The Temporary Permanent


It’s something I’ve noticed over time in various places of work : quite often when someone gets seconded temporarily into another job, they tend not to come back to their original one. This is the story of how it happened to me.

The year is 1998 and I was getting increasingly unhappy with my place in Tinplate R&D and especially my deteriorating relationship with my boss David Jones. This was coming to a head when Pay-for-Performance was brought in, and my rating of “average” was downgraded to “below average” when it came to the payment award.

It was also shortly after Chris Elliot had moved into the position of Technical Director, and took a more active interest into what went on at Tinplate R&D than his predecessor Mick May. He had individual interviews with each of the five Team Leaders, and in David Jones’ opinion, spilling the beans was a hanging offence.

I was sent to an Ashorne Hill course “Developing Personal Effectiveness” (does this imply that anyone on that course is useless or a problem ?), and although this cleared the air for a few months, it became obvious that the underlying causes had not been addressed when we were unable to agree on my personal objectives for the coming year.

Presumably that’s where the idea must have come from to let the air clear and send me on a 1-year secondment to Ebbw Vale. That started in September 1999, only a month or so before the merger between British Steel and Hoogovens formed Corus. I couldn’t be happier in Ebbw Vale, feeling like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, feeling that I could again speak my mind without the threat of being clobbered for any perceived indiscretion.

One of the first things that happened was the rationalisation of the R&D section, which consisted of Welsh Labs, Swinden Labs and Teesside Labs on the UK side, and the R&D labs in IJmuiden. Although Tinplate R&D was never part of Welsh Labs (we were only lodgers there), we were part of the reorganisation, and within less than half a year boxes had been created and filled, and there was no way back for me.

Not that I was in any way unhappy about this : my job as development metallurgist in Ebbw Vale was satisfying, had its own challenges and benefits without being too stressful, and I kept my original grading and pay.

Fair enough that in the end Ebbw Vale would prove to be short-lived, but then again, so was Welsh Labs. Again though, an example of making a good career decision without actually making a long-term plan, just trying to make the best of the situation as it happens.

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