Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Rainbow Nation

In a weekly meeting with "the customer" yesterday there were about forty people from service companies, twenty engineers from "the customer" and at the head of the table, three senior "customer" scaremongers.
I lost the will to live after ninety minutes of listening to what could mostly be described as b*llocks. The following gives a gist of how the service company people are treated:

Customer: We want your ideas so we can drill faster, save money and not have to pay you for them.
Service Co.: Here are our ideas, for free, these will improve efficiency and save you money
Customer: Why didn't you give us these before ? You've been wasting our money. Your competitors are much better than you. You do not deserve the crumbs off our table.

I kept myself amused by thinking about which one of the puppet cast of Rainbow,  each of the three scary men most resembled.

Firstly there was Zippy, he was the youngest of the three. Eager to impress his bosses and show them he was worthy of sitting at the head of the table. He wouldn't shut up, had an opinion on everything, a point that had to be made but contributed absolutely nothing and was a pain in the @rse.
Then there was Bungle, a more senior guy. Always had a bright idea but liked to play the peace maker in the meeting. Also he's a bit chunky, like a cuddly bear. Most likely of the three to break into a song and get everyone to do "the meeting dance" with Rod , Jane & Freddy.
Finally, there was George. The oldest and most senior of the managers in there. Doesn't usually come to the meetings, isn't missed and is the least popular. Somehow fails to grasp the point of anything being said and is the main reason the meeting took nearly 2 hours instead of the usual 40 minutes.

Further analysis on the long drive back from the prison camp, lead me to identify the same three Rainbow characters within the management of my office.

My boss - Zippy
The performance & development coordinator - Bungle
The business development guy - George

All for pretty much the same reasons.  (The PDC looks like a cuddly bear too)

Which means that in any group of three or more people, it should be possible to identify the Zippy, Bungle or George amongst us. I don't care which one I am, as long as I'm not Geoffrey. There was something not quite right about him.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Mr Fluffy

Temperatures and tempers are rising as we go into the Saudi summer. Last year they recorded over 60 deg c offshore on the rig, which would be uncomfortable even on a deckchair with a beer, so operating a very large diesel driven pump and dragging heavy equipment around for 12 hours at a time really can't be nice.

One of my supervisors has had a particularly problematic hitch, four weeks of mechanical breakdowns with some of our less able locals on his supporting crew. The co ordinator in town is not known for his eloquence and his management style is more punchy, feisty than touchy feely.

A brief exchange of e mails between them this week, quickly escalated a minor problem into this e mail from the supervisor offshore (let's call him Cuddles) and the co ordinator in town (let's call him Mr Fluffy):

From: Cuddles [mailto:Cuddles@yah00.c0m]
Sent: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 3:59 PM
To: Mr Fluffy; Person 2; Customer Engineer; Ed Walford; Person 3,
Cc: Everyman and his dog
Subject: RAM IT

Mr Fluffy,
you talk about sarcasm......every rig has to put up with your sh*t every day and your sarcasm in eat it up...
you know something Mr Fluffy ur the problem down here the way you talk to people on the phone and ur sh*tty e-mails...every guys has no respect for you 
 i phoned you twice and got a mouth full of your cr@p also.....
but no more for me, you can shove your job up your f*king hoop
get me off of here now or i go to a first e-mail was reject because of the contents, so this is the nice 1 .....ok

A few fires for me to sort out then:
  • Cuddles is actually a very good guy, who I want to keep
  • Mr Fluffy needs some coaching on his interpersonal skills
  • Cuddles included one of the customer's engineers in the mail list....

I contacted Cuddles, did my best to calm him down and told him that whilst I wouldn't accept his resignation, he'd demonstrated the sort of communication skills that would make him a good co ordinator one day.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

International Diplomacy 101

You can always count on the Argentinians to rock the diplomatic boat:

Exhibit A: Invading Falklands
Predictably: Don't Cry For Me.....

Exhibit B: Marradona's Hand of God

Exhibit C: Po faced Argie PM stirs it up at UN

Exhibit D: Newly arrived member of staff at my company

I wasn't there to witness the incident, but the person who defused it told me the story and it was confirmed by a rather shocked HR person today....

The scene: meeting room full of men, discussing some tediously dull project. The only woman present is one of the drilling engineers; very clever, western educated, Saudi girl - covers her hair but not her face. She's lovely.

At the end of the meeting there's all the usual shaking of hands between particpants. The protocol with a Saudi woman is you only shake their hand if they offer theirs first, you don't attempt to offer your hand. And you certainly don't go up to her, give her a big hug and say "what a beautiful lady".

Unless you're the new engineer, freshly arrived from Argentinia.

The poor girl runs off, visibly shocked,  the offender is left saying "but eet wassa supposter to bea compliment" (in a Manuel type accent) and has to be stopped from running after her to apologise.

My friend goes to see if she's OK and to explain about the new arrival, he finds her in her office , almost shaking. Being hugged by a fat, sweaty male stranger when you're used to absolutely zero physical contact with men can't be nice.

The land grabbing, world cup cheating, sex pest was lucky to learn about Saudi culture in the safe surroundings of the office. Approaching a woman in a public place, even to talk to her would bring him to the attention of the Muttawa (god cops) for a light beating and deportation - if he was lucky.

Monday, 4 June 2012


A Call From The Rig ? Oh FFS What Now ?
We got an urgent call from one of the rigs today. One of our local workers, let's call him Hussain , to preserve his anonymity, was refusing to start his shift this morning. Bear in mind, he's on an offshore oil rig, it's not like just deciding not to goto the office. He's "done his two weeks" and now he wants to go home. He was due to come off tomorrow, but his replacement has got "a family emergency" and so can't make it. We'd asked Hussain to do an extra week. I say , an extra week, it's not extra as his contract does not state he works 2/2 - but in his head he does.

So that's him fired, I'd stopped his salary by midday and by 1600hrs he was officially off the system. Nice to see HR can be efficient when they try.

He's not made things easy for himself, the company man has thrown him off the rig onto a boat. He wasn't going to let him wait for tomorrow's chopper. Poor Hussain gets sea sick on a jack up rig, so I think the long boat ride won't be too nice, especially as the sea is very rough right now - the boats haven't been running for the last four days. So he gets a long boat ride but is already off the payroll. And because he's still on his 3 month probation, I can fire him instantly for no reason. Although, refusal to follow orders is usually good enough to get rid of most people, no matter who your father is.

What none of us can understand is how anyone could have that sort of attitude, if you tried that on a rig in the North Sea you'd get a boot up the backside, although you'd most probably be lynched by the rest of the crew for making their lives harder.

Meanwhile on another rig, one of previously more reliable local hands has got "a family emergency" and wants to go home.....

Saturday, 2 June 2012

A Suniday Top 5

Back, by no demand

Top 5 Things To Miss About Saudi

Everybody's gone surfing KSA

  1. Counting drivers using their phones while you wait at traffic lights
  2. Keeping the engine running while filling with petrol & paying about £5 to fill up a 4x4 with unleaded
  3. Not being able to recognise female co workers until they're about 6ft in front of you
  4. Having to sit in the 'male only' section of a coffee shop or restaurant
  5. Sand.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

United Nations

Currently I employ about 60-70 people from a few different countries and am about to employ another 20 (CVs from suitable candidates more than welcome). For fact fans everywhere, here are some approximate statistics that in no way reflect stereotypes:

Nationality   No. Staff  % Family Probs  %Gen. Whining  %Time off-illness  % Visa Probs
UK                       19               0                            30                       40                           40
Saudi                    28            100                           70*                     55                           0
Russia                     1              0                             0                         0                            20
India                       5               0                             0                        5**                        0
Pakistan                  1               0                             0                        0                            0
Philippines              3               0                             0***                  0                           20
Australia                 1               0                             0                        0                            20****
Bahraini                  1               0                             0                        0                            0
Indonesian              3               0                             0                        0                             0

* Amazing, tired in the heat after 2 weeks ? Boo hoo, the guy who has worked in Sakhalin in winter hasn't complained once
** swollen testicle. We felt his pain. But enjoyed sending a lot of e mails using the word testicle.
*** And they never will. If I could employ 100% Filipinos I would.
***** 6 months sitting at home, trying to get a visa. Probably a problem with the criminal record check.

Currently we're trying to get visas for Filipinos and Russians. Visa problems I can live with, but once they're here, they're gold.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Viva El Presidente

I'm lovin' it.
The president visited today. El Presidente, the big dog, the Mac Daddy and his posse rolled into town for their yearly visit. A huge tent was erected in the car park, meaning we've been short of parking spaces for the last week. I say tent, but I've stayed in worse hotels, a/c, carpets, lights and seating for 2000 people. Fortunately the speeches were as short as they were unintelligible (which is more to do with a crappy PA than me being as deaf as a post) and soon we were feasting like a pack of famished velociraptors who've stumbled across an over weight limping mammoth.
The other benefits of the visit are: newly painted road markings all around the compound, newly cut grass and lots of plants, a plethora of framed motivational pictures around the admin building and best of all, a really nice leather sofa right outside my office*, which looks great for a kip at the weekends.
Good to know that shareholders' profits are being sensibly re-invested.
I know, it's so easy to be cynical. I've not even broken a sweat.

* I admit I had to ask 3 people **if it was a new sofa. I was out of the office yesterday and couldn't remember what sofa had been there before. I knew there had been one. I remembered it was soft, comfy and I'd dozed on it at weekends.....

** 2 out of 3 people couldn't remember either, proving alzheimer's is a corporate condition.***

***2 out of 3 people couldn't remember either, proving alzheimer's is a corporate condition.****