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Admiral Ackbar's blog: "kins' words"

created on 08/22/2008  |  http://fubar.com/kins-words/b240405

What happened?

Slightly awkwardly, I'm not entirely sure to what audience I'm writing this.  What follows is a story you may know all, some, or none of, depending on how I know you, and how well I know you.  However, for the sake of getting it over with, let's assume you know nothing, and tell all.

Some background. I worked, from late 2004 until around June of 2010, for one of the Performance Teams of the Local Authority.  Previously to this, I had worked for a university, and previous to that, I had worked for the same team at the Local Authority, in its previous guise as the Research and Information Team.  In total, I worked for nigh on ten years for the team, with the exception of those 15 months spent at the university.  For the majority of that time, I did so with a good reputation, as shown by their decision to rehire me when I decided the university thing wasn't working out.

Sometime a couple of years ago, things started slowly derailing.  I went from having a firm grasp on my role, to starting to feel a bit lost, to not picking up some new things as quickly as other people in my team, and I started floundering.  I was also getting sucked in to spending time online, on social network sites, when I should have been working.  It started off in a fairly normal manner - checking my email before work, popping on over lunch, just checking out this link someone sent me... But, over time, the time I was spending online grew.  Inevitably, this meant the time I spent working shrunk. 

Part of me wants to acknowledge the part that the floundering played in this, and how the self-esteem issues I've always faced compounded it - it seems evident now (if not then) that my history of depression, low self-esteem and so forth made me retreat from the problem, so much as I was aware of it.  Part of me, however, is loathe to do so, as the last thing I want to do is to start psychoanalysing myself out of taking responsibility for my actions.  Mental health history, addictive personality etc aside, I knew I wasn't working, and I knew I should be working, so I don't want to kid myself into thinking this wasn't my fault.  It clearly was. 

To cut a long story short, I was getting more and more withdrawn from my job, and spending more and more time messing about online.  Until, ultimately, the time I was spending online far exceeded the time I was spending doing any work.  Needless to say, this meant that work I wasn't doing wasn't getting done, or was being picked up by those around me.  I went from being a valued member of the team, to deadweight.  Holding the team back, adding to the pressures of my colleagues.

In February of 2010, I was taken aside and informed that my internet useage had been reported/discovered/tracked, and that an investigation was underway.  Three weeks later I was suspended.  Some three months later (and I'm working without notes here, so the dates may by hazy), I went before a disciplinary hearing, and was dismissed.

I did appeal this decision.  It seems unlikely that nobody reading this will think, "This started a couple of years ago? You were suspended for three months before a hearing? What was going on there?"  So yes, I appealed the decision, in order that some of the questions raised by the process could be answered.  I must stress that this appeal was not based on any attempt by myself to deny what I had done, or to avoid taking responsibility for it.  I only mention it now because, as I said at the start, I don't know exactly who I'm writing this for, and if anyone reading this had heard there was an appeal, and I didn't mention it here, it might be assumed that I had tried to deny what had gone on.  Similarly, I would also add that this appeal was not in anyway used by myself to start pointing fingers at anyone else, to shift the emphasis from myself to anyone in management or HR or anything.  There were, it was acknowledged by the appeal committee, things undertaken by the authority that could have been done differently, but ultimately, this is about me.  It's not my place to talk publicly about the organisation, it's my place to focus on what I did and take responsibility for that.

So I lost my job.  Through my own actions, my own fault, I was dismissed from my position.

Why blog it?

Firstly, I promised my partner.  She's been incredibly understanding, especially considering that I got myself suspended days after buying a house, and during the worst economic disaster the country's seen in years.  Spectacular timing on my part, and no less spectacular support from her (and indeed from all those around me - telling my parents was fairly horrible, their response was nothing short of incredible in its support and love).  But part of dealing with this, from her side, included me having to step up and take responsibility.  Not to hide from it, but to man up and take the rap.  And, let's be honest, rightly so.

Secondly, because it is actually part of dealing with the wider issues involved.  It's not, when it comes down to it, about me losing my job, or my income.  It's about me acting like an idiot, making a pig's ear of my life, and losing sight of what being a grown-up involves.  I got myself into a situation I didn't know how to get out of, because my behaviour was ruling me, not the other way around.  And I won't break that cycle of behaviour by blaming it on other people, blaming it on my mental health issues, or just trying to hide it away and pretend it didn't happen. This is what I did.  And the more open I am about it, the easier I make it for myself not to make the same mistakes again.

Thirdly, it's important to me that I acknowledge the long list of people I let down.  My partner, my family, my work colleagues, as well as myself.

And lastly, because that whole goofing off online at work is not something unique to me.  And I'd heard rumours of people getting fired for it, read stories about people losing their jobs for it.  But you never think it's going to happen to you. Or, for that matter, your online friends. Fourth-, fifth-, sixth-hand stories tend to just sink into our brains and get forgotten.  Well, now you have a second-hand story, straight from the horse's mouth.  People who don't do their jobs cos they're messing about on Facebook or whatever can get fired.  I know, cos it happened to me.  And maybe a second-hand story will stop you having a first-hand one of your own.  Think on.

What next?

As I've said, I have a history of depression.  I could have so easily let this sink me.  But I didn't.  For once, I had to take something bad and make something good out of it.  I had too many people to make it up to.  Rather than retreat further into myself, and totally give up on myself, I had to realise that my low sense of self-worth was one of the contributing factors in this mess, and that therefore part of breaking the cycle was to not let that self-worth get knocked any further.  I messed up massively, I have to recognise this, but it's equally important not to be too hard on myself.  Wallowing in self-pity or self-loathing is unhelpful.  Taking the kick up my backside for what it is, and putting that behind me is the only sensible reaction.  I'm not a bad person, I'm just a massive idiot.  At times. I made a string of bad judgments, but what I do now is make right ones, not just beat myself up for the bad ones.  It's not, however, just like I flipped a switch, and got myself back on track.  I've had bad days, bad weeks, this year.  And some bad habits aren't that easy to shrug off.  I am very much a work-in-progress.  But I'm heading in the right direction, I hope.

I'm temping now, as a receptionist, for pretty basic pay.  But I'm doing a damned good job at it, and I'm making sure that doing a good job continues to be important to me.  I'm taking pride in how well I'm doing my job, which is something I can do no matter what the job I'm doing actually is.

But I'm also taking stock.  This happened because I wasn't happy in my work.  So do I continue to do work that makes me unhappy?  Or do I take this opportunity to really think about what I could do that would satisfy me? And if that's not something I can find in work, what can I do outside of work to find that fulfillment?  And there are obviously other questions that spring from this, other areas of my life I can look at and see if I can't shape up there too.  After all, I might as well spring-clean the whole house once I've started, right?

If I'm smart now, and the Lord knows being smart hasn't been my strong suit, but if I'm smart now, I have a chance to turn this around and make this ridiculous mess an opportunity.  Wish me luck.

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