Shit happens

Shit happens. It’s a given. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying, or trying to sell you something. The difference is how you deal with it, and also how those around you deal with it.

I needed to take a day off work today. The timing is appalling, but couldn’t be helped. Shit happens, you don’t get to control when or where. Now, I’ve worked at various places and I think its fair to say that all of them would have let me have today off1, however most of them would have come with guilt, or assurances of being contactable, or some other way of letting you know that this was being done grudgingly and that you should somehow be happy about it.

Thankfully the attitude is very different at Rainbird. We are there because we want to be there. If I can’t be there today, I can’t be there. Simple as. They’ll manage (and they did). My request for a day off was met with “Absolutely, go, we’ll sort something out”. No guilt, no power plays, just understanding and accommodation.

This is, as far as I’m concerned, the only attitude you can have. Shit happens, and you have no control over what, or where or when. Sometimes people can’t make it into work, for whatever reason, and you just need to deal with it. This bullshit attitude of presenteeism that seems to be going around isn’t helpful. Engaged and motivated employees will actively want to be at work If they’re not, it’s not because they’re slacking off, It’s because they can’t be, or their presence won’t contribute anything, or because turning up may actually be detrimental to others.

I’ve had flu – actual proper flu, not Manflu – twice. It’s hideous. My first bout was caught from a manager who came back from the Far East with Hong Kong Flu; you know, the variant that was in the news for killing people around the turn of the millennium. He decided he was far too important to be at home ill, so came into the office and had meetings with people to “catch up”. He wiped out the majority of the team for about 2 weeks. The damage his few hours in the office caused could easily be measured in man months. The kicker is that all the meetings could have been done by phone; or even handled by subordinates and peers.

I’ve even once had the misfortune to be speaking to one pretentious prick who actually used the words “He better be dead or dying” to describe the acceptable set of circumstances I could give for a colleague and close friend not being in the office that day. Being able to deliver the news that said colleague was in fact killed in a paragliding accident the previous week yielded little more than demands for who was going to take over the project. I hung up on the guy.

The fact of the matter is that no one is indispensable, and if they are then it’s your fault for letting them get to that situation. If an engaged and motivated employee can’t work on a day, it’s because they can’t work that day. If an unengaged and disgruntled employee is so critical to operations that you can’t have them out under any circumstances then you’re already stuffed.

1 I know people who have worked at places that would have denied a holiday request for this