Work Stories, or how to survive in middle management without going insane.

---(from 2007)

So in my new job I need to evaluate a few departments to see if they are doing what they are supposed to do.  I kind of like doing this, it’s like getting paid to solve problems.  The downside is you have to then actually deal with the people that are the cause of most of the problems.

Three ways to figure this out what a given person or department is actually doing:

1) Walk around and get an idea of how it looks and what they are doing.

This one works only so much as people are on their best behavior when I walk around and go back to facebook when I am gone.

2) Ask the supervisors and managers what is going on.

Kind of like #1, this one only works part of the time because as soon as I walk away, they go back to facebook, twitter, pinterest or something even less interesting.

3) Ask the department that does report writing and data mining for statistics of what people did the prior day.

I like this one because I know the system, I know how to write the code to get the information. I can read the code and ultimately it provides more objective information on staff performance.

So I do #1 and #2 a few times and get what I expect. Smiles and lies as I like to say, smiles and lies (mind you I am somewhat cynical).

So to get the reports done I send an email to the person in charge of the report writers and say I need a report of all the "Stuff" people did yesterday.  In this scenario stuff is like moving the dreaded widget from the left conveyor belt to the right conveyor belt.  The code is pretty easy to write, but time consuming enough that they have dedicated people that do.

So I send the email out and the day starts with the glass being half full.

Dear report writing manager, please get me a summary of the people in department x and all the stuff they did yesterday (I will omit the technical jargon, it’s really boring).

No response for a few hours.

I walk over to the office of the manager in charge of the report writing people, she isn’t there. I am told she is gone for a while, with no definition what-so-ever as to how long “Gone for a while” actually means.  No big deal, I’m management, so I’ll just forward the request to the person that actually does the report and copy all the people that need to know, including the manager that is gone for a while on an extended coffee break; she loves her coffee. 

Seems pretty basic in my overly simplistic mind.

I forward the email to the guy that does the report writing.

Dear guy that does the report writing, your boss isn’t here, can you run me a report of the stuff for the people in department x for what they did yesterday, as you know this information is only good for one day.  Thanks, signed me.

He responds, sure, I’ll get on that. I respond thanks again.

Life is good I say to myself.

An hour later the person that is in charge of that department sends me a terse little email, she evidently just got back from her second coffee break.

Dear Dickhead {not my real name}, please send all report requests to me directly. I don’t want to bog down the people that do the reports.  I need to evaluate all requests and prioritize them.

I respond, sure, you weren’t there and I need it for a report for our mutual boss and a few others (and I have the right to get it without having to ask permission is kind of a larger unsaid truth).

An hour goes by.

I get my report, it isn’t really what I asked, it’s half of what I asked.  It answered the question of how many widgets were taken off of the left conveyor but didn’t say anything else. It’s half valid, so it’s worthless to me.

So I respond back to the guy that sent it to me, and copy all the other people he copied. I say:

Dear guy that writes reports, can I get the other half of the information I asked, thanks I really appreciate your help.

A few minutes later I get a terse little response from the manager of that department

Dear f*cktard {again, not my real name}, as I stated previously, please send all report requests to me directly to review.

I'm not so happy about this one.

I respond:

Dear person that runs the report writing department, I copied you as you can see, I simply asked to get my original report completed nothing new here, as you can tell by the email history below.

I sense a disturbance in the force coming...

She responds

Dear Asshat {you know the drill, not my real name}, If you don’t want my opinion, or that of my staff, please let me know, so I can document this appropriately and follow up with the director of the place that both of us report to. We will have your information tomorrow at 9:00 am thanks (and I think there was some hidden text about me dying in a fire she omitted, not sure).

By tomorrow the stuff from today will be outdated, so I will need a new request and she knows that.

I decide that I don’t want to get into this battle and I just begrudgingly run the thing myself.  I learned a valuable lesson this fine day, never underestimate the power of angry people that are in charge of the report writing department.

Right after I got done I made sure to change her entire coffee supply for the next three months to de-cafe since I was in charge of that and she wasn’t.  A wry smile was seen as I left for the drive home.