2002-09-30

I find myself spending less and less time online. It's strange. There was a time when I would happily spend hours sitting at my computer in the evenings, but that just doesn't seem to happen all that much anymore. I still read the occasional blog when I'm at work, but I haven't written a thing for weeks.

Somehow, I just seem to have way too many things to get done when I get home. Also, I've started reading again. I managed to lose the habit in the last little while and I'm obviously making up for lost time. Most of my reading has just light entertainment. A bit of SF, a couple of murder mysteries, that sort of thing. I'll read more substantial things again soon, but my mind has needed to be in pure escapist mode lately.

I've been working like a demon recently. The project I'm working on is rapidly reaching the halfway mark, I would guess. We're delivering the software in smallish incrememnts, which has the advantage of producing deliverable software early enough to make the client see actual progress. It also has some downsides. The most obvious one at the moment is the number of little deadlines we have to meet. The fact that they're little doesn't really make them any less stressful. We've been working 12 hour days and weekends to get the work done. It's starting to take it's toll too. I've been a lot more irritable of late. I haven't been studying much Tamil either, which is not at all ideal.

One of the nicer things that's happened at the office is that the group of people I work with has finally gelled into an actual team. It took a while, but we're finally working well together and the office is usually full of people having fun with the work. Morale and commitment levels have been at record highs recently. We have learned (the hard way) not to have too many discussions about sex, religion and politics, but it works.

Last Tuesday, 24 September, was a public holiday, Heritage Day, and we had decided that if we met our Wednesday deadline the previous Friday, we would have the Monday off and have a very long weekend. We cleared this with the project manager and the CEO and all seemed well. On Friday, we were close enough, we thought, and the project manager agreed with us and so we had a long weekend. It was a great weekend - I spent most of it gardening and generally catching up with things I'd been neglecting. The weather was glorious and I was all refreshed at the end of it.

On Wednesday morning, however, we discovered that the CEO had decided that Monday actually hadn't been a day off, so we would have to deduct it from our annual leave allocation. No explanation or any suchlike thing. I felt like I was back in the Dilbert Zone. Queries got back some vague replies about miscommunication and other such wishy-washy bullshit.

I don't know exactly what happened, but I can tell you that the team's morale has plunged. If you ask any of us to work a 12-hour day at the moment, you're going to get laughed at. I find it inexplicable that someone could be so short-sighted as to destroy something that we'd worked so hard to achieve. We had pulled out all the stops to meet the deadline and we richly deserved some time off. Effectively, we've been told that we didn't deserve any such thing and, worse, we had tried to steal a whole working day from the company.

How stupid can you get? Anyone who's worked with a team of software developers knows that nothing motivates programmers like the prospect of time off. Not cash, not team t-shirts, not cool toys, not anything. By doing this, the company has told us that there's no way we're going to get time off when we meet our deadlines. Worse, it has told us that management is not to be trusted. Of course, the more cynical will point out that management can never be trusted, but that just leads to a situation where nothing real can be achieved. Management is going to have to work really hard to rebuild that trust. And I'm not convinced it can ever be fully restored.