State of the Union.

“The way I see it, if you worked in any ‘normal’ industry, the union wouldn’t have let it happen!”

Those were the words of a friend last night while we discussed my current employment related dilemma… And, for once (and for only a fleeting moment) I understood the benefit of having a Union to support the working man. After spending a lifetime despising images of people complaining of their lot in life and spitting/hurling bricks at those who dared decide their job was more important than their pride (Arthur Scargill and Neil Kinnock, you have left this man scarred for life!) I have found a small spark of sympathy.

I’m a conscientious worker, I keep my nose to the grind stone and do what needs to be done. I’m also one of those who cannot accept mediocrity. If a job’s worth doing then it is not only worth doing well, it’s worth doing to the best of my ability every time. And that’s one of my problems. I’m bloody good at what I do! (I make no apologies for what may seem to some to be blowing my own trumpet. If you read on you’ll see that someone has to!)

That, unfortunately, seems to be the crux of the matter at hand.  In a line of work where conformity, or at least uniformity, are the expected norm (while encouraging each individual to strive for their best) the fact that an individual may naturally progress ahead of the projected curve seems to have passed by all those who dwell within the ‘Gilded Cage’.

I achieved my current position some 7 years ahead of the normal career profile.  Some of this apparent speed is, no doubt, due to my more senior years when compared to my peers.  I was able to bound through some of the lower posts with little more than a backward glance by using what is politely called ‘life experience’ but is actually little more than common sense.  Once I’d reached the point where ability was actually a necessary part of any promotion I had gained the relevant experience and developed an awkward notoriety within my peer group such that I still had no problem making the step up.  To be honest, I have only struggled for one period during my entire employment by Her Majesty. And that was brought on by a combination of personal circumstances, personality clashes, career mismanagement and the downright ignorance of at least one individual responsible for my career. None of which is an excuse, and all of which is no longer relevant as I’ve moved on.

What is relevant is the fact that, despite being so far ahead of my projected career,or perhaps because of that very thing, I now find myself in the position where, should the rules be adhered to (and I might add that these rules are newly written and were not agreed to by myself or any member of my peer group), I cannot progress for at least another 5 years. In fact, I may not be able to progress any further than the next rank in the entire time I have remaining in my career. At best I’ll be spending at least 7 years in one post (having previously expected a realistic period to be two years) before getting back on track and continuing where I left off. At worst I’ll move one rung up the ladder in 2015 and finish my career at that level.

My real concern is how this current situation is affecting both my personal life and my professional one.  Personally, I have become far more likely to lash out for no apparent reason, more willing to blame, and definitely less likely to relax. Professionally it is taking every ounce of willpower I can muster to retain the level of professionalism I have portrayed until now, and it’s even harder to maintain a real level of interest, or even care, about the job in general. When you consider that I am currently one of those responsible for planning the deployment of over 120 soldiers to what is politely referred to as a conflict zone, this is perhaps not the best state of affairs.

I have made several inquiries into the relevance of my fears and, to date, have always been appeased with what amounts to little more than platitudes or simple greasing of the wheels: ‘there’s always an exception to the rule’, ‘rules are made to be bent/broken’, ‘we can build your profile in such a way that…’, what? I don’t want gray! I want black and white! In a world where orders are to be followed, rules are not made to be bent or broken they are written to be adhered to, and in no uncertain terms.

I don’t like to be seen as a whiner, or that most dangerous of asset,the ‘disgruntled employee’, but I fear that is what I am becoming, and I don’t like it. If I could get a firm answer then I would be able to make a firm decision. Stay, or go. That’s what it amounts to. While I love my job, and am proud to be part this institution, I am not prepared to stagnate for almost a decade because someone decided that the career curves needed to change… The only reason they need to change is because someone before them made a similarly sweeping decision, and got it wrong as well!

Another person I spoke to on this matter advised that he called my situation being ‘managed out at both ends’, and went on to elaborate that in civilain law it’s referred to as ‘contructive dismissal’. While I’m tempted to agree, I am also aware that, in order to qualify as the latter, I am required to leave my job first! Currently I’m not inclined to take that step. I am however awaiting the answer to a fairly succinct email, the answer to which may result in a change, both of mind and (eventually) career.

In response to my friends comment at the start of this blog I replied:

“That’s the very reason why we don’t have a union.”

I can’t believe what I’m about to type, but I’ve thought it several times over the last few months and can’t escape it…

Perhaps we should?




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