It’s the first day of my new job. I stroll the clean, quiet halls en route to my office. It’s a long walk. On the way, I see workers in their offices, sitting at desks, bodies visible, but heads obscured by the back of their computer, almost as if the computers were their heads. Well, this isn’t right. I’ll never learn the names and faces of my new work associates doing this, will I?
My own room is cute, although windowless, about ten by ten feet. My boss greets me there, glad to finally meet the person who’s filling the long-vacated position.
“Hit Control-Alt-Delete,” she says, standing over my shoulder by my desk.
That’s funny, I never have to do this at home, and I can’t find Delete anywhere on the gigantic, trumped-up keyboard I apparently have to use here. I find Delete, but try to press all three Control, Alt, and Delete keys simultaneously with one hand and, like failing to play an octave on piano, I hit a sour note on my first job responsibility.
As the day goes on, it’s difficult to accomplish any work. Short of my bathroom break, everything here is done through a computer. Everything. Any file I’m looking for is in a file within a file within a file within a file, sandwiched between Excel spreadsheets, distribution lists, PDFs, Word documents, technology files, room reservations, timelines and countless other folders. My search for a sense of Control has already been filed under Lost, no doubt sub-filed under Technology.
Anything this computer can do, I can do better. Example: my PC’s office calendar system that magically links everyone’s schedule in my department with each other. I’m not impressed. First of all, by the time I get to the computer calendar with new dates to add, I’ve either forgotten the date, the subject, or both. Worse yet, the computer’s design makes each week’s grid and each person’s calendar look the same. It’s only a matter of time before my doctor visits will be plastered all over the boss’s agenda. I sketch my own calendar on a scrap of paper and hide it in my desk drawer. Far more effective. Confidential. At my fingertips. Surge proof.
Meanwhile, unresolved office emails and phone tag games go on all week. If I merely walked across the hall, couldn’t I personally answer all these people in about five minutes? But no, that’s not the way it’s done anymore. If I had a window in my office, I’m sure I’d be tempted to jump through it about every hour.
I make calls from my office to other companies to update files: No one who was working at these companies a year ago is working there now. Where have they all gone? Were their jobs like mine? Did they leave from job dissatisfaction? I don’t get it.
To keep my job, the handiest survival tip I’ve used has been to write down all tasks that require three steps or more. As sure as the photocopier will go down when we need it most, I will not remember directions beyond three steps. Period. I secure an old Rolodex from the mailroom to organize the fifty index cards upon which I’ve scribbled instructions of three steps or more. They’ve been real ass-savers.
My boss is out sick today, and I’m asked to review all her email for important correspondence she may need. There’s a hundred emails. What madness. And some are personal, and I sure as hell don’t want to discover what I don’t want to know about her or anyone by snooping through their email! After all, isn’t there’s some confidentiality agreement in my job description?
I’m proud of the way I’ve learned to prioritize office duties. The most important thing in my job is knowing passwords, usernames and codes. Actually, they’re the most annoying part of my job, but taping passwords to the wall is handy and I’m far less aggravated by them in doing this. I refer to passwords, usernames and codes an average of twenty-eight times a day. Sure, they’re visible for everyone to see on the wall, but it’s less important strangers see them than I do not. Without my passwords, I might as well go home. Otherwise I can’t do a thing on either my PC, desk phone, company website, Facebook, and a zillion other things.
For some reason, I’m getting really behind. So, the last thing I want to do is spend time on the tutorials I’ve been encouraged to view. The first was on Excel spreadsheets. Then Abobe Creative Suite. Then In Design, whatever that is. But I did see the tutorial about our operating system. So confusing, the company kindly hired out a technology consultant to get me straight. That was back in the beginning before anyone knew I’d need a computer personal trainer.
Yeah, I do get a little sloppy sometimes. There’s no telling what keys my fingers just slid across by accident. I’m somewhere between a loose cannon and someone who can’t get out of his own way. Because of this, I’m paranoid about clicking Forward by mistake when replying to someone by email. Or clicking Select All. Or Reply All. Click the wrong button, and X might see a string of correspondences attached to my reply where Y and Z had been cc’d and X doesn’t like Y and Z said something bad about X last month. I make phones calls whenever possible, being sure to talk very carefully and very slowly.
It’s only natural I look for any physical duty there might be to do around the office now. I volunteer to tack flyers to the bulletin board. Photocopy documents. Staple handouts. Hole punch binders. File folders. Pick up mail. Open the new water jug. Walk receipts up to Finance. And, on the way, walk around and personally respond to everyone’s stalled email and phone messages!
An optional staff development invite pops into my email. I jump on it. Anything to get out of the office. But the seminar, “Decreasing Job Dissatisfaction and Improving Workplace Productivity,” could help me, too. Is there something I could change to make my job easier? Modify about my attitude? Wouldn’t it be nice to be so efficient that I alternate one good habit with another all day long?
The job dissatisfaction seminar leader begins the two-hour discussion with, “First off, I strongly recommend you get rest on weekends.” Come on. What else ya got?
“All that work on your desk? Remember. It’ll still be there tomorrow.” Right. It wasn’t done yesterday because it wasn’t done the day before that either. And, yes, it’ll still be there tomorrow. Help.
“To assist in organizing your day, start with the end first.” Apparently, there is no end to my job, so to backtrack from something that doesn’t exist is insane.
“Despite what we’ve all heard, there is no such thing as multi-tasking!” Oh, right. My job is predicated on the multi-task principle, and everyone else’s, too. I feel no more relaxed or productive now than when I walked into this room.
It all comes down to this. Your boss emails you something to be done. You do it. You email it on. That person sends it to someone else who does something with it, mostly to get it off his back, then on to someone else. She sends it to her boss who looks at it and sends it to someone else because she has rank. Somehow, someway, it may eventually come back to you, at which point you place it in your “To Do” file. I’m aware of this pattern, yet I am still ranked only as an Administrative Aide.
Confounded by yet another day of computer curve balls, I summon the IT Department. They send me a student-level tech person. In less than one hour, he teaches me things I’d never dreamed were possible on a computer! A genius, and only nineteen. It’s obvious to me he could do my job, and in half the time. What’s he doing in IT? What am I doing here?
The best thing this young tech has taught me as an Office Administrative Aide? When to hit Delete.
It’s nice to have gained control again. No passwords required either.