Dec 31, 2015

The End of 2015

A year full of changes and endings is also coming to an end. Through this year I finished a meaningful relationship and broke free from it, reclaimed my single status making a great change again in my life. This made me not only become free again but also made me feel really strong. I learned about how difficult is to break up with someone, even when you know that's the right thing to do.

This year I also faced the last requirement to get my accounting degree. It was a really hard thing to do and I had to work myself stupid, but I did it. I was part of a hard working team and we did our job, to get this diploma. I learned about the waves that affect us, and how a team must stick together and we must all work hard, pick it up when some of us break under the weight. I learned again that in a team we all have different capabilities and what makes the job more valuable is that we realize that and use those strenghts to make somethng great happens.

For 2015 I set myself 18 Resolutions, of which some I completed, some I exceeded, and some were left half done or far from doing. For instance, I didn't do any meditating. I read more than 24 books, and I ended 2015 weighting less than 63 kg, but I didn't get to save as much money as I expected to. No biggie. Tomorrow, with the first cup of coffee of the year, I'll check those resolutions and make my 2016 resolutions. How many? I don't know. Some fun number. Eight? Thirteen? Some number like that. :-)

For all of you, Happy New Year!!

Dec 25, 2015

Office Rules

The other day I came around an interesting article by Steve Blakeman, through LinkedIn about stupid office rules. The piece was titled "6 Stupid Office Rules That Should Be Banned", so of course I started reading it, only to discover, to my dismay, why some of them wouldn't be banned. Mr. Blakeman did his article on the footsteps of another article listing more stupid rules, so this little post could almost become the post-post-post of the topic, though let's be honest, ever since the begining of times, many office rules have been considered stupid and people have been complaining about them since complains have been invented. Anyway, the six stupid rules are the following:

1. Banning the Use of Social Media
2. Inflexible Working Hours
3. Excruciating e-mail Policies
4. Stopping the Use of Smartphones
5. Draconian Dress Code
6. "One Size Fits All" Performance Evaluations

Now, you look at the rules... and I wonder which of these are applied at your workplaces. A my job we have the #2, some offices have the #1 and there's a measure of #5... and I think that's it. I'm yet to see a place that applies #4, other than Intel, where I know that phones that can take photos are banned from the production area. The #3 used to be enforced, but not the way described by the article, and, well, #6 only applies to bosses. So, let me tackle these the best I can.

Fighting Social Networks

The problem with social networks is that they consume a lot of time from people. Mostly the younger employees who get completely engrossed with their phones and they also happen to be paying more attention to their screens that to the meeting they are attending. Now, on one side, that's a modern phenomenon, something these kids have grown into as their parents, from early age, found it easier to sit them down before the TV to keep them quiet and out of the way rather than find them something to do or spend time with them. Well, this is what you get. However, there's something else here in play. First, you can't close out your employees from the social networks during office hours because these platforms are in their phones, so they'll have access to them 24/7, whether you like it or not. Second, has anyone thought about the quality of the job asked from the employee or what the employee actually has to do? Sadly, a lot of place hardly ever take advantage of the employees full potential, and more than once either keep them idle at the office or load them with some sort of unimaginative, mechanic work, that forces their brains to escape to more amusing occupations.

Same happens with meetings. A lot of people loath going to meetings because often it becomes a plaform for some people to extend on talking about nothing, or the topics are not involving or open for discussion. Indeed, there are people that like big gatherings and invite a lot of people for meetings where they have nothing to add to the discussion. Those people will get bothered, and if they have a phone or a computer close, they'll try and get some sort of amusement to pass the time. You could ban social networks or smartphones, but people will still go on distracting themselves with something else. Banning all distractions isn't the solution, for you should attack the root, the lack of involvement of your employees, not what they do to avoid falling asleep.

Rigid Workhours

Should these really be banned? The thing goes as follows: you have a schedule when you start working, and in some places you need to stick to that schedule more than at others. If you work in shifts, you need to keep your workhours. At offices, maybe you could argue that you don't need workhours, but think of the following: often at the office, you have some tasks assigned, but then, out of the blue, you could be called to attend a meeting where you need to explain something you did, or assist at something you know about. A set schedule isn't only about the time during which youdo the job or tasks you are required to do, but also signals the period through which you are available for your company for other jo related tasks.

I've seen people often complain about stiff workhours, and though I agree it's a pety thing to go on counting minutes, I wonder if those bitching would actually be able to perform on a task-based working system. I mean, think of your working year: it usually has ups and downs, right? Some months are heavier, others are slower. If you assume that your working schedule would be based on it, on heavy months you would have to spend 13 hours or more at the office, while on slow months you'd spend 4 hours per day. For the same payment? Well, it sounds unfair to be paid the same for 4 hours or 13, right? So that may have to change. Paid less for 4 hours, more for 13.

If this goes on, your could end up being hired only for projects, not always by the same company. Now, this sounds good for some, but do think about the forces of the market playing here. As you grow old, do you think you'd be able to work and find work just like the younger generations? Some people would think they could and that their experience will be their advantage... well, more power to them. Specially in a world where "experience" is being quickly replaced by "actualized knowledge". But far be it from me to burst your bubble.

Set workhours are not an evil, and if you pay attention, they could also work in your favor. If you don't have a set schedule, then you could get to the office at 8 am, and work until 5 pm, expecting to leave for your classes, pick up the kids or something, but thenm if your boss showed for work at 11 am, they might expect you to attend to a meeting at 6.30 pm, with no extra hours paid for it.

The real problem at offices with set schedules is when they are set only for a some people, and let loose for others. This, again, isn't a problem with the rules, but a problem that the management can solve.

E-Mail Policies

Back in the day people were fond of sending forwards. Back in the day, the capacity of servers was also much more limited, so in that sense it may have made sense. I guess people can have some leeway with their work e-mails though not much is needed as people's personal e-mail accounts are already at their fingertips on their phones. Keeping work e-mails for work makes sense, actually, and also makes sense from the personal side of it. All e-mails sent and received to a work address belong to the company, so do you really want your company to have hold of your love letters, your gossip and your check balances?

Ban The Smartphone

Really? There are places like that?

Dress Code

Now, this depends entirely on the given dress code and how it is applied. A dress code isn't only about the corporative image you'll project, but also a way to help people fit it. Now, some might be stupid, like stipulating the allowed lenght of skirts, but others that might seem stupid may actually be smart. I used to work at a bank where you couldn't wear boots nor white pants or white skirts. The reason was that you could hide money in your boots, so that avoided the humiliating search, and since you were around lots of printed paper and money, white pants and skirts would get dirty soon. A white shirt could be covered with a blazer and still look elegant, but what do you do with a stain on a pant?

Then, there's the case of the people who don't have the same framework we do about what's proper work clothing and what's not. Though jeans might be a fringe case (and I love jeans, though I can only wear them on Fridays when I'm working), there are others that are not. It's not uncommon the case of the assistant or secretary who actually believes she can come to work in skimpy, tight and whorish clothing. I've seen in some places that some lady coworkers come dressed like they just came back from partying all night, or like they are planning on compensating their paycheck by "walking the street" right after work. There's one secretary I saw once that was so vulgar I actually thought "damned, so companies do hire whores to entertain important clients/providers". This sort of dressing issue isn't exclusive of females with whorish-dressing tendencies, but also of males who either want to be surfers or hobos or think that the office is the place to express how much they love hard metal music, or even to show off their allegedly super-sexy physiques.

The thing about the dress code is to put people in a similar environment ruled by a similar attitude towards work: work isn't a place where you come to hang out with friends to chat about your likes, nor is it a place to hook up. Work is a place where you... well... work.

As long as a dress code isn't about a particular style, but about a guideline, it's ok. You can be asked to wear a suit everyday, but you shouldn't be asked to wear an Armani suit everyday.

Performance Evaluations

This is more of a Human Resources thing, and in a way, I agree that all employees should be evaluated on certain similar basis, such as if you've completed all of your assigned tasks, and if they were completed to satisfaction and so on. In here the matter is also about the previous work the office should do to regulate your workload and the qualification of it, and that's the part that doesn't happen. It's not the same if you are assigned to a huge task and can't finish it in a year because it depends on other people and not everybody completed their part while someone else got 10 easy tasks, like sending follow up messages.

A performance evaluation should come within a set of clear rules and standards, as well as the proper commitment from your superiors about assigning you tasks in a constant, planned manner, valuating them and so on. Making yearly work plans might help if they don't stay only on paper, which sadly often happen as well.

Well, from my previous little "dissecting" of the rules, it might come through that the evil isn't in the rules themselves but how often are they enforced. When rules are set because "rules need to be set" but they are not properly enforced, or are sadly applied in places where the management expect the employees to do all the legwork and them only to enjoy the success, well, they won't work and only generate discomfort. Office rules are much like the laws of a country: they worth nothing and are only a nuissance if you don't set as well the proper framework for them to funtion.

Dec 20, 2015

Resolutions - An Errand Thought

Well, these are slowly the last posts of the year. As usual, my first thought with them is to start them with "I ran late again with the posting, didn't I?", but I'm trying to refrain from that (and failing miserably). Of course, it's not like I've an actual commitment to you, lovely, dark, silent, anonymous Readers of Mine, but because that was one of my 2015 New Year Resolutions. Of course, I also decided to post at least monthly in my Hungarian blog but only managed to get it going well until August. Not like that's so bad, mind you. You see, like a friend of mine says: "the good thing about unfulfilled New Year Resolutions is that you can recycle them for the next year". So I'll be recycling that one. ^_^ Well, those two.

It's still early to make the recount of how I have fared with my other resolutions, but just let it be said that most of them have been fulfilled quite well, and I'm very pleased. Perhaps for 2016 I'll choose to give some continuation to them by resetting those unachieved, and for those achieved setting further goals or next steps. I think the point of Resolutions isn't to feel bad about making promises to ourselves that we don't keep (or don't intend to really keep), but rather to set an aspiration clearly before us, something to inspire us through the year, to feel good when we achieve it, and also to measure up ourselves, and see how close we've got to achieve it. It's kind of sad or pathetic to think of people who don't keep the promises they make to themselves. Pathetic when they don't keep them to themselves or to others. What worths a person who's word worths nothing?

But a Resolution isn't a promise, it's a goal, and as such, there are chances that you may achieve it or that you may not, and both of them are ok if you understand well the nature of the resolution and the underlying wisdom of it. The point of them - in my personal opinion - is to always be inspired to improve. It's like running a marathon: if you don't make it the first time, worry not. Take account of what happened, your strenghts, your shortcomings, your feelings, your impressions, and work on them, include them in your calclations, make your plans accordingly and reset your goals.

The problem, however, is when your goals strive for something you have no power upon. Resolutions like "winning the lotto" are quite set for failure, because aside from buying the lotto tickets there's really nothing you can do to ensure you achieve the goal. Well, of course that people hardly actually set goals like that, BUT they do set similar goals, like "open a successful business", or "make a lot of money", or "get married" (when they have no significant other at the moment, or the one they have have not shown any interest in getting married), or "become a super model" and stuff like that. So let's get real, there are things you can set as Resolutions because their achievement depends entirely of you. Saving up money for a trip, spending more time with the kids (assuming the kids have more time to spend with you), do more charity work, reduce your carbon footprint, lose or gain weight, get in shape, become more fit, get on track with your studies... those are all things where, if you apply yourself you can really achieve them, buut things like getting liked by the kind of people you want to date, or opening a successful business are not because they depend on other people. Let me explain this: say you want to be liked by girls and get married to a girl. You could study what girls like, learn how to be more likable, modify your behavior and all that in order to be more pleasing to girls and that's alright, but all you get is maybe attention. You don't command the liking of girls to be focused on you. It doesn't mean that there's something wrong with you, or that there's something you can fix about yourself, it simply means that the people you meet are not into you.

With the business is a tad more complicated, because there where one might want to make one person fall in love with them, or convince their long standing significant other to tie the knot, with a business you need to convince and keep a segment of the market interested in your product. Bookstores are filled with a bunch of garbage literature about "how to make a successful business", which are a large heap of bullshit. Again, it's not a matter of having the "keys of success" at your disposal, or sending the "right kind of energy to the universe", it's about demand and supply and what the fickle whims of the market want to grab on or not.

Some things need to be worked on and even with heaps of time and energy invested in them they may not achieve the dreamed business success or the dreamlike wedding. Disappointment ensues, as expected, but never the realization that the expectation was outside the realm of what was manageable.

Bottomline: when you plan out your Resolutions, think them in terms of what you can actually achieve by yourself (what you have control upon), in the alotted timeframe.

Dec 3, 2015

Neurotics: Those Who Are Made

Yesterday I met with a friend of mine and we ended up talking about our old relationships. We don't exactly have similar experiences, since her break-up was traumatic for her while mine... well, you all know how that went ^_^. I've quite good break-ups, actually. Anyway, we were revisiting things about these more recent finished relationships and one of the topics touched stuck to me: the moment when you become neurotic.

I wonder if this happens to all of us...

Anyway, through her experience with her latest ex, she was slowly driven to a state of distrust that put her on a basically neurotic state around him. We talked about it at lenght and she told me that she isn't like that, and in fact, with her current boyfriend she isn't like that, but that with that guy - let's call him Jim - she always felt kept out of the loop, like he was constantly hiding things from her. My friend - lets call her Amy - told me she initially always trusted him and believed all he said, until she started noticing things that didn't match, or things that were left out. Jim seemed to be in a rush, was careless about things, didn't tell her about places where he went, people he met and stuff like that. This not in the sense that she expected him to report to her all of his activities, but in the sense that he was supposed to be marrying her eventually - so he had told her and so his parents told Amy - yet she basically knew nothing about him.

She would find out by others that he was meeting weeking with some friends and getting wasted quite often, when as far as he let her know, he hardly ever saw those friends. Later on Amy realized that Jim actively worked to keep her in the dark about his life. They actually broke up because Amy found out that Jim had never intended to marry her but considered her an entertainment while a suitable wife appeared. (Jim is of one religion, Amy is of other and Jim and his parents were actually pressing Amy to convert to their faith so Jim could marry her.)

Amy comes from a very tight, deeply moral family background, one of those old-school, large families, that are very tight, eat together and have big family gatherings at each holiday. Really, like in old TV series. She has this very romantic view of life and realtionships, and she did work hard to fit into Jim's world and Jim's life, so when she found out how she was merely and funny, laughable entertainment, it devastated her. Prior to that, however, though she did struggle to keep the relationship afloat, these fractures in Jim's stories made her  pull her shields up and distrust of his words.  He always kept her in the dark about where he was, what he was doing, who he was seeing or what he intended to do. As result, whenver he told her something, Amy would automatically think he was hiding something and tried to find out.

As she was telling me of these, suddenly I found myself thinking about my own relationship woth Kari, and realized that I had also become neurotic, though I had not realized it. I never really was into distrusting him about where he was or who he was seeing, but my concerns were always of the practical nature. Through the time we were together my trust in him eroded in aspects related to what he was saying to me and whether it was true or not, whether he was telling me something I could quote later and he wouldn't pretend he had said the opposite, but also matters like his reliability to do things, get bills paid, tell me if there was some issue with something, if there was some trouble that needed fixing, and also the eternal matter of financial situation. These things of course are entirely meaningless if your relationship is a light kind of relationship where you meet only to feel good, spend a good time, but all parties involved manage their own lives. Naturally in a life project that involves two people together, these are deal breakers for all the obvious reasons. And trust me: if these things appear, pack and go because there's no way in hell you can work around them. I know, I tried.

Anyway, back on topic, my brand of neurosis came from not trusting him about what he said, what he was supposed to do and how much could I rely on him with my livelihood. The thing is that, when you are on your own, you have a given set of expectations about your life that basically go around what you can achieve, and thus you are content with that, count on that and you are relatively sure about that. However, as a person enters a relationship, expectations about life change depending on the quality of the relationship itself. The person starts factoring the partner in different parts of their lives, such as for holidays, free time, hangouts and maybe even their life project. In good theory, when a person factors another into their life project, that obeys to the pair actually discussing the course of the relationship. Some people of course, rush ahead and think that because they were kissed in a party or someone winked at them, they will marry and have 2.3 babies and whatnot. No, I'm not talking about those. I'm talking about the case were you go out with someone and the topic of "living together" or maybe even "marriage and kids" comes up as the endgame of the relationship.

When a commitment of this magnitude is made or talked over, expectations of people change, and thus it's normal for people to expect their lives to start merging into a family unit. In Amy's case, she was made believe Jim would marry her as soon as she converted to his religion, thus while she struggled with the decision - she needed time to prepare herself - she expected not only support from Jim for her transition, but also their lives being transparent, both of them being clear with each other. It wasn't a matter of them losing their individuality, but more of living a life of openness, with no secrets held from each other. What does it mean? It doesn't mean reporting to one another, or reading aloud to each other each message and each e-mail received, but rather to involve the other person in their lives.

Ok, that peobably isn't clear, so let me give you an example. Say Amy likes, cycling. It doesn't mean that now Jim has to go cycling with her too, whether he wants it or not, but rather that he knows Amy likes cycling and Amy feeling sure she can tell him about her cycling adventures if she feels like it. It means Amy not just disappearing to go cycling, but letting Jim know "Hey! I'll go cycling! See you in the afternoon!". Perhaps Jim likes playing the guitar. It doesn't mean that Amy has to learn to play the guitar or go to all of his concerts, but it means that Jim opens the invitation for her to go listen to him play, when such a thing is possible, and that he would say "Hey, the guys and I signed it for a guitar camp next week! It's so exciting! I'll be back on Thursday". It doesn't mean that Amy doesn't even know that her fiancé likes to play the guitar and has to hear from others that he actually spent three days in Vancouver in a huge acoustic guitar concert... from a third party.

The neurosis Amy and I experimented came precisely from this: Jim and Kari created in us an expectation which they themselves undermined by being untrue or secretive about vital aspects to bring those expectations to completition. I believe our neurosis came as a defense mecanism we developped, each in her own turf of attack regarding the perceived threat upon the future that had been promised to us. In my case, my neurosis came from the systematic losing of trust in my partner and the conscious decision taken after each failure that I couldn't count on him for this or that, but that I had to rely entirely on myself to deal with these issues. It wasn't until I realize that I was basically "the relationship", that I came to the conclusion that I had to end it. For Amy, it wasn't until she realized that it was all a lie that she came to de decision of ending the charade. From the outside it looked like we were being neurotic - me the pushy girlfriend, she the controlling girlfriend - but what made this happen was the distrust that these guys fed in us, and our attempt at covering for their shortcomings in order to save a relationship that should have been left to die.

Through the coffee shared with Amy I realized that you can be a normal person and become neurotic under a given set of circumstances, and well, that's ok. However, when you become your neurotic self, when you are made neurotic, as freaking hard as it is - and trust me, it's so freaking hard! - you must stop yourself, take stock of what's making you so, and seek to cut the cause of your neurosis from the root.