Saturday, 29 August 2015

Seriously scary

On the whole I'm a responsible person. I take things seriously, I do what needs to be done, I bite the bullet. I don't procras-tinate or deny or disappear. I don't create messes for others to clear up. I don't blame my mistakes on other people. I don't say "That's someone else's job".

I keep things ticking over. I get the car repaired. I go to the doctor. I pay the bills. I keep the house insured. I do the food-shopping. I don't sprawl on the sofa all day, slurping beer and watching reality TV.

I'm good at all that small-scale responsibility, looking after myself and my partner, keeping the household going. What I'm not good at, what totally terrifies me, is any large-scale responsibility - anything that involves not just me but large numbers of other people. I run from that as fast as I can. I'm sure it would end in colossal disaster.

I could never have been an airline pilot, or a hospital administrator, or a train driver, or a roller-coaster operator, or the manager of a vast public stadium. The stress of knowing I was personally responsible for the safety of hundreds or thousands of ordinary folk would make me a nervous wreck in weeks.

Even being responsible for a large number of staff - a shop or office manager, say - would freak me out. Knowing they depended on me for their income and job satisfaction. Knowing I depended on them to turn up, to do their jobs properly, to not rob the till or insult the customers. I had opportunities to be a bookshop manager but I always resisted them, preferring to be a humble but contented employee.

So yes, I'm good at responsibility chez nous. Good at oiling squeaky doors and unblocking sinks. But responsibility for hundreds of trusting, vulnerable human beings - that's seriously scary.

24 comments:

tammy j said...

oh i so agree! well... at least for myself where it's concerned.
thank goodness there ARE people who become qualified to fly us through the air or cut open our bodies to heal us if necessary ...
people who quite literally hold our lives in their hands.
i used to be in middle management in state government.
i only had about 8 employees but each one had to be approached differently. especially regarding changes that were necessary.
talk about a course in psychology! and it's very wearing.
i retired early with malignant hypertension. and i'm quite sure it's because i probably should have remained a contented employee and turned down the offer of management! i enjoyed most parts of it... but the stress didn't make for a balance. and if someone did something wrong... I was the one in hot water. since they were my responsibility. i'm so happy to be retired!
and p.s. thanks so much for the costa rico link on past post.

Nick said...

Tammy: I hear so many tales of middle management and how stressful it is - pressure from bosses above you and pressures from employees below you. I'm not surprised you developed a hypertension problem. You're right about each employee needing a different approach because they all have their own quirks and hang-ups. Not much fun unless you're truly a person person, as they say!

Mike said...

I agree, as well. Twice I applied for a supervisory position -- and both times I was absolutely relieved that I didn't get the job. For a time, I ran a project with 4 contractors working for me. That actually went well, but they were all great employees, with no issues.

As an instructor, I've had a great career and have even been able to continue it as a contractor after retiring. Some of my greatest stresses have been when I actually had responsibility for the individuals in the training program I was running. Fortunately, that only lasted for a short time.

Coworkers that started in the same time period as I back in the late 70s have moved on to very lofty positions making amazing amounts of money. While I am sometimes quite envious of what they've done, I'm pretty sure that I would have been miserable at times if I had attempted to go down the path they did and would probably have crashed and burned along the way. The thing that would have bothered me the most would have been making decisions that might have an adverse impact on others and dealing with the employees that had issues.

Nick said...

Mike: Indeed, making decisions with an adverse effect on others. I can't imagine how I would announce a wave of redundancies, or the company going bust, or a pay freeze, or whatever. It would be agonising.

You were lucky when you were running the project that your employees were all good, steady workers. Just one obstructive, awkward character can be hell to deal with.

Bijoux said...

Really? That's an interesting combination of jobs. I would never think to group any of those together! I guess the only career in your group that I wouldn't want would be the airline pilot, but that would be more about my own personal safety than worry about others! LOL. Otherwise, I don't mind being large and in charge, as they say.

Nick said...

Bijoux: I grouped them together because they all involve the safety of hundreds of people. But it sounds like you'd be quite confident of your ability to keep people safe. I'm impressed!

Ursula said...

With that one post, if not those previous, you have just nailed yourself. To be fair, at least you know your limitations.

U

Nick said...

Ursula: I do indeed know my limitations, after 68 years of experimenting. As a kid, I had all sorts of fancy ideas about my dazzling talents and my brilliant adulthood, but one by one in the cold light of reality they all bit the dust. Not that I ever imagined myself as an airline pilot or a brain surgeon....

susie said...

I was a manager once for about a month. I almost had a breakdown. Not for me.

Wisewebwoman said...

I guess what terrifies me in my current position is a catastrophe of some kind where I'd have to direct resources like fire service and ambulance, etc.

I think I've bitten off more than I can chew. Seriously.

it's all hunky dory and friendly wendly when things are going well.

thanks for the fear-of-gawd you've struck into me.

XO
WWW

Helen Devries said...

I worked for myself....never had a direct employee either. What I've seen of workplace politicking makes me glad of that.

I could undertake a big project, but not in today's world of endless pointless meetings to massage the ego of staff who would do better to get on with the jobs whose titles they fill.

CheerfulMonk said...

I'm with you, Nick! You have company in being nailed. :) I'm so glad we had a choice in the matter. Andy, too, had plenty of chances for promotion but he had a challenging job and none of the personnel headaches. The extra money would not have been worth it.

Nick said...

Susie: I'm pretty sure that's what would have happened to me too.

www: Of course, you're an important local dignitary and all that. Sorry I got you all alarmed! Hopefully nothing calamitous will occur on your watch....

Nick said...

Helen: Yes, there's all the internal politics to deal with as well. That can be a total nightmare, with everyone jockeying for their own personal betterment. I've sat in plenty of pointless, time-wasting meetings too. Quite often a few intelligent emails would have sorted things out.

Jean: Andy was wise to refuse promotion and all the stresses that can go with it.

Rummuser said...

And that is why organisations are always pyramid shaped. The more response ability positions, the less number of people available to assume them.

Nick said...

Ramana: Oh, and I thought it was because you only need a few people at the top to tell all the others what to do. And because those at the top demand million-pound salaries and million-pound bonuses (for telling the others what to do) so you can't afford many of them.

Dave Martin said...

I've been manager of a small team for over ten years, but I often fantasise about going back to the days when I was just a bod being told what to do. It was far less stressful back then....

Nick said...

Dave: I bet it was a lot less stressful back then! But do you feel you get something rewarding out of being the team manager? Or is it just a bit of a grind?

Dave Martin said...

I suppose it can be a bit rewarding when I've made something happen against all odds, but mostly I'd just prefer to not have the responsibility.

Nick said...

Dave: Fair enough. I presume some financial need came into the promotion equation?

Dave Martin said...

To be honest it fell to me by default when the previous manager died - I'd been acting manager for many months during his illness. There were only two applicants - myself and one other guy who I knew would make life unpleasant if he got the job. If I hadn't applied and he'd been promoted I would have been looking for another job.

Nick said...

Dave: That's a very difficult situation you were in, knowing the other guy could turn out to be a thorn in your flesh. I think in your shoes I would probably have made the same decision.

Ursula said...

Nick, hi, couldn't really think of anything to contribute - till this morning. When I remembered a decision my father made when he was in his early Twenties (in the late fifties). As was the law of the land then he had to do his national military duty (Navy)after leaving school. He excelled and at the end of those two years was offered the grade of officer. He declined. Why? Because he felt he didn't want to be charge of other men, maybe forced to make decisions which would jeopardize their lives.

It's strange, Nick. Leaving aside that I would resolutely refuse to be part of any war, to this day I am not sure what I would have done in his shoes. I like taking responsibility. Maybe bred in the bone as the considerably older sister of three siblings.

Some of the examples your other commentators mention remind me of my truly formidable former boss Maggie. Amazing woman. In a male dominated industry she shone. Hard as nails in negotiations but never losing her considerable charm and femininity. And yet, occasionally she'd wistfully remark to me how much she had enjoyed her job before she became boss - "managing" instead of "doing". Interesting perspective, don't you think?

U

Nick said...

Ursula: I would absolutely hate to be making decisions that could jeopardise people's lives. I'm essentially a pacifist but I guess there are situations where I might have joined in a war I thought was necessary for my country's survival or to protect a mass of people under threat (like Jews in WW2).

Indeed, I wouldn't want to spend my time managing and never doing. It wouldn't be rewarding, it would just feel like a monotonous chore.