Twenty percent…

There’s a recent survey that shows 20% of those Americans polled believe the COVID-19 vaccine is being used to imbed a tracking chip in all who receive it. The “good” news is that only 5% said it was “definitely” true while 15% said it was only “probably” true. 

Twenty percent of our fellow Americans believe something that is patently absurd. That’s one in five people – a number that feels like it almost guarantees that we all know someone or possibly many people who are part of the 20%. Some of them may even be reading this blog right now.

I’m never entirely sure what bit of the brain has to be badly wired to convince people to buy into some of the more wild-assed conspiracy theories. What on earth would possess someone to think that the government (or new world order for that matter), would bother with something so pedestrian as implanting a chip… when we’ve pretty much all long ago agreed to carry one of the most advanced tracking devices in history in our pocket all day every day.

This 20% are among us, though. They’re our politicians, our teachers, our religious leaders, our lawyers, our firefighters, and pretty much anyone else you can imagine. That’s the thought that horrifies me far more than the idea of any kind of chip the big, bad virologists might have slipped me. 

Climate survey…

Every job I’ve ever had was driven, at least in part, by the recurring rhythms unique to the organization. Cycles are everywhere if you’re paying attention – fiscal year end, annual conferences, daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly reports… and my very favorite, changes of command.

One of the perks of working for our Big Bureaucratic Organization is that someone new ends up occupying the top spot every two or three years. When you’ve got a good one, the time goes a little faster, but when you have a bad one at least you know they won’t be there forever. In the age old tradition of the bureaucracy, when all else fails, bureaucrats know we can outlast even the worst of the worst in their tenure. The bureaucracy was here long before any individual leader and will endure long after any individual has departed. To quote Ronald Reagan, the bureaucracy “nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.”

As sure is night follows day and summer follow spring, a change up at the top of the org chart is followed by conducting a climate survey. It’s one of the tools by witch the new guy is supposed to “get to know” his organization – or at least what people are brave enough to say about it when they’ve been promised anonymity and non-attribution.

I’ve lost track of how many of these surveys I’ve responded to over the years, but I can count on not all the fingers of my left hand the number of things that have ever been improved in any meaningful as a result of them. Still, I play along, mostly because if the bosses are dumb enough to ask me how I really feel, I’m absolutely dumb enough to give them an honest answer. Since it might be the only chance during any particular boss’s tenure where I’m invited to tell truth to power, it feels like it’s just too good an opportunity to pass up.

Fortunately, after years of answering questions and very little changing I have built up quite a repository of stock responses that, after a bit of tweaking, are every bit as applicable today as they were the day I first wrote them… two, five,, seven years ago, or more. It’s just another in a increasingly long line of times when saving every scrap of previous work products as part of my Official Papers archive really pays dividends.

Hypothetical…

Let me ask you a hypothetical question… Let’s assume for a moment that you are hosting an event for somewhere between 50 and 75 of your closest friends. An absolutely unavoidable part of that event is providing those people with between 300-400 pages of information, some of which changes on a daily basis.

Knowing no other information than what was provided, would you rather:

A) Get all 300-400 pages in hard copy, knowing that some of the information contained therein is already two versions out of date.

B) Get 100 pages of hard copy that’s pretty much set in stone and a link to the additional 200-300 pages that is updated daily/weekly.

C) Get a link to all 300-400 pages of information so you can access it electronically, because this is the 21st century and who wants to lug around 400 pages worth of binder all day.

D) Neither. Timely and accurate delivery of information has no place in the contemporary decision-making environment.

Take your time. Your answer won’t be graded, but it’s very possible I’ll judge you based on your answer.

Survey says…

My organization historically loves to send out surveys. They can be focused information grabs or more broad scoped “climate surveys” that try to suss out everything that happens to be on an employee’s mind. If you manage to get more than 10% of the people to send back anything at all your response rate is excellent. Getting those people to actually tell you anything you want to know, though, is another thing altogether.

Even under the veil of promised anonymity, most people I’ve run into have a difficult time of it when it comes time to tell truth to power. People like to fit in. They don’t want to make waves. Some don’t want to risk drawing undue attention to themselves for any reason. Those are all fine and valid reasons for keeping your mouth shut if you’re intent is simply to ride it out and avoid all conflict.

Now I’m a peace-loving kind of guy and you generally won’t find me spoiling for a fight – especially with those elite who sit six or seven steps above me on the org chart. I might not have started the day looking for a fight, but when someone gives me a free and clear opportunity to tell them what sucks and why, you can best believe I’ll avail myself of it with both vim and vigor. I’ll do it professionally and using my best grammar and punctuation, but I’ll definitely participate in the airing of the grievances.

I’d never be able to live with myself if I were given an official avenue to bitch and complain and I failed to take full advantage. That’s just the kind of guy I am.

It ain’t Disney…

I generally get to work about 20 minutes before my day technically starts. Partly it’s because I’m hopelessly committed to arriving everywhere precisely “on time” and partly it’s because I generally need ten minutes to mentally prepare for the long walk across the parking lot and getting the day started. Most days this adds up to ten or fifteen minutes of time just sitting in the truck watching the world around me.

Sure, technically I’m sitting in the parking lot watching people, but I’m not doing it in a creeper-stalky kind of way. I’m really just noticing people pass by and making observations – like who can’t park worth a tinker’s damn, who forgets something on the roof of their car three mornings a week, and who else is just sitting there trying to summon the courage to face the day.

The thing I notice most often, the thing that is so common as to be nearly universal – is that almost no one is smiling. No one has a spring in their step. Nearly everyone looks like their being led to the gallows. They’re plodding their way to the front door like they expect someone to shank their puppy once they get inside.

Clearly this place ain’t Disney World… and I can see plainly why they never bothered to do another “employee viewpoints” survey to see if that morale problem had turned around. There’s really not much need for a survey when the answer is written all over everyone’s face.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. LinkedIn: The World’s Largest Professional Network. Meh. I’ve had an account on LinkedIn for longer than I can remember. I have no idea why. I’ve never used it. I’m not interested in networking. I don’t like it online any better than I like it in person. But still, 347 times a week I get spammed by the one social media site that I’ve found utterly useless for my purposes. It doesn’t take much effort to hit the delete button, but there’s just a certain pain-in-the-ass factor at play here. All things being equal, the chances of my ever looking for a job “on the outside” are somewhere between slim and none… and processional accomplishments on the inside don’t exactly translate well to that world anyway. Unless someone can give me a good reason not to pull the plug, my LinkedIn account is heading to the trash the next time I do some digital housekeeping.

2. Survey. When you’re buying a house in Maryland you’re only required to have a location drawing rather than a full blown property survey. The drawing showed the location of the house and any other “improvements” against an overlay that more or less corresponds to the size and shape of your lot. It’s a minimum degree of assurance for the lender that the house is where it’s supposed to be. Surveys require people to go out with tools and physically locate and mark the defined corners of the property. It’s the way to definitively know what you’re about to buy… so yes, when I say I want a survey instead of a drawing, I know what I’m asking for. I know it’s more expensive. I know it’s not required by the state or by the lender. It is, however, required by me, the guy who’s on the hook for paying the bills.

3. Full weeks. Due to the combination of snow and taking the occasional half day to deal with house-related stuff, this is the first full week I’ve worked in a long while. It’s more exhausting than I remembered. It’s probably a bad sign that I’m excited by the idea of moving not so much because it’s a new and awesome place to live, but because dragging boxes three miles down the road and spending a week unpacking them means that for a week I really only to have one job. It’s sad that’s what passes for relaxing these days.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

I usually give WAJTW over to three short, unrelated snippets of stupid that I’ve encountered during the week. From time to time, though, a single issue is of such magnitude that I feel it’s worthy of undivided attention. This week is one of those occasions.

For the last two months, we’ve been hearing around the office all manner of things about a “climate survey” conducted earlier this summer. Most of the time these surveys come and go without much notice. I don’t know exactly what the responses were in this most recent round of questioning, but I can only surmise that the results were beyond bad. It’s the first time in almost 13 years that I’ve ever seen an organization actually do something in response to their survey.

I should draw a line of distinction here between doing “something” and doing the right thing. So far, my little slice of the organization has been talked through the survey results on five separate occasions. We’ve now had two sessions with different groups allegedly to discuss what our perceptions of the problems are. Today marked (I think) the 8th time that we dedicated at least an hour or more of the work day to this topic. You’d think by now there would be more than a passing awareness at echelons higher than reality of what the issues are, who’s responsible, and the effects it’s having across the workforce.

What I’ve seen so far is that we’re spending a hell of a lot of time talking about things. What I haven’t seen is anyone actually doing something with the mountain of information they’ve already been given. I’ve been around long enough to know that the game plan probably involves talking about it for so long that people forget there’s actually a problem… Which in all likelihood makes much of the last two months a very large effort to check off the “we hear your concerns and are doing something about it” box.

On that score the powers that be are right. They’ve done just enough to demonstrate initiative, but not nearly enough to make a damned bit of difference… and thus does the great green machine go rolling along.

The scores are made up and the points don’t matter…

Maybe the worst thing you can do in a room full of people who analyze and evaluate information for a living is walk in and show them a presentation while telling them that you don’t know how the data was processed to arrive at the stated conclusion you want them to believe. Most of us are already cynical from long years of having people try to convince us that “this time is different” or “shit doesn’t stink and I have a comprehensive study to prove it.” When you, the peddler of snake oil wrapped in a pretty PowerPoint covering, basically tell us that the scores are made up and the points don’t matter all you’ve really said is you’ve wasted an hour of our time. You see, that’s what happens when you pass along data that’s impossible to validate, from sources that are impossible to verify. Now that might not have been your intent, that was most assuredly the result.

In this line of work, credibility is pretty much the only coin of the realm. Once it’s lost, it almost never comes back without a massive effort and wasting even more time. It’s my estimate that avoiding that path from the outset is the better, more practical, course of action.

But what do I know? I’m just a guy sitting here with 105 minutes of his life gone today that he’s never going to get back.

Survey says…

Two days after calling the vast bulk of the Department of Defense workforce back from our legislatively imposed furlough in the dead of night, some unmitigated asshat at echelons above reality decided it was a good time to launch a “command climate survey.” For those who don’t speak bureaucrat, these surveys are conducted a couple of times a year and are supposedly designed to gage employees feelings about leadership, their work environment, colleagues, managers, and get a general sense of the survey-saystemperature of the organization. At the best of times I’ve always thought these surveys are of questionable value. A week after being told by my political masters that I’m nonessential, well, my immediate response was a stream of under my breath swearing and a resounding facepalm.

After six days of furlough this summer, four days of furlough last week, a sequester that means reductions in defense personnel are matter of when and not if, and a political class that’s bound and determined to undermine the long term stability of the nation, you really want to know how I feel about my job? You have absolutely got to be shitting me.

Morale? In the crapper. Opportunities for advancement? Nonexistent. Faith in our leaders? I won’t even dignify that one with a response. Work area has sufficient light? Well, at least you’ll get good marks on that one. They’ve managed to keep the electricity flowing to the building. I suppose under the circumstances, that’s a milestone achievement.

Walk around the building and you’ll learn all you need to know about the “climate.” We’re frustrated and we’re angry. We’re exhausted from being loyal pawns in some half assed urination contest… and we’re more than a little sad to see the strength of the nation being pissed away for no purpose other than the misguided self-aggrandizement of those we elected to lead.

If they’re dumb enough to asked how I feel, I’m just hostile enough these days to tell them how it is. Now they know. Now you know too.