The reason I’m writing this WILL become clear but unfortunately a large amount of background information going back over fifteen years is necessary. Plus if I’m getting stuff off my chest I’ve got to get it ALL off! Bear with me please.
In 1993 when my company decided to centralise the 33 offices it had around the country into one big one at Peterborough it had to decide on a new internal structure.
In case I haven’t mentioned it before, our business basically consisted of being paid by clients to complete their Income Tax Returns and agree their income tax positions each year.
Leaving aside speciality areas such as “super-complex”, “overseas”, “new business” and “training”, which had their own Management arrangement, the mainstream structure was as follows:
The Centre Manager. In charge of everything including the premises and the Senior Managers leading the speciality and mainstream areas. Never really saw much of him!
The Senior Manager. A thoroughly nasty piece of work. In charge of the eight Group Managers. Didn’t know the meaning of the word failure – to be fair there were probably many shorter words he didn’t know the meaning of as well! The perfect corporate blunt instrument.
The Group Managers. If their superior was a complete bastard then this magnificent eight were “complete-bastards-in-waiting”. Or at least they were once the “weaklings” had been weeded out! These were the ones who fought back against what they saw as unreasonable and unjust pressure being put on their underlings. One had a nervous breakdown and resigned while another went on long-term sick leave with nerve problems until he qualified for early retirement. I think there was one other who nearly cracked by virtue of taking the rap for his group’s perceived failures and not passing them on downwards. I never worked for him, unfortunately. In summary, the GMs were there to take the bollockings from the SM and pass them downwards. Most of them had Tax knowledge but it wasn’t really essential and they weren’t supposed to use it. They tended to develop a Teflon coating!
Team Leaders. Two to a group with the senior of them designated as the GMs deputy. The first level we’ve come to who were actual fee earners in that they had a full allocation of cases to deal with. Also responsible for the on-the-job training, productivity and work quality of their team – four to six Administrators of varying knowledge and experience.
Administrators. Case workers pure and simple. There to churn out Tax Returns and bring in income to achieve targets set from on high.
I was a Team Leader, and I tried to be a good one! Protecting my team from as much of the grief as I could while doing what I could to assist them in finding ways to meet their targets. In return, “the team”, recognising what I was protecting them from, worked their collective socks off and did their utmost to help and protect ME! They were wonderful and we wouldn’t have got as close to our (basically unrealistic) targets as we did without that mutual support and respect.
During the three years that I did the job I worked on the same group but for two different Group Managers.
The first had been my Manager at the office prior to Peterborough so we knew each other. I knew that he was a bully who would ALWAYS have a way of off-loading responsibility onto his underlings so that nothing would ever stick to him. HE knew that he had the power to ruin my career if I didn’t do what he said! He did at least have some Tax knowledge so that I could get an opinion in a dire emergency.
The second, however, had no tax knowledge whatsoever! Pre-merger he had been one of those wastes of space who get sent around the country doing things like “work-measurement” because no-one knows what else to do with them! He was, unfortunately, very aware that not a single person in the company had any respect for him at all and so threw himself on the mercy of the Senior Manager and became his ultimate bitch! “I don’t care what you think! Just do as I say” was his style.
I hated him and the whole three year period from 1993 to 1996 I regard as the worst time of my life!
Now fast forward to late November 2008.
I received an email, via Friends Reunited, from Su – one of my great little team. She reminded me of those dark days and of how well we all worked together despite the best efforts of Management to work us all into exhaustion and beyond.
Su informed me that she was “reaching out to old friends” as “things” were happening in her life. Later when we connected on Facebook in mid January she told me she was having tests and starting Chemotherapy – the “thing” that was happening was breast cancer! She was very upbeat about it and thought she might be out of touch for a while because of the treatment.
Because of that I did nothing and her details slipped into the background with all the other contacts who you speak to once and then sort of drift away from again.
UNTIL TODAY when a posting by another friend to her page caused me to think “What’s going on?” and look for myself.
There is a notice there from Su’s husband (they hadn’t been married long) dated 15th February saying that she passed away “last Wednesday” . That would be 11th February and it causes me some pain and soul-searching to think that I only found out on 23rd April despite the details being THERE all that time.
I do, however, take consolation from a friend who has pointed out that if Su hadn’t made that effort last year to reach out to old friends I would still have been unaware of even where in the world she was – let alone that she had now passed on from it.
A belated farewell then, Su. I hope that you are happy out there with the Cosmic Overmind.
And to everyone else reading this – go check on how your friends are. You never know when they’ll be gone.