Same but Different

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I stopped by the office yesterday before heading over to the fitness center. They got some new treadmills that I wanted to try out. A little more heavy duty with better shock absorbance but that’s not really the point here.

I also went in because I was supposed to have a meeting with my old boss today. He rescheduled our one on ones right before my job got eliminated and there was still one on the calendar for today. I wasn’t going to decline because I was just curious to see what would happen. As expected, he cancelled the meeting for today.

While I was out talking with a friend of mine, a guy who was two offices down from mine came in. Hadn’t seen him since the purge and his appearance on the list was a bit of a shock given that he’s higher up on the management food chain. Saw him packing a box and I guess you could say that we all empty our offices the same way – one box at a time. The purge is the great equalizer although I suspect he may have gotten a better deal than the rest of us.

After a few weeks of being in the strange world of being an employee without really being an employee, I can start to see why retirement can be a big adjustment for people. I was not the type who was so wrapped up in work that it defined who I was but work at least gave you some structure. Five days a week, you got up and made you way into the same building to see the same people and do many of the same activities. When you had standing meetings, it was a way of marking time. Oh, it must be Monday because we just had the staff meeting.

Do that long enough and it starts to set little patterns in your head. Now, I’m finding that I have to constantly remind myself what day it is. Weird. I know I have dance lessons on Tuesdays and Thursdays and I still work out on Tuesdays and Fridays but none of the other markers are there. Maybe it was just that first morning log in to check email when the calendar popped up and you automatically knew what day it was.

Another thing that is a little strange is waking up and thinking “what am I going to do today”. Work took all those decisions away. You knew you had to get up and go to work. It gave you something to do. OK, it wasn’t always a pleasant thing to do but it was something. Now, I just kind of play things moment by moment. I guess that might get old in time. Just another one of those little adjustments that you have to make.

I finally got a chance to take a career survey as part of the outplacement thing. At the end, it is supposed to classify your usual style into one of four quadrants although you can score in more than one. The things that came up to describe me were Insightful, Optimistic (well I try anyway), Thoughtful and Selectively social. Looking at the other three, it does seem like this was the best choice.

Supposedly, to motivate me, I need “Individual reassurance”, “Direction by suggestion”, “stimulating activities” and “freedom to create own schedule”. Again, given the four bullet points in the other quadrants, this does seem to fit the best. I did enjoy the hands off approach of my previous boss although there is a line between hands off and being ignored because I didn’t want to feel ignored.

And it tells me that I will be drawn most heavily to job roles that involve “working inside and outside of the office”, “planning”, “strategic design” and “tying ideas together”. Now, this seems a bit off but, again, looking at the other bullet points, it may be the best fit.

Planning is not me. When I was the boss, we used to schedule work for the week. I let the team do 90% of the discussion and I’d only interject to set priorities or to offer suggestions. I don’t know what working inside and outside the office means although I was famous for walking around and talking with the team – maybe that’s what it meant. Strategy stuff was never something I enjoyed at work because it invariably involved sitting in a room with a group of people discussing every potential contingency to death. The tying ideas together does seem to fit.

Then it got to a section on ideal work environment and there were four categories and I didn’t really match any of them. It told me to target work environments that ‘stress energy and enthusiasm’, ‘offer flexible rules and policies’, ‘encourage competitiveness and individualized rewards’ and ‘promote influential leadership’. The encourage competitiveness is clearly not me. Maybe this is just a result of not really matching anything. Maybe I don’t really have an ideal work environment.

I suppose it was unrealistic to expect that a simple survey was going to write in big bold letters what my perfect job would be. It does make me wonder whether the types of things I seem to need would really exist in many places.

In the end, I’m still not sure. On the one hand, the thought of never having to work again appeals to me. But, after a couple of weeks of drifting, I’m also wondering if this is really the best way to spend my time. Do I have more to offer? And can I find something that would really fit my strengths. Still much confusion and cloudiness in the future.


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