Coronavirus Day 34- On Activating Reservists

TGIF. Photo credit: Penelope

“The Firm should be a place to work that exudes class. This means that the associates (whose workloads are arduous) should be treated generously and supported well.”

D. Ronald Daniel, Daniel on McKinsey

Today is Friday. I missed my window to run this morning in exchange for a trip to the grocery store for some staples such as, coffee! And milk! And paper towels! I complimented my cashier’s floral print face mask.

“Thanks,” she said. “My grandmother made it.”

I mentioned in a previous post that my reserve unit started activating people to support New England in handling the Coronavirus pandemic. As of yesterday, that activation has been canceled. For anyone reading this who is not connected to the reserves, canceling an activation sounds like no big deal. It sounds as simple as flicking on and off a light switch. But activating a reservist is more like booting up an old computer. When you push that big round button on the CPU, you can hear the little machines inside start to whir and beep, and see green lights flicker and watch commands flash across the screen. A minute or two later (probably longer I don’t remember), that computer is ready to do some work. Activating a reservist is more like that.

This past summer I received 30 days notice for a seven month activation. My “booting up” involved my husband saying to his boss, ‘Oh, hi boss, just letting you know my wife’s been activated so I’ll need to be more hands-on at home while she’s away thanks for understanding,’ and my mom telling her boss, ‘Oh hi boss I know I just signed a contract to work another year but can I do it remotely? My daughter just got activated and I have to move to Houston, thanks.’

When I did finally arrive to my appointed place of duty it became clear that my role—my team—did not have a clearly defined mission. In total, I can account for two-three months of idle time.

The other side of this is going through the booting up process and someone just pulls the plug out of the wall. Mission canceled.

There is something to be said for being a reserve force in readiness, as in, we are ready to “boot up” at the whim of our nation’s call because it’s our patriotic duty. We’re volunteers, after all. But there’s also something to be said for treating people with respect, as in, the organization respects the fact there are people on the other end with families and lives and jobs. Sometimes involuntary mobilizations and false starts can’t be avoided. But I get the sense that sometimes, some staff officer out there just sees rows of CPUs with big round buttons ready to push.

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