To Err Is Human, To Fix Is Management’s Problem

I know it is not right to be sick of people.  Particularly the people you work with,  or for you – particularly those that report direct to you, particularly if you hired them.  But at the end of fiscal quarter where every penny is counted, stupid, very costly, mistakes become, well, bothersome.   You cannot punish, hell, you cannot even yell, because most people are harder on themselves then you can ever be regarding work performance.  And bosses that yell are powerless against employees who consider them under duress by a bully manager who has had to correct the employee frequently within the past month.  But how to keep the mistakes from happening at all is still a mystery.   When the mistakes are large dollar mistakes, the mystery deepens.

Maybe I am getting too old for this.  I have been a first line manager for years.  I learned consistent forgiveness and teaching are essential skills not to mention the ability to calmly explain to top management  what issues occurred.   Forgiveness and explanation, however,  doesn’t make the problem disappear and my patience is not my strong point.   I still have to figure out how to fix it or help direct the fix.  This is where  I remind myself why I really get paid.  My salary is not in question when things go well, it just becomes a question when things do not go well.  Many management books will call that “leadership” but it is only leadership if you do it well.  In my terms, I call it survival but these days the fight for survival is not only for myself and my salary but my whole team.  This fiscal quarter is particularly important these days as the company’s new owners stand in judgment of my little team’s future.  I am sure they have a plan but my plan is just to keep my team working as long as possible and so stupid mistakes only accentuate what I trying very hard to avoid.

I fret. I worry.  I eat chocolate.  I eat anything that is sweet, crunchy, or within arm’s reach.  There has to be a cadre of lower level managers that are severely overweight.  Better to stick something in your month than spit out the continued frustration you are feeling.   I think of my company’s health care emails telling me to watch my blood pressure, exercise regularly,  and maintain portion control yet never do they mention my health is directly related to work responsibilities.  I could be on a great bike ride if I wasn’t sitting in front of a computer screen trying to figure out how to fix a disaster.  At least my bag of Hershey Kisses understands my difficulty and they don’t judge.

So, I try to wrap my mind around reality.  When compared to people who lead divisions, companies, military units, hospital emergency teams, or nations my little problem is infinitely small.  Breathe in, breathe out.  Chocolate.  Breathe in, breathe out.  I practice a new mantra.  People make mistakes.  I make mistakes.  I will need to help fix.  My team will learn more by fixing their mistakes.

Tomorrow will require composure and a solution.  I am still sick, but no longer  of people.  I am sick of the Hershey Kisses and I put them away.   Time to just drink some water and develop a method that will keep the mistake from ever occurring again and figure out a way to explain it calmly when asked.   It is going to be a long week.

Dog Days of Spring

I wake up a little after 3 am every night.  My dog used to stand in the hall and shake his dog tags at that same time when he was still with us.  Years of letting him out, waiting for him to return, and listening to him fill up again at his water bowl has created an unalterable  internal clock.  A friend says he sometimes wakes in the night expecting his dog to be sleeping at the end of the bed even though his dog passed away years ago.  At least he can fall back asleep in a pleasant. warm memory.  Typically,  I just lay there trying to keep my eyes shut, quietly counting breathes much like I used to do before our dog would catch on that a human being was coherent enough to turn a door knob.  But now I just lay there and wish he was there to give purpose to my 3 am awakening.

Last night I awoke from one of those never-ending dreams of mine where I am organizing numbers or forgetting to put something very important in a report but not remembering  what report or why it is so important.  The task just keeps repeating over and over.   I always feel exhausted the entire following day.  I started to panic I wouldn’t fall back asleep and I needed to rise earlier to take my car back into the dealership.  Then,  I was really awake.   Tossing and turning until 5 am, I managed very little shut-eye and when I did, there I was, putting something in another column of a spreadsheet, regretting that I forgot to put whatever it was I suppose to put in an agreement.

By the time I made it to the service center, only three cars were ahead of me.  The shuffle of cars was slowed as the painting of the shop floor over the weekend meant early morning connections of computers, printers, and finding the correct clip board.  Rubbing the sleep out of the corner of my eyes I waited patiently until they heard my sob story of having to bring my car back in a week after they supposedly fixed brakes and everything under my hood.  The masochist, or was it the mechanic, filled out my paperwork and sent me on my way in a loaner.  I’m late for work.  It’s humid.  It’s raining. Construction is everywhere.  I have a report due and I just know I will forget something.

The day continued with the air vent directly above me on full blast and cold.   If a sink hole opened below me, I would have understood but instead the bad news of my car which needed what amounted to open heart surgery quickly swallowed my wallet.  I thought about the movement of money to pay for the bill and I wasn’t really even sure what I was paying for.  I sat quietly hoping no one would know I was awake at my desk but a knock on the door was followed by the phone ringing which was followed by the onslaught of emails.  I had to join the day which meant I had to open my eyes a little wider and look lively.

By night fall, I was ready to sink back into the safety of  comfort food and music to lessen the day’s annoyances.  I caught a glance of the remaining dog biscuits still sitting on top of the refrigerator.   I haven’t been able to throw them out for whatever reason.  While my husband watched hockey after dinner, I opened the back door and sat outside studying the backyard.  I imagined my dog rolling around on the grass kicking his feet in the air.  He would know how I felt, I was certain.  And if he didn’t he would wait until morning to make me get up and start another day whether I wanted to or not.