dedicated dearieme is bailing out of this outfit, I’m off too.” Better than anything an appraisal interviewer could say. Though I still have a weak spot for the boss who paid me treble to stay on in a job for a few weeks more. Them wuz the days.

  7. A company can’t like or appreciate you any more than a company can pay taxes. One is liked or appreciated by people. Taxes are paid by people. Companies are just groups of people, Some of those people may like you. Some of them might be your friends. (In my experience, you won’t actually know which of your colleagues are genuinely your friends until you don’t work there any more). You may have obligations to some of these people. You do not have any obligations to the employer itself beyond owing it a day’s work for a day’s pay. (Well, if you have an employment contract, both you and your employer have an obligation to honour it. The most important clause is likely what either party has to do to end the contract. If you get a better offer and want to take it, there is no reason to feel even the slightest sense of obligation to your current employer before accepting it, other than that you should give notice in accordance with your contract and the law.

    Being made redundant is not a fun experience, but it is a helpful thing in making you understand precisely what the employer/employee relationship actually is.

    Management in many companies often tries to make employees feel a greater sense of attachment and obligation than is actually due. This should be resisted. Excessive hours should not be worked except on special occasions. Holidays should be taken. You should have a life outside work.

    And when you are at work you should do your best to be as productive as possible. I good day’s work in return for a day’s pay is not in any way a small thing.

  8. Been there, done that.
    We are all utterly replaceable.

    When the inevitable SHTF post exit, we will be blamed anyways regardless of contributions made.

  9. Hell is indeed other people, but in the deepest pits of that hell, you end up trapped in a charmless generic function room with the air-conditioner set to ‘stun’, holding a glass of wine with a tin-like under-taste whilst listening to a CEO opining on why “Caddy Shack” was the greatest movie ever made.

    Oh Dear Lord. Back to Blighty, pronto!

  10. To be fair, I think work socials in the UK are generally not too bad. If you get pissed and embarrass yourself nobody generally cares the next day. Probably a British thing.

    I watched a show back in the spring on MTV called Bad Tattoos, or something. It involved three British tattoo artists who would cover up Godawful tattoos that folk had unwisely applied to themselves. As you can imagine, there was no shortage of people who needed their services and it makes for an amusing late-night TV show, albeit akin to laughing at the mentally ill.

    Anyway, this 40 year old Geordie woman came in. She had gotten a tattoo of a cartoon pussy on her pubic bone and – and this was re-enacted – got it out at “an office party” to show everybody. Cue the screech of a record coming to an abrupt halt. She said the next day everyone was sniggering behind her back, not because she’d gotten out her growler but because of the stupid tattoo. I watched this with a foreigner who asked me, quite reasonably: “What the fuck is going on here?” Only in Britain.

  11. Broke his heart, he told me that if you are an employee don’t every think that you know what is going on in an organisation.

    Absolutely. If you want to know what’s going on in an organisation, listen to outsiders with skin in the game. Don’t, whatever you do, listen to the management.

  12. A company can’t like or appreciate you any more than a company can pay taxes. One is liked or appreciated by people.

    Yup.

    Management in many companies often tries to make employees feel a greater sense of attachment and obligation than is actually due. This should be resisted. Excessive hours should not be worked except on special occasions. Holidays should be taken. You should have a life outside work.

    Absolutely.

  13. “Being made redundant is not a fun experience, but it is a helpful thing in making you understand precisely what the employer/employee relationship actually is.”

    Good summary there all in all Michael, especially with the who pays taxes analogy.

    As for redundancies I do them in our mob and have had a huge year of delivering the message and negotiating terms, it doesn’t get any easier for the employer either. Four GM’s, Construction Manager, Accountant and two burly General Foreman scalps this year to date. It has also taken a toll on me. One was a Syrian GM on a project in Ghana, he was shocked and it could have went anyway and the fact that I was up their on my own was not lost on me. Another strange one was our South African GM, he got wind of my intentions and then when he discovered that I was in Joburg unannounced he put two and two together, I was in the bank changing bank signatories and they declined a transaction and told him why and he freaked out, bolted and checked himself into hospital with stress. The cat and mouse game continued in and out of countries without me getting near to him or having any contact with him, up until I had to do it over the phone from afar. We negotiated for about one month over the phone and he got a good deal, signed a Deed of Release and one month later took it to the employment court for reinstatement! Thankfully it was thrown out but anything can happen in South Africa especially if you are an international company so I was worried about that one. Its certainly been a year of burying the dead for me.

    Lastly on this, I was negotiating terms with a long term prickly GM a few years ago. He was pretty shocked that he was leaving and I opened the tense discussion with “look I know this is a bad situation for you right now, I just want to get you the best possible departure terms that I can as a precedence for the day when I am sitting on your side of the table”. This worked a treat and the negotiations proceeded smoothly thereafter.

  14. Hell is indeed other people, but in the deepest pits of that hell, you end up trapped in a charmless generic function room with the air-conditioner set to ‘stun’, holding a glass of wine with a tin-like under-taste whilst listening to a CEO opining on why “Caddy Shack” was the greatest movie ever made.

    A friend once told me that she was working in a firm in which employees were *not permitted* to sit next to one another on aircraft when travelling for work. Having on a few occasions had the experience of sitting next to an incompetent colleague that I didn’t like on a plane and being forced to listen to him drone nonsense for hours while being completely unable to escape, I can only say that this was a very wise policy.

  15. “He thought he was the only one who could do this job and as such felt he could never take holidays or work normal hours. ”

    In the project world there are tons of guys who believe this. I frequently remind them of this old truism;

    “Graveyards are full of indispensable men.”

    Luckily, I work for a company that doesn’t have any HR, doesn’t have an expenses policy and provides more freedom than most people can tolerate.

  16. I was once a senior manager in a medium-sized software company. I knew the redundancies were coming and was fairly certain that I would be one.

    I went off to do a high-paying one-week consultancy gig in the Docklands. The idiots tried to make me redundant in the middle of the week – return your kit and everything. Which would have cost them the back end of £20k for, what, half a week’s pay (so under a grand.) Took me a while to convince them that it was better for me to finish the work, so they could bill it, and then I’d troop in to head office like the naughty little boy I clearly was.

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