Monday, 16 April 2012

Branching out

So I'm afflicted by sciatica, which my physio now attributes (having had a good delve around my lumbar region) to a swollen disk (disk herniation to be precise), which in turn is pressing on the sciatic nerve. The good news is that if I take really good care of my back it should get better to the point where I can run, jump and play the piano as well as I ever could. You didn't know I could play the piano did you? I can't, but I'll be able to do it just as well when my back's better. The bad news is that any kind of high intensity exercise is out for the time being - no long walks, no running, no cycling more than an hour and then only at moderate intensity. The further bad news is that the physio has started mumbling about scans and surgery if things don't improve. Don't like the sound of that one bit. The slight irony is that I do have to take some exercise - immobility is no help whatsoever, so I do have to walk, stretch, do light cycling and plenty of core exercise.

Anyhow, having seen the wide beam on Fabrice Muamba's face as he left hospital today, I realise that now is the time to be cheerful, not linger on my restrictions, and generally talk about stuff other cycling and running for a while. If I don't there's a real danger this blog will descend into a catalogue of recovery from injury and self-pity, the first of which would be boring to everyone but me, the second of which would be boring to everyone including me.

So here goes. Well, this week's big news is that my last working day for Lloyds Banking Group is this Friday, 20th April. I then have a couple of days off at the start of next week - a bit of a mental firewall - before starting work for a very small company called Challenge Consulting. Frankly, I can't wait. I've been relatively circumspect in my dealings and communications with people at Lloyds, even people that I consider good friends, because if I let rip with my true feelings, not only would I be being critical of the organisation, but also implicitly of their decision, even if it's only a default one, to continue to work for the company. That would be insensitive, and I've no wish to upset those people.

On here though, those boundaries don't what upsets me most about Lloyds? The list of things I could choose from is endless, and ranges from the application of petty bureaucracy, the unending use of cliche and management speak, through to the intranet which could have taught Pravda editors something when it comes to propaganda unadulterated by fact or inconvenient truths, or the incredible centralisation of power, which creates inertia and inefficiencies. In my view, it's a sick organisation. And I use 'sick' in the original meaning, not the diametric opposite of youth patois. In the end though, those things could apply to many, many people who work at Lloyds - I'm no different. So you have to make personal the reason why working there is so soul-destroying, so unfulfilling. And it's this - for work to be tolerable it has to be either intrinsically enjoyable in and of itself (though perhaps only through the personal relationships you have or build through doing it), or if that's not true it has to be in pursuit of a worthy goal.

In the old days, the latter could have been true when banks and their employees were pillars of society. But the moment we started to sell financial products to people who didn't actually want or need them (and a whole lot more besides), the trust that underpinned that was forfeited. So no, banking is not conducted these days in the pursuit of betterment of the world around us. As for the work, well once upon a time yes it was almost fun - you got on well with the people around you for the most part, and you had the autonomy to make a difference. Working from a distance and hotdesking has eliminated the first of those things, whilst autonomy is clearly not a concept that has made it into Iberian culture, given that most LBG senior folk hail from that neck of the woods this weather.

So for me, there's nothing left, no saving graces other than a ludicrous amount of money for what you actually contribute. That's not me saying I'm well-paid, just that compared to others what I do get is spectacularly ill-deserved. By way of contrast I'm going from a behemoth to a bumble bee - from a firm of 100,000 folk to one of 10, as I tweeted last week. A place where, I hope and expect, there are no rules, other than the rule of common sense, where if you don't act autonomously you don't last long enough to act at all, and where decisions are based on strength and expression of argument, rather than stakeholders and politics. I hope I don't sound naive dear reader, though if I do is that such a bad thing?; at 45 it's good to have some optimism over a soon-to-be-employer surely?

Time will tell on that one, and so will I, over the next few weeks. Meanwhile, I've got to go and pack now for a week of partying. Well, three nights anyway. And partying is a bit strong - 1 theatre trip and 2 dinners is closer to the truth. But I'm doing all three with some good friends in London town, so I'm looking forward to that too.

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