Saturday, 27 February 2016

What to do with an issue at work


As is often the way with the things I write, let’s start this off with a nice big disclaimer. Whilst I highly doubt that anyone I work with reads what I write, I just want to state that any events I make reference to in this article are not in reference to my current place of work, where I have been for almost three years. As I spent a lot of my working life in temporary roles, I have had a lot of jobs. I am really lucky that 95% of my colleagues are lovely, and I have not so far, touch wood, had any problems in my current job.

Disclaimer again- I am not a HR (Human Resources, formerly Personnel) specialist or employment law specialist. If you feel that you need advice, please seek this from a professional. 

I have the unfortunate experience of being on both sides of a disciplinary. For those who don’t know, this a formal action taken by HR when someone has committed an offense. There is misconduct or gross misconduct, and these will carry different repercussions. Your work should have a list of these available to you. It would be the difference for example between being late every day and stealing money. One is an issue, and one is a big issue.

If you are being disciplined, please make sure you seek support in an appropriate way- from HR, from a suitable colleague (unless you are not allowed to do this, HR will advise you) your union representative or in some cases, an employment law solicitor. Please tell the truth, please follow the HR procedure carefully and ensure you are prepared. If you don’t understand what is happening or why, make sure you find out. I don’t like to sound like my mother but I mean what I say- you make it much worse if you lie.

Disciplinary or grievances are awful for everyone involved. It is a serious matter, if it has got this far, and it involves a great deal of work and emotional stress. So, here is a rough guide that may be of some help. 

1. Try to solve the matter informally

If this is possible. I totally get that in some cases it won’t be. But seriously, it will help everyone if you can show that you at least tried. Discuss with your line manager, if possible, the concerns you have and why. Try to remain professional and explain what is wrong, and why it is bothering you. Say for example another colleague made a comment you’re uncomfortable with- it really is the better plan to talk to someone appropriate and tell them, rather than immediately taking this to the furthest level.  

2. What is your goal?

If your intention is to get people in trouble, then you may need to have a little think about this. You are never going to like all of your colleagues, but the point is that you don’t have to. It does not say anywhere in any contract of employment ever that you have to be BFFL’s with who you work with. You have to be polite and work with them, but you don’t need to go round theirs of a Saturday and have a bottle of red and a takeaway.

If you want to take action because something a colleague is doing is upsetting you, preventing you from working properly or making you dread going to work and you want it to stop, if you are concerned about the actions of a colleague or if you feel that management need to know there is a problem, then that’s fine. If you just hate someone and want to see them squirm, don’t bother. 

3. Be prepared

I mean this in a million ways- be ready for how emotionally draining it’s going to be. Make sure you have any notes, policies or support you need. If you are taking action about things someone has been saying then you need dates and times. Remember, if you can’t prove it, what’s going to happen? If it is your word against someone else’s and there is nothing to prove what happened either way, nothing will happen. I know it sounds like I’m telling you not to bother, and I’m sorry if it does, but people lie all the time, and your boss is not just going to say “Oh, you said she did it? Okay, she’s fired.”

Make sure you outline your concerns clearly and concisely. Facts first, feelings later. Use appropriate language, be professional and make sure you can make your concerns known in the best possible way. If there is an issue, it needs to be sorted. But it needs to be sorted properly. 

4. Consider the repercussions

Okay, right, HR are going to tell you not to discuss what happened outside of the room the meeting takes place in. Can you smell that? It’s the scent of bullshit. People talk. Gossip happens. People are going to find out. A grievance can tear apart a really strong team, as people are going to have ties to one another. That lady you met by the water cooler and said “Greg from accounts is a total arsepipe isn’t he?” She could well be his best mate. People talk, and they talk all the time. You could very well become the black sheep of the office. I am not in any way saying not to address a huge issue because of this, I’m just saying it might happen and you need to know this.

Basically, this is going to be unpleasant. But sometimes it needs to happen. You may well find yourself in some hot water, and you may well have to take some action yourself. You deserve to be happy at work, and if someone or something is stopping this, you need to do something about it. But you need to do it right. Take your time, consider your actions, beware of gossip, follow the rules, read your policies and seek advice from the right people. The very best of luck to you if you find yourself in the midst of this. I hope any issues you may be having get sorted.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Taking good care of your peepers....

First and foremost, let’s lay down some ground rules. I am not a doctor, an optician, an ophthalmologist or any combination of the above. I cannot say if any problems you may be having are normal or not, so please go to your doctor or optician if you think there is anything out of the ordinary with your eyesight.
I have terrible eyesight. I am probably somewhere between Hans Moleman and those little crabs that live in caves and have evolved so they don’t need eyes. Between the ages of 15 and 28, my eyesight has degenerated at a frightening rate, so I wear corrective lenses all the time. I am short sighted, which means I don’t see well over distance. I can read absolutely fine, but I wear my glasses constantly anyway but I do not need varifocal lenses. You are short sighted because the distance between your pupil and the rear of your eye is too large. As you get older, this distance shortens, meaning that you will see a little better over distance, but will likely need reading glasses. Weird, huh?

You should be having an eye test once every 2 years, ideally. Just to make sure there are no changes in your vision or your eyeballs. I have an eye test every 6 months to a year because my degeneration is quite fast and my eyes are still getting worse. They have told me that they hope this will even off by the time I reach my 30’s, and I should be able to go once every 2 years. 

Just as a side note, wearing glasses is a phenomenal pain in the arse. They steam up, they slide down your nose (Too Faced Primer, why you no fix my greasy face?) I can’t stand having a shower because I can’t see a damn thing. Swimming is bizarre to say the least, rain is not your friend and obviously you get the oh-so-terribly-amusing jokes about being a nerd. They are expensive. I cannot wear contact lenses because I am allergic to the solution they come in and I need hypoallergenic ones, which cost a fortune. My apologies to the contact wearers, but I am really not about sticking things in my eyes. I am particularly funny about eye balls (I can watch a boob job without blinking, but eye surgery makes me feel like I’m about to see my dinner in reverse.)

Anyway, I went for an eye test recently. No big deal, I go a lot. They have got worse again, and £120 later I can see colours and shoved my face into a colleagues and yelled “WOW, YOUR EYES ARE VERY GREEN” because I hadn’t actually noticed until Doctor Eyes fitted me for new lenses. I get my glasses online- my opticians give me my prescription which I fill in online and then a piping new pair of specs lands on your doorstep. Don’t try this at home kids- but I make mine fit my face by melting the stems over the hob and bending the plastic round. Most opticians will do this for you (they may charge) but that would mean an exhausting 15 minute walk into town and that would mean not wearing pyjamas, so no.

I have recently been referred to the hospital because the looking balls are not behaving as they should. My optician told me the optic nerve in my left eye was inflamed. He didn’t tell me what this meant, just busily cleared off and faxed a letter to the clinic, and the next thing I know I’m sat in a crappy waiting room with posters about the dangers of drinking, watching Doctors on a TV (Mrs Tembe is a gem and I won’t hear otherwise.)

Here’s what to expect if you have to go the emergency eye clinic. A grumpy matron with a face like thunder will check you’re not colour blind and do the fun reading a chart. I can read them okay, but the smallest line remains a mystery. It’s an R, no a P! While she rolled her eyes and sighed. 

She will send you back to the waiting room. A cheerful nurse, all of 5 foot 1, will lead you into a dinky room full of scary machines and say “That’s the way, gurl, you’re doing fabulous” while you have your peripheral vision test. You shove your head in a box and look at flashing lights. My peripheral vision to the right side of my head is nil. As in literally nothing. The test results just showed a large black cloud. It really messes up my eyes and makes them water like I’m watching Stand by Me. He will then uncap a teeny pipette and then, henceforth known as SATAN will squeeze some vile juice into your eyes which will dilate your pupils. This has a preservative in it and that’s what stings. It will make you look like you’ve hoovered up 19 lines of Columbian marching powder and will mean you cannot read or text because your distance vision will be okay, but close up it’s all one big blur. I read a book at arm’s length because I do what I want. 

An even more cheerful nurse will then ask you to shove your head into another machine while she photographs the rear of your eye ball. You’ll feel like you’re on the red carpet being blinded by a flash probably somewhere close to a nuclear bomb going off. One light is white, one is green. The green one makes everything lilac in colour. They will then send you back to the waiting room, looking like Mr Burns in the “I bring you love” episode.
A doctor, whose name I cannot recall will lead you into his fancy room. I think he was Italian as he said “I close the light now, okay?” which is nothing short of adorable. He then took his fancy machine and looked into my eye balls. I was misdiagnosed slightly by my optician as it is not the left optic nerve, it is both. Oh, joy. 

Anyway, it turns out this can be for a number of reasons. The first is a tumour behind the eyes or in the brain, putting pressure on the optic nerves. To rule this out, I am shortly having an MRI scan. The thing I am most annoyed about is having to remove all of my ear piercings for that. This does not mean I have it, it just means they need to check that I don’t. The second is that dust, hair and other matter enters your eye balls and goes behind them. Your eyes will usually flush these out. If they don’t, they gather on your optic nerves like dust bunnies under the bed. If this is what is happening, I will need various tests to find out why. The third may be an underlying disease or infection. The fourth may be, well, he didn’t know. That’s why more tests are needed.

I am back in the waiting room in one months’ time, if the MRI scan is clear. If it is not, I will need a CT scan to look at my brain a little closer. I am unfortunately a migraine sufferer, and this may well be connected to my eyes. I have to say I would be delighted if they could help with these, as the pain feels like having a red hot poker jammed in your head. 

I will keep you all updated with my progress. In the meantime, if your vision is a little funny, if you’re overdue a test, do me a favour and go and get them checked out. It’s an afternoon off work, if nothing else.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

What it's like....

To grow up a bit, and understand your Mother a bit better....

My Mum had my older brother when she was 27, a year young than I am now. I thought about this fact recently as I was trying to sleep, and your brain filters through your thoughts like a sand timer.

When my brother was born, he was extremely ill. His story is his own so I won’t go in to the sad details, so for now it is enough to say that he was very unwell. Whilst my biggest concern in life is if my tights and dress clash, my Mum’s introduction to motherhood was clouded with watching her child from the middle of a glass cabinet where he cannot be touched. It is a thought I have never truly been able to comprehend.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Why I Don’t Celebrate Valentine’s Day

The shops are currently awash with heart shaped sweets and chocolates, pink and red flowers and cutesy cuddly toys. The restaurants are upping their prices as we speak and offering special ‘romantic’ menus and there is a queue outside my local Pandora shop that rival the ticket office for a Beyoncé concert. It can only mean it is that time of year again…the run up to Valentine’s Day.

But here's the thing, I don't celebrate it, and haven't done for a very long time. I've even made an agreement with my husband that we just forget about it. In the words of the great philosopher Meatloaf, I would do anything for love, but I won't do that.

Photo Credit - Tim via Flickr Creative Commons