Yesterday was supposed to be Blue Monday, but I was excited to be granted permission for a phased return to work. So I did return, today. I’m going to be working reduced hours Monday – Wednesday for the next few weeks to see how it goes. I’m now home and although I’m more tired than I’m used to being at 4pm, I’m happy that I’m back.
My first Rituximab maintenance chemotherapy is scheduled for Friday. This will be the first of my bi-monthly maintenance sessions over the next three years (Brexit permitting, obviously). I’m hopeful that the Rituximab won’t stall my improving blood counts too much. It would be disappointing if it did jeopardise my ongoing return to work – and a more normal life. I’m assured that it should be more straightforward to cope with than last year’s chemotherapy regime, but I do know people who have struggled with it.
And then there’s my ‘childhood’ vaccinations (again, Brexit permitting). The transplant team at Nottingham provided my schedule a few days ago. It looks as if I’m going to be a pin-cushion again after a few months respite since the transplant.
One positive thing from last year is that I no longer have a needle phobia. I still won’t watch what my medical team are doing, but I no longer mind them doing it. Amazingly I’ll even happily administer subcutaneous injections myself.
In the year that the Open University celebrates its 50th anniversary, the annual higher education student statistics release from HESA (*) paints a gloomy picture for lifelong learners. Overall part-time student enrolments continue to decline, but have been offset by older learners deciding to study full-time. This shift could be due to the unequal treatment of student loans for part and full-time students, but the data doesn’t exist to be certain.
The main part-time HE provider in the UK, the Open University, continues to see a year on year fall in enrolments. This decline dates back to 2010/11. Numbers have fallen by a massive 91,770 from the peak in 2009/10 – approximately 44%. This year’s fall amounts to another 3,500 lost enrolments, resulting in a year on year decline of approximately 3%.
As a proud OU alumnus, the continuing decline of what should be a thriving institution continues to enrage me. Poor decisions made under the last three governments (Labour, Coalition and Conservative-DUP) are the main cause of the decline.
(*) HESA statistical releases are made under the creative commons attribution 4.0 international (CC BY 4.0) licence. The full release for 2017/18 (supported by interactive query tools) is available here.
Shortly after I’d been discharged from hospital last September, I made a decision to attend the British Psychological Society’s Division of Occupational Psychologists annual conference (DOPconf to its friends) in Chester. It was held last week, 9th to 11th January 2019, so it was a good recovery milestone to aim for. Fortunately I just about made my target – physically and mentally – even though I didn’t manage to attend all of the sessions I’d optimistically put into my diary at the start of the week.
It was particularly good to meet a number of Leicester and OU psychology alumni again. One of the media sensations of the week was the study published about the benefits of singing at work, carried out by Joanna Foster for her Leicester MSc. However, I get the feeling that if I joined a workplace choir other people may not find my dulcet tones beneficial …
The sessions I did attend at the conference were excellent. These were a few of my personal highlights.
Evidence-based (change) management
The first keynote of the conference was given by Professor Denise Rousseau of Carnegie Mellon University. EBMgt is defined as being the practice of making organisational decisions, in relation to a claim or hypothesis, based on the combination of :
Scientific principles and knowledge
Valid / relevant organisational and business facts
Professional expertise and critical thinking
Stakeholder concerns, implications and ethics
Denise argues that few organisations pay attention to the quality of the data on which they base their decisions. Fewer still assess the impact of the decisions they take. Denise suggests that the 6A decision-making process seen in medicine (ask, acquire, appraise, aggregate, apply, assess) should be used – on both the problem and solutions – to improve outcomes.
Solving the right problem(s) and considering multiple solutions (rather than asking the question “should we do x or nothing”) is more likely to result in effective change. Furthermore, systematic reviews demonstrate that a bundle of interventions rather than implementing a single “silver bullet” is best.
A paper presented by Andrew Parsons from the University of Hertfordshire. It was of personal interest to me as I’m in the process of returning to work after treatment. Self-report questionnaires to measure work engagement, quality of working life and psychological capital, plus semi-structured interviews analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis were used in the study. It was unsurprising, if comforting, that measures of psychological capital were strongly correlated with quality of working life scores.
Of most interest to me were the reports of interview participants talked about the importance of developing a “new model of me” and the resources that either helped or hindered their response to events as they returned to work. The “new normal or new me” theme is one I’ve heard many MCL survivors talk about. However, I’m not convinced that the experience of treatment has changed me all that much – at least, not yet.
The influence of work on personality development and change through life
This keynote was presented by Professor Stephen Woods of the University of Surrey. I became familiar with some of his work while studying for my masters and it was good to put a face to the name. He presented evidence which questions the long-held view of many psychologists that personality traits remain fixed and stable during adulthood. Instead, he suggested that they were dynamic and contingent on the work context. The social constructionist and critical psychologist in me grinned broadly as he concluded his talk.
Cynicism in organisations – the antithesis of thriving?
Having confessed that I’m not convinced by personality psychometrics, I also admit that I’m not convinced by so-called authentic leadership. I once wrote that adopting authentic leadership would lead to a highly dysfunctional organisation and burned-out individuals. I still stand by every word of my argument.
It was therefore fascinating to hear Zoe Sanderson from Bristol University compare the traditional view of organisational cynicism with that from critical management theory. Traditional organisational psychology usually constructs cynicism at work as being wholly negative and coming from the individual. “Cynicism can take down an entire organisation”.
Critical management studies takes a different perspective and argues that cynicism is a predictable outcome of many working environments. Furthermore, cynicism can be seen as employees protecting their identity. This helps to reduce any cognitive dissonance stemming from organisational propaganda, enabling them to remain engaged and productive. Zoe’s work on cynicism is at an exploratory stage and I look forward to seeing it progressing.
How do you spot an organisational psychopath … and what do you do next?
Having written earlier that I’m not much of a fan of personality psychometrics, I do love ‘dark triad’ papers. Lorraine Falvey said that the literature suggests there is an increasing level of malevolent behaviour reported at work. Her personal frustration is that most studies into organisational psychopathy either use students as participants, or cover a very narrow workforce, such as police officers. Her study used a qualitative, thematic analysis of interviews with 15 experienced, cross-industry sector participants. It suggests that there is a spectrum of potentially malevolent behaviours – from influencing, through manipulation, to verbal and physical threats. Lorraine argued that organisational leaders need to:
Be aware of the shadow you cast as a leader – it is an important factor in what others consider to be acceptable behaviour.
Think about the unintended consequences of (poorly designed) rewards.
Be clear about individual roles and responsibilities, as clarity seems to mitigate poor behaviour. Matrix organisations are therefore seen as being at particular risk.
Leading with purpose: How to lift people, performance and the planet, profitably
An excellent interactive workshop to end the conference, run by Sarah Rozenthuler and Victoria Hurth. We were given an overview of what purpose in business is, and how purpose is distinct from corporate social responsibility, sustainability, mission and vision. Command and control vs purpose-led leadership paradigms were discussed, and the four capacities necessary for purpose-led leadership defined. From my own business value consulting perspective, the tangible benefits claimed for this approach look extraordinary and are worthy of urgent further investigation.
Are you stockpiling medicines, food or other items ahead of Brexit for personal use in the event of a catastrophe? Or do you have confidence in the government to make sure that life carries on as normal after March 29th? Votes and thoughts welcome – either on the twitter poll while it’s still open or in the comments below.
Are you putting together a personal stockpile of food, medicines and other items ahead of #Brexit ?
Two views of the harbour at Dartmouth, the first taken in 1955 and the second a couple of days ago. Not very much seems to have changed in the last 64 years. The walls are no longer whitewashed, boats are mainly fibreglass instead of wood, Lloyds Bank is now Jack Wills and The Stores is a branch of Boots.
Elsewhere, The Flavel Arts Centre serves a good coffee and the Dartmouth Museum is small but welcoming. The newly refurbished Platform 1 Station Bar & Restaurant has a great view of the river and is decorated with well-known Winston Churchill quotations. I munched through my scampi and chips under the steely gaze of the former PM, wondering what he’d make of the mess his country is in.
After my 100% non-success rate last year, I’ve wiped the Christmas pudding from my crystal ball again in the hope that this time it will be different. Let us, in the words of Her Majesty, practice goodwill to all in 2019 and keep our fingers firmly crossed. Old Timmy’s Almanac is your essential guide to the new year once more.
Ignoring the Queen’s Christmas message, Prime Minister Theresa May has all MPs who oppose her EU withdrawal bill (the best possible deal ever, trust me, I have an honest face™) locked up in the Tower of London. The bill passes by 3 votes to nil, with the support of former Lib Dem MP Stephen Lloyd. The third vote in favour is that of Jeremy Corbyn, who insists that he is still playing the long game.
Jacob Rees-Mogg organises a daring escape attempt from the Tower of London, supported by his ERG chums. Climbing onto the wall above the Traitor’s Gate, he persuades them that half a dozen British ravens will fly them all to safety in an empty Fortnum and Mason hamper. As they all get in, the ravens decide that it’s probably best to vacate the tower and leave the country to its fate.
In the manner that has been typical of her premiership, Theresa May forgets to get royal assent for her EU withdrawal bill. The UK crashes out of the EU at 11pm on the 29th. Big Ben bongs once and then collapses into the Thames in embarrassment.
Jeremy Corbyn joins the Conservatives saying that he misses being in a mad Bolshevik party. Corbyn supporters on twitter tell Conservatives that don’t like this move to go and join the Labour Party, socialist s*** that they obviously are.
Derby County fail to be promoted to the Premier League yet again.
In an attempt to deal with increasing shortages of everything, Chris Grayling awards transportation contracts to an air freight company with no aeroplanes, a haulage company with no trucks, and a ferry operator with no ships. (Not the last one, that’s far too improbable. Perhaps a train operator with no trains? Ed.)
Using a little known parliamentary tactic, Jacob Rees-Mogg seizes control of the government. Theresa May heaves a huge sigh of relief as she is sent to the tower. His first act as prime minister is to introduce tax relief for families employing more than three nannies and to declare Latin the official language of parliament.
Jacob Rees-Mogg is ousted through a no-confidence vote of Conservative MPs. Parliament votes for a six month recess. The country immediately starts to recover a little from the privations of Brexit. Supermarket shelves are now stocked with exciting new British foods, but strictly rationed by a beta app which only works on Blackberry handsets. Government Digital Services (GDS) promise to release a beta for the Nokia 3310 soon.
Frank Lampard is sacked as Derby County manager. In a surprise move, Mel Morris appoints Jacob Rees-Mogg in his place. Nottingham Forest supporters rejoice, until Theresa May is appointed their manager the following day. In an unprecedented show of unity, Derby and Forest fans threaten to blockade the A52 until both are removed.
Rees-Mogg and May are sacked. Derby fans cheer the reappointment of Billy Davies as their manager, while Nottingham Forest fans are overcome with joy at the return of Steve McLaren.
Formula E remains almost watchable. The World Feed commentator now understands what a yellow flag is for. However, he has to consult his co-commentator as to the meaning of the “lovely black and white square patterned one”.
Professional MasterChef is won by George, a sous-chef at the Spoon and Gammon. His main course of rat three ways (carpaccio, sous-vide and boiled) with flowers that might not be too poisonous and a mud jus is praised by the judges. As the credits roll, we learn that William Sitwell, food critic and former Waitrose Food magazine editor, is finally out of hospital after an unfortunate incident with a turnip during knockout week.
One of my Christmas Day highlights (*) was seeing John Schlesinger’s film Terminus for the first time in many years. A 33 minute short produced by British Transport Films, it documents a day at Waterloo Station in 1961. I remember being forced to watch and write about the film on a number of occasions at school. Making comparisons between the hive of bees at the start of the film and the people rushing around the station was an obvious one, even for a bored teenager.
Terminus felt it belonged to a bygone era when I first watched it, although only 16 years would have elapsed since it had been made. The railways of today seem much closer to those of 1977, even if the internet has superseded telephone timetable enquiries. After all, I still sometimes travel to London on a 1970s InterCity 125.
After a rather sleepless night, there was excellent news from the hospital this morning. I have almost normal blood again and there was no evidence of lymphoma on my PET/CT scan. In January I will start on maintenance rituximab injections, every two months for three years.
It’s not beaten, because MCL never is. However, the beast is soundly asleep and snoring ™ (*) which means I can return to being a productive member of society. I’m starting to feel good about myself again.