On feeling like Arlene Phillips

On feeling like Arlene Phillips

Although I’ve been saying for a while that I’d really like to know what is happening with my job (is it definitely coming to an end and, if so, when? The “when” component has been tormenting me for about three months now), when I did finally find out – on Friday, three days ago – I greeted the news with very mixed feelings.

Firstly, after over eight years with one employer, which is also the longest that I have ever stayed with one company, I suppose it’s natural to feel some sense of sadness at the end of an era. I have had a really wonderful time for the majority of my years here and have made some great friends. Over the last three years, I’ve crossed the globe, talking and learning about women in the workplace and the business imperatives associated with their contributions to the global economy. I have been a very proud global ambassador of the organisation and have spoken, with passion, about our diversity work and our people at events in the UK, the USA, South Africa, India, Spain, France, Belgium, Sweden and probably a few other places. In April and May this year, we won two very prestigious global diversity awards for our work; and I spearheaded the award entering process, from identifying that the awards existed, establishing that we were eligible to enter, completing our entry documentation and presenting to a judging panel.

So to have it confirmed that, in spite of all of this, in spite of being the driving force behind the creation and production of both a major report on women in business and a 30 minute film on closing the gender gap, in spite of getting great appraisals, fabulous feedback and a couple of decent bonuses, the rule which says that my global diversity role is a secondment and therefore must come to an end as scheduled has been applied to me. And, as I really want to stay in global diversity, and it appears that there are no other such roles for me within the company – then I have to leave.

Cue: reasonable sized cheque and looming unemployment.

Friday saw the confirmation, in writing, of all of this – made real, after months of phone calls, meetings, fraught discussions, multiple email exchanges. And then, in a perfect storm like way, I also discovered who is to be my replacement: because it’s not as if the job/role/function/whatever is being discontinued – like Arlene, the only woman on the “Strictly Come Dancing” panel, I am being replaced.

Also like Arlene, I am being replaced by someone younger than me, someone who I have coached and mentored through to greater career success (she was promoted earlier this year and I’m not taking the credit for that, but …), someone who didn’t actually know that much about the subject matter when we first met.

Two points here, before this starts to sound like the ravings of a disgruntled and embittered old hag (or perhaps it’s too late on that score): firstly, I do genuinely like the person who is taking over from me. She is a great colleague, a dear friend and a really sweet and lovely person. She will also do a great job in what was “my” job. One day, she may even read this blog outburst and I would never wish to hurt her with my outpourings. When she called me on Friday night to tell me that she had got the job (for which, in the interests of full disclosure, I have to say that I had encouraged her to apply) I was genuinely pleased for her and said, spontaneously: “Thank goodness! If anyone but me had to have it, I’m so glad that it’s you!” – and I do mean that. It will be far easier for me to hand over to someone I know and like, someone who is a decent co-worker, someone who I know will only go on to great things with the role and who will carry on the good work.

(But the irony of it is a bit of a choker, yes?)

My second point is that I know that, in my case it’s not about age, even though my successor is about 15 years younger than me. I’m not accusing my about-to-be-ex former employer of ageism, although I do feel that a spot of lateral thinking mixed in with some appreciation for my achievements might have baked a tastier pie from my point of view.

Anyway, like Arlene, I want to use this as an opportunity to move onto bigger and better things, and as a springboard to a different future. She’s going to be appearing on “The One Show”, apparently.

And me? I need to find my own version of that … watch this space.


5 thoughts on “On feeling like Arlene Phillips

  1. Cleo,

    I am sure you will go onto bigger and better things. Your star shines too brightly and your achievments can not have gone unnoticed out there. I look forward to hearing of your next amazing steps . . .



    1. Bless you, Leisa! I hope you’re right … and I hope too that “Whatever It Is” brings me to Australia at some future point.



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