Tag: Underling

Something Has Happened…Notes on a Scandal

Responsibility without power, the fate of the secretary through the ages.
– Ariel Dorfman

Tomorrow I’ll finally (hopefully) have that long-awaited talk with Chief about this big to-do that went nowhere.  The whole experience has been more than a little ridiculous, a lot of drama and politicking for next to nothing to show for it, and I feel that I may be on the chopping block for it.  Now, Common Sense is arguing pretty solidly that Chief isn’t going to fire me for trying to accept an offer that would have bettered my long-term work circumstances…but Paranoia is hinting darkly that he may for no other reason than he feels I tried to betray him and the department.  Which isn’t true in the slightest, but I know by now that if someone wants to think the worst nothing will dissuade them.  

That'll teach you to not to use your spell check!
Little known 11th plague, whch wiped out all the scribes and secretaries.

The truth is, Dr. F’s offer meant the one thing that the Police Department cannot give me: a promotion.  By moving to the IS office I would have become the office manager and supervisor (what Susie is to me now).  Promotions in the PD are hard to come by.  Something truly biblical would have to happen, at least three other people would have to die suddenly in order for me to receive a new position, and as those people are my close friends the whole situation would probably prove traumatic.  Even Wise, when she left my position for her current one, didn’t move UP the proverbial ladder at all, her new responsibilities didn’t come with a higher grade or more money or more recognition, if anything it was a big step sideways.  Now although Dr. F implied more money for me (certainly with the upcoming University annual raise), the reason I wanted to accept this position is not so mercenary as that. 

J. and I have no idea where we will be next year for his graduate program.  California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Texas, Massachusetts, Utah, or Gibraltar, for all I know.  And we won’t know for several months yet.  But there is a good chance that we will be moving and now is the time to start brushing up my resume.  I’ve been encouraged to take IT training classes to fill my free hours during the Spring/Summer, but I’m also taking them to add to my list of hireable skills.  I’ve been reviewing past projects I’ve worked on to see what else I could do to make me appealing to potential future employers.  And when Dr. F offered me the chance to move up to a manager’s position, I wanted to accept it because the additional experience and responsibilities would have made me more desireable in the workplace (because, if you haven’t noticed, it’s a cold, cold, dark hiring situation out there and a girl needs all the help she can get). 

I hope I’m not going to be punished for trying to improve my situation, but I’m forced to entertain the possibility that I might.  My dark humor cannot help but picture me at job interviews, “So, why did you leave your job at the PD?”  “Well, I wasn’t trying to…”  but I don’t totally expect it.  Que sera sera.  However, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this whole event from a new perspective and I’ve come to some conclusions. 

First, there is no way that being a secretary is going to make me perfectly happy, fulfilled, or satisfy the immortal longings of my soul.  It is, in many ways, an utterly thankless job and acts of recognition are few and far between.  This irks me because I am a pretty ambitious woman, I like to move forward (and hopefully up) and dislike doing good work and receiving no credit for trying to be a good employee.  However, that is the nature of the beast.  I’m extremely well-educated but not at all qualified to do anything.  Margot and Venice are trained teachers, Janssen is a trained librarian, Brando is a trained stockbroker, Dad is a trained lawyer, Mum is a trained scholar…most of the people I know are a trained something.  What I’ve got (besides an encyclopedic knowledge of useless facts) is a good brain, common sense, and organizational skills, and these are apparently in pretty high demand because not everyone in my office has those. 

Second, I get frustrated, annoyed, and downright furious sometimes at how ridiculous my office can be and what I really need to learn is to let that go.  I can’t fix it, I can’t make the powers that be see sense, and things are not going to change.  I often feel that I’m smarter than my job, and I don’t think I’m entirely wrong.  In fact I think I’m positively right, but dwelling on that fact doesn’t change my circumstances and usually only serves to make me angry at my situation.  And hey!  I’ve got a job!  That’s a lot to be thankful for. 

Third, my job does not challenge me.  And I need to be challenged, as anyone who knows me at all will attest.  But it doesn’t and won’t and I need to stop fighting that fact.  What I need to do is adopt an Edwardian attitude towards it and make my life, as a secretary, my art.  Being an office monkey isn’t difficult, but being a class act and making it appear easy…now that’s a challenge! 

While I'm confessing, though, I think what I really want is the sense of value she gets. It's subtle but it's real. I'd love to be called into a meeting and have someone's reaction be, "C.. What a good idea."

In fact, while working out with Margot, it came to me in a flash of brilliance.  What I need to be, is Joan Halloway.  Er, minus the having salacious affairs with the men of my office (shudder).  Joan doesn’t necessarily want to be a secretary, but she enjoys being good at what she does and likes working.  She’s impeccably put together.  You don’t mess with her because she will take you apart (classily, but viciously).  And if you’re making an office coup, or some guy’s foot gets chopped off by a lawn mower, or someone is out because they’re having a baby and didn’t know they’re pregnant to begin with – Joan will locate your files, make a tourniquet out of a scarf, and step in to take over your correspondence.

I don’t have to adore being a secretary…but that doesn’t mean I can’t be a damn good one anyway.

Conspiracy. Theories. (An Interlude)

“I hate committees.  I much prefer a nice clean chain of command.”
“Only if you’re at the top of it…”
…”Well, yes.”
– A Civil Campaign,
Louis McMaster Bujold

After Panic and Paranoia’s inelegant exit yesterday afternoon, I managed to calm down and step back a bit from the situation.  Freak outs aside, there were several things that didn’t add up.

Now, it would seem that Chief did decide (rather grudgingly) to let me transfer as it was a good opportunity, and Dr. F had followed his supervisor (who for lack of any other name, we will call Salzburg) to the letter in making sure that the transfer was in keeping with university policy at large, and it’s narrower hiring-freeze-bound interpretations.  So both sides had agreed, the person approving it all had agreed…when suddenly the Dean swooped down from nowhere and put everything on hold and demanded to meet with me.

And the question that I keep going back to, is why on earth is a Dean descending to personally look into the buying and selling of  secretaries far beneath his normal purview?

Same principle

Theory the First – I know, both from student experience and updated frequently by Kiki, that the Dean and Dr. F do not get on well at all.  There seems to be an embarrassing amount of workplace territorial-ism that goes on betwixt them.  Dr. F dislikes the higher ups making decisions about his department, which often go against international and visa law, without even consulting him.  The higher ups don’t like an entire department (consisting of four full time advisors…which to their minds constitutes potential revolutionary numbers) answering to the Federal Government instead of the University.  This animosity has shown itself in strange ways across the years.  In this case, Dr. F has applied for exceptions to the freeze to fill his empty position and has been repeated turned down.  But suddenly he discovers a way around it that does not answer to the Dean.  Could this be a revenge ploy?

Dear, dear! How silly of you to think you could make those decisions without me.

Theory the Second – In our office, Lt. Figaro insists on appearing to be the one making final hiring decisions about the student employees under him, even though it’s Red and Lauper who open the position for hiring, interview candidates, and make the initial offer to their chosen ones.  Figaro still insists on meeting with them, normally to talk about nothing for an hour, before releasing them and congratulating himself to the entire department on discovering such a nice student employee.  One of the last girls we hired had to listen to him talk about a family member who breeds snakes for 45 minutes, before reemerging with a shell shocked expression on her face, which took all of us collectively to remove by assuring her was more or less business as usual.  Could this be a higher up version of this sort of thing?  Does the Dean wish to appear to be the person who fills the gaps in his organization?

"What are you doing?" "...Sneaking."

Theory the Third – Kiki, my ear to the ground over at ISS, has passed on an interesting tidbit.  Apparently, after Chief agreed, Salzburg called up Dr. F and told him so but that the Dean had declared, “…but I’m not going to give her to you [ISS].”  The emphasis there is interesting.  Kiki also says that the Dean has at least 5 unfilled full time secretarial positions in the various departments beneath him.  Could he be trying to move me into a department of his choosing instead of ISS?

Alright, my loves, weigh in.  Do any of these seem plausible?  Any other theories?  No matter how I try to look at it, a Dean sticking his fingers into this just doesn’t make sense for anything besides personal reasons.  The whole thing smells of politics.  The problem of course, is that I’m more a less a pawn in all of this and no one is giving me any hints about which square I should move to.  Monday needs to hurry up and get here (words no mortal will ever speak again).


 “Work is the curse of the drinking classes.”
– Oscar Wilde.

It's definitely a rage stroke.

I haven’t complained about work in a while, and there is a very simple reason for that.  I had a rage stroke.  Seriously.  I got so angry that the rage literally had nowhere to go so it just retreated to a corner of my brain and fizzled.  Between what I consider to be bad management with our pet project (which is still giving us a ridiculous amount of grief), and ego running our office in terms of funding, personnel relations, and department communication and day-to-day running, I was just FED UP.

Then, suddenly and blissfully, I just didn’t care anymore.  Of course I’m not so foolish as to think the apathy is permanent.  Just a few days later our copy machine threw up its metaphoric hands and said, “To hell with it,” Hennessy and I got so stressed that she had a minor meltdown and I spent a cathartic ten minutes kicking a brick wall before I went home, and self-entitled people began pouring out the woodwork (think they’ve been hibernating?).  

To top it off, Dilbert for the past couple of days has been frighteningly like our department.  Either Scott Adams secretly works here, or my worst fears have been confirmed and every job in the world is exactly the same. 

And still they don't get it...
And still they don't get it...
I promise this isn't an exaggeration. Really.

Another Tale From The Front Desk

 “You can do a lot if you’re properly trained.”
– Queen Elizabeth II

All police officers and dispatchers are required to complete a certain amount of training hours per year to keep their certification, and it is one of my jobs to keep track of those hours and turn the total into the state every year.  So, as a good little secretary does, every few months or so I pull out all the training information I have on everyone and reconcile the spreadsheet and database we keep them in.  Then I give that info to Lt. Citrus who in turn sends it out to all the officers…

…five minutes after that email goes out, my inbox is flooded with angry missives and my phone lights up with the rabid snarls from officers accusing that I have “forgotten to log their hours,” “obviously didn’t get their many emails,” or passive aggressive suggestions that perhaps I “just misplaced them, dear.” 

After three days of checking, double checking, data entry, and getting yelled at, Small Dog is not inclined to be friendly towards officers who try to blame email for their problems.

I take a certain amount of dark pleasure in showing them my stack of training reports that I collect and my email archives (which I started saving for months for this very purpose) to show that I have logged all the hours they’ve given me, obviously have gotten all of their emails (their emails just don’t mention training hours as much as missing laundry), and have certainly not misplaced anything.  Dear.

It’s all for naught!  Three months from now I’ll go through the whole reconciling process again and then have to reconcile myself to the wrath of the officers!