Tag: someone else’s story

You are the weakest link, goodbye

Cardboard boxes

To me, the cliché image for recession and redundancies is the person in a suit leaving the office with a cardboard box of belongings. Often, this person is being escorted by a security guard.

I said to my workmates, ‘You know to start worrying when a pallet of empty cardboard boxes shows up at the office.’

‘Especially if one of them has your name on it!’ Jessen added.

Escorted off the premises

Jessen continued. ‘Speaking of being escorted off the premises, a friend of a friend working in finance was approached by rival company. He was being head hunted because he had lots of great clients and contacts. Well, my friend’s friend accepted the offer and a month before he was to start at the new place, he told his boss that he was changing to the other company. Within minutes, the security guards had arrived and others were confiscating his laptop and files. And the headhunted guy was like, “Hey guys, that’s not going to help you. I’ve been copying files for weeks. Why do you think I was working from home all the time?” ‘

The signs

Jessen has another friend (let’s call her Gemma) who worked in banking. One day, Gemma heard the phone in the next workstation ringing. Her colleague picked up the phone, listened, put it down, then went into a nearby meeting room. Minutes later, he came back to his desk and started packing.

Then the phone rang for the colleague who sat in front of Gemma. The colleague picked up the phone, listened, put it down, went into the meeting room, came back and started packing.

By the time Gemma’s phone started ringing, she was already halfway through her own packing.

Pop idol style

One of our secretaries, Tanya, described what happened during the last wave of redundancies. They got all the secretaries together for an ‘away day’. Away days are usually for team bonding. This time, though, they separated the secretaries into two groups. To Tanya’s group, they basically said, ‘You won’t be seeing the people in the other group anymore.’

Redundancy Day

A friend told me what happened last year at one of our competitor consultancies. The staff were all told that a particular Monday coming up would be ‘Redundancy Day’. Arriving at work, each person found a white envelope on their desk. The letter in the envelope told them that they were either safe or dismissed. Those dismissed had to leave the same day. Of course, even those who were safe could not do any work that day while their team mates and friends were packing their desks.

False pretences

Another story I heard involved everyone being invited to a keynote presentation. When they were all gathered for the presentation, the person on stage sheepishly began, ‘Actually, this isn’t a presentation. We’re making redundancies and you’re here so that we can notify people all at once.’

Roll call

Last week at a manufacturing company, everyone was called to a meeting. Management then started reading out the names of 170 people who were being made redundant. Those who had lost their jobs had to leave in half an hour — no time to say goodbye to friends. In a manufacturing environment, you don’t want to risk having angry people sabotaging equipment. Understandable, but how very sad.

It could be worse

Devastating as redundancy is, it could be worse. One of our client contacts in the Middle East has been put in jail, accused of corruption by his own bosses. He’s been locked up for six weeks now. I’ve never met him but those who have worked with him say that he’s an honest bloke who is the unfortunate scapegoat for his company’s current dire financial situation.

Poor man. Let’s all count our blessings.

One million yuan

I met Greg in my Dispute Resolution class. He’s a high school teacher. His dad is a retired school principal and mum is a retired nurse.

He was telling me about a life-changing experience. Jill, another person in our class, had led a three week trip to China. On this trip, he and about thirty other teachers saw the huge need for teachers and resources in the Chinese education system.

When Greg got home, he persuaded his newly retired parents to spend six months teaching in China. When they agreed, he organised for them to go over.

Greg tells me that the Chinese and Australian education systems are very different. I suspected this already. He explained that the systems have developed to meet the different needs of the countries. In China, there are so many people and the competition is so fierce that schools are highly disciplined. Students do not question the teacher. The emphasis is on rote learning.

Greg’s parents found this to be an alien environment but they did their best to adapt. Greg’s father is an English teacher. One Friday, in an effort to encourage creative thinking in his Grade 5 students, he set them an assignment: “You have won one million yuan. How will you spend your weekend?”

One million yuan is about AU$160 000. One million yuan is about 125 times what the average urban dweller in China would earn in a year. It’s a lot of money.

On Monday, the students submitted their essays. Something interesting had happened. Greg tells me that 95% of students had described their normal weekends. They did their homework, saw friends, went to the movies. Oh, some of them bought some extra DVDs and computer games but that was it.

What does this mean?

Apparently, the most creative response was from a small boy who wrote that he would spend his one million yuan on grenades and guns. He wanted to go to Iraq to fight the Americans.

Giant block of city ignorance

For my work in Shepparton, I speak to many farmers and country people. I’ve lived in cities and suburbs my whole life. This is something I have to confess to people so that I can explain my ignorance of basic agriculture, geography of regional Victoria, even Australian slang.

Jamie has been my first line of defence in this new environment. He grew up on a farm in south-western Victoria. Often, I let him do the banter and questioning while I sit back and absorb as much information as I can without revealing my city girl cluelessness.

I am grateful that I have had this opportunity to learn more about rural life. I don’t want to be an ignorant urbanite spouting off about water being wasted through irrigation, over-fertilising of crops or vegetation clearing.

Jamie tells me stories about about growing up on a farm.

“The farm back home isn’t big. We grow lavendar, also some beef cattle. Sometimes when a cow has two calves, she’ll pick one to look after and abandon the other. The abandoned one doesn’t last long. It’s just the natural way of things.

Sometimes, though, when dad felt like it, he said to me and my brother, “Josh, Jamie, if you want, you can look after the calf.”

Josh and I would come back after school every day to feed it. It was really cute, looking up at us with its big cow eyes. We were its ‘mum’. It would come towards me and nuzzle my leg. Every time, it would be looking for my udder.

I would hold my hand like this and it would suck my fingers. You have to be really careful, though. You have to have your hand palm upwards. Cows have strong mouths. If you held you hand like this, with the fingers facing down, the calf would snap your fingers backwards when it sucked.”

Goodness. With my newly acquired knowledge, I felt my giant block of city ignorance chip away just that little bit more.

Lift your game, Trav

Travis, Tim and Jeff came into the office. Tim and Jeff were laughing uproariously.

“What’s so funny guys?”

Travis has been having a great time in his stint as an engineering vacation student. In fact, a few days ago, Tim, Jeff and the other hydrogeologists had taken him out to the pub and now Trav was on friendly terms with half the office.

Sheepish, Travis explained what had happened.

I got into the lift with Tim and Jeff and we started to talk, you know, just general stuff. Anyway, people got in and out of the lift. One of them was this old guy and there were the three of us and him.

I was telling Tim and Jeff about how I was listening to the cricket on my computer. “It’s bloody fantastic,” I said. “Justin taught me! You can listen to it live streaming from The Age website. I just plug my headphones in, stare blankly at my computer screen and I can spend the whole day like that. And the best thing about it is that my boss taught me how to do it! Justin’s a guru!”

Tim and Jeff nodded, and they had these sort of blank looks on their faces. I asked them if they had ever done it before, listen to the cricket on the computer. They said, “No. What was the score?”

I told them as we stepped out of the lift. As soon as the old guy left, Tim and Jeff are laughing hysterically. ” All right, what’s going on, guys?” I said. “What was with the, ‘Uh huh, okay’ stuff? You’re normally cricket mad.”

And they kept laughing. “Trav,” Tim said. “That was the CEO of the company. You just screwed up big time.”

Would you like ginko biloba with that?

My team leader, Paul, decided to leave the office and buy some juice as a mid-afternoon “pick-me-up”. He waved for the attention of the Feeling Fruity attendant.

“Hi. I’d like a regular juice. Just raspberry, thanks.” Paul liked raspberries. He could feel a bit of a cold coming on and raspberries were reputed to have antibacterial properties.

“Raspberries,” acknowledged the attendant. “Do you want lemon sorbet or lime sorbet?”

“Just raspberries, please. By itself.” Paul said patiently.

“Ice cream or low fat yogurt?”

“Just raspberries,” Paul repeated.

“Any boosters? Ginko biloba? Wheatgrass?”

“Just raspberries!”

“Would you like apple juice with that?”

Annoyed, Paul said, “Just — ” Then he stopped. “Yeah… Okay… Apple juice would be nice.”

“That’ll be $4.50, please.”