Thursday, July 2, 2015
The job I've held for the last two years is one where I'm charged with strictly interpreting certain laws and policies.
And one of the things I've had to get used to is that policies are different from laws. You can appeal policies; you can make exceptions to policies, you can negotiate policies. You can't do that with laws.
In many ways, that's been a plus. When someone presses me with, "Well, can't you make an exception?" Or "Would it make a difference if we....?" or "Who can I speak with to get a waiver?" it's a quick conversation-ender to be able to say, "I'm sorry, but this is in the ordinance. It's a law."
There's a comfort in that. I can't get bullied. I don't ever make promises I can't keep. I don't go out on a limb for someone because I like them, and I don't have to feel bad for not going out on one for someone I don't like.
After two years I've gotten familiar enough with the laws I work with to figure out how they can be manipulated. I don't mind telling people how they can change their plans so that the law doesn't apply to them. This is always a good solution, but people have to make that decision themselves. And once they no longer need my services, I don't continue working with them, because now they are out of my jurisdiction.
But this week I ended up getting more involved than usual with, by coincidence, TWO situations. In order to solve one client's problem, I had to advocate for them with another client, to negotiate away a privilege that the second client didn't really need. For the first situation, it was because the poor woman had been jerked around by others so much that she was near tears. For the second, it was because although they were nice, the group I had to help was very powerful in our local political sphere, and I feared the uproar that would come if I said "No."
In both situations, my subtle manipulation was a win-win for all parties involved, without breaking any ordinances. But now that it's all settled, I feel uncomfortable.
One of the things that makes me uncomfortable was how easy it was for me to engage in this jiggery-pokery. I was actually good at it. And my superiors gave me great praise. But it was also stressful, being a go-between, engaging in persuasive wheedling on the phone, biting my nails waiting for someone to respond to me. My stomach was actually tense.
I can see what a slippery slope it is for those with political power. One day you're the hero who solves everyone's problem, and then next day you're stepping over the line.
I'm glad I'm getting out.