6 April 2016, Brisbane
I am sitting in a “Construction Services, Sales and Marketing Meeting”. I now feel entirely out of context. I no longer have anything I can relate to with the people around me. I deliberately imagine waves and use my memory footage to surf them the way proper surfers would.
The arrangement of the meeting involves each individual around the table, exposing current work prospects; clients they are talking to; and what projects are there in the foreseeable future. Basically, everyone tries to explain how well they’re doing their jobs and how great they are at it.
Everyone has either a laptop or a stack of paper in front of them. Phrases like “Pursuing opportunities in that space”, “Major project in the pipeline”, “Client with huge Capex for FY16/17”, “Increase profitability”, “Strategy for escalating utilisation” and “Engaging the client”, are commonplace.
As I look around all those faces around the table, my mind is wondering: “I hear what you’re saying, but what is it that you’re really thinking?”, “Do I really care?”, “What am I doing here?”, “I need to work harder on that bottom turn”.
There hasn’t been much work going around lately and during last year, the position of hundreds of people has been made redundant. The feeling I get is that everyone is testing each other; engaging in a dog-eat-dog culture, trying to prove that they are less useless than the other – it stinks of fear.
Some ask caustic questions on each speaker’s presentation to put him/her to the test – questions where the actual answer is not the important measure, but rather if the other’s inability to answer is proven. Most take self-protective positions using defensive arguments.
I find it disheartening, but I guess it’s human nature – they fear, so they become hostile. They strive not to be the best they can be, but rather to prove that they are ‘less bad’ than the other and that their commitment is ‘not less’. I guess cooperation is on hold until the ‘market picks up’ again.
It’s now been 45m listening about the opportunities they’re almost, almost accomplishing and how everyone is outstandingly doing their jobs. In the meantime, I’m just dying to get out of here… and not just this room. This is why I feel different, I am not afraid. I am not tied to this job; I am not tied to being a Project Manager.
At last, my turn to update the team arrives. I give the same bullshit answer I’ve been giving for the past 3 months, “There are stimulating opportunities following up on the project I have just concluded and, together with the client, I’ve been working on them. We should have an answer within a couple of months.” I’m told I should be looking for opportunities with the other stakeholders of that project – “Absolutely, I’ll get on to it”, I say. I write a quick note and my mind goes back to that wicked bottom turn.
A colleague offers help in ‘taking more out of the client’. Apparently, she has a friend working for the Brisbane Parks Department and can really ‘understand what the opportunities in that space are’. I sincerely thank her help by agreeing to sit down to discuss the particulars, but avoid mentioning that her friend’s department has nothing to do with neither my client nor any of the stakeholders involved in that project.
The discussion moves on to one of the leaders within the team. He takes 15 minutes to let go of some hot air. Apparently, he defends the use of the ‘carrot and the hammer’ approach to manage other teams working on our projects. Mind you, not the ‘carrot and the stick’, the man actually goes for the hammer – Wow, you sold it. Now I really want to work with you. But there is still room for improvement. Why not implement the rope and the gun initiative?
Please shoot me already so I can go surfing.