About to go Postal in the Workplace

I'm having a mildly stressful time at work right now trying to finish some Business Requirements documentation (note how euphemistic I can be when talking about work). We have been at this "almost finished" stage now for weeks. I think the whole project team has been thinking for 4 or 5 weeks that "we'll be finished in a day or two". I seem to recall some mathematical equation that showed a number approaching zero but never actually reaching it. I must have slept through that lesson because I don't remember what it's called. That's what this project is starting to feel like (the approaching zero part, not the sleeping part – although that would be nice.)

The main reason this is dragging on is that more managers are getting their fingers in the pie as "stakeholders" and wanting to get their 2 cents in before the document is signed off. Obviously, these people should have been brought into the process earlier (or not at all) and I am wondering why they are important enough to hold up sign-off but not important enough to have been brought in earlier in the requirements gathering process. In a less positive workplace this would be absolutely intolerable.

Endless iterations coupled with a culture of blame make for a deeply toxic workplace – I've been in enough of them to recognise I'm fairly lucky with the positive approach being taken in my current workplace. No amount of positivity can hide the fact that working in a high pressure "must finish" environment is stressful and aggravating. The project hasn't reached death march status yet but I'll be having pointed words with the project manager if everything isn't signed off this week. We have been treating every delay as a "learning process" to be applied to future projects which alleviates anger and frustration for a while.

It won't be much longer until "learning" is limited to learning which people should never been consulted because they lock you into an endless review process/death spiral. I feel like I'm within a day or two of losing my shit if this doesn't end but, weirdly enough, I've been feeling like that for weeks and yet I haven't lost it. One thing this is making me consider is the fine line between taking a principled stand and throwing a hissy fit.

In my worst-ever workplace, my former team member (FTM) coped with stress by throwing the occasional hissy fit. He would simply explode, go on quite loudly about how he wasn't going to take it any more and storm off. Then he'd wander back some time later and the people who had pissed him off would apologise. I can never bring myself to do this in a workplace as it strikes me as incredibly unprofessional. I know this may be a surprise to some readers of this blog (where I never seem to stop "going off") but for those who haven't worked it out yet – I maintain a significant degree of separation between my blog self and real self.

I have noticed, bizarrely enough, that dysfunctional workplaces tend to reward, or at least recognise, extreme behaviour. Staying quiet and doing your job doesn't work. Being loud and abrasive gets you noticed and in crap workplaces it gets you promoted. I think there must be some sort of mathematical equation to express this, something that says the level of reward increases the more closely aligned your behaviour is with the health of the workplace.

In other words, a positive workplace rewards positive behaviour and a negative workplace rewards negative behaviour. Surely there's a mathematician out there who could earn their PhD by studying this field?



Filed under Work

4 responses to “About to go Postal in the Workplace

  1. Ok, I hate to take over other peoples posts, but I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY!

    My workplace is becoming more and more toxic. We have a ‘multi-disciplinary’ team. Case management, corrections, medical and psychiatric. More and more the corrections part of the team is treated like brainless baby sitters. I received an e-mail yesterday via the case managers supervisor. I started to send a nasty response back to him, but I remembered that anything in writing can and WILL be used against the writer.

    I printed off the e-mail and ask for audience with the superintendent. I showed her the e-mail and told her I was extremely offended by it and told her why. She asked the case manager supervisor to come into the meeting, where we discussed the e-mail and my problem with it.

    While I was at it, I also defended the corrections staff. I told them both how fortunate we were to have the people who work day in and day out with these kids. They are dedicated the their resocialization and spend hours every day not only supervising but providing theraputic interventions to help them change their behavior. When kids are leaving and ask who made a difference in their lives and motivate them to change, it is invariably one of these corrections staff. That these guys have a 10 minute break one time a day. And if the case worker needs for them to communicate personally on the behavior of the youth, then that case worker needs to come out from behind their computer, and seek out the corrections officer.

    How did the meeting come out? Who the fuck knows. I said what I had to say. The superintendent said she was in agreement. The cw supervisor said he would have a talk with his sub-ordinate. We’ll see. He needs to send her ass to a therapist.

  2. See, you can get it all out of your system here Sandra! 🙂 Good on you for controlling your impulse response, I hope it all resolves in a sane way.

  3. “The main reason this is dragging on is that more managers are getting their fingers in the pie as “stakeholders” …Obviously, these people should have been brought into the process earlier (or not at all) …not important enough to have been brought in earlier in the requirements gathering process. In a less positive workplace this would be absolutely intolerable.”

    Isn’t that the entire problem with IT projects? Gosh, I can feel your pain…

  4. Maryam: always the same crap yeah? No wonder other IT workers like my writing.

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