Swimming With Sharkbert
I smiled patiently. I had decided to ride out his annoying drivel:
"... and besides my career at Bond I run a successful consulting business yada and yada teaching at the business school yada ..."
The HR director Chris Andrews and I were sitting in his office, the fish bowl. It was located at Bond University's most busiest corner and through the full-front glass windows you could see people passing by. And everyone passing by could see inside. Maybe not an office perfectly suited for a human resource director, unless ... unless he is the person who enjoys other people seeing him sitting there.
I really had to blame myself as I had instigated that meeting. It was 2005 and the market for IT education had turned sour. Student numbers had been in free fall for years now and the faculty had been downgraded to a school only recently. Many of us got their courses cancelled and research suffered severely without any Ph.D. students. I turned to Chris to learn what the redundancy conditions were, in the case I would decide to leave Bond.
As predicted, his self-adulation had come to a natural and timely end.
"When do you want to leave?"
- Chris, I have not decided yet. This the reason we are sitting here. To get some input what kind of entitlements I can expect.
He scribbled a few numbers on a paper and we discussed some potential scenarios. I had never officially received a contract and I did not really expect him to know all the details. But he did not expect it from himself either. So he promised that Mardi will send me a write-up the next day.
Chris seemed more keen to know when I would leave. Today? This week? At the end of the month?
"If you want to leave soon, I can talk to Garry."
Garry Marchant was Dean at that time.
- "Thanks Chris, but I can talk to my manager-of-the-week anytime myself. When I think it is appropriate."
This small loop repeated about 3 times. Nothing unusual there. Bond managers need this kind of re-affirmation. Bond students need that too. Not my cat, though.
After that last iteration, I somehow felt that the meeting had exhausted itself. I politely thanked for the information (I can be a real ass at times), and assured Chris for a last time that I can talk to my upstream manager on my own.
On the next day Chris Andrews sent me the details and then he added (reformatted):
From: Chris Andrews <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: FW: Redundancy Calculations ... The Faculty have indicated a willingness to accommodate the reallocation of teaching in Sept which would free you up to make an earlier move.
That prompted a response from my side (reformatted):
From: Robert Barta <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: Chris Andrews <email@example.com> Subject: Re: FW: Redundancy Calculations On Mon, Jun 27, 2005 at 12:10:29PM +1000, Chris Andrews wrote: ... > The Faculty have indicated a willingness to accommodate > the reallocation of teaching in Sept which would free you > up to make an earlier move. That's all good and well, but I do not remember having given you any authorization to take this further. I remember clearly having said that I will talk with Gavin (or whoever the head/dean of the day is) when I think the time is right. Believe me, I can do that.
Mr Andrews then sent me the following (reformatted):
From: firstname.lastname@example.org To: email@example.com Subject: Re: FW: Redundancy Calculations Perhaps you misunderstood my comment - the Faculty have given this undertaking in relation to all academic staff who express an interest in redundancy.
That calmed me down. A bit.
Maybe 10 days later I was standing in the kitchen of the IT faculty to prepare my coffee. Gavin had just come in too and took a cup for his tea.
- "Hi Gavin. BTW, I recently had a chat with this Chris Andrews guy to learn about the modalities of our contract in the case I would leave this paradise."
Gavin poured hot water in his cup.
"I know. The Dean rang me up the same day."
I stopped to spoon more coffee powder into my cup and looked at him. He had set up his whimsical smile:
"He asked me whether you were dispensable. And I said, I had no problem with you leaving."
While I started to move the spoon in slow circles in the coffee cup, I was thinking the word lobotomy.
- "Is it still illegal in Australia to perform brain surgery on Bond University HR directors?"
Gavin did not respond. Maybe he thought this was a rhetorical question. I interpreted his non-answer as a "why bother?", but I might be wrong. At least, it would have been the ethical thing to do.