The Fudged Edges of Office Work Information

Petty rant: about Normal People, office management, and the craziness that mid-managers arrive at:

Long ago I learned that while it was a heinous sin at work to be inaccurate on your timesheet, it was even worse to be accurate. “Oh, my God!” the accounting poeple used to say – “I don’t care if you were in at 8:01 or at 7:56! Just put 8 am, for God’s sake! We can’t handle your fractions!” So a timesheet it turned out was NOT a record of time spent at work, but rather a fiction of a sort useful as paper justification for a payroll system.

And, well, I just had another such moment – some 38 years or so later – but about a “Travel Schedule Notice” system. It’s the automated way my company keeps track of whether employees and domini are in their prime offices or not. But – once again – I have been operating under a misapprehension, thinking that the Notices were relevant to our whereabouts and out-of-office status. Nope, that’s not it, apparently. I just confounded my poor supervisor, leaving him flummoxed and at a loss, because I posted – in simple honesty – that I’d PROBABLY be out tomorrow at Jury Duty.
He told me that that was wrong; I was out of line. He couldn’t believe that I would actually say I was going to be out if I thought – merely expected – to be out. Keeping people informed did not extend to actually telling about something.

Once again, here was a system with some ulterior purpose that I had thwarted. And I’m not exactly sure what it was. Apparently, if there’s ANY conditionality to the absence-to-be (in this case, the condition was if, after checking the night before as to whether my Group will in fact be called to the Hall of Justice, they will have said yea or nay, something I have no control over but will certainly keep me away from work in the case of a “yea”) then we have to treat it as a non-possibility until the actual day of Jury Duty, when we’ll treat it either as nothing (I go to work, I’m not needed for Duty) or as a sudden case of an illness (I planned to come to work – even though I knew I might well not – but I can’t come to work, I’m out with a case of Jury Duty). Despite that fact that I’ve been forewarned AND WAS REQUIRED to forewarn my company that I had a Jury Duty date coming up.

I will commit this caveat to my work-notes on Jury Duty (notes already needed because of the whole confusing and explicitly conditional business of Jury Duty):

JURY DUTY REMAINS A NON-EVENT DESPITE FOREKNOWLEDGE UNTIL YOU ARE DEFINITELY CALLED – AT THAT POINT YOU MUST INFORM YOUR SUPERIOR THAT YOU HAVE A BAD CASE OF THE “JURY DUTY” AND CAN’T COME TO WORK ON TIME THE NEXT DAY.

Sheesh. Apparently, the Notices we send using this system do not amount to notices of information, but amount to official declarations of intent that have the weight of fact, despite being merely predictions or plans. Phew.

Not a big deal, but it’s more of that “You had better do this!!!” followed, once you’ve done your bit, by unexpected bursts of “Don’t do that!!!” Such as: “Work hard all the time, don’t steal time from your employer!” followed by “My God, don’t overwork yourself!” Or: “Take your vacation, it’s yours, it’s healthy – be sure to take it!” followed by “I don’t know – you’ve been using a lot of vacation time lately; this is not going to look good on your record…”

In other words, any publishing of info on one’s future work whereabouts is subject to a 95-percent-sure rule: If you’re not 95% sure that X is happening, then ignore the indications that it is going to happen and treat the outcome as an unexpected case of food poisoning – sudden, pertinent, immutable, decisive. Conditional futures have no place in informing co-workers – at least, not in the formal systems.

Okay. We’ll try that. And I expect that all organizations tend to be crazy, once organized – ideological party, church hierarchy, group of friends, modern business – it’ll always be whacked and out of order…. And not a big deal, in any event.

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