Monday, April 28, 2008


I think it's time I blogged a bit about work. I have always intended this space to be one in which I can write about what matters to me, but I've refrained from writing about this new job thus far for fear of the consequences. As you'll see, this post will maintain some level of anonymity, but I think I'm going to ease the gloves off over time.

(I also think that my overall lack of blogging has been partially due to my decision not to blog about work. Maybe.)

I stopped subbing in December 2007 (with one day's exception - I was really, really confused when mail from the LCSD showed up today). I started a new job in Corvallis, one that is at least full time. It pays better, but the workload is killer. Down the road, it might even have benefits - though that is a long, ironic story.

I was originally hired to fill a six-month temporary position that was expected to end in June, brought on to compliment an existing employee and help out with a special project. The plan called for at least 3.0 FTE equivalent, with 2.0 in the office at all times and the remaining FTE filled by a pair of folks affiliated with my organization who would conspire to spend 4-5 days in the office between the two of them.

Six weeks in, my coworker, the only person on staff doing the same thing as me, quit. I applied for and got his position, which is full-time and (more or less) permanent. The decision was made not to replace me in the temporary position (how and why that decision was made is still not quite clear to me). As well, one of the people who had originally intended to spend quite a bit of time working in my office got called away to work on another project.

The end result? We're down to 1.5-1.75 FTE, if that, split among two people instead of four. The workload has shifted somewhat, but not a lot - the original plan had called for two people precisely because previous experience had suggested that one was simply not enough, and I'm not in so deep I missed the irony of my org's decision (the same org that decided it had needed two people) to stick with one person. I had six weeks experience and no real training when I started the full-time job. We're in the middle of something rather important (the thing that brought me on in the first place), which means the learning curve is steep and I don't have a lot of time to adjust.

Oh, and I should mention that two of my bosses, the ones with experience in my field, don't have much experience working on a project quite like the one I'm working on. So while their experience is good, I'm finding that their suggestions, advice and orders don't always translate well to my immediate situation - though for the most part, I have had nothing to compare them to. I had the good fortune to host three volunteers from two similar worksites (who do the same work I do! yay!) for two weeks earlier this month, and I learned more from them (thanks, A, D & L) in the two weeks they were here than I did in the preceding 3+ months from my more immediate supervisors. It was amazing (the amount of work we got done and the fun I had was incredible), but the crash that occurred when they left was harsh.

I also inherited the work my predecessors had done in shaping my organization and its relation to the community. I like my predecessor(s), but they did things very differently than how I intend to do things. The problem is that I don't have the time to really lay the groundwork for the adjustments I want to make - I need to make things happen right fracking now, and it's proving quite difficult to work in someone else's paradigm.

On the plus side, I have the support of my seven bosses (yes, I have seven bosses - at three different levels/in three different orgs, depending on how you want to look at things; five of them are a committee). That helps. What doesn't help is that they are legitimately busier than me and thus rely on me to do quite a few things I would prefer to see them do in the long run (part of my job entails training my bosses to do the things I can do now - and it makes total sense in context, trust me). As a result of my covering for them, my own work has suffered a bit. I'm treading water rather than making progress, or so it feels sometimes.

I have one part-time coworker who is either helping me maintain my sanity or helping me become cynical about my job. I'm not sure which. I think it's both. In any case, she makes me laugh, which I'm counting as a good thing at this point. At the least she is a source of institutional memory for me, since my predecessor/former coworker chose to keep a lot of really useful information in his head and not in writing.

The next 6-8 weeks look to prove crucial to the project I'm working on. I'm not sure how things will turn out, as I'm finding my ability to influence what happens is much smaller than I'd hoped it would be at this point. As well, I'm seeing decisions made that I think are flat-out wrong, and my inexperience gives me little credibility with which to make my suggestions of alternative courses of action stick.

I suppose I should comment on the upside of all this, in case everyone thinks I think my job sucks. It doesn't. It's hard, and I'm in a pretty tough place, but I have lots of optimism regarding the long-term possibilities of my organization. I've compiled a long list of projects to start and processes to implement, and I'm genuinely hopeful that when I walk away, I will have really changed and improved the organization.

It's just the next two months that are threatening to do me in. Right now, I'm focused on survival. After that, well.... *rubs hands together in glee*

By the way, the genesis of this post was two phone conversations Friday and a long lunch I had today with someone who's becoming a very dear friend. She helped me get some perspective on the seemingly endless list of things I need to do, and reminded me that I need to do a better job taking care of myself while at work. Thanks, J - you have no idea how much that helped - or maybe you do =) I just hope I can make it happen.

Dave, Jen - I think we are going to do a lot of drinking. Get ready.


Jen said...

I was wondering if you were ever going to out your new job on the interwebs. The time is nigh! Oh, and I'll prepare the Jack. Can't wait to see you!

Anonymous said...

No problem -- whenever you need a reminder, just let me know :-) I need my friends to remind me to prioritize things that make me happy, too!


Anonymous said...

I also was thrown into the middle of a big project when i started 1 year and 8 months ago. I was overwhelmed. I did A LOT of research on my own. Pulled documents out of the to be shred box. Asked a lot of the same questions to different people. Processed my answers internally and off secure sound boards. I found that leadership and expectations shift. As things shift you will find unexpected openings to implement your ideas successfully.


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