Dropping Like Flies

I’m not sure what’s happening but people around here are dropping like flies.

When most of us sign on to work with this organisation, we agree to be assigned to a centre for 1 year.  Of course, sometimes things happen, as they did for A and me in Aceh, and we may get reassigned to another centre.  But generally speaking, the idea is that we go to our assigned centre and stay there for 1 year.  This has not been happening.  In fact, since I’ve been here, I only know of 2 people who have actually finished out their entire year at all, and only 1 of those managed to do it in their originally assigned centre.

There are a couple of different scenarios that I see unfolding.  In most cases, people decide to end their term early.  In 1 case, the person did so because she was apparently ill and also had a family emergency back home (I heard about that case, I didn’t know her – she left Indonesia around the time that I arrived – so that wasn’t first-hand information ).  But in all other cases, people just got fed up or burnt out and left.

I know of 1 person who made it 2 weeks and left.  Another person I know got so fed up that she only gave about a week’s notice and left at her 6-month mark; that was while I was in Laos.  Another person made it through 6 months, went on her 2-week vacation, came back and made it about another month and a half, then basically said, “The heck with it,” and left when she got to the 8 month mark.  She said it was because she was just absolutely burnt out and couldn’t function effectively anymore.  Oh, and by the way, she told the “boss” how she was feeling because she wanted him to help her find ways to manage those feelings of burnout so she could continue working here, but he basically told her to suck it up and deal with it.  Yup.

Then there are people who just decide that they don’t want to come at all; they cancel before they even start.  You remember the fracas I got into with the “boss” that caused him to show his true colours?  It started because 1 guy, who was just a couple of weeks away from starting his year in Indonesia, changed his mind due to unpleasant interactions he had with the “boss”.  The guy rightly surmised that if he was being treated that way before he even started then how much worse it would be when he was actually in the organisation.

Another guy who was supposed to arrive in Aceh, today in fact, up and cancelled a few weeks ago; I suspect it’s because he heard about the robbery of a new guy (someone from another country) that took place at the centre there a few weeks ago, but I don’t know for sure.  Yeah, there was a robbery in Aceh; they broke into the centre and stole everything the guy had, down to his underwear and the jam he had in the fridge.  Who can say exactly why?  All I can say is that the other guy who is assigned there, and happens to be Indonesian, did not get robbed…at all.

Then there’s the lady who was supposed to come here to the Jakarta centre, also starting today, and she cancelled too.  Why?  She said it was because she decided to explore another dream she had of helping people.  However, she had arrived in Indonesia early for vacation and decided to drop by the centre to check out the place a few weeks ago.  Within a week of that visit, she cancelled.  Hey, I’m just stating the facts – you draw your own conclusions.

All of these cancellations and early departures result in a sort of shell game for the rest of us.  Because people leave before their expected time or simply don’t come, the “boss” ends up shifting us around to different centres, trying to fill the most urgent gaps.  This is the totality of the succession planning for this organisation – hoping that people don’t drop out or leave early, and shifting everyone else around when they do.

Of course, the cancellations and early departures also means that every centre is short-staffed right now.  Centres that are normally supposed to have 3 or 4 people running it are having to manage with 1 or 2 and we’re all under pressure as a result.  For example, Jakarta normally has 3 or 4 people running things; now, it’s only 2 of us and we have no idea when another set of helping hands will arrive.  And I’m not gonna lie, I’m not sure the other guy who’s here is going to make it for very long – the other day he was asking me how I stay motivated, and he’s only been here a month and a half!

This results in a situation that could easily mean overwork and burnout but I’m not down with that.  I’ve thought about it very seriously and my approach is that I’m one person and I can only do so much.  So nowadays, on any given work day I do as much as I can and when my 8 or 9 hours are done, I stop working.  As I’ve said before, the work was here before I arrived and it will be here after I’m gone and I’ll do my best to get it done and do it well, but I’m not killing myself for it.

But the way that the under-staffing is most difficult to deal with is in terms of days off.  Usually, I’d take my 4 days off, go breeze out my head and come back pretty ready to pick up work again.  Because there are only 2 of us here now, 4 consecutive days off is not easy to do.  I mean, it could be done but it seems inconsiderate.  This is because at least 3 of those days off are working days – remember, we only have Sundays off every week and there are classes in session for the other 6 days.  This means 1 person has to cover all classes for those 3 days, as well as get all their other work done.  I’m not doing that, and I don’t want anyone to have to do that for me either.  That means we can’t take more than 2 or 3 days off.

Well, that’s the situation and we’ll see how things continue to play out, but I really hope that they find someone else to send here soon, for everyone’s sake.



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