Lab Rat

Today I felt as if I was part of a lab experiment conducted to test the human threshold for the number of meetings sustainable in one day, without totally losing one’s mind. We have all had days with marathon meetings or even back to back meetings that test the capacity and robustness of your bladder. Today took things to an all new, almost unnatural, level. My day started at 07:00 and my first meeting at 08:00 just like every day however today once finished with the normal 3 meetings on the trot routine there was no break, then before I knew it 1:00 came and went with me still in meetings. By this time I was beginning to wonder if going to the loo while on mute was even remotely acceptable or professional. By 1:20 with an afternoon of more meetings ahead a miracle happened and my meeting ended 10 minutes early. My bladder was overjoyed! I even had time to get to the canteen for coffee before the afternoon barrage started. Mercifully my last meeting ended at 6:30. I’m not sure if I passed the endurance tests because by this stage I was babbling incoherently!

More Funny Workplace Behaviours

As our project team continues to grow we are getting introduced to an even more diverse group of people and with that some new behaviours. As I promised you I would do I’m keeping you informed of the very best of them. One of my current favourites, which I have yet to personally experience, but have had been fully briefed on by someone who has, is the low volume murmur. My colleague/informant started hearing this quite yet persistent noise. At first she thought it was some background noise from the office equipment. Then realised no one was using the printer or other devices. She looked around to see if anyone else was reacting as if they too heard something. Nope, everyone was head done, hard at work. Soon after it dawned on her that one difference was that she had a new desk neighbour. By this time the noise was starting to burrow its way into her brain. So, she slyly watched the new arrival and saw her lips moving and could hear the “h
Now at least she had confirmation that she was not losing her mind, she felt marginally better. This lasted for a total of 2 minutes because now that she knew what is was and where it was coming from it was no longer possible to tune out. The questions started to bubble to the surface of her mind in rhythm to the “hmmmmmumm” “Is this noise because she is reading and thinks she is doing it silently?” Could she be humming the most tuneless song known to man?” “Or is she on a mission to drive me insane before the end of her first day?” At this point my informant could no longer suffer alone so she quietly started asking others sitting in the general vicinity if they too had noticed the additional undertone that had emerged. Of course she had to do this using messaging technology so as not to make the new person uncomfortable. It was soon confirmed that several other people were on the brink of migraines from trying to first figure out what the noise was and second trying to block it out. All had been extremely unsuccessful in the latter!
For clarification this started on Monday of this week, we are now at Wednesday and no one has broached the subject with the murmurer. The British politeness gene is still in clear evidence in our office. If this was happening near me I would have had to take swift action. Newbie or not something would have been said or duct tape may have been deployed as a solution!

That Annoying Voice…

Do you have “that person” in your office that whenever they speak, no matter where they are it feels as if they are standing right behind you?  That voice that carries from the most distant corner and the farthest cubicle. You know who I mean.  In my current situation I have two of “those” people. First, there is the woman with the high pitched voice and strong American accent. (I think she swallowed a microphone, with very bad feedback, as a child.)  The sound just comes slicing through the air and screeches into your eardrums.  Then there is “Radio Guy”.  This guy has a voice that truly should be on radio.  It is a deep booming voice even when he is trying to talk “quietly”. If he stood at the front of a huge room with the worst acoustics in the world, everyone would still be able to hear him clearly.  Of the two Radio Guy is the least annoying because he does have a nice voice. The problem is no matter how hard you try to ignore him when he is talking to others his voice draws your attention away from what you should be doing.  This is a negative in two ways.  One, you keep getting interrupted and lose your concentration for the task at hand.  Two, you are tempted to look at him every time he speaks, making you look like you are eavesdropping!

Should we be afraid?

I travelled into our London office today and the atmosphere on the journey in was very different. It is the first day back to school for many districts but the usual buzz that comes with this day was not in the air. Instead there was a strained and tense feeling at the station, on the train and on the streets as you walked. People were looking at each other a bit closer, checking out what you were carrying. The government raised the alert level last week and you can really tell a difference. I am sitting here in central London in what I am told is a bomb proof building. When I learned that last week at first I thought “how sad that we have to bomb proof our buildings” but then that knowledge actually made me feel safer. I don’t know how it is for you but for me I am stuck between wanting to know as much as possible about the threats we are facing and not wanting to know so much that I become concerned enough to change my plans and actions. It is that fine line between vigilant and overly cautious. I would like to say that it does not bother me and I will always do the British thing and “keep calm and carry on” however, I have to admit it I do feel a bit uneasy today on a journey that I would not usually think twice about taking. How are you feeling?

A Day to Forget

Today was nothing less than a total disaster. It was one of those days that 15 minutes after starting work all you can think about was finishing. If I think about it this day to forget actually started yesterday. I made one of those rookie errors…you know the one, you are in a negative frame of mind and you get an email which you just have to respond to. Well I did and hit “send” before realising I had chosen “Reply All” instead of “Reply”. You can imagine my surprise when this flaming, raging email comes back. Oops! Then came my frantic apology to “All” with a follow up phone call that was sent to voicemail. So my day started with having to face some fall out from yesterday’s debacle and went rapidly downhill from there. Finally my last meeting of the day arrives and it is a meeting where I should not need to think too much, more of a listening encounter for me. I thought “ah this one should be easy”. As soon as the thought entered my head I tried to banish it, I knew it was analogous to walking into an Emergency Communication centre and saying ” wow, it’s quiet in here”.
The web conference began and this voice from the end of the phone said “shall we start?” Off he went, showing slides that whizzed by at a rate of knots. I couldn’t read more than 3 words and the next slide appeared. He was talking so fast and slides slid by in a blur. After 10 minutes I thought to myself, “if this guy doesn’t take a breath he is going to pass out from oxygen deprivation.” All I can say is that he must free dive in his spare time. This man went non stop for 40 minutes before I had to break in. Not so much because I had a comment or question I just felt it was my duty of care to allow the man to inhale. The meeting mercifully ended (only because the hour was up), I think the gentleman could still be talking otherwise. I took my headset off, laid it on my desk and took a deep breath…I felt as if I had been put through some kind of psychological torture. Can your ears bruise? Mine felt like they were.
That was it, the day to forget was over. I thought maybe it was my punishment for my error the previous day. Oh, tomorrow has to be better. Oh wait, I have to go to the dentist to have two teeth extracted…maybe not then!

When Work Feels Like Nursery School

Today at work I could have easily been back in nursery school. We played various grown up versions of children’s games such as Pin the Tail on the Project Manager, Hot Potato or Pass the Ticking Time Bomb and my personal favourite “close your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears and say “I can’t her you!” By the end of the day I did not know if I should call my mommy to pick me up or raise 25 Programme risks!

Things that should never be seen together…

…an 83-year-old woman and a balance beam in a children’s playground!!

Yesterday however the two came into very close contact and you can imagine the outcome!  My wonderfully lively and active mother-in-law was enjoying a sunny Sunday afternoon in the park with her 2 1/2-year-old great-grandson.   She decided to demonstrate to him how to walk on the balance beam which stood about 18 inches off of the ground.  (In the meantime said great-grandson toddled off to the slide and was not was even watching.)  So, here is my mother-in-law up on the beam…oh did I mention she was still wearing her high heels??  Next thing she knows she is flying towards the spongy mat.  Although the spongy mat broke her fall it also acted like a catapult and shot her sideways into one of those big spider web things with the nylon ropes and metal poles.  She hit one of the metal cross bars impacting at her ribs.  This was approximately 3:00 p.m.  It took the ambulance one hour to get to her and then a trip to the A&E.  Being a former emergency services person this is where I lose patience very quickly when I see that simple things just are not being done.  I won’t name the specific hospital but let’s say if this hospital was a person then this man’s name would have been Lester!

Pam and I get the call at about 5:00 asking if we could come to the hospital after making a stop at mum’s to pick up an over night bag etc.  We arrive at the A&E at around 6:15 to find that mum had just been assessed and was waiting to see a doctor.  She was having trouble breathing and they gave her some pain killers while she waited and waited and waited.  The A&E was like crammed full with people waiting everywhere.  For the first 4 hours or so no one seemed to move out of A&E.  They just kept piling up.  Finally shift change came and a nurse ,who I wish I got her name came, in and saw the chaos.  It did not take her very long to start sorting the place out.  She got the staff moving and before we knew it we actually saw patients going to X-Ray, being moved on to the ward, getting discharged.  It was an amazing transformation.  Although grateful that this woman was making such an immediate impact it just underlined that fact that the chaos could have been avoided in the first place if someone had taken charge as she did!  It still took a few hours to unravel this huge backlog and as a result we left the hospital at around 1:00 a.m.  So just a few words to the NHS…overall I think you are very good however there is room to improve and having an organised A&E makes a massive difference.  The ambulance crews were backed up 4 deep not being able to off load or handover their patients this in turn caused a shortage of emergency ambulances on the road.  Patients need to be triage and assessed faster and X-Ray needs to support great capacity.  I realise these are easy things to say but they are doable and would make the NHS a more efficient operation.  So, thank you to the unknown nurse who took command and kicked butt.  We need more of these people.  My mother-in-law is resting at home with her cat.

Welford Road…at last!

I am finally going to see the Leicester Tigers play a Premiership game.  I’m going this Saturday with my step  son…wow that still sounds strange when I say it.  We are going to the temple of British rugby and I cannot wait.  You know I love my rugby and I am prone to shout at the telly when something exciting happens.  If you watched last Sunday’s game you can imagine what was happening in our living room.  The Tigers were down by 2 points and they waited until the clock had 83 minutes on it, (for non rugby people this is 3 minutes into extra time and one dead ball ends the game), before they attempted a drop goal.  The Captain stepped up and took the kick himself (I love good leadership).  I held my breath as the ball wobbled over and they won 20-19.  I finally exhaled and felt exhausted from the effort of watching this heart stopping match.  As exciting as it was I’m not sure my blood pressure could take another one of those this week.  Watch this space for the update after Saturday’s match.