In the days of full-time motherhood, not only did half-term herald the nightmare of trying to juggle full-time work with overtired but party-hungry children, but it also heralded the near-end of winter. At last, the hardest battles with snow, ice, dark days and additional doom and gloom were coming to an end and I would soon by waxing lyrical about the emerging green shoots (literally) and the blossom buds covering the tree-lined streets on the Cambridge school runs. This year, the picture is different. Snow still flurries almost daily. The economy is far from stable, whatever the government might say – elections are nearing so a PR assault on the rosiness of life is almost inevitable. This year finds me less optimistic than usual for this week – despite the lack of a hyperactive household. It is true to say that I am only just starting to put half a head above water. Over the past three weeks, I have been shovelling pills down my throat like some demented squirrel setting up for winter in an attempt to stave off some mix between a midlife crisis and a complete breakdown. Am only now getting the odd moment of lucidity (well I think I am anyway!). There have been many contributory factors: the constant economic worries; the complete and utter disillusionment with my staff, on which I have often written; the forced recognition that I am simply fed up to the back teeth of the job I have been doing for over ten years and lack of very much progress; and the empty-nest syndrome of my son’s departure to foreign climes. What is terrifying as a small business owner is that there you are – flat on your back on doctor’s orders to do nothing, have no stress etc, and yet still the staff are unable to cope, still the phone goes 24/7 and still, somehow, you have to haul yourself out of your sickbed and sit huddled in a dressing gown trying to make wise decisions on urgent company policy or mundane tasks that middle management should have taken care of. For a very long time, I have said that middle management is failing to cope with everyday tasks. Never has this been more evident. They are now into their last month’s chance to raise their games, function properly and – shock horror – even make a profit for a change. Some are in for another shock: there they are thinking that long service will automatically bring a fat redundancy package should things not work out well. The reality is that failure will bring dismissal on the simple grounds of failure to perform their duties. My sympathy for any hardship this may bring has long since been eradicated by their complete inability to take responsibility for their own performances, leave alone those of their staff.
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