I’ve been at my new job now for about three and a half months. Long enough, I think, to have a feel for how the foreseeable future will go. I’m disappointed, to say the least. I was so optimistic when it started out. I wanted to believe that I had found a good place for me. It was presented to me as an incredible opportunity to help establish the Facility Management department for this new organization and really build something that could be great… Not unlike the opportunity I thought I was presented to build something really great with The Guy.
When I started my job, my boss was in the middle of moving a big group of people from the main site of our parent organization, into our satellite location. I understood and accepted that in the middle of this project was not the place to involve a new employee who didn’t know how anything got done in the organization. It would have taken my new boss longer to introduce and explain things to me than it would take to do them herself, so she did. She did give me small tasks along the way that contributed toward the project; tasks which gave me enough insight into what she was doing to see that there were some definite inefficiencies. One of the matters that was focussed on in my interviews was the fact that I had ten years experience in Facility Management and had done a number of large scale project moves for my previous employer. I’ve dealt with multiple outside Facilities Groups, IT groups, outside move coordinators, moving companies, furniture companies, etc., etc. I know a thing or two about moving a hundred or so people all at once, and I know what’s pretty standard operating procedure for moves like this, because I’ve seen the same tactics and techniques used, over and over again, among all those different entities, without fail. So when I saw that my new boss wasn’t using these techniques in this large scale move, I saw an opportunity to make some suggestions and utilize my “expertise” to help make things easier and more efficient in this new organization.
When my new boss asked me to create a spreadsheet for the telecommunications group that would be dealing with the relocated workers telephone needs, I asked her why were were starting from scratch, and after explaining to her the industry standard of a single spreadsheet with all the information for the move, which is then shared (after being frozen – no more changes) with all the functional groups, thereby reducing the likelihood of human error, her immediate response was, “Oh we can’t do that here.” When I asked why not she said, “They won’t go along with it.” Then, as I was recreating the wheel, because “they won’t go along with it”, I pointed out what I felt to be some missing information from the spreadsheet she had me making, and her response was, “I don’t think they need that. I don’t want to confuse them.”
(As a quick side note, in my early 20’s I worked for about 3 1/2 years in the telecommunications industry. A lot has changed in the ensuing years, but I know a bit more than the average Joe, about how these things work.)
The day that the phone tech came to do the phone work, it was a complete cluster #@(%, and when it was finally sorted out, the tech told me, next time if you could include blah, blah, blah in your spreadsheet, it would help clear this up really quickly.” In case you really didn’t already see it coming, “blah, blah, blah” was the information I told my boss I thought we should add and she said she didn’t think they needed.
I could now go into a whole long list of examples of what’s been happening in the three months since, but really that one sentence summed up the whole thing. She doesn’t think this, or she believes that. I make it a habit not to question the advice or opinions of people who know more about the subject at hand than I do. If the opportunity presents itself, I will ask clarifying questions to educate myself, but I do not question their judgement. My boss questions everything. And she makes decisions about things that she is not an expert on, frequently. One such instance of this, resulted in me, as the person who is actually managing the project, and on her orders, questioning the judgement of the person who knew more than I did about the issue at hand. I was forced to ask the contact for a new quote for something because my boss didn’t think the dimensions originally quoted were necessary. The contact was offended by the inquiry, gave a very gruff explanation to both myself and my boss, about why the dimensions she had quoted were the recommendation, (all things, by the way, that I had already told my manager) and in the end, we left the quote as was, but not before I alienated the contact (who happens to be the property manager for the building we’re in – someone I have to deal with frequently) and wasted everyone’s time unnecessarily. All because my boss wouldn’t accept the judgement of someone who know more about a thing than she did.
Last December, while I was unemployed, and finishing up what turned out to be a single semester of college classes, I was diagnosed for the first time in my life with having Attention Deficit Disorder. I was quite surprised by the diagnosis, but it also explained a lot of things that I’ve struggled with my entire life. Like the fact that I am incapable of blocking out distractions and annoyances. I overhear conversations at restaurants and comment about them to my table mates only to find that they don’t know what I’m talking about. I hear absolutely everything that goes on around me. Always have. As it turns out, this, among many other things I’ve experienced are classic ADD symptoms.
This is relevant to the story because, in my job, I’m sitting in a cubicle, something I haven’t done for 11 years. Not only am I sitting in a cubicle for the first time in over a decade, but it’s a pretty small one. There’s not much storage, and by the nature of my job, I’m responsible for lots of little things. And I literally mean things. Sitting on my desk right now, are five iPhone5 cases, waiting for someone to ask for them. There’s a box of AA batteries, because randomly and frequently, people come to my desk to ask if there are any AA batteries anywhere, but my boss doesn’t want to add them to the community supply room because they will disappear. I have a box of badge holders, and after-hours access cards, because people randomly stop by asking for one or both of those things. I still have all the old files from the Project Manager whose desk I inherited. He’s the one who managed the development of the space and operation we’re currently running, and he was expected to hang around for a while, only during the three weeks between my accepting the position and starting my job, he announced and then left to take a new job at another division of the organization. I haven’t just trashed the files because I can imagine there is bound to be some valuable information in them, but I haven’t had any time to review them and find out, either. Clutter is the enemy of the ADD mind…
In addition to the clutter, there is also a nearly never ending stream of noise.
On one side of my cubicle is my boss, who frequently calls out my name to talk to me over the cube. She asks me for information, or how to do something or, if I have done something, or to please do something. She frequently asks me to go check something, or go find out something. Quick, little things, that generally shouldn’t take long (unless someone sees me walking around and wants to take that opportunity to ask me a question or request some service I don’t have a chance of remembering when I get back to my desk) but which are interruptions to whatever I’m doing at the moment. And as a person with ADD, returning to a task after having my concentration disrupted, and picking up where I left off is nearly impossible. (I’m aware that lots of non-ADD people have similar issues, but not many ADD people don’t.) Most of the time, these requests from her, seem very much like she’s trying to wrap up whatever she’s working on and this little piece of information is crucial to that, but having to go and get it would derail what she’s doing. I totally get that, because I tend to put off going away from my desk to get information, so that I can finish things that I’m working on, and wouldn’t I love to have a minion that I could send out to do my bidding. But see, unlike the minions who spend their “downtime” playing games and pulling pranks on one another waiting for some instructions, I am actually diligently working on my own tasks and projects that were given to me by the same boss who is now sending me on her little gofer runs. When I return to my desk after, I’m lost and it takes a while to get my concentration back… if I can do it at all.
On the other side of my cube, is a really sweet woman who I have a lot in common with, in terms of our backgrounds and how we came to be where we are in life. I like her a lot, I enjoy my conversations with her. She’s one of the reasons the office celebration of my birthday happened. And when her birthday came up a couple of weeks later, I made sure that we did something for her. Everyone loves her. She’s awesome! And, she has zero internal dialogue. Absolutely everything that enters her mind, comes tumbling out of her mouth. And she does it at a normal speaking voice. She would do it whether anyone was around or not. People frequently come to her desk to talk to her, both about work stuff and not.
The office is a former factory, and it was decorated with an industrial look in mind, only, usually when that’s done the ceilings are much higher. This building was finished with only slightly higher than standard ceilings, and zero ceiling tiles. Maybe this doesn’t mean anything to you non-Facility Management types out there, but one of the biggest reasons to have those tiles, is to absorb sound. It prevents the noise from the air conditioning units and duct work above from carrying into the work space, and it prevents the sound of the voices of all the people in the office talking at the same time from reverberating around the room. WE DON’T HAVE THAT!!!
There have been a couple of smaller moves that have taken place sense I started my job, and I have had nothing to do with any of them. Well…. That’s not true actually. I’ve not been involved in the planning of them, but my boss has happily handed off the menial, manual labor tasks that related to them. For example, I got to order, assemble and distribute “welcome kits” of office supplies to the desks of the new occupants; something that took hours of my time, caused me to sweat like a pig in work clothes and environment (something I absolutely HATE and makes me very cranky) and in the end proved to be a waste of time as the people we were moving in were not new to the organization, already possessed most of what we offered, and most of them discarded the items the day they moved in.
And speaking of manual labor, there have been a number of things that I am responsible for that were not discussed in my job description, or in my interviews. Things that, had I known, I would have thought twice about taking the job. For instance, I’m responsible for receiving, sorting and delivering the mail every day. I’m also responsible for receiving, opening, sorting, recording, and distributing any and all packages that come in. I’m responsible for keeping the office supplies inventoried and replenished, and as if that weren’t bad enough (at least it is to me,) the supplies are located in ELEVEN different places in our four story building, because on a whim she decided we needed office supply way stations spread around the building so people didn’t have to walk so far to the central supply room to get them… in our four story building. These tasks can take anywhere from half an hour to six hours depending on the day and what we’re receiving.
I am the highest paid mail room boy in the area, but my job description doesn’t even mention it. Meanwhile, my job description does mention lots of other things which I’m still held accountable for, but barely have time to get to.
The presumably unintentional understanding (at least I assume it’s unintentional) that is established every time someone new comes to work in the building is that if they need anything at all, just ask me or my boss. Every new person get’s a tour of the building, and that tour always includes the locations of our desks and the introduction that we are the people who “take care of everything in the building”. I have heard more than one person tell the new employee “If you need anything at all, these are the people to talk to, and now you know where they sit.” The problem is, we don’t really have a viable alternative to offer them. (Speaking of industry standards, I don’t know of another Facility Management operation anywhere, that doesn’t have some sort of ticketing request system for people to submit there service requests on-line.)
Because we are introduced this way, and because we don’t have an alternative to offer, people – especially brand new people – really do just come up to our desks and interrupt what we’re working on to ask for what they need. Mostly little things that simply aren’t that urgent. More often than not, they’re things that people should be asking their immediate supervisor for.
I really like the people I work immediately around. I haven’t been able to say that for a very long time. But it’s true. They’re all friendly people. They’re all nice. I had barely even been working there for a month, but when word got out that my birthday was happening, a bunch of them took me out for drinks after work. I genuinely like them! And I completely can not function around them, work-wise.
In the earliest days of my employment, I told the chatterbox behind me about my ADD. I didn’t do it to make her feel bad, or to complain about her. In fact I don’t remember how it came up, but I told her about it and she acknowledged it in the context of the conversation. She knows it’s an issue. Not long after that, I told my boss the same thing. I told her that I’m really struggling to focus and concentrate in the environment. In a subsequent conversation I reminded her of the ADD, and the difficulty I’m having being able to focus on my work, because of all the noise, and the constant interruptions. She asked me what I thought the solution was, and I told her, unfortunately, I thought I probably needed to move. She told me that if I moved then she had to move and asked me to give her some time to think about a possible solution. I did.
Last week, in the middle of a meeting with her, I asked her about it again. “I know we’ve discussed this before,” I said, “and I know you’ve heard me, but I can’t tell if anything has come of it.”
Before I could say anything else she said, “This is about the noise and distractions.” She didn’t sound angry, but she didn’t sound particularly positive or helpful about it ether. In the end she offered to let me “try on” another specific desk in the same suite and see if that helped. If it did, she had no objection to me moving into it. But in proof that she doesn’t really understand or get what I’m telling her, the cube she offered up, is right by the entrance to the suite, along the main route from the opposite side of the suite to the shared kitchen which is three desks down from the cube she offered me, and not enclosed in the least. Plus it’s just outside of the office of one of the loudest people in the whole suite. I haven’t tried it out yet, because my laptop has been on the fritz and I’m not going to move my whole desktop and two monitors for a “try on”. But IT will return my laptop tomorrow and I will try the new desk, so that I can speak with authority about whether or not it helps.