This summer I met the PA of an emminent professor at a business school.
I had met her on several occassions before and knew her to be a bright chatty woman who always enjoyed passing the time of day.
On this occassion when I asked her how her week was going she looked at me and I could see that she wanted to smile but the muscles in her face would not work and after a few twitches she gave up trying and looked back at the ground.
I asked her what was the matter and she told me that her department was undergoing change.
I asked her what that actually meant.
This was a woman, who is normally a capable and confident administrator, had been reduced to a nervous wreck because she perceived that an anonymous arbiter had been brought in to decide her future.
This was her reaction to the presence of a "Change Manager" based on her perception that change meant people being sacked.
How close was this perception to reality?
I met my PA again a month later and the way that she and her colleagues had been treated made me spit.
She had got over her first shock and was now extremely angry with the college authorities.
30 senior PA's were now involved.
It seems that the chancellor and his senior team had announced the changes then brought in a consultant to ratify them.
The situation for the PA's was that they had been told that their fates would be announced in six weeks.
They had no idea how many jobs would be left after six weeks but were told that nobody would be made redundant, alternative employment would be found.
The perception of the PA's was that their managers had already decided how many would be let go and were only spinning it out under the guise of "Managed Change" because they wanted to pretend that the decision was part of a reasoned process and not the arbitrary wielding of a financial axe by the accountant.
It was awful to watch the diabolical way a centre for excellence was treating its own staff, and still had the temerity to continue to hold itself up as an example to whom we should look for learned guidance.
"What thickness is the ivory on their tower that prevents them seeing the consequences of their actions?"
My initial question was whether this girls perception of change was shared by others.
It seems that it is.
I spoke to my PA friend again last month and they were still telling her to wait while the decision was made about her future.
She could not endure the stress any longer and started to look for alternative employment.
As she said, she loved the job that she used to have,
The authorities had through their actions caused her to lose trust in them and come to hate the job that was now causing her so much stress.
She could not consider continuing to work for them even if they announced tomorrow that her job was safe because she could not continue to work for, or trust, people who had caused her so much pain.
This behaviour from a respected university that is held up as a centre of management excellence is, in its personal effect on these individuals, appalling.
It is interesting to note that the bosses of all the PA's affected had by this time been asked to reapply for their jobs too.
The PA that I know told me that her boss has started to look for work elsewhere for the same reasons as she had.
Last week I met the PA again and she told me that both she and her boss had found new jobs, still working together, at a neighbouring school.
It does not have the same reputation but that is a situation that neither of them thinks will last for very long.
Having spent long hours discussing how diabolical the action of the college was the PA's had come to realise that what was apparently just another example of Crass bad management was in actual fact management best practice.
As a centre of management excellence one of the techniques that was advocated to avoid making redundancy payments when you need to get rid of people is too make the workplace so stressful that they choose to leave.
The favourite technique for doing this is to make people reapply for their own jobs.
I am happy to report in this instance that the management school were well and truly stuffed.
My PA, and a number of others who had all found alternative employment, accidentally neglected to tell the college that they had found alternative employment.
The result was that the college, when nobody left voluntarily, were forced to announce the redundancies. Every single person made redundant took their payment then walked straight into a new job that they had already accepted.
The college still had to make redundancy payments to the people it had always intended laying off but in addition it also had the expense of recruiting new staff to fill all the other posts of the people who had left because of the shoddy way the college had treated their staff.
What goes around, comes around.
Score one for the good guys.
Peter A HunterAuthor of "Breaking the Mould"http://www.breakingthemould.co.uk/