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New job is terrible so far

I am sitting at my desk deep within the bowels of the United States Postal Service main headquarters, spending my day trying to look as busy as possible while I wait for approvals to various pieces of software needed to do at my new job. My desk is a dreary little cubical that’s actually in a walk way to another cubical. Yesterday the guy next to me stopped me and said, “When you leave your desk, could you please push your desk all the way in. I know it’s a little thing but it’s a pet peeve.” Almost every single time I leave my desk I forget to push my chair in, usually resulting in a wave of anxiety and regret 15 minutes later as I’m eating in the food court. I’m sure this guy thinks I am being passive-aggressive, but I’m not. I am simply not used to my desk being able to impede the flow of office foot traffic.

There are two pieces of consolation to the dreariness of this work arrangement. The first is that after a probationary period, I will be able to spend three days a week working from home. When my boss mentioned this at the interview, I was so delighted that I practically felt a tingling sensation in my loins. The second consolation is much less sanguine. It turns out that my terrible workspace is merely a temporary arrangement until I’ve learned enough about the job that they can lay off the current person doing it, an older woman named Sangeeta. As far as I can tell, Sangeeta is completely oblivious to her fate and seems absolutely delighted to be able have a partner to share in the commiserations of the job.

The fact that I was told on my first day on the job that my hiring meant Sangeeta’s firing is a sign that the social skills may not be so hot here. Today Sangeeta became teary-eyed as she talked about the death of her dog. No, she doesn’t seem like the brightest mind in the firmament—there is an undercurrent of dismissiveness and irritation in the reactions of other coworkers to here—but I couldn’t help but be moved to pity by this oblivious and doomed lady who had to take off three days to grieve when her dog died.

Then there was the “all hands” staffing meeting, led by a man named Danny whose retirement lunch poster is pasted on the walls. Danny is a loathsome bureaucrat, a 30 year postal employee, who seems to have taken for various TV shows and movies that the best way to motivate employees is to berate, belittle, mock, threaten and lecture them. He sat imperiously at the head of the table, the chairs at his end of the long conference table conspicuously empty, as he asked for status on various projects. He asked one project lead when a project would be done, and the guy said for technical reasons it would require another week. “You said it would be done by today last week!” pounced Danny. “How can I trust you today when last week you said it would be done today?” He then went on to say that if projects slip “some people probably won’t be here next year.” Every status report was like this. He’d either tell the contractor he was being foolish in his approach or would lecture the guy as if he were a child or he’d grill him on deadlines.

Occasionally he’d pepper his harangues with little snippets from Steven Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective people. “The reason you are confused,” he’d say, “Is because you violated the fifth habit: listen to be understood. You have to listen carefully before speaking, which you did not do.” An ironic observation for a manager who does 80% of the talking at meetings.

Supposedly this guy is retiring, but the rumor is he may take his government pension but then come back as a contractor, effectively doubling his income. I am still waiting on another job that is supposed to come through. The company is the sole bidder on a contract, so the odds are good that the job will materialize. It would pay more money and would also be work from home most of the time.

At this point, there’s very little doubt in my mind that I will take it if it comes through, even if that means quitting this job after five days. And if it does come through, I will make sure to give Sangeeta a subtle heads up on my way out.

Comments

cosmicbandit
Sep. 23rd, 2014 10:47 am (UTC)
joy
Yep you're working for the government. Why are government workers so bad? Because middle management is made of crappy people who grind their workers to dust. I'm crossing my fingers that you get the other job. Good luck.

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