Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My castle is my home

I had a brief, inglorious period in charge of the Australian division of the company I work for, prior to a big acquisition which increased the size of the business from 10 employees to 200 and required a full-time manager to be stationed there. While I was in charge I found it something of a struggle to get anything done, not being Australian, and being female and relatively young compared to staff who had been in the industry for 25 years and had no compunction about actively, passively and/or aggressively resisting any ideas I came up with, usually on the logic that this is the way we’ve always done things.

The nadir of the entire business, but the jewel in the crown to its denizens, was the office in Castlereagh Street in Sydney. It was about twice the size of the office in Hong Kong, but inhabited by a third of the staff, each person located (in splendid isolation and king of all they surveyed) behind a mega-desk which seemed to be consist of its own idiosyncratic add-ons, extensions, shelves and cubbyholes salvaged triumphantly from office renovations over the years; the walls were painted a revolting shade of green reminiscent of municipal sewage works or pre-glasnost Polish supermarkets; the anterooms were stuffed with receipts and invoices all clearly labelled with dates ranging from 1978 to 1992, long beyond their useful life; and piled up in mounds, everywhere, the stock in trade of our business, now long obsolete: ancient tape recorders, spare parts and audio equipment from manufacturers whose factories closed their doors in 1964. At the back, a grubby kitchen with a damaged kettle and lopsided tables which always seemed to be hosting half-eaten pipes of stale Pringles and the remains of someone’s birthday cake. The only thing the office needed to complete the look was a large sign saying ABANDON HOPE ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE.

I hope I am not maligning them too much by suggesting that the eyes of the staff stationed there were habitually dull; they certainly gleamed with native cunning when I made suggestions: “Let’s paint the walls white!” was met with the retort “But we chose this colour”. Unbelievably, despite the gargantuan desks, their chief complaint was lack of space.

I got an email this morning from N, who now looks after the business in Sydney, saying that the office is closing and staff are being relocated elsewhere. In my own small way I am feeling extremely happy about this; but presumably a whole new set of problems will present themselves as they try to find a removal agency willing to transport 14 garganto-desks with associated accessories to their new location.

6 comments:

Claire said...

A pipe of Pringles. Is that the official term? Would love to hear more about these relics of a bygone era (the staff not the Pringles).

Grande Poobah said...

It's always the small stuff that people get absurdly attached to - my latest attempt at a "strategy paper" for my office received precisely no comments, apart from some mutterings about the idea that we might have some open plan space rather than individual offices. There is a bigger picture too....

on a similar note, in any office relocation apparently it's always the allocation of parking spaces that causes the most grumbling.

Anon Y Mouse said...

Well, spare a thought for a poor mouse who relocates this friday to a new home across the waters......

& yes, people are grumbling about many things, including the parking.

LottieP said...

Sadly, Claire I didn't really get to know them that well, for they were not really inclined to let down the drawbridge. Accordingly, I don't have many more stories about them.

I don't think parking was an issue there, GP; they all had to leave their monster trucks at home...

And Anon Y Mouse, whatever it's like you have to assume your new office will be better appointed than their new digs which will be the same as the old digs, but, perhaps mercifully, with less space for fanciful desk appendages.

Mancsoulsister said...

We have just reallocated a number of general parking spaces to members of the management team. This provoked an uproar and a huge email discussion about the sanctity of the parking spaces and how unfair it all is.... Everyone seemed to have something to say about it.

The amazing thing is that we are talking about a huge car park with space enough for everyone. So who would have thought that allocating just 4 of these parking spaces to individual staff members would cause so much bad blood.

LottieP said...

Sounds to me, MSS, as though there must be much bigger resentments brewing against management which are finding an outlet in something relatively trivial.

There's a certain mindset that holds management, whoever they are, to have evil in their hearts and nothing but their own Machiavellian plan to execute. As a manager myself, of course, I can't deny that I'm an evil-doer, but I wonder how those purehearts manage to spot me so easily.