Saturday, July 29, 2006

Culture Stuff

Before turning my hand at retail I worked in management consulting for seven years (and before that I worked as an ...). I don't do regrets but I do see now that I missed a trick not blogging my way through my stint with the nameless firm I gave seven years of my life to and the clients we fleeced: and I mean that. £1,600 a day for me?

We overdid the culture crap, we tied ourselves in knots and spent small fortunes in our attempts to get the culture thing right. Performance management, training and development, career management, personal development planning, development centres.... and we made increasing use of technology to plan, develop, operate, evaluate and communicate all this 'stuff'. To support this every individual had access to an intranet and not merely the right but the responsibilty to avail him or herself of this information and the opportunites for development and progression provided by the firm.

Of course there was secrecy, of course there were circles within circles and of course there were machinations.

What we didn't do was blame and fear. Partly this was down to careful recruitment. We recruited people who could cope with self-starting, self-development and thriving in an up-or-out culture (particularly, in the latter case, on the fee-earning side).

I had no idea what I was letting myself in for when I joined this current outfit. Having been reared in a culture which expected me, when I had a question, to identify and go directly to the source of information.

So in all innocence I called our HR deparment when a few store staff had a question about pay rates. It's an HR-y question so I call HR. Obviously. Er, no.

I made the call at about 9:30 and spoke to some young thing who offered to post the information I was asking for to my home. I asked that instead she fax it to me directly at work. She then got cold feet (though I wasn't certain that was what was happening until afterwards) and said she'd check and come back. A couple of hours passed and no fax. I went off to lunch.

I came back and a few minutes later the phone at my desk rang. It was the GM.

>Had I phoned HR?



:To get some information about ...

>Well you should have asked me


>What did you want to know?

:What the award says about pay rates

>What do you want to know?

:What the award says about pay rates

>Well, you [blah, blah, blah]

:This isn't about me

>You [blah, blah, blah]

:This isn't about me

>What do you want to know?

:W h a t t h e a w a r d s a y s...

>I know that there are rumours going around, there is a lot of discussion and mis-information about what people are entitled to this coming bank holiday - but you are [blah, blah, blah]

:I just want to be able to read, for myself, what the award says

>Well there's a copy of it on the staff canteen's notice board...

:There is?

>Well there should be (much background muttering, seems he's not alone and now The Hairdo is in a panic, I'm beginning to understand what I've triggered)


So let's get this straight. I can go upstairs and read the fucking thing (if it is on the staff notice board) but I can't have a copy sent to me. I could stroll upstairs to make a cup of coffee, take the thing down, bring it back with me to the office, copy it and then quietly return the original - but I can't have the fucking thing faxed to me.

I don't think he's ever forgiven me: because he, and by way of what passes for delegation The Hairdo too, has responsibility for providing certain information to the staff and by calling HR I'd led to them querying whether the fucking thing was properly displayed, or in other words whether The Stud and The Hairdo are doing their job properly.

Oops. Bad politics I grant, but I still think the whole thing is fucking stupid. You see, back in the half hour before I made that call to HR I actually did consult with a colleague who's been with the business for 9 years about where I might find the information I wanted: she didn't know about the pay arrangements for bank holidays being in a document on the staff notice board. As far as I've been able to ascertain no one else did either.


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