Thursday, March 23, 2006

“There’s a form you have to complete first….”

Only four days into my new job at a large university and I still keep hoping that once, just once, someone will be able to say to me, “Yes, sure, you’ve come to the right person. I’ll do it today.” But that’s about as likely to happen as my being able to wake up in the morning without first grunting "Ooof, Ooooh" like a Fight Club survivor.

Before you accuse me of being unrealistic in terms of expectations from bureaucracy, let me apprise you of the steps I’ve taken so far:

  • Glanced through my induction papers. Oh that’s right I don’t have any. Nor did I get a welcome chat with any insect from HR.
  • Asked my boss, the Queen B who is actually a very generous, fun, driven lady. “Um, I don’t really know. You could use all of this information-seeking to help you when you induct our four new research fellows who are starting on Monday.”
  • Fair enough. I trot gaily down the stairs and tentatively knock at the unit’s Administration Assistant’s office door. I plaster a friendly-but-determined smile on my face as I introduce myself, throw in the requisite amount of flattery “My boss B has raved about you, so I thought it was high time to come over and meet you….” and then beg for some help.
    Deb proves to be warm and accommodating. “Have you completed the forms via the intranet…?”
  • After thanking her profusely and promising to meet up later for a coffee, I trudge back upstairs to search for the afore-mentioned form.
  • It’s there all right, but the system won’t let me download, print or email the damn thing. Oh that’s right, I don’t exist yet. How can that be – HR interviewed me, sent me out an employment contract and will presumably pay me next week: shouldn’t they know what the hell I should be doing?
  • Bugger it; I’ll call HR if they won’t call me.
  • Voicemail. Stupid, useless, bloody voicemail. We were forbidden it at my old government job because the CEO considered that someone else should be able to take the call and deal with it. But no, here, with a staff of 3,000 and 45 in HR, no-one is skilled enough to help. I leave a cheery message and stammer as I glance frantically down at a post-it note with my phone number on it – I’m not on the directory yet, so that yellow rectangle that keeps falling off the edge of my monitor is my lifeline, my only evidence of existence.
  • Hmm, I’m sure that she’ll call back sometime today.
  • Obviously not. It’s now Thursday. I’ll try – Graham, Lindsay, Karen, Vicki – well at least they’re getting value for money out of their voicemail.
  • I don’t want to bother Deb again about this – I’ve already used her fax machine four times; pestered her for a list of conference caterers; shadowed her on a mail-run in order to find my way to the campus service centre; and forced her (out of sheer pity) to rescue me from being lost in the psychology department.
  • Instead of Deb it is time to try one of the Liz’s – the most approachable one. This Liz has just been through her mid-life crisis and returned from working on a yacht in the Bahamas with her husband. If she was any more laidback she’d be the living personification of the Reach toothbrush’s ‘Flip Top Head’ cartoon guy. She suggests the intranet. Oh. Then contacting HR. Right, they’re often a bit hard to catch. Maybe Deb would know? I thank her with a cheery wave and get the hell out of there before she sees my chin wobble and my eyes go all watery.
  • Queen B, is back from her seminar. “Have you organised the paperwork for the PhD students and research fellows yet?” Even though she is a world-renowned academic and about to publish her fourth book, she nods understandingly when I, red-faced, garble out a few sentences with words such as ‘Annoying Cardigans’, ‘Useless Bastards’, and ‘Who do I have to shag to get a friggin form to complete, be approved, be allocated a job number and actually be – *gasp* – done?’
  • We have a good laugh at that – most of the cardigans are puny enough for a fit gal like me to snap over my knees like kindling.
  • It was time for the big guns – “I’ll call Info Tech.”
  • On hold. Messages left after the beep and remember, to log your job via the intranet or via the forms. Voicemail. Email.
  • Deb taps me on the shoulder, scares the living crap out of me and causes my glass of water to spill over the keyboard. “I just thought of something. Did you know that the IT guys are just downstairs on the other side of the wall?”
  • NO I DIDN’T. I’m there hanging around their door like a groupie at a Strokes concert. Several minutes later, a young bloke in a Best’n’Less checkered shirt and an Adam’s apple larger than his head strolls in, can of Pepsi MAX in hand. “I was wondering if you could help me….”
  • He listened. He nodded. He even made some eye contact with me. Then, he said it: “What you need to go is log the job via the internet with the form….”
  • YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND, JEFF. It is Jeff isn’t it? The look of desperation in my now slightly-deranged, snot-green eyes flecked with broken blood vessels effectively penetrated his disinterested demeanor. The little nerd could clearly see that he was in danger of having his can of Pepsi rammed up his nostril if he did not DO first and SORT OUT THE FORMS LATER.

The situation finally resolved, I head back to my office with a small feeling of accomplishment at having beaten the system (if only through indirectly threatening somebody else with a beating).

My smug cocoon is soon torn open when I review my task list for the day. It is now 4pm, and two of my 16 tasks have been completed. All of the others need forms printed out, approval by the elusively-busy Queen B and logged as jobs on the intranet before any work is allotted and undertaken……

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Log a job" - the most frustrating words in our dictionary!! I know the feeling of wanting to crawl down the phone line and strangle the smug bastard who knows that if you thought logging the bloody job would actually result in anything being done in an acceptable time frame - you'd have already bloody well done it!!! Heaven knows it doesn't take Einstein to work out that perhaps that's why you're on the phone in the first place!