Aha! Another Management Pet Peeve Discovered!

This really is a learning process.

So, you know how I have said that  I try not to take this temping thing very seriously, and that I am working on de-personalizing the work and the attendant criticism? It’s hard to un-learn all these years of being hyper-responsible, and hyper-sensitive.

Yesterday, I realized something new and really interesting. A pet peeve, if you will, about when systems go wrong. I was charged with sending out an important email to a list of people, but I felt in my gut that the list was not up to date. It turns out it was way, way far out of date. This is in part because there is no centralized database, in part because of employee turnover, and in part because of inconsistent systems. But all of a sudden, I felt like it was my fault.

You know why? Because the supervisor asked me if the list was up to date, and I said “I don’t know.” I didn’t make the list, I am not charged with the upkeep of the list, I have never been asked to update the list. I would have no way of knowing. But I hated that I didn’t know.

So we updated the list, and every new error or discrepancy was flagged with “Did you have a so and so?” or “Did you have this organization?” or “Are the groups from 2011 in this list?” Every time, I had to say, “I’m sorry, I don’t know.”

It was all the language. By the end of this weird exercise, the supervisor said, “this is not you, this is someone else’s mistake, I am so glad we caught this.”

But this is a funny thing–new employees are often held responsible for the errors of past employees, whether they had anything to do with the project or system that is causing the problem. 99% of the time, it’s a past employee (either through oversight, error or Senioritis) who has caused or left a problem for the new person. But then the new employee is responsible for the mistakes that result. When you inherit a mess, it can take months or years to discover and rectify all these errors. (I had a boss who would say “you must” or “you have to” while she was training me to do a task, as if I had been doing it wrong, and she was going to teach me to do whatever it was correctly. But really, it was my predecessor who had done it wrong, or other staff who were doing it wrong, and I was the one responsible for doing it right going forward.) The problem is that the work was done poorly, but there is also a problem of communicating that the work was not done poorly by me, but my someone else. In any case, it is my personal belief that employees should be rewarded for uncovering problems, errors and inefficiencies, even if those problems were of their own creation.

Anyway, somehow I deserve some cake. That’s the moral of this story.


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