FM Frequency: What In The World Is OJR?

By Jeff Crane, P.E., LEED® AP
Published in the February 2004 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

In the world of cubicles that is populated by the rats that eat, poison, and constantly move our cheese, we commonly refer to people who have resigned their positions while working through a notice period as short timers. If we can all agree that this is a non-offensive, politically correct term that doesn’t negatively represent the views, opinions, or attitudes of the vertically challenged (or TFM magazine’s management), I ask you to open your hypersensitive, attorney-fearing mind and continue reading.

Last month, I mentioned the process of reconsidering my career direction and accepting another job opportunity. This month, I invite you to live vicariously through my recent experience and discover the truth about “On the Job Retirement” or OJR. Please note, this phrase should be reserved exclusively to identify the status of someone working out a notice period—not to describe the lazy folks who may be enjoying OJR in an office near you at this very moment!

We would probably agree that during a transition, it’s good business to do everything reasonable to help the boss and your replacement. In spite of these good intentions, we all know there are several months of blanket amnesty granted so the departed employee is blamed for everything and anything that goes wrong. This is especially true in the facility management profession. After all, we have a heck of a lot of responsibility and knowledge that is impossible to transfer simply and quickly to a replacement.

When I resigned in early December 2003, I offered to work a three-week notice period. Ultimately, I agreed to help out for an additional week. Since my new employer was flexible with my start date and these four weeks included the Christmas and New Year holidays, my OJR was quite enjoyable!

Enjoyable? How could I possibly enjoy working a four week notice when I was excited about starting a new job? To top it off, I had about 50 million things to do before moving out of state.

Well my friends, if you haven’t experienced OJR-or if it has been a while since you have-you may have forgotten what it means to be a “Teflon employee.” Projects and deadlines fly around and land on others, but they never stick to you.

Here are a few typical OJR expectations:

  1. Workaholism withdrawal symptoms are typical, as your body adjusts to working only eight hours per day.
  2. Shakes or twitches may be followed by large grins when you’re first out of the office and in the parking lot at 5 p.m.
  3. Confusion may ensue when driving to work after the sun comes up or pulling into your driveway before it gets dark.
  4. Cardiovascular health may improve as you begin walking from the far corners of the parking lot (as opposed to the privilege of the “pole position” you gain by being first to the office).
  5. Eight or nine solid hours of sleep may become common each night. Slumber interrupting jolts over unfinished “must do” tasks will gradually disappear.
  6. Lunch breaks may include actual chewing and swallowing (instead of inhalation of food); there may even be conversations unrelated to work. Meals may also incorporate both hands (instead of that common phenomenon where eating becomes a one armed fiasco).
  7. Uncontrollable, hysterical giggles may occur during project transition meetings with aggressive schedules and lengthy follow up requirements delegated to everyone.except you.
  8. Occasional smiles may be inevitable while helping the boss figure out how he’s going to “do more with less” until (or if) you are replaced. Even though our salaries are easily quantified, all the things we know and do are really priceless.
  9. Headaches, neckaches, and eyestrain may fade after digging through and reliving years of e-mail, projects, and file folders-reminders of accomplishments, training seminars, accident reports, insurance claims (better left forgotten), and creative ideas saved for “when you had time.”
  10. Certified pack rats may become comfortable throwing away things that had been stored in case someone ever had a question.
  11. Kangaroo height dust bunnies can be safely removed from books, floors, equipment, and shelving.
  12. Customers and suppliers may wish you the best and tell you they can’t imagine the place without you. During four weeks of OJR, I enjoyed each of the aforementioned experiences (some of them several times). Although it was difficult to leave my staff and relationships forged during major and minor projects over almost five years, I felt an enormous sense of relief as if a huge weight were being lifted from my shoulders. It is refreshing to know that new customers, teammates, and a new set of challenges, projects, and opportunities are just around the corner. And at least for a little while, I won’t be getting paged in the middle of the night by HVAC software, security guards, or the elevator monitoring company.

Crane is a mechanical engineer and regional property manager with Childress Klein Properties, a leading real estate developer and property management services provider in the Southeast.