EDitorial ± 25-Nov-2003

Complaints Department

Heckofalot of rain, this past week. Would have fair put me off biking to work if the back wheel puncture, still not fixed from last week (the shame), hadn't already done the job. Now, rain has been known to depress people, including the great bespectacled one:
The sun is out, the sky is blue
There's not a cloud to spoil the view
But it's raining, raining in my heart
— Raining In My Heart, Buddy Holly

resent, get the hump, look blue, look glum, have a grievance, nurse a grudge, have a chip on one's shoulder, etc.

Flicking through the trusty Guide, saw this preview of a Radio 4 programme on Wednesday:

He interviewed everyone in the banking hierarchy about their thoughts on organisation culture. He also discovered that however much everyone moaned about the way things were done, nothing ever changed. This was because the employees were exercising their right to moan, which performs an important if not essential function and has nothing to do with actually changing anything.

(BTW, chap in question is named John Weeks, and his "discoveries" form the basis of his new book, Unpopular Culture: The Ritual Of Complaint In A British Bank.)

Hey, I thought - and perhaps you think this too - that sounds like my place of work. Last evening I then launched into a ten minute rant about (some of) my curent colleagues, and their unlimited capacity to carp. Could be about management, absent colleagues, the coffee (free!) or even the fruit (equally free!).

One possible factor: most of them are a little older than my Peter Pan-like self and have worked in the same company for 25 or more years. It could easily get you down, I said to wifey. That's nothing, she said: try working in local government. She described the series of steps she went through while working there:

  1. you believe the complaints — after all, you're new to the company, and what do you know?
  2. you begin to doubt — you start to see for yourself how things are
  3. you try to help the moaners — but soon realise that they don't welcome constructive suggestions or for anything to really change
  4. you then have a choice:
    • you ignore everyone,
    • you join in,
    • or you find a new job

I'm making my own sweet way through these same steps at present, being somewhere between starting to doubt and trying to help. Lucky I'm an optimist, eh what?!

Be seeing you!