Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Am I The Last Person to Discover Kotaku.com?

I had a horrible day today. Yeah, I know, "Dear Diary, I had a horrible day." Maybe someone will get a chuckle out of this.

People yelled at me for trying to make their lives better, which is just never, ever, ever my favorite thing. This eventually turned out to be positive because a) the yelling people didn't make me cry (that's happened before, so now I count it as a personal victory when it doesn't happen), and b) eventually they took it back and realized that I was trying to help them and some of them thanked me. Which is nice. It's nice to be appreciated, but I'm not a fan of the yelling. If we could skip that bit next time and go straight to the appreciation segment of our show, that'd suit me down to the ground.

My job is about making people's jobs better. I don't help people in a big way. Not in that "look, here's a house and a giant check to pay for your chemotherapy" way. I make people's jobs better in very small and insignificant ways. My whole job is about finding shit that's broken and fixing it. Sounds simple enough, doesn't it? It kind of sounds like you'd put yourself out of a job, huh? Trust me when I tell you that the average modern corporation is like a giant perpetual motion machine endlessly fucking up its people and processes. It sounds bad when you say it like that (and there is a case to be made for the badness, don't get me wrong). But there is a price to pay for positive change and often that price is frustration and disorganization that borders on absolute mayhem, and at the nexus of positive change, frustration, and mayhem, there sits my job of fixing broken things.

The broken thing can be a computer program or a business process or a stupid, horrible person. Most of the time it's some ungodly combination of the three. And it's my job to tease the whole mess apart a little at a time, find all the pieces that aren't working, figure out how they should work, triage them, stop the bleeding, fix the things that are stopping vital shit from getting from a to b, and then, finally, if nobody's bleeding any more and shit is hobbling from one place to another at a fairly reasonable pace, I get to try to convince people to optimize their processes so that other people in their workplace don't want to kill them.

I accept hostility on the part of the people who need improvement. A former boss of mine used to call them Button-Pushing Trolls, and bless that man, there is no better explanation. Indeed, the people in question today do EXACTLY that. They press a button and refuse to do anything else. I wish I were exaggerating or making it up, but I'm not. It's an icon on a screen, not an actual tactile button, but other than that, they really, truly, seriously think that if they click that icon on their screen their work here is done. And I think they'd kind of like a cape and a power ring to wear while they do it. If clicking the icon doesn't fix your problem they give you this sympathetic, vacant stare and then look vaguely off into the middle distance, as if suggesting that you should go there now so that they can return to...grooming each other or whatever it is that Button-Pushing Trolls do when no one is looking. Probably watching YouTube videos.

I expect hostility from the trolls, but in this case it was the department the trolls were screwing over that did all the yelling. It's truly disturbing to work for an organization that is so fundamentally disorganized that it can't tell when it's getting help. It's like trying to help a bear in a trap. You should really tranquilize the bear before removing the trap--I admit that I did forget that step. But still, when the bear whacks you upside the head while you're trying to pry the trap off its foot, you do kind of want to smack it back and go, "Dumbass, I'm trying to help you, here."

Eventually I think we got the trap off the bear--at least the bear-trap removal process was set in motion and I think the Button-Pushing Trolls will eventually learn to do their jobs. It was a happy ending but nonetheless, a fairly draining day at the office. I came home and the whole world seemed populated by button-pushing trolls, and just as I was thinking that I should cut my losses and go to bed, I came upon this hilarious post about Japan on Kotaku.com. It's funny, thoughtful, and informative, and it totally redeemed my day.

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