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“It’s a country of stamps.” So said a colleague who has spent time in Russia and grew up in the Eastern Block. Your visa, passport and landing card. All stamped. Hotel bill, residency registration by the hotel, restaurant bill – stamped. Even the restaurant menu has been stamped. Round, square, oval, diamond – every possible shape of stamp. I’m sure there must be a Russian oligarch billionaire who scored big-time taking the stamp concession private.

Oddly, I think there’s something about the stamping that feeds Russian existential angst. It feels straight out of Crime and Punishment. When you get stamped, you get validated and move forward somehow. But did I really move, do others know that I moved? What will the next stamp do? Do I want to know? You may not really be moving but something is happening, because after all, can’t you see the stamp? The stamp validates but also creates a void.

Upon our retStamps!urn from Moscow, one of our junior Russian staff who had been on holiday returned to work and resigned. I had not met this person, but had been told that the work product was sub-standard and there wasn’t a great deal of collaboration with the team. This person was clearly frustrated as well and wishing to resign without another role, very unusual in Europe. Then over the course of the next two days, there were more emails and phone calls back and forth. “No I don’t really wish to resign, maybe if I take a leave for 1-3 months. But really, I do wish to resign, oh what shall I do?” Yet another search for validation… perhaps a stamp will help? I was asked for my opinion and I said, “Really, nothing good can come from this work situation continuing or in trying to accommodate. I’d be very American and say that your resignation has been accepted and your last day is the 30th.” Please, hand me that stamp…

PS. Two months after the resignation, this person asked to come back explaining it was nothing about the situation, just something inside they were reacting to …

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