Twice in the last two months I’ve traveled to Arizona for work. Traveling for work always has a purpose – some need to meet face-to-face to work through some detailed process or issue, or some team building activities for my geo-scattered colleagues. But it’s not something I take lightly – I’m spending the company’s money, and I’m taking up my time to get there and back. And it’s not like it’s all fun – I am a Frustrated Flyer – I go often enough that it’s more of a burden than an adventure, and I don’t travel enough to ever get upgraded (shoot, last year I didn’t even get “gold” status, not like that counts for much any more).
And my trips usually consist of going from the airport to the hotel to the office (stop for coffee on the way – DUH), grab a quick bite somewhere, go back to the hotel, work some more from the hotel if not too tired, otherwise watch something really worthless on TV and fall asleep. Repeat, until it’s time to come back home.
With both recent trips, my reason for going ended up being hijacked for the latest crisis du jour. Said crisis du jour could have been managed just fine from my desk in Texas, earbuds jammed into the familiar confines of my ear canals. And, in the spirit of things that just keep on giving, the reasons for going to Arizona in the first place were then incomplete. And let’s not forget all of the other work left undone by virtue of the travel itself – so now I’m in a never-ending cycle of catch up, not to mention the fact that I’m spent from the combination of a post-crisis adrenaline crash and a delayed flight that meant I didn’t get to bed until after midnight.
There’s a lot of change happening at the office – AGAIN – changes in leadership, roles and responsibilities, process. Shoot, I’ve technically worked for the same company for the last 16 years but under four different names, so change is nothing new (I stopped worrying about who moved my cheese after acquisition #2). As long as my badge still gets me into the office, and they keep putting money into my account every two weeks … I’m good. And if the badge stops working, I have a long list of things I’d sure like to do.
The longer I work (or maybe it’s the older I get), the more fatigued I am by all of the changes. I am tired of trying the same things in a slightly different way – but that different way feels strangely familiar (didn’t we try this with acquisition #3?) I’m tired of everything being “The Priority” or “The Crisis” that has to be resolved today, with plenty of people willing to help you clear your calendar but no one ever trades this project for that one (there are just new projects added to the list). I am tired of saying the same things, to the same people (the never ending merry-go-round of different consultants, mostly).
Which reminds me I am also very tired of corporate buzz words (“What’s the ask?”) and PowerPoint “decks”. I am tired of having to learn a new process just when I finally mastered the OLD process, dang it! And I am extremely tired of using Excel for word processing! (Sorry, that last was just a totally random gripe. But I think there is a special section of Hell reserved for those who make “forms” in Excel.)
I’m trying to stay focused on my work in the midst of all of the changes, attempting to keep my attitude somewhere north of the positive/negative line in spite of my fatigue and cynicsm. Which reminds me of my dad …
When I was growing up, my dad worked for utility companies: he was in public relations, operations, HR, so very much a white collar sort of guy. Actually, he really was a white collar guy – forget about getting him to wear a shirt with any color or pattern in it. Dad was – and still is – pretty conservative, both in dress and attitude.
Being a kid, and trying to come up with birthday or father’s day gifts, I always wanted to get my dad fun ties – you know, the ones with cartoon characters. Or maybe some character socks – still fun, but mostly hidden, right? But he would never wear the fun socks or the ties; they just were not his style.
So at some point when I was still in college or maybe a recent grad, I noticed my dad was wearing a Mickey Mouse watch. With his shirt and tie for work. Totally out of character (no pun intended) for the man who refused my Mickey Mouse ties and socks. So, naturally, being the brat I am, I called him on it. His response?
“When I’m in meetings, and it’s all just a bunch of noise, I look at my watch and remind myself this is all just a bunch of Mickey Mouse bulls****.”
See, Dad, I did listen to you.
OK, maybe not all the time.