J sits across from me with concern, desperation and regret passing across his big mug like semaphore flags on a sunny day. He's not hiding a thing, which assumes that he ever could. J is the proverbial open book. "I have more to offer and since I'm about to be fifty I figure I need to move forward with whatever opportunities are out there. I mean opportunities here. I'm not looking to go elsewhere." J's voice is a booming bass that echoes in this high ceilinged echo chamber of a room tagged onto the end of the Communications building like a silo attached to a barn. J has the sort of voice that lends itself to singing Johnny Cash tunes at Karaoke bars, which is exactly what he does for fun with his wife on their days off. I hear they do a spot on version of "Jackson". I'm all for J getting ahead, and yeah, he could contribute. Maybe. Trouble is, nearly every time he's been put in a position of responsibility beyond supervising a couple guys on a shift, he's fallen apart. But this time it'll be different he tells me. This time he'll be ready, more prepared. Sure J - we'll get you more training and the next time something comes up that looks good, you throw your hat in the ring and we'll see what happens.
It's yearly employee review time and I am spending my days listening to all manner of stories, both guarded and completely open, about people's lives at work. People I work with every day. It's not my favorite time. Everyone wants something and no one likes to hear why they can't have it. Or at least some of it. Some of these people are pains in the ass who need to grow up, shut up and just work. Others just put their heads down and grind through the every day. And a very few, take it as a challenge and point of pride to do their work above and beyond anyone's expectations including their own. The thing is, I'm doing these reviews and handing out these raises with virtually no guidance or direction from my boss. He's trusting me to get things right with the staff. A staff of about 70 people. It's daunting if I think about it too much, but then I realize that I'm the one manager that has the most exposure to all of these folks, so actually I am the best one to do the evaluating. Doesn't mean I'm wholly comfortable with it though. Not by a long shot.