Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Skipping the middle man

Some of you, just maybe, have picked up the idea from this blog that occasionally I get a little anxious. I over-think things, I worry, I imagine the worst possible outcomes and then I fret, and panic and get upset as my mind spirals out of control. I also have a tendency towards feeling over-responsible. And a slight list towards stress.

Well, just at the moment I am buffeted by a perfect storm of stress and responsibility. Since being bought by a larger company, we've had a massive upsurge in work, with our parent company placing more orders than we can handle, on top of our "normal" customers. Added to that one of my colleagues left at Christmas, and we haven't replaced him yet, let alone expanded. Well, we've employed a delightful young man on a training contract. And he seems very nice, but eminently unqualified for the role. Inasmuch as a third-class degree in maths and no knowledge of physics or electronics means he's unqualified, but being the son of a friend of the MD means he's got a job anyway. And I get to train him, which obviously isn't adding to my workload at all. And we've employed our cleaner as an electronics technician, because that's the standard career path for cleaners*.

One of the (many) projects our parent company has initiated is for five compact mass spectrometers, of a completely new design, to be delivered at one-monthly intervals starting in June. This is a bit of a departure for us. Normally we make one instrument of a new design, then find all the stupid mistakes we've made, all the things we've forgotten, and all the sneaky bits of physics that were lurking to catch us out. We then completely redesign all the bits that were wrong, and generally the second instrument is a LOT better. This time we get to build five that are completely hopeless need refinement all at once, with almost no chance to modify the design.

I'm feeling slightly flattered that, for the first time ever, the MD has completely delegated the system-design and electronics-design to me. Admittedly, we're so insanely busy, I don't think he really had a choice but to delegate something, but it's nice to know he trusts me enough to allow me to be completely in charge of a project worth a quarter of our annual turnover. The cynical part of my mind knows that it wasn't quite so much "delegation" as "not getting round to it". I simply got on with it when he didn't bother. And I now get to screw up design five instruments at once, not just one.

The upshot of all of this is that I am both incredibly busy at work, and really rather stressed at the level of responsibility.

"Hang on a minute...", I hear you say. "Didn't this post start out commenting upon PhysicsBear's tendency towards anxiety?" Why yes, how astute of you, it did indeed.

I've made a new observation pertaining to my anxiety. By becoming incredibly stressed I have now skipped the middle-man of anxiety and jumped straight to rage. Where I would normally become worried about what other people think, or fret about what might happen next, or become panicked about the unknown... now I become instantly enraged by the hypothetical situations that occur in my mind.

When I start worrying about what other people might think about my mothering, I bypass the "worrying" almost entirely and instead am filled with fury at all those people who dare to criticise me, (see, for example the Bitter Parenting Aside I had not long ago, or even the hints of bolshiness I exhibited shortly afterwards. In both instances I was actually, genuinely, furious with all the imaginary people who were criticising me in my own mind.)

When my mind starts to wander into the realm of "what ifs" it then takes a shortcut to "I don't care! I hate you all and you can bugger off with your bloody opinions!" I become so cross with the opinions of completely non-existent human beings that I can't sleep for arguing with them in my mind.

When I receive an email from a customer who seems not entirely happy, my response is not to become shaky and panicked as I wonder how to handle it, instead I think internally, "sod you, you idiot, you don't deserve the awesomeness that is my instrument!"

I can't help but feel neither of these responses is healthy. My current level of stress certainly isn't, as evinced by the stabbing headache and knotted neck muscles. And I don't suppose my more "normal" anxiety is that good for me either. So I just need to harness a bit of the "screw you world!" attitude of the stressed-me and use it to fight the anxiety of not-stressed-me. Oh, and employ three more people, delegate some of the work, cease to take work so personally, make my manager aware that I'm not able to handle the work-load and develop some better coping skills. Other than that, I'm sorted.

* I'm being a bit harsh there - she used to be an electronics technician but has been out of the industry for a while, having left to satisfy an ambition to work with horses. After finding it hard to earn enough doing that, she resorted to cleaning part-time, and is now a full-time electronics technician again. As you do.

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