Let’s Talk Windows

After two attempts at working in purchasing departments – one successful, one catastrophically not successful – I had a strange desire to go back to it again. I should have known better, especially given my desire to work in a healthy, constructive team. I have since learnt how to listen to my gut instincts about team dynamics, but then – even after my disastrous three months with a construction firm – I didn’t listen.

I went to work for a window manufacturer and installer, because I was looking for a challenge, and I held out hope that I had found it here; hankering, again, after that brilliant team dynamic at the college’s purchasing office. I clearly hadn’t learnt my lesson about chasing after something, as I leapt straight in without asking about the team dynamics or even listening to my gut feeling.

The team consisted of me, my boss, and an administrator; she was welcoming, friendly, and decent, and I took to her immediately. An intriguing aside; ten years later, our respective sons are in the same class at primary school, and so we see each other every morning at the school gates. That’s a nice surprise.

The manager was … I’m not sure how to describe him. He wasn’t unpleasant or unfriendly, just … stand-offish. I had been very honest in my interview about my level of window-related knowledge; a postage stamp could have held it comfortably. I had experience in purchasing, but I would need to learn the specifics of what was needed to buy products to make windows. That seemed acceptable, and I took that to mean he was willing to train me.

The training consisted of a walk around the warehouse to show me where all the stock was being held, what each product was called, and that I would need to do a twice-weekly stockcheck to make sure everything correllated to our database. Okay, fair enough; I noted that I might not recall all the descriptions on the first couple of tries, but that I would ask questions if I didn’t remember.

He looked at me as if I were mad; how could I not remember everything, as he had just shown me everything in a three-hour tour? That was the point, I gently suggested; that was a lot of information to take in, so it might take me a little time to make sure everything had settled. I was also thinking, “I need to get this stock tidied up; there’s piles of “stuff” everywhere. How the hell does he keep track of it all?”

Things remained odd between him and I for the three months I worked there; there was absolutely no relationship between us at all – no small talk, no warmth, no chat, nothing. The administrator and I got on perfectly fine, but I had nothing from the manager at all. It became obvious to me early on that I was not long for that job. But I stupidly perserved, terrified about the prospect of losing my job again; I didn’t want to go through the stress of not having a job for the second time. That’s what you might call “burying your head in the sand”; what a silly mistake, because when I was finally let go after three months (with the flimsiest of excuses), I had nothing lined up to take its place.

We learn from our mistakes, of course, and with hindsight, I could see that happening. The conversation I had with my manager when he let me go was the longest I’d had with him since my interview, and I wish I’d had the confidence to ask why we’d not not connected better, and why he didn’t seem to want to try. But I was only thinking then about what I was going to do now, when I was back in exactly the same situation as I had been eighteen months before.

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