The Definition of Insanity (Pulling the Rug Part 2)

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Ever hear the saying "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results"?

Well, it appears that I’m slowly going insane as I descend through the first of Dante’s Circles of Hell…


But like Dante, I feel as though I may have climbed my way through to find hope once more.

For some time I’ve been professionally unfulfilled and personally miserable in the job that I’d been doing. Years of knowledge, training and skills development being left to stagnate were leading to an ever increasing sense of worthlessness and hopelessness. What’s worse, it was also curtailing my ability and efforts to find a new job… and if what I’d heard from some in the organisation is true, being deliberately undermined by some managers for reasons unknown.

But I jump ahead to this past 18 months, and anyone will tell you that reading the end of a story without knowing the beginning and development is hardly entertaining.

Since 2006, I’d been working in a temporary role, constantly extended, but never offered opportunity to secure as my own, and inch by maddening inch, became more dissatisfied. My workplace, at that point, may not have been particularly great in it’s achievements, and was more often than not mired in bureaucracy, but we managed to get things done. Sadly, the powers that be decided that change was necessary, and with that decision began what can only be described as a hostile takeover. So much so that with major restructuring taking place, my boss decided to up camp and change jobs, leaving a power vacuum and the rest of the team somewhat directionless. I can’t blame him, really, since the restructure had put him in an untenable position of having to effectively manage by committee. Many things modern business may be, but at the end of the day, a democracy is not one of them.

And as the captain of the sinking ship rearranges the deckchairs, completely oblivious to the futility of his actions, so to do senior management create an environment that remains, at times, hostile to those of us being absorbed in this takeover. Repeatedly, I asked for a decision on what my role is to be, only to be met with responses varying from silence to dismissive platitudes.

So I redoubled my efforts to secure a better position for myself, applying for many jobs, but it seems that fate is not without it’s own sense of humour.

Even before the takeover was announced and restructuring began, I had applied for a position, only for the vacancy to be rescinded with the announcement that we were to be absorbed and, likely, redeployed.

Following that, my boss was asked by his previous employer for some information and assistance with some vacancies they were ready to advertise. Seeing that my skills were an ideal fit for the vacancy, he advocated my transfer, and soon enough, the process was in motion. My advocate at this new job, however was soon offered a retirement package too good to pass up, and as a consequence, my transfer evaporated.

At this point, I decided to cast the net wider, and began applying for any position that I stood even the remotest chance of securing… and when the attempt seemed at it’s most desperate, dividends were finally paid on effort, with a temporary secondment and a chance to use all the knowledge and skills I’d accumulated at that point. Taking to my new role with absolute abandon, I achieved results above expectations in a much shorter time than what had originally allocated and became a victim of a combination of timing, circumstance and my own success. Unable to secure the permanent position I’d wanted, and budgets being reallocated, my project never progressed past the first of three phases, and I was recalled to my original position, and worse yet, the substantive role that I’d begun in almost a decade previously, and had not done for over 5 years.

Which begs the question: when handed a resource, with the talents, skills, abilities and knowledge that goes with that resource, do you use it in accordance with those skills, or do you arbitrarily assign the person to a menial task they are neither skilled nor equipped to achieve results in.

Well, apparently in this organisation, the latter… which had me working in a role doing the IT equivalent of “would you like fries with that” for 8 hours a day.

And whilst I sat there, I saw what happens when a vacuum is created in a bureaucracy…as someone once said to me; in the absence of strong leadership, the mediocre rise. With the growing feeling that I was passing through each circle of hell to work at ‘Satans Helpdesk’, I began to expect the words “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here” to be inscribed above the doors to the building.

Indeed, mediocrity has reigned supreme. I’d never worked in an environment where staff were so ill equipped to do their jobs, or where management actively disempowered people to maintain a powerbase. Worse yet, in all my time I’d always learned something from the managers I’d had. Each had mentored me in some way and when my time with them ended, I could always look back and see all that I’d learned. This time, I’ve learned one thing, stated for colleagues to hear after one meaningless meeting: I f**king hate being smarter than my boss. Without going into further detail, this deployment has been a fantastic study in the rise of mediocrity and the hobbling of effectiveness and productivity.

So, with growing discontent, and requests to be reassigned or properly equipped to do the job effectively continually ignored, my skills gathered dust making it increasingly difficult to escape into more fulfilling roles. Consequently, I became vocal… and interestingly enough, found that I had a number of people agreeing with me. Whilst it may not have been the revolution it needed to be, it set in motion for me to ‘pull the rug’ out from under myself.

Last year decisions were made at the highest level that several thousand jobs were to be made redundant, with rather attractive packages being offered. I submitted my interest, and in December of 2011, took the tabled offer to leave for greener pastures.

I now, for the first time in a very long time, have the resources and opportunity to do what so few get to do: reinvent themselves. To this end, I’ve sat sessions with a career counsellor, undergoing a barrage of tests and assessments, and decided that a return to study is my best option. As of February 2012 I will, for the first time in nearly 15 years, be a student again… only this time, I have the things needed to succeed: resources, drive, determination, direction and discipline.

I have to admit, that I’m uncertain what the future holds. But I know that with a supportive partner, family and friends commenting that I’m the happiest they’ve seen me in years, this has got to be a positive move.

So, perhaps I’m a little insane, hitting the big reset switch and going back to university, but perhaps a little insanity is needed to jump the line separating, and thus trigger genius into action?

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