Sunday, March 15, 2009

Dilbert or The Borg?

Things are changing at work, in ways that have nothing to do with the economy. Our new chairman is finally starting to put his unique stamp on the department. I'd describe our new direction as something between Dilbert and The Borg.

On the Dilberty side, we have a staggering number of meetings. The big boss, hair looking more pointy by the day, rambles through his agenda in random order. A question may lead to a side debate that quickly goes off topic and never seems to end. If anything physics related is covered at all, half the time it ends up badly for us. We are almost in the realm of having meetings to discuss other meetings. It has gotten to be a huge joke with us in the trenches. As if the constant stream of meetings wasn't bad enough, we get bombarded with lecture notices. Last week alone, we had ten hours of meetings and lectures spread across all five working days. I confess that about two hours into the one on Tuesday afternoon, I couldn't take it anymore and started quietly playing Sudoku on my iTouch. Other people were carrying on lively text message conversations or reading email.

As for the Borg, well, let me share an example with you. We were recently directed to use a specific font, size and color on all email messages, and told to use a particular format for our email signature. Yes, You Will Be Assimilated. Individuality is no longer tolerated. Since not everyone is savvy with the inner workings of Outlook, this has led to a hilarious variety of almost-but-not-quite-right email signatures. Logo replaced by the red "image not found" X, double spaced lines, four different shades of blue, an assortment of incorrect fonts. I was helping some nurses set theirs up and found out that they did not even have the required font installed on their PCs. Brilliant idea - doom them to failure from the outset.

Want more? OK. I was recently accused of "violating our logo policy" on an electronic form template I created (that looked exactly like the paper form we'd been using for years) and sent a 15-page PDF file from Marketing containing the complete set of rules for logo usage. My offense? The logo was in a table that had borders around all of the cells, so I had illegally placed a "box" around the logo.

Don't get me wrong. I know the economy sucks and I am very happy to have my relatively stable job. And I get what the new guy is trying to accomplish for the department and our reputation. It is important, and will be good for us. It just looks different down in the trenches (literally, the basement of the clinic) than it does in the lofty towers of academe. Generally, I like what I do. But these changes have increased the time I have to spend doing useless stuff at work, while continuing to produce as much or more of my real work output (patient load has been up lately). The only way to do this is to work more hours. No one notices that, but if you fail to show up at a meeting... watch out! I could get resentful, but I choose to deal with it by poking fun at the situation instead. We do it all the time, and laughing about it with my coworkers helps us get through the day -- meetings, lectures, mandatory fonts and all.

14 comments:

LL said...

Is he going to ban catblogging too? Because... that's definitely cutting down on your productivity around here... :P

Jeni said...

As long as you and your co-workers can joke about it, that will make it seem tolerable even if it is illogical. But then, those who often are in charge don't always see the time consumption being taken away from the actual "doing" of the work by meetings do they?

Red said...

Wow, just wow. Why is the patient load up... arn't you part of infectious disease?

Dave said...

Way back when, when I was a upper level high cog in a corporation, I used the three times rule. If they really meant it, they'd tell you once, twice and you really should pay attention the third time. I was pretty good at what I did and never got fired, only getting to the third time a couple of times.

I may well have failed, even the third time with a command that I use a different shade of blue, which makes me think of "A Whiter Shade of Pale."

fermicat said...

LL - fat chance! But my increased hours at work have definitely cut into my blogging time.

Jeni - the higher ups have their own agenda, and apparently a different opinion about who needs to go to academic lectures than I do.

Red - we treat mostly cancer patients. Numbers fluctuate, but have been high at our location for several weeks. Maybe the new management has managed to attract them away from other facilities. That is certainly a goal that we have.

Dave - they usually only have to tell me something once. That doesn't mean I'm not rolling my eyes when I read the memo, or cracking jokes about the latest new policy during lunch.

Dianne said...

I remember those days! I worked for a co. that was bought and bought and bought and each time there was a new set of standards.

fermicat said...

This is not really a corporate environment. It is an academic one. Different kinds of bullshit.

dr sardonicus said...

Since my immediate supervisors have no real authority (except at evaluation time), they attempt to justify their importance by issuing all kinds of petty commands, such as tucking your shirttail in and so forth. Although the first impulse is to laugh at them or ignore them, those are the actions that will get you in trouble. The best way to handle our supervisors is with a "Yes, sir!" or a "No, sir!" Then after they leave, go back to doing whatever the hell you want...

Beth said...

My husband is going through the same thing. His company has really been hit hard by the recession and as a result, he has to do all this assload more of work per day to make up for it. Do you love what you do? Is it your dream job? Just curious. (my husband's isn't ... he'd rather be a high school history teacher)

Natalie said...

Unlike you, I don't understand what they are trying to accomplish with such pettiness and micromanaging. But I'm up here in academia where comic sans is encouraged. ;)

Also, personally I think that when you are breaking up your day with lectures and meetings it's really tough to maintain your train of thought. I am less productive if I have to stop something (or else I just don't start it altogether) if I know I have to walk away in the middle. During my summer stint in industry, all the meetings and lectures where right away in the morning so people could have coffee and discuss and still have an uninterrupted afternoon for research.

Kathleen said...

Required font and size? Oh, I'd fail that one in a heart beat.

I hope you can keep joking, because after a while, those wasted hours in meetings will make you want to shoot somebody. I know, because my company is famous for wasted time in meetings.

TheWriteGirl said...

If I hear one more person tell me "be happy that at least you have a job" I may scream. Yes, I know things are precarious and yes, I know my job is secure (as long as the museum doesn't shut down) but that's STILL not enough to make me like my job.

Every workplace has its own nuttiness which is of course more amusing to people who don't actually work there. At least you've got the right attitude.

tiff said...

Your pain? I feel it.

fermicat said...

The comedy continues at work. We are dealing with some pretty ridiculous stuff. At least we have fun mocking it.