Friday 26 February 2021

The Bus Stops Here

Contracts [of employment] are two way agreements; but powerfully asymmetrical.  If you poll first at interview and are offered the job, you may think that you're at a disadvantage when negotiating salary because you [really] want, even need, the job. Without an income, debt, penury, starvation and homelessness cast their shadows across your family. For your future line manager or the company's HR, the stakes aren't as high - there are 2 or 3 more 'appointable' people who have just been interviewed. Occupations where there are in-built power asymmetries tend to attract bullies and my experience with HR has been 'mixed'.

At the other end of the contract, both sides need to have a notice clause, stipulating how long each party is going to give to find a replacement [employer or employee, both]. Civilised countries will legislate a minimum amount of notice required of the employer to protect the, potentially more vulnerable, workers. Years and years ago, I was advised that unless I could fall under a bus tomorrow without my place of work missing a beat in its enterprise, then I hadn't done my job. Accordingly, I have since been more careful with my filing, record-keeping and SOP generation.  In my last [ever] job, the toxic HR system failed to have my replacements in place before I took off but I worked really hard to tidy my desk and leave all the useful signal in the filing cabinet while dumping the noise. Six year old Faculty Meeting minutes are less useful than you might have thought when they got filed.

In what passes for my social media, advice was sought from a young employee who was being blandished [=bullied in silk gloves] into staying on beyond their notice: because essential. But not so essential that the boss had recognised their asset-ness with comfortable and respectful working conditions, let alone regular pay-hikes. The supportive comments rained in. If it was Junior's job to train in their replacement and 2 weeks wasn't enough time for that to happen then that was a HR / management problem not the employee's. Someone used the term Bus Factor aka Bread Truck Scenario. This is the number of key people in a team or organisation without whose expertise and deep knowledge the enterprise would be severely hampered. In well run companies this should be close to zero. But that sort of system redundancy requires a personnel buffer and far too many companies, run by accountants, prefer to shave costs on payroll and hope that no key people win the Lotto, cop a 'Rona or sustain a debilitating accident. This cheese-paring on salary and appointments is the source of frustration at the non delivery of health services.

I liked that perspective very much. It's not on the employee, especially not on the quiet, min-wage, infrastructural cogs in a well-run machine to establish the Bus-Fall Protocols. That's why they pay Management the big bucks - [adverse] contingency planning is on the Gaffer's To Do list. Salary-fat managers and experts and don't always deliver I - II - III.

Another useful phrase cropped up in my Bus Factor researches - "cross-training". We did that when I was played soccer at school. Every so often, we'd all be wrenched out of out usual position [left-back or goalie, me] and made to play some other role. The thought was that everyone needed to be substitutable, even if it required a bit of shuffling. My last place of work made a token attempt at this while I worked there. Teaching staff were requested to take on unfamiliar courses, especially tutorials and laboratories. Some of the old stagers only taught biochemistry or microbiology: same old same old material for 20 years! I, to my great joy, was given one of the three lab sections in Food & Fermentation Microbiology. I guess the reasoning was that, if the real microbiologist fecked off, then that module would not be complete bereft. Otherwise the quality and delivery of the teaching was completely without oversight or audit: because the TUI union was really strong on teacher autonomy.

And what about "grey rocking" as a strategy for dealing with toxic, narcissistic and bullying colleagues?  New concept to me - very sheltered upbringing.

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