Sunday, 9 December 2007

the corporate family

I haven't posted for a long time because I had some bad times and some good times - and there was no time for blogging. But events of the past week have driven the priority of posting a blog up the scale.

This week two matters close to my heart came to a head: meltdown at Blognation and redundancies at Skype including at the Developer Program. I worked on both these projects and was passionate about their respective missions - both dumped me in unceremonious fashion and rewarded my loyalty and expertise with rudeness and mistreatment.

A year ago almost to the day, I was a victim of the first big round of redundancies at Skype, weeks before Christmas. On that day they axed the entire technical writing function in Skype, as well as many others. The HR team were dressed, to a person, in black for the occasion. Both my uber-boss and direct manager gave me the same line that this would be the best thing for me in the future - I didn't appreciate it at the time and I'm not sure I do now - other than that I'm happy I'm no longer working for such people.

It took me months to get back on my feet and, along the way, a friend invited me to participate in Blognation. I was assured that funding was in place in advance for this adventurous project and I was to be editor for Ireland and play a special role in developing editorial standards. After a couple of months of serious planning including team and standards building, we met up in London as a team for the Essential Web conference. It was clear from the moment we arrived that Sam Sethi was not going to devote any time to team building and it became crystal clear by the second night that he was not paying his way either. That was in July.

My life has turned around from these grim times - I'm consulting for a really positive and winning team at Openads, and have the freedom to work and build other projects. I recovered from my second financial and emotional hit in a year and life began to settle into a nice pattern. Until this past week.

First off was the explosion of news around the blogosphere about Blognation - from the trigger, Oliver Starr, but covered in depth by Blognation rival, TechCrunch, as well as drawing attention of Dan York (who inspires and educates me and has made the best response so far I believe), Robert Scoble, Shel Israel, and Jemima Kiss of The Guardian among others.

As I was still reeling from the feelings this aroused, I had a couple of scary pings from former Skype colleagues about firings going on - another Christmas package from the Skype HR angels. This time the guy that fired me got the bullet along with many others. They have decimated the developer program and there have been hits right across the London operation.

I was concerned by how upset I was for people this week, including the git that axed my job in Skype, and I started to explore the reasons. And my conclusion is that teams are not unlike families. You may disagree internally but you show a united face in public. When teams split, by reason of redundancy or whatever, it is like splitting a family - you lose your siblings and connections. Companies do basic things to cover their legal backs when they make you redundant but they do not include any form of counselling for dealing with loss - either for those that are dumped or those that survive. A quick pep talk from the idiot that broke the team doesn't usually cut it. And while it's nice to get some redundancy money it is rarely enough to cover you to replace that job if yours is a specialist job.

Of my extended family of the past couple of years, many are in pain now and even the gits have my sympathy. In both cases the managers were the worst gits. I need to get back on track for next week, back on focus in my interesting job with a good team. All I want for Christmas is that my "work siblings" get by and that the same doesn't happen again soon.

And I'd like to forward Skype and Blognation a lump of coal to save Santa the trip.

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