There are times in my career I’ve struggled mightily to extract myself from a less than desirable job. One of the perks of working for Uncle is that, like Visa, he’s “everywhere you want to be.” I’ve known for some time though that I don’t particularly want to depart the sunny shores of the northern reaches of the Chesapeake. That said, the day in and day out of life as a glorified wedding planner doesn’t feel like something I can see myself doing for the next 17 years, 6 months, and 13 days.
Unlike some previous occasions when getting on to something new was the only priority, this one has been more of a slow burn – sending out feelers here and there as opposed to an approach to sending out resumes that was more akin to carpet bombing. I didn’t so much want to just run away as also make sure what I was running towards was something of a right fit. Being in a position of not desperate to escape definitely helps set a tone where one can be a bit more selective.
That’s a long way around to saying I’m currently waiting to hear back on a final time for an interview later this week for a gig that sounds a lot like a better fit than this current situation. Maybe it’s frying pan/fire territory, but a change of scenery would probably do me a world of good. As my past experiences with hiring freezes and months spent sending out hundreds of resumes to anyone who vaguely sounded interesting has proven, there are hundreds of vagaries and problems with Uncle’s hiring process – not the least of which is actually convincing someone they should give you the job.
Still, I like to think once I’m in the room, I’m pretty good at selling myself… although it’s been a while so I guess we’re going to roll the dice one more time and see what happens.
Today I was sitting at my desk around 9AM lamenting that it was only Wednesday and there were still hours to go in the first half of the week.
After a moment’s pause, I realized a few important things:
1) There is a three day weekend incoming;
2) I still have 40 hours of use or lose annual leave on the books;
3) I just got my 40-hour performance award (because I’ll take time off instead of cash money every time); and
4) Starting on January 13th, I’ll be earning 8 hours of annual leave a pay period in recognition of the fact that I’ve managed to not get fired or dropped dead since signing on with Uncle fifteen years ago.
After completing the required paperwork – because truly nothing moves in the bureaucracy without the required paperwork – I’ve effectively created a time machine by which I can skip one of the annoying days in the middle of the week and head directly into the weekend starting at close of business tomorrow.
That’s made Wednesday far more tolerable on just about every level.
The hardest part of coming back to the office after a telework day is obviously coming back to the office. That’s the fact in the most absolute sense. Trading home for office goes against everything I really want to do in my heart of hearts. If it weren’t for the mortgage and random astronomical bills related to the care and feeding of an English bulldog, perhaps things would be different. I suspect to one degree or another, that’s probably true for most of us, but it’s not one of the topics we discuss in polite company because realizing everyone else is in the same boat would be altogether too depressing to contemplate.
Aside from physically making the transition from working at home to working in the office, the most difficult part of these days is really just in dealing with the environment. Like so many drones, my “official” place of duty features open cubicles, a regular stream of people coming and going, endless interruptions, as many as 30 phones ringing, and the impossibility of getting away from being audibly assaulted by multiple simultaneous conversations at various volumes. I don’t care what the research says. I don’t care what the efficiency experts tell you. Open cubicle work space is a disaster. Sure things get done, but as often as not it’s things getting done in spite of the working environment as opposed to because of it.
Comparing that to my home office within the comfortable confines of Fortress Jeff with its comfortable chairs, expansive desk, fluffy animals, and relative calm and quiet, well, there’s really no question why I do more and feel better at the end of a telework day than I do on any other weekday. The transition between the two realities is jarring and decidedly unpleasant. Short of staring my own business to dispense sarcastic comments and inappropriate remarks, cubicle hell feels like a reality for at least the next seventeen odd years.
It’s kind of nice knowing there’s a better option. Of course it would be better still if it actually weren’t that way, but I’m a realist.
Letting decisions fester until the last possible moment is rarely a recipe for arriving at a well-considered answer. That may seem somewhat counterintuitive, because having more time to decide should allow someone to make the decision based on more perfect information. In my experience, that’s almost never actually the case. What really happens is that the decision is just put off and no actual thought is put into it until it’s the flaming bag of dog shit blistering the paint on your front porch. Put another way, the default setting is procrastination.
The real problem with waiting isn’t just that you leave a bunch of people sitting around with their thumbs up their asses while the pondering drags on for days or weeks. The problem is that in most cases decisions get delayed until it’s too late to apply any academic rigor and you just end up going off half-informed in whatever direction seems best at the time. Shooting from the hip with a scattergun is probably a fine strategy for defending your home from hopped up delinquents, but it rarely passes muster for decisions that require a little more fineness.
It’s not how I’d do things. In fact it’s precisely the opposite of how I run the 128 hours of my week for which I am the designated decision-maker. For the 40-hours a week wherein I have no decision-making authority whatsoever, though, that’s its own can of worms. The very best I can do is appraise those who do decide on the potential bad things that will result from waiting. After that all that’s left is a shrug and a muffled “told you so.”
I’ve identified the real victim of my time off. It turns out it wasn’t any of my projects running aground or some other planner making off with all the best party favors. In fact, the only thing I seem to have lost in the time I was away was my ability to sit at my desk without budging for hour after hour… after hour. Being able to sit in front of the keyboard and hammer out hours’ worth of memos, emails, and assorted other written products isn’t exactly a point of pride even though it regularly defined so many of my days. Still, it was something I could do on the regular.
Put another way, the first real day back in the office has been a recurring series of pains in the ass – not because of anything particularly stupid happening, but because I’d spent so much of my vacation time not sitting on my ass that going back to living that life was a shock to the system.
I was expecting to need some self-medication today as a result of extreme eye rolling or maybe a heavy dose of something for heartburn. I wasn’t expecting to need to treat acute pain in the ass… though on reflection I don’t know why I’m really surprised.
After a long and glorious spread of days off, I found myself back to work today. Maybe I should say I found myself kind of back at any rate. I worked from the comfy confines of my home office, which is probably about as a good a way to ease back into it as one could reasonably expect. It was still painful and I know it will be more so tomorrow when I resume my customary position locked into the middle of the cube farm.
I don’t know that I’ll ever really make peace with needing to whore my brain out by the hour to the high bidder, but I’ve at least accepted it as the preferable alternative to starvation and homelessness. It seems likely that acceptance is probably as good as it’s going to get. I can’t foresee a circumstances where I would spring fully awake from bed each morning eager and happy to file forms, create new and better slides, and engage the bureaucracy in a ceaseless battle of attrition. Climbing from the bed with my lips twisted into a grimace and with a gritty determination just to get through to the close of business feels like something I can manage, though. That’s probably enough.
If nothing else, I know the posts here are going to start picking up again soon. Few things feed that beast more than anger, frustration, and cynicism. All of those elements are in short supply when I’m left to my own devices. It’s remarkable to see how the word count plummets when I pass a day not filled with meetings and random paperwork. By Thursday, I think it’s safe to assume I’ll have a full head of steam built up and be back in proper form… that may not exactly be a good thing, but it’s at least the enemy I know. That should probably count for something.
The only thing I find more frustrating than doing work that shouldn’t have needed to be done is being thanked for doing that work. If anyone really wants to thank me for doing work, they could start by not creating mountains out of mouse turds. Stop making work where none needs to exist. Stop changing the slides three days after they were supposed to be sent out for printing. Stop changing the seating arrangement 85 minutes before an event starts. Just stop.
We talk a lot about holding people accountable, but it’s not something I see much of in practice. In fact I’m not sure I can point at so much of a single instance of whatever it is “accountability” is supposed to be. Maybe that’s why congratulations are so hard to accept – because if people were being held accountable and compliance was made mandatory, getting the simplest thing done wouldn’t seem to be a task of Herculean effort.
At this point, unless thanks and congratulations come along with a time off award, it’s just so much more paperwork to file.