One thing that I have noticed in the workplace is that each manager likes to do things “their way.” And that way is sometimes introduced with nesting.
Given their new responsibilities and an established staff, bosses will often change the one thing that they can control: Their work environment. This typically manifests itself in the ever-reliable whiteboards.
Even if a whiteboard is already in place, I have seen bosses take one down and put up a bigger one. The next boss comes along and replaces the big one with two smaller ones. Then the boss after that will move those boards to another location and put up a different board. There is often a discarded whiteboard, still with scribblings from the last regime change, leaning against the office wall for the manager to work around every day. I have heard many an electric drill go up against a brick wall. Holes, like memorials, dot the workplace; traces of managers come and gone.
I understand their antics while simultaneously rolling my eyes. The new boss likes to cut out giant letters or pin the colorful paper to bulletin boards. That method must be far superior to the last manager that preferred to write in colored pens. Perhaps the next boss will be a sticker-type.
At the turn of the millennium, it was a plastic bin world. There would be an inbox bin, an outbox bin, an incoming employee bin, a budget bin; the number of plastic bins changed every time.
“Less is more; toss those other bins out.”
“I can’t organize like this. I ordered more bins.”
“Oh, those? No, I got rid of them. These stack better and take up less space.”
The job never really changes, no matter what occupation I have or what the workplace environment. The manager handles all the staffing issues, makes sure the output is worthy of the expenditures, and keeps the inbox as clean as possible. But every boss does it their own way. Some can keep their door open all day, every day, and not be disturbed by the din that pervades their worksite. Others cut out a red octagon, and print out detailed instructions about not knocking, intruding, or popping in when the door of authority is closed to them.
I have had several decade-plus stints and I have learned the best way to survive the changes. I act as a bridge between the changing shores. My job is to make their job easier.
Because if you really want to drive me to suicide? If you want to quickly drive me crazy and make my life miserable? Promote me to management. Tell me you will pay me for forty hours of work but expect me to toil for eighty. Require me to have my phone on at all times, come to work for any emergency, and demand that my e-mails be replied to at all hours. The absolute, sure-fire, cannot-miss way to torture me is to put me in charge of a large group of people and strap me to a computer forever.
Please, dear God, no.
So I watch the changes. I raise an eyebrow. And I go about my work. I watch as the bosses spend days reorganizing. I try not to comment on the boxes after boxes after boxes that come through the door from supply stores. I see the new office chairs, the file cabinet that looks the same to me as the old one, and I hope that it works for the current boss.
Ernest Shackleton was a boss. No joke. His crew called him, simply, “The boss.” He hired dozens of men to try to cross Antarctica. He had ships modified for his grand vision. He outfitted supply ships and sent them around the world. And for the ship that he himself manned, he titled it, Endurance.
That ship did not survive the trip. It was stuck in an ice flow and never broke free. The crew lived off of it, took what they needed, and eventually took the smaller boats when they said goodbye to their mighty vessel.
This week, that vessel was found.
The Endurance, I would argue, was one more office. Shackleton arranged it the way he wanted to do his job. He spent a great deal of time there. He had things set up to achieve his professional goals. And, years after he had left the office, there were still traces of his efforts left for others to discover.
The only thing that does not change is change. Soon enough, a new boss will come in and do things their way. (Hopefully their fancy supply run does not include sled dogs or hoosh.) If the boss requires that I lose a finger or two to frostbite, then I am out of there.
When that time comes, I will let the nesting play out. I could never be the one sitting behind the desk, so let them pick the office chair that suits them. I will try to care about the person, not the new work flow that they try to initiate. When it comes to workplace drama, I follow the Shackleton family creed. “By endurance, we conquer.”
We have to care about the people, not the title. The person matters, but the changes in leadership usually do not. Ice will disable a ship. Snow will take over a mountain. And no matter how much time a boss stands in front of a whiteboard, scribbling figures and goals, the next boss is just as likely to take their eraser and wipe the slate clean.