Monday, 8 January 2007

First no-bullshit day at work

My first day of work while attempting to cut the bullshit. It's a lot harder than I thought considering I'm surrounded by bullshit all day. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind my work (surprisingly enough!) and like most of the people I work with to some extent. But considering I work for a large corporation in an area that deals largely with our Marketing department.... well I'm sure you can see how the bullshit meter can go off the scale.

Being that I've never worked for a large company like this one before, I'm not sure if this is a generalisation or not, but it appears to me that big business runs on bullshit. It's bad enough that they try to convince that we need their bullshit products using mindless, degrading advertising - that our lives will some how be better, enriched or complete if we buy their crap or use their services. Peel away the veneers of bullshit and what you find underneath is more bullshit.

Part of my job involves data analysis and statistical evaluation. I get numbers from someone in one department, which were compiled by someone else in another department. Then I put those numbers into a model which generates other numbers that are sent to yet more departments. The models that I use are quite complex and took me days of work to develop so that they crunch the figures to produce an exact outcome. However, if someone's boss in another department doesn't like what those figures have to say, it comes back to me with a request to "rework" the numbers. In other words, turn real data in bullshit data just so someone can go to their big boss with a good-news story. The record for "reworking" one set of data - 27 times. Makes me wonder how real any business statistics are. It also gives me an idea as to why the global economy is so shaky.

What did I do personally to cut the bullshit today? There's a new guy at work in one of those departments that supplies me with numbers. He's replaced the guy who used to email the numbers through to me. I gave the new guy a call today to ask him to send the numbers through, though I knew he would have next to no idea what I was talking about or where to source the information I required. Before picking up the phone, I decided that I was going to be up front and straight with the newbie. We've all been the newbie before, so I couldn't see any reason why I should make his life hard just because he was in an awkward situation due to circumstances out of his control.

I called him up, introduced myself, my role, explained what data I needed and why. This guy was a full-on noob!!! The way he spoke gave me the impression this is the first job he's ever had - though it could just be the way he talks? - and trying real hard to make an impression. He started going on in full, professional type jargon about why he couldn't get the numbers to me but how he'd work to rectify the situation and respond within a timely manner. All the time, I'm sitting on the other end of the phone thinking "just cut the bullshit and tell it how it is!" I decided that, since this guy was so green, I'd let it slide and sent him an email later simply inviting him to give me a call when he'd settled in if he'd like to go over the numbers in more detail.

That phone call made me think of how I respond to requests from others. So often I go into detailed explanations of why something has (or hasn't) been done in a certain way - trying to make things sound more complicated than they actually are. Later in the day, I received a phone call from a colleague chasing up a decision that I was meant to have made on a proposal. I tried the no bullshit response. "I haven't gotten around to it since I've just got back from leave, but send me a meeting invite and we can go over it together." My colleague accepted it, sent me the invite and we're meeting on Thursday to go over the proposal. What's more, I felt good because I didn't try to bullshit my way out of the situation.

Let's just see if I can keep it up.....!

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