One of the sad and sweet duties I have just now is to oversee the mechanics of some of my colleagues who have been successful in their own Operation OASIS (see yesterday’s blog).
There is a strange ritualistic feel to the working through of the inevitable checklist as you strip from the individual any physical connection between then and our employer.
IT kit? Check. ID cards? Check. Keys and door fobs? Check. Manuals and technical documentation (where relevant)? Check.
The most recent colleague I ‘processed’ through this rigmarole asked me part way through when we would get to the ceremonial breaking of his pencil over my knee. The image stirred some faint memories but I must have looked bemused.
‘You know. Like the programme that used to be on.’
‘It always used to start with a chap being drummed out of his regiment for some crime or other. And they broke his sword.’
It was coming back to me now. I could see quite clearly the mass ranks of troops, the insistent beat of the drums and the impassive soldier standing before his peers as his symbols of office were torn from him.
Given the bad odour public servants are held in just now it’s a wonder this sort of process hasn’t been introduced into the public sector redundancy process. So the masses that we have been oppressing through providing care and support to the vulnerable or ensuring good governance or providing a 1001 other services soon to disappear can witness our disgrace.
The drums roll and there go all those slackers in the back office rightly shoved out of the shelter of the public sector fort. Off to fend for themselves in the unforgiving badlands of the private sector. Of course if you stretch the analogy the troopers freed from the burden of carrying their non-productive pals now have to spend their time doing the logistical work they never noticed until it just stopped.
In my case however I would be loath to let myself just be defined by the geegaws of my professional life. Cathy Aitchison, a visitor to the blog over the weekend, posted this in an excellent longer comment about finding the elements of a new life:
Think unpaid as well as paid: why should only the paid work count? why are we happy when someone has an unexpected piece of artistic, creative or business success to hear them defined in the media as ‘dustman’ , ‘pensioner’, ‘unemployed’ or ‘housewife’ etc. If you were to save someone in the street the day after you finish at your job and the local media wanted to do a write-up on you, how would you give your occupation, ie. without stopping to think?
I have been meditating on her words over the weekend. After 20 odd years of service with a single bit of the public sector far too much of my identity – how I think of me – is bound up with the employer who has decided it no longer needs me. Achieving that mental separation will be part of the programme from here on in.
It’s a necessary part of the personal resilience building I need to do. To get to the stage where I think and say ‘them’ not ‘we’ when talking about my employer.
Perhaps a formal ceremony of separation would help with that? Let’s indulge the nostalgia and imagination ourselves as Chuck Connors. Redundant public servants branded for a crime they didn’t commit.