How To Control Your Life
Have you ever started a new job and been shown, inexpertly, round your new berth by an existing employee? Or gone as temporary staff somewhere and had the same experience?
Disorientating, isn’t it?
They greet you with a friendly smile (or not…) and then take you swiftly up in lifts, along corridors and through doors with some rapidity, waving vaguely at various places and objects the while (“That’s the processing room”; “That’s the archives but you have to get a card from Facilities to access them”; “That’s the fire exit and you can get up to the roof that way if you go along to the other end of the building before you go up”; “That’s Mr Henchard’s office but he’s in Singapore this week”). The only thing going through your mind is a frantic series of question marks (Processing what? Why do I need the archives and what’s ‘Facilities’? Card? How do I get to the other side of the building from the fire escape, and how the heck long does that take? Who’s Mr Henchard and do I need to know? Singapore?…).
Then, finally, you land in your office and are randomly introduced to anyone who comes within a six foot range of you and your guide. “This is Jim, he’s always hogging the first floor meeting room so you’ll have to be firm with him when you need it”. “That’s Helen - Helen? Oh, she’s on the phone.” “Hi Jason - this is Jason, he’s a black belt in karate and he’ll be telling you all about the new account which you’ll be taking over in due course”.
Then, according to their particular nature, they’ll either leave you in the middle of everything because they get distracted by their own work (or their need for coffee or other sustenance), or they’ll introduce you finally to someone who has been given the direct responsibility for inculcating you into the mysteries of this particular workplace. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a formal induction course - in which case the mêlée into which you are to be thrown is just postponed, not avoided.
The problem arises because all the people you meet when you first enter a new workplace are completely familiar with their environment (that’s why they’ve been chosen to show you around). They could go about their day’s work in their sleep (some of them frequently do) and, obviously, they don’t have to think twice about basic things like where the loos are or what the protocol is for making coffee or getting lunch. They all know each other and what everyone does (or at least what is their designated function, even if they don’t actually do much about it). The routines of that particular workplace are second nature to them - isn’t every workplace the same?
No, of course it’s not. Even workplaces which are in the same field (legal firms, canning plants, logistics, civil engineering) have wildly variant work practices. And it’s definitely no longer a given that there are standard ‘types’ who work in each trade or profession. There are, it’s true, a lot of nerds in the IT world - but there are also a lot of well-dressed people who might easily be mistaken for City types, or even lower forms of marketing people. Bankers no longer wear either bowler hats or red braces, and (at least in London) there are a lot of people in the fashion and film world who are actually pretty scruffy.
But what hasn’t changed is people’s perception that if you’ve worked in one office, you’ve worked in them all. How can you possibly not know how to put a legal document together (either physically or by drafting)? Did you lie on your CV about having worked in marketing for the last six years if you don’t even know how to mock up an ad with this software? What do you mean, you’ve never used a headset while walking round the building?
So you struggle through the first couple of weeks, desperately trying to make sense of all the discrete information thrown at you whilst attempting to find your way in, out of and around the building. You scramble to make sense of the relationships and loyalty lines and not to drop any clangers or put your foot into things too much. It’s exhausting, you feel like a fish out of water, and you end each day with a headache.
Eventually you settle down. You too forget that you once didn’t have a clue where the kitchen was, the post room, the binding machine. You learn people’s name and characters (or at least their place in the pecking order), and you settle down to do the job for which you were employed.
The trouble is that what you’ve learned is a subset. The people who’ve told you about things in that workplace - particularly your predecessor perhaps, whose job you’ve taken over - are telling you what they managed to grasp when they were new. The people who inducted them, in turn, had a subset of information from their predecessors. And so on.
It’s like Chinese whispers.
If you had an induction course, it was probably run by someone who never actually works in that workplace (or, if they did, it was some time back). Or maybe it’s a formal presentation developed by people in head office (who sometimes make a flying visit to the workplace, but never stay long and don’t involve themselves on the ground floor - good heavens no…). So new supermarket employees are given presentations on health and safety by someone whose only relationship with a till is when they do their own shopping. And a new CEO is treated to a formal welcome lunch in a restaurant well away from the office, perhaps by people who’ve come over specially from another country for the purpose.
This is why most offices don’t work particularly well. This is one of the reasons why, in this country, we work very long hours and achieve very low productivity.
Armed with this information you can try and change your workplace. (Good luck with that.)
However - and this is where it does come down to you and how you take control of your life - this same sort of thing can happen in the home.
I was once talking to a man whose wife had recently died. He was handling it fairly well now, he said, and he was managing to get through the day without too much sadness. The trouble was, he was having problems around the house. He didn’t know where anything was. He didn’t know how to cook and he was living on “things on toast”. He didn’t know how to keep the house clean because there were all these sprays and bottles and tins and he didn’t know what they were for. He said he’d already made a mess of the kitchen window because the spray he’d used to clean it had turned out to be some sort of oil. And he’d broken the washing machine and it was full of clothes and water and he could see through the porthole that everything had gone pink.
You see those items in the picture - do you know what they are? Do the other members of your family know what they are?
OK, you probably won’t need to be using the Victorian versions - but the modern ones might be useful. And do you know what’s in the toolbox in your home and what each item is used to do? What about the sewing basket? And the medicine chest or cabinet? Do you know how to change a fuse, which lightbulb goes where, and how to turn off the stopcock? Where are the user manuals for each working item in your home? Where are the drain inspection points? Can you put up shelves, and hooks, and curtain rails (and do you know which tool to use for each task?) Which drill bits are for masonry and which for wood? Can you sharpen a knife (always supposing you know what the knife sharpener looks like and where it’s kept)?
Maybe you should take yourself, your partner, your family members, the people with whom you live, around the house. Give them an induction course (a proper one). Acquaint yourself with your home and what’s in it. With how to use what’s in it. Find out if everything still works, is still useful. (Are you hanging onto keys for long-gone locks, drill bits for long defunct drills, attachments for food processors which went to the tip ages ago, consumables for a printer you gave to the jumble last year?)
If you want to control your life you need to feel in control in your home. You should be able to function in it comfortably and, if you have to get someone in to help, you need to be able to give them the information they require (if you don’t have it to hand and can’t provide it straight away, you’ll be paying them to sit around expensively and wait while you locate it…).
The golden rule: if you don’t know what it is - find out or throw it out!
Twitter: Maryon Jeane
Part 1 — http://tinyurl.com/k8e4jv6
Part 2 — http://tinyurl.com/k2qtplb
Part 3 — http://tinyurl.com/lndykl3
Part 4 — http://tinyurl.com/ohdgs7t
Part 5 — http://tinyurl.com/lqlbc29
Part 6 — http://tinyurl.com/lgt8w8k
Part 7 — http://tinyurl.com/knhk9tg
Part 8 — http://tinyurl.com/ps8gun4
Part 9 — http://tinyurl.com/msu6xgx
Part 10 — http://tinyurl.com/oyxcq43
Part 11 — http://tinyurl.com/ne2wblv
Part 12 — http://tinyurl.com/pvo2u8e
Part 13 — http://tinyurl.com/pybd8o4
Part 14 — http://tinyurl.com/msmxkpy
Part 15 — http://tinyurl.com/q7aa43q
Part 16 — http://tinyurl.com/px2ogzy
Part 17 — http://tinyurl.com/o7af3tu
Part 18 — http://tinyurl.com/ows8epj
Part 19 — http://tinyurl.com/mfnwddx
Part 20 — http://tinyurl.com/q26vjfj
Part 21 — http://tinyurl.com/kemtoub
Part 22 — http://tinyurl.com/lak3r6n
Part 23 — http://tinyurl.com/k4nr7zb
Part 24 — http://tinyurl.com/ok5zvby
Part 25 — http://tinyurl.com/nnqqf9k
Part 26 — http://tinyurl.com/ktlhdnj
Part 27 — http://tinyurl.com/naxxzyq
Part 28 — http://tinyurl.com/nn5cuzv
Part 29 — http://tinyurl.com/o625g9w
Part 30 — http://tinyurl.com/pycqggu
Part 31 — http://tinyurl.com/o742mfk
Part 32 — http://tinyurl.com/q4wqz4g
Part 33 — http://tinyurl.com/
Part 34 — http://tinyurl.com/o8g5g6m
Part 35 — http://tinyurl.com/ngxtltb
Part 36 — http://tinyurl.com/qykcfg7
Part 37 — http://tinyurl.com/nubysu6
Part 38 — http://tinyurl.com/np3gqoc
Part 39 — http://tinyurl.com/o4x534p
Part 40 — http://tinyurl.com/p868h2f
Part 41 — http://tinyurl.com/phvt9mc
Part 42 — http://tinyurl.com/oltxfj5
Part 43 — http://tinyurl.com/nmcdmmv
Part 44 — http://tinyurl.com/nag28bb
Part 45 — http://tinyurl.com/noh6nqz
Part 46 — http://tinyurl.com/qzcymqx
Part 47 — http://tinyurl.com/qysbtuc
Part 48 — http://tinyurl.com/qaofvcj
Part 49 — http://tinyurl.com/ovrecvu
Part 50 — http://tinyurl.com/ofwrbws
Part 51 — http://tinyurl.com/oosxqor
Part 52 — http://tinyurl.com/nl5uc6o
Part 53 — http://tinyurl.com/nbay95u
Part 54 — http://tinyurl.com/o88z47k
Part 55 — http://tinyurl.com/q486llf
Part 56 — http://tinyurl.com/zgqnh3u
Part 57 — http://tinyurl.com/jtb47q5
Part 58 — http://tinyurl.com/olsarxn
Part 59 — http://tinyurl.com/hpucsto
Part 60 — http://tinyurl.com/j3uurm2
Part 61 — http://tinyurl.com/gpytxka
Part 62 — http://tinyurl.com/zx9e9md
Part 63 — http://tinyurl.com/jmolac9
Part 64 — http://tinyurl.com/zwvp3pf
Part 65 — http://tinyurl.com/hnbo9fz
Part 66 — http://tinyurl.com/z2wk96u
Part 67 — http://tinyurl.com/h5w4clq
Part 68 — http://tinyurl.com/j9a2b7j
Part 69 — http://tinyurl.com/zmnlyxo
Part 70 — http://tinyurl.com/jtdhym8
Part 71 — http://tinyurl.com/jsjsrjy
Part 72 — http://tinyurl.com/glmqxdb
Part 73 — http://tinyurl.com/gql38qp
Part 74 — http://tinyurl.com/hqh5esz
Part 75 — http://tinyurl.com/jqna8of
Part 76 — http://tinyurl.com/hoe23v2
Part 77 — http://tinyurl.com/hy427n7
Part 78 — http://tinyurl.com/jsugh4h