The Absent Leader – Taking a sickie

The Absent Leader – Taking a sickie

The staff cafe was unusually quiet for a Wednesday morning, most of the round tables that were designed to facilitate conversations empty apart from the usual sauces and paper napkins. At least the queue for coffee and biscuits was shorter than usual.

Peter caught up with Jane just as she was paying for her coffee. ‘Hi Jane, I missed you yesterday, what happened to you. You look a bit down.’ Jane leaned towards him and put her finger to her lips. ‘Shhh, I’d had enough, I took a sickie – I needed to calm down.’ Even though the place was quiet Jane still led Peter to the quietest corner, checking they couldn’t be overheard. She put her coffee down with a sigh and opened her little packet of biscuits. ‘I’ve had enough.’ she repeated looking down at the table.

‘You look really fed up. We haven’t had time to catch up since you started that project. What’s going on? Aren’t you enjoying the new job?’ ‘I wish I could say I was, Peter. I was so pleased to get the promotion but Ken, my boss, thought that the project was so big it needed two project leaders.’ Peter stirred his coffee. ’I can see his point, it is a huge project and a lot is hanging on it.’ ‘Well, you know Melanie, the other project leader?’ ‘No, never met her. Wasn’t she bought in from outside the company?’

‘Yep, and I have a sneaking suspicion she is earning more than me. But that’s not the main thing. The problem is she’s dead lazy.’ Adding yet more sugar to his drink Peter asked, ‘How do you mean, lazy?’ Jane sat back in her chair and folded her arms, raising her eyes to the ceiling.

‘For starters she spends at least two hours a day on Facebook and Twitter. Can’t think what she finds so much to write about. It’s certainly not work! And that’s not all.’

‘Strewth, that’s enough. You mean there’s more?’

‘She takes long lunch hours and I’ve often seen her bidding on Ebay. Has about six fag breaks a day, ten minutes a time, I’ve timed her. I reckon she actually does about an hour a day work at most. We’re way behind schedule.’

Peter touched her arm lightly, ‘You’ve got to do something about this, Jane. If the project goes belly up, your neck will be on the block.’

‘I know, I know. I’ve tried speaking to her but she just ignores me. Trouble is, I have no authority over her. We have exactly the same contracts.’

‘You’re kidding. You mean there is no-one in overall responsibility, no clear division of roles?’

‘Nope. Ken, thought it was a good idea. He didn’t even clarify who was responsible for what, and Melanie won’t even enter into a conversation about it.’

‘But surely you’ve told Ken?’ Jane raised one eyebrow. ‘You know Ken, see nothing, hear nothing and damn well do nothing. I tried to speak to him about it but he just brushed me aside. Didn’t want to know. And he never comes out of his office so he has no idea what’s going on. I don’t think he even noticed I wasn’t in yesterday.’

‘Wow, that’s crazy. His head will be on the block too if the project isn’t delivered on time. This is just the sort of thing we learned about on that leadership course last month. He needs to get out of his office and do what they call management by walking about.’

‘What’s that then? Never heard of it.’

‘It’s simple, managers just need to go walking around the area they manage at least once a day. Have a chat with people, find out what’s going on, show an interest in them and let them know they’re valued. It also means they can find out if anything is going wrong before it’s a big problem.’

‘The only time Ken comes into our office is when there’s something going wrong and he wants to shout at someone.’ ‘Well that’s hardly the way to get the best out of his staff, is it. He needs to be having regular meetings with you and Melanie about how the project is going on too.’

Just then Jane’s phone vibrated. She looked at the screen. ‘It’s an email from an agency I contacted, they’ve put me forward for another job. I don’t want to leave, I’ve always liked this company and it’s convenient for home, but what else can I do? ………….to be continued

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