I messed up.
A few weeks before I joined my new team I produced a report. It was on the budget and how it affected local people, and was drafted by one of my old team. I then edited it, made a few additions and sent it on to the service head responsible for that area, who added it as an appendix to a cabinet report.
The trouble is, the report didn’t pull punches. Many local people had told me directly that there was one service in particular which they saw as not delivered well and which was ripe for some cuts; the service I have just joined. Some people did think it was good and wanted to see it kept, but even those wanted to see it reduced and refined.
So yesterday I come back from lunch to find my new boss fretting about it and trying to work out if anyone might actually read it and if so what to do about it. Not perhaps the first impressions I was hoping to make.
For a short while I felt worried; would I be in trouble for putting the service down even before I joined? Would Councillors use this as a stick with which to beat the life and funding out of us? Have I just managed to make myself unemployed?!
I then calmed down a tad and thought through what I had done. I had spoken with the public and listened to what they had said. I had produced a report looking at a very wide issue and which focussed on that issue, and had mentioned my new service as only one among a number which had been identified as an area for cuts. Perhaps I could have balanced it out a little more and added some more context, but that was not the focus of what I was supposed to be doing, and would have made it more of an issue rather than less.
On the way in to work I thought up several of these justifications and reasons for why I phrased things as I did, and why it was essential that the opinions of the public shouldn’t be stifled or biased. I even came up with an angle which saw this as a good thing, and an excuse for us to actually look at the service in proper detail to show we have listened to concerns and want to change. Do you know what conversation about it all I had this morning?
I didn’t. It’s not been brought up, nor referred to in more than a passing manner as casually as a new round of job cuts being announced. It looks like there is too much else going on to worry about this now, and my boss has already moved on to fretting over a whole slew of other things.
I hate to use a phrase like this, but it’s proving that if you can dig the right kind of hole, there has never been a better time to bury mistakes or lapses of judgement. So much is happening in the way of restructures, funding cuts, decreasing staff and increasing workloads that some of the things which might not have been let slide before are now halfway down the helter skelter. Some colleagues have said that they even aren’t going to bother to perform or conform as it won’t matter in the end; they know they are in trouble, so what’s the point.
My situation has been ignored (for now at least), but it’s made me more determined than ever not to make another mess that needs tidying up as I simply don’t have the time to do so. Like my boss I’m busier than ever, and I’m finding that the quickest way for me to get something done is to do it right first time round; this saves me from then having to fix it all later.
If more of us can do this, perhaps we’ll survive ling enough for me to get into trouble properly.