We're like a boat with water up to the gunwales and there are waves breaking over the sides the whole time!

Pär Thörn, one of Sweden’s most acclaimed young writers, studied the discussions between the executive managers on the web forum www.ledarna.se (“the executives”). The result of his copy-pasting was the following text.

I have an employee who is often ill and never more than one to three days and sometimes up to a week.
She’s ill about once a week.
Several people in my company have said that they find the morning meetings boring because certain colleagues are always complaining about washing up, cleaning and so on, though these aren’t major problems.
I’m being bombarded with circulars about a new law requiring every workplace to have a fire prevention officer.

On Swedish literature

Jonas Thente
Literary perspectives: Sweden

Ida Börjel
European waistlines

Athena Farrokhzad & Tova Gerge
Manual for postmodern childrearing

Hanna Hallgren
Depressive European

Pär Thörn
We’re like a boat with water up to the gunwales and there are waves breaking over the sides the whole time!

Andrzej Tichy
The scream of geometry

For several years, one of my colleagues has been difficult in various ways. I have tackled him about it on several occasions, and he has received a written warning. After that he calmed down, but contempt for any form of authority is still latent in him.
One of my employees virtually always arrives late, and often leaves early as well.
Over a period of seventeen working days there have been fifteen transgressions on his part in the form of late arrivals, premature departures, a whole day’s absence without notifying me or being contactable by phone, and feigning illness at work.
I’m beginning to suspect he is a drug addict.
I’ve received an anonymous letter that says “We don’t want you here” and tells me to “Take your fat arse and make yourself scarce.”
What can I do?
Hush it up or raise it with the staff (46 of them)… or report it to the police… or go to the local paper…?
Anyone had experience of this sort of thing?
In my team at work there’s a man, aged 43, who consistently gets to work an hour and a half to two hours late.
During the day he disappears for an hour or two without any explanation.
I’ve thought and thought about it and finally decided that he simply doesn’t understand, or doesn’t want to understand, or lives in a world where timekeeping at work doesn’t matter. He’s driving me mad, and it’s reached a point where I find it hard to control my feelings.
My bosses take it for granted that I’m the person who’s at the helm, and also pretty supportive to the others.
I want to give them some responsibility and a chance to prove they can handle it.
I can’t be in charge of every tiny detail, leaving them no scope for development.
We’ve discussed this on a number of occasions, which has unfortunately only resulted in some of them thinking I’m nuts, basically.
I’ve tried hard by means of various “tricks” to get them to see the advantages, but they immediately turn things round to make it a pay issue.
“If you expect us to do this now as well, then we want a pay rise!”
Will I have to change my job to avoid drowning in these leadership demands that I can’t rise to and have no interest in rising to?
The business is in severe financial difficulties.
Until now, staff members have been kept sweet by means of little supplements to their pay packet or personal favours, at the cost of the overall business finances.
Now that I”ve started rationalising all this and stopped the supplementary pay, extra half-days off etc, a lot of the staff are disgruntled, and directing their anger at me. I work under a lot of pressure and haven’t got time to talk to them all individually, so am just trying to be open and straight.
But it isn’t working.
What do you do when you feel your job just soaks up all your energy and never gives you any back?
What do you do when you feel questioned (criticised) from below but never get any support from above?
What do you do then?
Somebody has graffitied www.arbetarmakt.com just outside our premises.
I wonder if this is meant as a threat or something like that.
One of my members of staff has had thirteen periods of absence this year, some of them over two weeks long, some occasional days.
My question is simply this: what does it require for me to be able to sack this member of staff?
I’ve spoken to him personally, more than once.
I’ve issued written warnings but they seem to have no effect on him whatsoever.
I’ve looked him in the eyes.
What measures can I sensibly take to “get rid of” the problem, within the law?
A former member of staff has given my name as a referee.
This person is very ambitious and capable but was signed off on long-term sick leave for stress.
Now this person has the prospect of a new job, and the new employer has contacted me to find out what the person is like.
So my dilemma is: should I refer to the sick leave or just answer the questions in my capacity as referee?
Is it dishonest only to mention it if asked directly, or should I reveal what I know?
The other day I was told that the member of my staff who answers the phone here “always sounds grumpy”, ‘that she sounds as a lemon.”
I have no reason to doubt what the informant told me.
How should I as a boss handle this?
How can a person “stop sounding grumpy”?
I instructed a colleague to attend the information sessions we hold for our clients, so she would learn more about what the business really entails.
Despite repeated instructions, she only ever attended the sessions for a few minutes, before going off to do something else.
Another of her tasks is to make sure the computer is working for the information sessions. When asked twenty minutes before the meeting whether the computer was working, she said no.
Although she knew the computer wasn’t working, she didn’t inform me or anyone else, nor did she take any measures herself to have the fault rectified. Despite clear instructions that it is her responsibility to make sure that it works.
Despite repeated instructions to get things ready for the information sessions several hours in advance, she does it at the very last minute.
I don’t want to give up, so I’m trying to find out if there’s any kind of cultural filter or something that I can circumvent by changing my approach.
Three months have gone by without any progress and, given her current performance, we can’t keep her on.
I have to take a lot of “shit” and it gives me stomach pains.
I can usually maintain some distance, but sometimes it’s not possible.
Anybody got any tips on how to “tackle” this?
On December 22nd, an anonymous email was sent to my husband at work, telling him about some alleged behaviour of mine in the pub.
I got the IT team in our security department to look into it and they found out that the email was sent from one of the computer terminals at my firm.
My husband’s company also confirms that the email originated from one of the terminals at my firm.
My whole department is in shock and the atmosphere is awful.
I have now been called in for a confidential talk in which I’m supposed to suggest what should be done next, so we can put all this behind us.
Is that really my job?
I should mention in this context that this autumn I’ve repeatedly been subjected to verbal abuse at meetings we’ve had to sort out problems specifically in my department.
I’ve had my work shoes kicked under the locker in the changing room.
When I told my line manager about it, she just waved the problem aside.
The problems in our department all have to do with me, according to some of my colleagues.
Am I to be made a scapegoat because of bad leadership from the top, and am I supposed to blame myself for being harassed and for my husband receiving emails like that?
The email has been reported to the police.
Should I leave my job, which I like, and for which I’m valued by some of the more senior managers in the organisation?
I think the aim of the harassment is to make me leave.
Should I ask for a transfer?
Output is on its knees.
I try to stay afloat, but I haven’t time even for my basic duties.
We’re like a boat with water up to the gunwales and there are waves breaking over the sides the whole time!
What’s more, as a result of not making optimal use of resources, I’m not properly able to carry out my special assignments, which I’m supposed to do once my ordinary work is complete.
At a psychosocial level, it’s a disaster.
Personally, for example, I now keep my contacts with other people in the staffroom to an absolute minimum.
There are those who believe in me and take my side, but being in the company of the rest is something I do as little as possible.
My line manager doesn’t even believe the email was sent.
She doesn’t believe the other attacks took place.
At various meetings at which I have been abusively referred to as “a right devil”, “pig” and “moron” (and at which the opinion has been expressed that I’m not doing my job), she has raised no objections.
Despite the fact that all these years my performance and results have been excellent.
If I leave now, the other side will have won.
Now it seems another trade union is going to apply pressure to get me moved or make me hand in my notice!
Well done me!

This text is based on material found on the discussion forum www.ledarna.se

Published 23 September 2008
Original in Swedish
Translated by Sarah Death
First published by Glänta 1-2/2008

Contributed by Glänta © Pär Thörn / Glänta / Eurozine


Read in: SV / EN

Published in

Share article


Subscribe to know what’s worth thinking about.

Related Articles

Fortepan / György Gárdos. Link: https://fortepan.hu/hu/photos/?q=brno

Kundera’s homecoming

An interview with Samuel Abrahám

Until almost the very end, Milan Kundera refused to let his work be translated into Czech or Slovak. Now that is changing, he is being rediscovered by a new generation. Although his wish to return was unfulfilled, his work is experiencing a homecoming.

Cover for: No escape

No escape

Glänta 1/2023

On aesthetics, power and conflict: how war makes art seem useless while kindling one’s longing to escape; on a natural disaster made worse by despotism; reflections on the hidden state; mercenaries.