It’s my box and you ain’t getting it

He worked out of a box and I didn’t blame him one little bit.

In my team at a big American bank we had just gone through another desk move that we didn’t understand. We were a development team looking after a set of traders building them tools and client websites. We had a good position two years previously, when we sat next to our traders. They could wander over to see how things were going, we could ask questions straight away and we all got to know each other and how each other operated.

Then “them upstairs” decided that IT people should sit with all other IT people. So we were moved to another building, fifteen minutes walk from our traders. We had phones and email of course, but it wasn’t the same.

The four months after that, we were moved from one end of the floor to the other. Then eight months after that to another floor. Now we sat next to the guys who maintained the finacial servers for the London operation. All IT people together, but we had nothing to say to them at all. Don’t get me wrong, nice people for a chat, but nothing productive would or could pass between us.

Then we moved again. And again.

That’s why he worked out of his box.

I’m sure you know the moving boxes I mean. The big orange or blue crates with the flappy lids that large corporations hire from large moving companies so that you can fit the entire contents of your drawers in one of them, stick a sticker on the top and a sticker on the end (in case the crates get stacked) and move all in one go.

This time he wouldn’t unpack.

We had moved so many times with such short time spans between the moves that he would say that, “By the time I have unpacked, I packing up again”.

Trouble was the boxes are rented by the day and they had stopped sending the emails to him and started to sending them to his line manager, me.

After six months of spot checks and me nagging him to stop them nagging me, he gave back his box.

How many employees do you have that will do something as awkward to themselves as leaving their things in their moving box rather than do what’s best for them, their team (we kept tripping over the box) and the company as a whole? How many are mentally prepared for a major organisational upheaval that they don’t want, don’t understand and haven’t been given advance warning of? How many are being awkward to their managers just to make a point about change that they see as pointless, detrimental but inevitable.

The funny thing was he wanted to move again. He wasn’t against another move at all. He wanted to move back to being by the traders. He didn’t want to move for no reason, neither did he want to give up his box because he knew he would move soon, but he also would have embraced a last and final move that made sense.

How many more staff do you have who are sick of change and yet would love to see the “right” change because they can see that things could be so much better?

A week and a half after I persuaded him to give back his box and he had just finished unpacking, we moved again.

Back to where we had been before we moved next to the traders…

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