I know it’s the new year and I need to look forward more than look backward, but heck, I need substance for my blog posts! No seriously, reflecting back reminds me of my latest progress!
So, let’s take it back to “Doomsday December” and/or “Disappointing December.” The week before Christmas, the interim AVP finally cleared the “high ambiguity” office air regarding working over the holiday break. For the whole month prior, she had been threatening to make us work during the break. Finally, she said she was NOT going to require non-website staff to work. Oh my, how generous and gracious of you!! Instead, she asked us to consider volunteering to help copyedit various sections of the new website, set to launch in mid January.
First off, the inter-holiday break is an annual thing. People actually travel far away and book flights in advance for that shit; you can’t just wait until the very last-minute to tell us yes or no the week before. Way to be a planner AND way to be considerate. As for the volunteering, yes, I’m a dumb ass sucker so I offered to help copyedit. Nevermind that I repeatedly give the institution extra hours from being a stupid workaholic. For some reason, at the time, I empathized with the web staff: I remembered how stressed I used to be near launch deadlines for new web features/tools… The very next day, we volunteers received an email containing the assignments. Only a handful of people were dumb enough to volunteer, and most people got 1-3 sections. Granted, some sections were massive units, like the School of Engineering or School of Business, with TONS of pages. Me? I got assigned 10 sections, the most sections out of anyone. Maybe the same number of pages? Still. WTF? The lesson here? You give an inch; they take a yard. Whatever. I considered it escape from my family (a la Taiwan).
The next day, my manager came into my office with “feedback” from the interim AVP’s recent Trustees’ meeting. Earlier in December, a bunch of teams in the department scrambled like crazy assembling data and metrics for fancy charts she wanted. She purported that these data compilations were aimed to demonstrate just how much work the department cranks out with very limited resources. She said this would strengthen her case for more staff and more resources. But here’s the thing: Our department produces a shit ton of deliverables. By quantifying all of it, aren’t you just showing the execs how much juice they can squeeze out of these lemons? If the institution is paying, say $2 for a shit ton of productivity, showing the higher-ups all that they are getting for that value is NOT going to make them want to pay $10, unless they get 5x the amount of work. You’re better off arguing for more staff and resources by pointing to HR records, showing them that 10 people out of a department of 25 have left in the last 15 months. Hello, maybe we need to better compensate our staff, or reduce the demands and expectations. Hmm, maybe that’s a compelling argument!
Whatever, she insisted on her pet project, so we busted ass to generate all the damn charts. The next day, she emailed a big thank you and “you guys rock.” Blah, blah, fake gratitude. A few days later, my manager was in my office with the marked-up copy of my social media dashboard. This comment was written on it: “Data is too rudimentary. Information does not reflect best practices.” Uh, what???
The original bare-bones instructions I received from the AVP? All the data had to fit on ONE sheet. So, I picked key metrics I thought were helpful. I asked other social media managers. I poured through sample metrics reports to see what others typically reported. I looked at what other schools reported. I ran the parameters by the AVP, and she approved them. Turns out, the data isn’t what the Board wants. What then do they want? I asked my boss, who in turn went to ask the interim AVP. Down the hall, I heard some raised voices and a few minutes later, my boss returned saying, “She says for us to figure it out.” Wow, thanks for the feedback. I mean, I wasn’t at the meeting but the AVP was. Thanks for sharing what you observed.
Later that day, two coworkers at my table during the Christmas party started talking about a heated exchange they witnessed that morning between the AVP and my boss. The AVP was in a hurry, walking to the kitchen. My boss was trying to ask her something alongside. She asked and the response was, “She needs to do her fucking research!! I am not an encyclopedia!” Upon hearing this, I immediately put two and two together. Is she for real??? Did my boss seek more specific feedback for the social media dashboard, and was this how the AVP reacted? Who the fuck is this person???
I was livid. After I got home from the party, I relayed what I’d learned to K. She insisted that the conversation couldn’t possibly be about me. I texted the other coworker to confirm the dialog he had heard outside the kitchen. He suggested that maybe it was about someone else, or perhaps my boss just caught the AVP at the wrong time. Sure, it’s possible they were talking about someone else, but given the timing and how exasperated my boss looked after she returned to my office saying to “figure it out,” the chain of events seemed highly plausible. So I was pissed. Enraged. On one hand, why did it matter? I have never claimed to be an expert, and I don’t care about people recognizing me as such. Especially with social media, I’m a work in progress, learning new things along the way. But dang, that attitude just grinds my nerves, rearing its ugly ass head over and over again. She doesn’t thank people for their effort, for their hard work, for accommodating her requests, no matter how ridiculous or last-minute. She preaches a bunch of leadership/change agent buzzwords, and then when you ask for clarification or more information bc you want to learn or understand more, she says “this is a high-ambiguity environment so get used to it” and clearly, can’t even be bothered. But when she asks you questions in front of the group after every department meeting, “how do you feel?”, you aren’t allowed to deflect. I’ve also noticed this: if you do your own research to produce something she wants (for example, a strategy, plan, or report), your independent research doesn’t count unless you reference a book, article, or website that she specifically endorses. Only her recommendations are “best practices.” All others are amateur. So whatdya know, now we’re into January and another dashboard is due. Since she couldn’t be bothered to give me constructive feedback, she’s gonna get an exact repeat of last month’s format. If she doesn’t like it, she can go fly a fucking kite. Yeah, bite me. That was the incident before break.
As it turned out, during the break, J and I were worked to nubs by our families day in and day out, dealing with the chores and cleanouts and visits. After I returned from Maryland, I started attacking the website edits. Holy fuck, the writing for some of these sections is appalling– yet another example of the university skimping on hiring/compensating for experienced/skilled people for these comm jobs. Long story short, I contributed over eight hours on edits for three sections, plus additional hours for my usual social media crap. Then, after the new year on Sunday, we received yet another email (on top of the one on Christmas Day and others throughout the break, containing shit to read and stuff to do). It basically read like this: You volunteered to copyedit these webpages. I need to report on the status of these pages at my staff meeting tomorrow, and the spreadsheet needs to be updated. Come to the meeting prepared.
Uh, say what?? Happy new year to you too, beotch! Yes, thank you so much for volunteering your personal time off at ZERO COMPENSATION to help with the web project. You were only given two sentences of guidance/direction on what needed to be done, but heck, fill out the goddamn spreadsheet and be prepared for a meeting I’ve never mentioned before ever!
Jesus fucking Christ. Consistently tactless. Why am I even surprised by these astonishingly tone-deaf communications?!? It’s a new standard.
A few hours later, I submitted my resignation letter. Dad’s coming to town: Surprise! I’m taking most of next week off, so last day is January 22. Buh bye, ingrate!
On hearing my news, a former coworker sent me a link to this classic: