The secret diary of a single parent bloke
On my previous post, “Knackered“, I got a lot of sympathy and support- especially from the many other single parents who are trying to juggle kids and work. Although the diary entry was from 2006, and my life is now very different to how it was then (but often still hard work- I’m still a single parent), your comments, Tweets and support were very welcome. Thank you all.
However, one person asked me about this part of my post: “My staff hate me (except for Emily, who’s wonderful), management hate me, most of the other staff hate me;”
Well this doesn’t fit into my diary, so feel free to not read it (let’s face it, nobody wants to read whinging about work), but it may give you an insight to the next few posts. Actually, the period from which the current batch of posts are from mark the most depressing time of my life, and work was a major contributing factor.
It’s worth dipping into my work background. Prior to my job at (we’ll call them “The Company”), I worked as a Prepress Mac Operator for a commercial printer, specialising in newspapers and magazines. “Prepress” is getting the artwork from the graphic designer and preparing it for print; “Mac” is Apple Macintosh, big expensive ugly computers from long before Apple made them cool; and “Operator” is me, of course. At the time, it was a complex and technical job with tight deadlines and no room for error. Getting it wrong could mean that 200,000 magazines could be pulped or a newspaper went late (ask anyone in journalism how unforgivable that is- it usually involves a P45)! The hours were long, shift patterns were awful but the money was great, I enjoyed it, and I was bloody good at it.
But it wasn’t a nice place to work, the shifts were killing me, and I was 27 years old and eager to move upwards.
A job came along at a nearby manufacturing company. They printed their products in-house and were outsourcing their prepress, which was costing them a fortune. They wanted a manager to set the whole thing up and run it- hire staff, purchase machinery, everything! The money was the same, but there were no shifts and it was a step up the ladder. I applied, and got the job. “Prepress Manager.” In the company hierarchy, I was pretty close to the top.
Immediately I knew that I was a square peg in a round hole. In my previous job, quality and deadlines were everything; the workforce were highly professional and passionate and genuinely cared about doing the best possible job. At The Company, deadlines were ignored, quality control was nearly nonexistent (QC consisted of dropping the product on the floor- if it didn’t break then it passed), the staff physically fought on the shop floor on a number of occasions, management hated each other (and weren’t afraid to show it).
I spent many thousands of pounds on building work and equipment- machines (that weren’t 30 years old), desks (that weren’t carved up), chairs (that weren’t ripped), and a new Apple G4 minitower with huge monitor (a computer that worked properly) and even a separate gigabit network (the existing one barely allowed for email transfer). As you can probably imagine, this started the resentment.
Next, I set about integrating the new department into the workflow. This met with lots of complaints (some of them formally, in writing, to senior management) along the lines of “I’ve been doing this for 20 years, why should I change for him”. The MD ignored the complaints, which created more resentment.
The Company directors and senior management weren’t happy that the MD had decided to spend so much money on my new department, and took it out on me. My new procedures were rejected for many months without good reason, until I told the MD that I would leave unless they left me to get on with my job. They then left me alone, but never still never missed an opportunity to cause me a problem.
Once my department was up and running, it ran smoothly and generated a decent income for The Company. The MD then tried to con me into accepting a massive pay cut. He spent several more months trying to persuade me to invest in the business- quite why he thought that I could afford to (or want to), I’ll never know. By that time, I was pretty much universally hated.
Day to day working conditions were bleak. My office was a huge room, the floor, walls, desks, chairs and equipment were all painted grey. There were no windows. If we wanted to know whether it was raining, we’d phone reception.
I was subject to the “3 minutes late = 15 minutes docked pay rule”, and all staff were routinely searched. The only benefits were drug availability and paying the cleaner for a blow job behind the skips (I declined both of those “benefits”, I’d just like to add). The Company was losing money faster than it could make it, and desperate to cut costs- even on the most basic things that offices need (like water coolers – the tap water was contaminated).
Despite my department being profitable, the rest of the company wasn’t. Redundancies were commonplace, walkouts even more common, two of the three directors walked out, and the market was shrinking at a phenomenal rate. Head Office seemed to pretend that we didn’t exist. Customers were leaving in droves but those that stayed quickly worked out that me and Emily (one of my two staff) were professional and helpful, and started contacting us instead of Customer Services (even though we couldn’t help them). Which lead to more problems and internal complaints.
Staff used to make formal complaints about each other on a near-daily basis. On one occasion, after yet another formal complaint was made about me, I told the MD “If I wanted to work with children, I’d have become a fucking teacher.” Crude, but it did the job and the complaint was dropped.
I knew that I had to leave. I’d worked in some bad places, but this was the worst. I’d planned to stay for no more than 2 years, and actually had a job interview on the day that Katrina and I split up, but ended up staying there for over 4 years. And I hated it. I’m sure that it was The Company that was making me so consistently ill. Single-handedly bringing up 2 young children AND trying to set up another business in the evening certainly didn’t help my health or my state of mind.