Friday, June 17, 2011

Workplace quiz

Krazy Kat by George Herriman
 A friend shared some workplace frustration with me yesterday at lunch.

Friend A and Colleague B share an office and report to the same supervisor. Colleague B's primary duty is a task with a specialized piece of equipment that must be done 2-4 times per day.

Colleague B's equipment broke down this week, and she must do her task manually until it can be replaced. Her work has already backed up, so Friend A has to help. The Supervisor found two other departments in their organization have the same equipment, so she asked Colleague B to make some calls. She also got a quote on buying a new one.

The next morning, the Supervisor called in sick. B shut herself into her workspace, doing the task manually. Friend A asked -"What about the one at Department X, will they let you use it?" "What about the spare at Department Y?" Colleague B replied, "I called them and left a message but haven't heard back."

"What about the new one, when does it get here?"

"I think Supervisor ordered it but I don't know when it's coming." She continued processing the task manually.

So finally, Friend A did the following:
  • called Department X, who invited Colleague B to travel to their worksite and use their equipment.
  • called Department Y, who offered to deliver their spare to Colleague B.
  • called sick Supervisor at home, to see if the new machine had been ordered
  • when learning the order had not been placed, asked authority from Supervisor to do so and arrange priority shipping.
By the end of the Day Two, one day's work had been done at the off-site office; a loaner machine was in place for tomorrow; and a new machine expected Monday.

Colleague B is furious for Friend A's meddling in her business. Friend A is furious with Colleague B for her lack of initiative and passiveness.

What do you think? What would you have done, if you were Friend A? What would you have done if you were Colleague B?


Larkspur said...


I can't say what I would have done, because I redlined on office protocol a while back, and cannot be trusted, because even staple removers can be weaponized. However: friend A could be faulted only if she did not tell colleague B exactly what she was going to do, because friend A is materially affected by how B does her work.

I'd have suggested that A go to B and tell her calmly but directly, "This needs to be handled. It can't wait, so I'm going to do it if you aren't going to. Okay? I mean it." Then A gets it done, and if B subsequently acts huffy or offended, then A simply says "I told you I was going to take care of it. I took care of it. I don't expect a thank you note, but please knock it off with this hurt feelings stuff."

Then A asks B out for lunch, not to discuss the matter, but to provide an opportunity for both of them to act civil so as to put the incident behind them. Lunch might be good, but racquetball might be more effective.

At her next performance review, A asks for a raise, since clearly she is in a senior or supervisory role with regard to B. (A also would do well to examine how she behaved throughout the episode. She obviously has the moral high ground, and when you've got that, you don't want to blunt your effort by acting peevishly.)

Had I been B, I'd have been hugely grateful, recognizing - even if I didn't articulate it - that I suck at project management, although I do fine work in other areas. I'd have kept my eyes open for an opportunity to return the favor to A. I'd also have made efforts to show Supervisor that in fact I hadn't dropped the ball, and that the matter got handled the way a good team handles stuff. I mean, ya might as well try to spin it.

trash said...

What would I have done? Hopefully something similar to A but more likely (depending on how I was feeling)either gone in ranting or just avoided the minefield all together.

Max Sartin said...

I think A had a right to meddle in B's business, since A was expected to pick up some of the slack, giving A extra work and making it A's business. A probably should have mentioned to B what A was planning, but B shouldn't have got upset since B's work was intruding on A's time.
If I were A, I would have told B that I was going to follow up on the previous calls, and if I were B I would have thanked A for the help.
With all that said, a lot also depends on the culture within the office itself. I've worked in several different schools in the last 8 years, each one with it's own tolerances and expectations, and I've found some schools to be a lot more territorial than others.
For example, in almost every school I've been at there has been the expectation that if you found a worksheet laying around the copy room, or even in the recycle bin, and you found it to be useful in your class, that it was ok to make copies of it and use it. At the school I was at the last two years, one of my colleagues was ripped an new one by a teacher that found her using one of his worksheets. At that school people are very territorial about the things they produce.That doesn't make it right, but I had to learn to live within the culture of that school.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

What do you think? What would you have done,

Let's ask my f(r)iend, Gojira!

LaVerne said...

The case job description says that A "has to help" B...when the work piles up...I think she was doing exactly that. B may be task-driven, but A is the problem solver.