Sunday, May 15, 2011

Tail wags the dog, again

I think that my place of employment is the home, the veritable castle and sanctum sanctorum, of tails wagging dogs. My latest and greatest example is this.

I manage a team of people, and we have a block of offices set aside for our use. Some of the offices are good (as in have windows, and are quite large), and some are bad (as in closets with air conditioning ducts). Through attrition (which has been just wonderful in an environment where I'm not allowed to replace people who leave because the entire facility is over budget - not my section, mind you, just the facility, so rather than cut staff where they ARE overbudget, they don't allow ANYONE to replace lost staff), 3 of the 6 good offices were empty. It seemed just silly to have lots of empty good offices when all our bad offices were filled and people were unhappy. So I spent literally a month organizing which staff were going to move from bad offices to good offices. This was, in and of itself, a pain in the ass and took way longer than it should have, but that is not the purpose of the blog which you are reading.

No, the fun part came when we started to implement the moves. First I was told 1 person simply couldn't move because it would cost too much to move her V-tel equipment, then I was told that she could move, but rather than move her V-tel equipment, we'd simply install NEW V-tel equipment in the new office, then when it came time to implement, I was suddenly told that we would just move the V-tel equipment, because why would we do anything else? (why indeed?). But the really fun part, and the point of this post, is that once they had done this, and were starting the rest of the moves, I suddenly had my boss, and my administrative officer, calling me all in a tizzy because 2 months ago a new policy was started, without anyone telling me or any of the people who regularly deals with line staff who want to, say, move, that moves are simply not allowed anymore. Why would we have such a policy, you ask? Well moves are "too expensive." How expensive, you might wonder? Oh, at least $1,800 per move. And how can that be, you demand? There's a spread sheet. And what might be on that spreadsheet? Well, for one thing, the cost of having, we'll call her "Beth", to come size up the office, decide what will fit, and put in the work orders. That costs just hundreds of dollars. Just how much are we paying Beth, you may further demand? "I don't know," you'd be told. But I'll tell you one thing, Beth must make a HELL of a lot more than boring old program managing me. So have you really looked at this spreadsheet, you might inquire. You would then be met with silence.

So what has really happened here? I'll be you it's something like this. Beth is busy, and possibly lazy or just incompetent, and complains about "all the moves" that she is being told to do. Mind you, moving people is HER JOB, but she feels she is doing too much. So Beth creates "a spreadsheet" showing how expensive a move is, and gets this to my boss's boss's boss, who says "oh my! That's too expensive, let's stop all moves!" And a new policy is born.

Let's think about this for a second now. Just so we're clear. If I was working at Wendy's, and I got tired of making food, and I brought you a spread sheet saying that it cost $200 for me to make a hamburger, because of the time it took me, the ingredients, the cost of keeping the grill hot, legal costs of people suing us for getting fat, etc., would you then conclude that we shouldn't provide any hamburgers? Probably not. Probably you would say one of, or maybe even all, of these things: 1) who they hell are you kidding? Just because you put $200 in a spreadsheet doesn't make it true that it costs $200 to make a burger, 2) you'd better goddamn well find a way to make a hamburger for less than $200 or we'll find someone who can, 3) would it cost less to make a burger if you weren't wasting your evidently quite expensive and limited time making spreadsheets? or 4) well, since you are paid to make hamburgers, and your whole point of existence in this setting is hamburgers, and you've just given me proof you cannot do that economically, your job is now pointless and you're fired.

But in a big enough bureaucracy, when people aren't thinking things through (and it seems NOBODY does this anymore), you instead conclude that you should stop all hamburger production (or in this case office moves). But perhaps because, deep down, you know this is one of the dumbest decisions since they decided to translate "How to learn French" into French, you just don't tell anyone who routinely requests moves. Until they try to move people. You DO tell the supervisors, who dont' tell anyone, again because perhaps they realize they're going to get loads of #$@! for trying to enforce such an idiotic policy. But I think what really gets me is that all of the people who ARE told about this policy just eat it up and parrot it back. They never think to question how it can cost $1,800 to change 1 door sign, switch one phone extension, and provide 1 bin for people to move their stuff from one office to another. They just nod their heads and jump off the damn cliff with the rest of the high paid lemmings.

All of which is fine, until the drag me over the edge with them.


Seeker said...

You are forgetting about 600$ toilet is government...this is why we have a 14 trillion dollar debt....the whole institution is filled with BETH and those who never question BETH...hell it is tax payer money...Beth does not have to do her job...and she gets paid for it.
You are obviously NOT a Beth and therefore are now under Homeland Security scrutiny! Have a nice day... :)

Katy said...

Dude, nice Blackadder reference.