Thursday, August 07, 2008

Lessons learned in the workplace

As many people know, on Wednesday nights I often revert to a de-stressing, more commonly known as mid-week tipples. I was a bit upset last night. Offended. We headed off to our local at around 9pm and proceeded to buy a drink. The barman (not the usual friendly has-a-crush-on-me one, I noted) would not serve us. It seems last week’s salt and pepper shaker stealing was not taken well. Note that it wasn’t me who did this, but a flatmate who moved to France on Tuesday.

Shock and shame reverberated through my system. People my age, sorry, my maturity level do not not get served in pubs. So, we went home and without further ado proceeded to drink the chardonnay in the fridge. Depression from being denied entry. After about 3 hours of talking crap I traipsed up to bed. Hence the reason why I’m tired, irritable and in possession of negative attention span.

Combined with the fact that I have the freedom of my own office (one thing they do not do to most people my age), this does not bode well at work.

Anyway, one of my tasks today (and I only did it because I love paramedics…uniforms….drool) was to locate hospitals with ED departments along a map route. Harder than it sounds. In a big organisation it can sometimes be damned near impossible to find the simplest things. And even harder to find competent people. At times I have groaned with frustration at the systems in place that make getting anything done very slow. And the bigger the department, the cloudier the water. I’m not talking about red tape, I’m talking about bad management at a local level, high staff turnover and lack of skills being passed on, inability to juggle the wider picture with small details, communication ineptness and all round INCOMPETENCE.

I'm not saying I work in a place like this but I have seen a bit here. And I can bag it because it's Australia, not New Zealand.

It is rampant everywhere. Some people are incompetent by choice, and some by nature. And some of them are actually smart enough to display much of the following:

1. They mask their incompetence by refusing to accept responsibility for any of their considerable mistakes – blaming them instead on temps, admin assistants, kiwis, and the young nice and vulnerable.
2. They carry themselves about with aplomb and a veneer of busy-ness and fluster, in order to delegate their more menial and mind-numbing tasks to you.
3. They are masters of subtle patronising, so that you always feel inadequate and incompetent around them. (And then leave their office feeling confused)
4. For some reason they have a close relationship with someone in charge, so that you have to endure your boss go on and on and on about how able this employee is. (You leave your bosses' office feeling even more baffled)
5. They are slow at responding to requests and they never seem to get anything done (especially if you're the one who asked for it).
6. In order to bitch their way up the work food-chain, they go mental when you make a tiny mistake. This once involved the ticking of a post-it (one that was a note to myself), when in fact it should have been half a tick. Long tedious story.
7. If someone is nasty to them like they deserve, they slowly start to slime the person off behind their back, and try to get you to do it too.
8. They are often late and take long, leisurely lunch breaks.

All this is done discreetly, though blindingly obvious if you observe for five minutes. Admittedly I only fully realised this with the benefit of hindsight.

These people are a pain in the friggin arse. I know that in the long run if I grit my teeth sometimes and take it up the ass from whoever pays my salary I'll be rewarded, as would anyone with a good bullshit threshold.

As for dealing with these characters, I think it's best to assert yourself early. Ignore the unsubstantiated side comments (be unaware: "sorry, did you just insult me/Sharon/Lorraine?") and just get the hell on with it. If you're so inclined, one day you'll be in charge (because complete idiots rarely become directors) and you can hire whoever the fuck you want.

Which could be a lot less with the right people. For these reasons I can understand why politicians like Phil Goff tend to do all their staff's work for them. The most able and noted directors I know rarely need a calendar; they prioritise and complete things without checklists and are bloody brilliant at it.

Fascinating thing, the workplace. Hell of a lot better than studying when in the right job.


David Seymour said...

I don't suppose any of this is making you question whether governments should be running things like health systems???

ps Recognise that writing style anywhere...

Little Red Riding Hood said...

Oh no, governments should definitely be running the health system. If it was privately run I think priorities would be different. I have noticed the difference with organisations that we work with. And that's all I'm saying.

I could have predicted your appearance with a stopwatch.