Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Juggle Chainsaws? Okay.

     Went into work and even more stuff went on top of the task stack, accompanied by hazy speculation from middle-management based on meetings and website-skimming.  It sleets down quicker than I am able to shovel it away and because I'm on the receiving end of people for whom "saying" is, in fact, "doing," it becomes very difficult to explain that this stuff takes finite time to accomplish -- and more of it when I am thrown jobs without the meeting-based context the bosses already have: I end up with the "we have decided to..." and have to scramble to understand the very nature of the task.  It's not "bolt this to that and paint it haze gray."  Often a very simple decision requires a complex implementation -- or cannot be done at all with the equipment we have, news which is not received graciously.

     Long story short, at the end of the day I told my department head I thought I was done, as in how much notice did he want.

     Incredulity was expressed, and shallow appreciation for my "dedication."  (You know, it's not really dedication if you work over because the job has to reach a sustainable stopping point, nor is it dedication if you go study up on things your boss doesn't bother to provide any background info for because if you don't, you're just stumbling in the dark.)  Offers we made of "help with prioritization," but there's still no understanding that there's too much in the stack, and too many things that have hard deadlines have been shoved down in priority.

     So, I don't know.  I have a meeting tomorrow and if it turns into the usual limp advice to "work smarter, not harder," I may not be able to keep my fool mouth shut.  This would be bad.  The house is nowhere near paid for.

     My co-worker Dave quit a year ago, went and did freelance work as he needed or wanted to, and was found dead in front of his TV after nine months of it.  He didn't get out in time.

     And those two hard realities are the horns of my dilemma.


B said...

At a certain point, it ain't worth it.

But if you threaten to walk, don't be bluffing.

Good luck.


Jim R said...

You could be telling my story. We were bought by a venture capital group who wanted to grow the business, but we couldn't grow workers as fast as the business. Late-assigned projects ate up time for my planned projects and all ended up behind. My failing was tending to soldier on, rather than asking for resources even though I knew they didn't exist. Force reductions occurred late last year... I finished checking in some code, turned in their stuff, and left with a smile on my face. I start back on Monday as an independent contractor, working on one project. They will be informed of the prerequisites and when they are delaying me. We'll see how well that works.

You have probably already made a good plan, and likely tried what I am about to suggest. I might go in with a time line of the mandatory projects and the due dates and explain, "Here are the priority tasks; you figure our which one, or two of these others are #2 priority, and know they'll slip if something breaks."

It's just business - keep your cool, and don't bite anyone's head off, no matter how much they deserve it - it makes it easier for them to invite you back on your own terms, if it comes to that. Good luck.

Jim R

Ian said...

Time to go ma'am. Killing yourself for someone else's goals is how we make ourselves sick. If you are good at the job and they need you you'll be a contractor to them by next week.

Roberta X said...

The company does not use contractors. Techs who leave are not replaced, period.

On the other hand, I have a thousand dollars in medical bills and a just-flared-up infection in my jaw that tell me I'll suck it up and stay.

Educated Savage said...

+1 on Jim's second paragraph. I'm a process engineer and pick up projects so fast that I can't see the top of the pile anymore. I told my boss in effect that they could have any shiny toy they wanted, I just needed to know which one first and in what order. And those will have to wait if something critical breaks.

Speak your mind to your bosses but be professional. And don't even mention walking to anyone until you actually hand them your notice. Ever.

Raz Raxxaffian said...

Ouch! (on several levels)

Until I gave it all up, I was an independent contractor for over 25 years. Beware, that even as a contractor, you get handed the same load of manure, and are given a teaspoon to shovel it with. and not being hired help, you are also expendable.

Your options to bail out of untenable situations are just as limited as that of an employee, if you wish to keep your reputation and employability.

Sadly, burnout WILL eventually ensue, and were it not for a very savvy manager on my last and final gig, I would probably have ended up in the nuthouse, or the grave.

Bobbi, this is a time for a cool head. You do not want to sacrifice your health nor your income. But if you cannot get more favorable terms of employment, you may want to consider looking elsewhere. I do NOT recommend contracting out. It is a young person's game, and I ruined my health by staying too long.


Anonymous said...

You may wish to consider asking your supervisor for a priority list.

If *everything* is the priority, ask for an itemized list of what task they will be least happiest not being finished.

When that task is complete, request the list be updated.

The best way to avoid the fate of your retired coworker is to retire *to* something, rather than *from* something. My uncle did the retire to the TV thing and lasted less than 2 years.

I can envision you building and selling handmade pre-war vintage radio gear...

Merle Morrison said...

This situation reminds me of a line from "Apocalypse Now".

Around here the bullshit piles up so fast you need wings to try and keep above it.

Don't let them ruin your health, or your sanity!


The Neon Madman said...

My situation is similar, but I have a different outlook. Our locally-owned and run company was bought out by a bigger player 3 years ago, and the change to corporate ownership and new management is right in line with you. Me and the other two TE's are buried, and I'm two months behind on my main project (which wasn't realistic to start with).

But I've decide that I'm done with the Superman routine. I'm doing my very best, and if that isn't good enough then the company is free to tell me to leave. I'm 60, have worked there for 25 years. I'm old enough to draw on my retirement funds if I have to, SS is available at 62, and my wife has a good job.

I don't respond to threats. If I spend the next three years part-time in a hardware store, won't break my heart. And I'd bet the rest of Test Engineering would be gone a year later.

Illegitimate non carborundum, Bobbie.

Anonymous said...

I think I just *may* have partial a solution to the work pileup dilemma.

Document, document, document.

Everything. Keep a personal logbook of your day-to-day work.

Log the task. Log the start and end times. Log the difficulties you encountered.

Especially when getting something done can't be done due to someone else's incompetence.

When they start to give you crap about not finishing their work, pull out your logbook and start reading until their eyes glaze over.

And never hand it over to them unless you have a copy off-site somewhere.

That logbook could come in very handy if the need arises for a lawsuit.

Hey, it's better than giving yourself an ulcer or a coronary...

The Freeholder said...

Madame, you find yourself in an all too familiar situation. I've been there, I've had friends there. It's unpleasant at best, it will break your spirit if you allow it. Luckily, I think you won't allow it.

Anonymous @ 4:30 AM has good advice. It will take a bit of time away from your work, but it's good advice. I call it "keeping a Pearl Harbor file". It's a practice that has saved my bacon a couple of times and fried someone else's bacon a couple of times.

Obviously, look for your "out". Always look for your out, even when times a good and you like your job, because you can go from like to dislike very quickly these days. You watch the market for your skill set looks like, both at home and in areas you might consider relocating to. IF you see something particularly interesting, put in for it, even if you like the current job. You may find you'd like the new gig better.

Lastly, do what you can do well. Feel free to allow them to prioritize the work for you, so long as everything isn't priority 1. Take the projects one at a time. Let the backup happen. Remember to document. You aren't going to be able to do anything about it anyway, so don't waste the energy worrying about it.

A former colleague who had worked a a Big Five accounting firm (remember those?) as a project manager gave me some advice that has stood me in good stead for many years. Managing a project is like pulling a wagon, with you being the lead horse. Sometimes the other horses start pulling in another direction, and the wagon starts to head for the ditch. No matter how hard you pull, there are more of them and the wagon continues to head for the ditch. To keep from going into the ditch with them, you simply have to unbuckle from the harness and watch the wagon go into the ditch. Once it's in the ditch and everyone on the wagon realizes that fact, they will get the horses reorganized, and get the wagon pulled out of the ditch and back on the road.

Maybe you just need to unbuckle from the harness?