Thursday, September 08, 2005

Nothing But Sticks

Usually I like Thursdays. I get to work from home, spend a little more time with my babies (and The Man), and feel a lot more relaxed. It makes up for a lot of the trauma of working where I work. But not today.

Today my team (all 2 of us) had a mandatory 1-hour meeting in the executive conference room with our managers (3 of them) to discuss why we suck. No, why we're so far behind on our deadlines. It's right out of a Dilbert cartoon. Probably several. But our management no longer sees the humor or irony in Scott Adams' work, so I don't bring it up.

First words out of my manager's mouth when we sat down were, "So how did things get so bad that we had a crisis yesterday?" Um, well, good morning to you, too. And as for the crisis yesterday... It was someone else's. I have an ongoing one that leaves me crippled by the end of the day. Every day. Get your own.

She wanted to know why, if we were running screaming with our hair on fire, we didn't ask for help or tell anyone that we couldn't manage the workload. Well, actually, we had. I had, I know. Every time a new project came down the pike toward the new boss (TNB), she deflected it toward me. (Well, y'know, she had this project to work on.) As early as last Wednesday, I was saying "No, I can't do it, I'm swamped. I have 6 deadlines next week, I'm behind on the edits, I've pushed my other main duties completely to the back burner, and that's gonna hurt later, I'm just overwhelmed... and my buddy over here is even worse off." Almost in those words, I said it. And yet, we still had to do it.

So Wednesday this week, we got this scolding note saying, "Where is everything, you losers?!" and people started yelling that we'd missed a deadline, though as far as we knew, the deadline wasn't until today. The answer to where things were: 1) on their way to you already, 2) somebody else has them and we thought they were done, and 3) I'd have had it done already, but you screwed it up so I still need to fix your mistakes. (I am not the most diplomatic person in the world, as you may have noticed.)

So, as I was scrambling to get all my things done for the screaming people upstairs, a new item was dumped on my desk. "Is this yours?" No. "Do you know whose it is?" No, but I'll ask New Person 1, since it has her name on it. (I used to be an analyst; I can figure these difficult things out.) I take the thing to NP1, who looks at TNB and says "Is this in my job description?" TNB goes to look in her office for said document. Meanwhile, NP1 says, "I think it's supposed to go to New Person 2." Possibly, and by this time, TNB has gotten distracted and is looking at me quizzically. Fine.

I go to NP2's office; she's not there. I come back later and show her this thing she's supposed to do. She asks "How?" OK, fine. I start explaining. She looks at me wide-eyed and says, "I don't have access to that." OK. Fine. I take it back to my office, gritting my teeth. I start checking the thing over...

I'm sure everybody in the building heard the ear-splitting roar from my office at that point. "What the...?!" This item was put together by NP1. It was one of the missing items that we were getting yelled at about. It was due in a few short hours. And it was wrong. Ever want an editor to chew your head off and spit down your neck? Hand her a proof at printer deadline of something that's not even close to correct or complete. Otherwise, don't.

The proof in question was also missing some information that my manager should have been responsible for, but didn't supply. I mentioned this to her, but somehow I ended up being the one to go online and dig it up. (Tick, tick, tick...)

So when this meeting was called to ask us how we let ourselves get so far behind without anyone knowing about it, I wanted to scream all over again. What do you say to that?

Key quotes from the meeting:
"Your workweek is obviously not just 40 hours long."
"You knew I was overloaded and didn't say anything?!"
"Why do you two feel that you're responsible for the whole publication?"

Oh, and the highlight of the morning, I thought, was my dear coworker (whom I love to pieces and who should be sainted) telling me that the PHB had called her this morning to say, "It seems that maybe you two are feeling frustrated and upset lately." No... really? What gave it away?

When the managers ask, "What can we do to help you keep this from happening again?" here's the answer I want to give:

"More carrots, fewer sticks."


Jack said...

wow. that's rough.

The closest I've ever had to that is after 3 years of telling my supervisor, "If the opportunity to get a new trainer ever comes up, don't pass on it. Not that I'm unhappy training, but I'd really rather be a full time programmer," the VP of our department called me into his office and asked, "Jack, I just want to make sure there's no misunderstanding . . . do you actually want to work on programming rather than training?"

I suppressed the urge to say "well, those are the words I've been using for the past few years," and just said "yes, I'd love that."

"Okay, we'll hire a new trainer then."

I read stuff like your post and almost feel guilty about how nice my employment is. I mean, it sounds like you're in a real "get a new job" situation. But I suppose it's just not that easy.

Laura said...

Ugh! We have a lot of that going around. We got roses. Yippee. My answer to "What can we do to help?"

Actually, help. Instead of yelling. Really.