The Three Faces of Eva Luna

My apologies if this post makes no sense, because right now I am too frustrated and pissed off to see straight. Basically, at work I am wearing too many hats, and have been for far too long. Last I checked, I have only one head, so I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with all these hats.

Background on my boss, who has no managerial skills:

In addition to having a boss who has no managerial skills, for the past 5 months or so, in addition to my regular job I have been covering most of the duties of a staff person of one of our major clients, who has been out on maternity leave. She returned from her leave nearly a month ago now, but there have been basically no signs of her reassuming her previous duties, which means I am still performing them. I would do just about anything right now for some light at the end of the tunnel, but every time I look down the tunnel, all I see are oncoming trains…in addition to all our normal work, the following issues have surfaced on my team recently:

  1. We have been contracted by this same client to do a very large compliance audit project.
  2. On the one hand, this is potentially a huge amount of billable work.
  3. On the other hand, our team’s administrative person and data entry/workflow control person have been down at the client site for the past 2 weeks gathering the materials to be audited back in our office.
  4. #3 means that their work is supposed to be covered by other people in the office.
  5. Of the three remaining administrative staff, none has been on the job for more than 2 months. That means they make a lot of mistakes, which means caseworkers have to take more time out of their schedules to review (and frequently, to correct) their work.
  6. Of the three remaining data entry/workflow staff, one is useless, plus his wife just had twins a few days ago, so he’s out of the office. He frequently disregards and/or questions his instructions, which means he is worse than useless; not only to we have to check and/or correct his work, but we have to argue with him about why he should listen to us. Honestly, I don’t know why he still has a job here. Plus the other two are on teams which operate differently, and they can’t seem to remember to look at the list of procedures we gave them for doing our team’s work. I can’t say that I blame them, because they have too much work to do already.
  7. Our administrative person was sick of her hellish job, and of being shipped to godforsaken client sites for weeks at a time, so she has given notice, which means her last day of work will be on the client site, and nobody who understands our team’s processes will be available to train her replacement. (People tend to last 6 months or less in that position before quitting, being fired, or being promoted, usually one of the former two.)
  8. Our data entry/workflow person has yet to spend 2 consecutive weeks in her position without being called away to go to a client site or handle some other special project, nor has she been given clear guidance on how to do her job. It’s not her fault – it’s a training issue – but it means that we are all having to double- and triple-check her work, which takes time away from our own work.
  9. My boss is currently on vacation with her boyfriend. I’m glad her personal life is going well; maybe getting laid regularly will improve her disposition. However, that means we are trying to cover the amount of work that normally keeps 7 of us quite busy, but with 4 people, plus my still having to cover the work of a client staff person (with no end in sight) and spend large amounts of time locating and/or correcting the work of other staff members who are already stretched to the limit and have been given little to no guidance about how to do our work (each team has a fair amount of client-specific procedures).

So today I arguably screwed something up. I am theoretically supposed to follow up on all outstanding items needed for new cases on a weekly basis, but I haven’t consistently, because I have way too many balls in the air. There is a VIP whose manager hasn’t provided a key piece of info yet that we need to prepare his case; I sent him a couple of e-mails, and haven’t gotten a response yet. Our client contact called one of my teammates (not me; God forbid she should actually talk to me) and asked why he hell the case hadn’t been prepared yet, and now it’s probably going to be my fault that I only sent 3 e-mails instead of 4.

I am so fucking pissed I can’t see straight. I never wanted this responsibility to begin with, it’s already lasted almost twice as long as promised, and I’m seriously at the point of having a nervous breakdown and running out of here in hysterics. The rest of the team, and to a lesser extent the rest of the office, are nearly in the same boat; we have too much to do, and are putting in enough overtime that we are, nearly without exception, completely mentally exhausted to the point that we are barely able to form sentences by the time we leave the office. I’ve already caught myself making stupid mistakes out of fatigue; just last night I sent an e-mail to a client (luckily not an embarrassing one) that was meant to go to a co-worker. Something is going to give, and I sure hope it’s not me.

There, I feel a little better now after venting a bit, even if I am sitting in my office with the door shut with mascara streaming down my cheeks after crying from frustration. I take my professional reputation very seriously, and I really want to do a kickass job and am really not fond of looking like an idiot, but how do I make management understand that four people cannot effectively do the same amount of work as eight, preferably without ending up in an inpatient psych ward?

Start shopping yourself around.

You are way to talented, Eva, to have to put up with that shit w/o being satisfactorily compensated and appreciated.

Or how bout you play hooky and let me buy you a few brews one of these afternoons? Maybe i’ll see if smiling bandit can make it to cheer things up!

In the meantime - what are you doing reading this? Don’t you have enough work to do!!!

**Dinsdale, ** you are a sweetheart. I’m seriously thinking I should start keeping a flask in my desk.

Plan A is to go on my much-needed let’s-crash-on-our-friends’ sofas tour of Western Europe, and then if things haven’t improved when I get back, update my resume. Anyone need an immigration paralegal?

I can understand 100% how you feel, I think. I’m also in a client-based audit position, one with above average staff turnover due to long hours without overtime, the constant firefighting to manage all the jobs being juggled (er, sorry for the mixed metaphors) and the like.

Sometimes I’ve felt like screaming, sometimes in the last few weeks I’ve been close to typing up my resignation letter ready to go at a second’s notice. Personally I’ve set deadlines of 1 January (pay review) and 20 April (month before my flat lease expires) to decide whether to stay or go (regardless of whether I’ve lined up another job, I’m trying to save an emergency fund), but that might not be a good idea if things could improve for you.

All I can say is wiser people than me have said that the short term satisfaction is not worth it. Bide your time, find something else, and resigning will be sweet.

In terms of dealing with the short term problems, the best advice I had was to let yourself fail. Fuck up, get called on it, explain (rationally) exactly why it couldn’t have ended better. Either your company will understand and try to improve things, or they won’t and you’re better off out of there. Your life is worth so much more than the stress caused by a bad job. I should know, I’m not following my own advice right now but I should.

You work to live, not live to work. Start the process of finding something else, start saving enough to have a job-hunting hiatus if things don’t improve, and above all else allow yourself to be human and to fail. Oh, and make sure you have everything in writing leading up to every failure or slipped deadline. Every snippet will support you if you need it.

Well, Crusoe, this isn’t an audit position per se, and that’s why I’m hating it right now; I’m not getting to do what I was hired to do, nor what I was promised I would be doing when they moved me to this team 6 months ago.

The big boss sold me down the river. The more I think about it, the more I think it’s time to move on. I’m pretty marketable, but I’m not going to make any decisions until I get to rest and clear my head. Plus holiday time is a lousy time to be job-hunting. But I’ve never been sick so often in my life…3 cases of bronchitis since I moved into this position? My body is definitely telling me something.

Definitely. Regardless of the role, if it’s not where you want to be, it’s making you unhappy and possibly contributing to physical illness, it’s time to take stock. Maybe it could improve if management realise the pressures you face; maybe not. In the latter case, it’s time to move on. I gave myself deadlines for decision making (to focus saving money as a safety net and to make sure I was really thinking through things beforehand). That might work for you, but I hesitate to recommend it since I’m still at square one!

Sometimes if you need something, you have only to ask…

Update: on Friday, I couldn’t take it anymore and went in to talk to the managing partner, even though my boss was still out on vacation. Considering that I was having my fourth very noisy asthma attack of the preceding 24 hours, and my office is 20 feet down the hall from his, I think I finally got through to him that I was extremely upset and stressed out. I basically told him that we were all giving 110%, and that something was going to blow soon if we didn’t get some help.

He was obviously annoyed that client relations had sunk to the point that they had, but he didn’t harp on it to me; at least he has the sense to know that I already know that. Basically, he sees our current situation as being at least as much my immediate boss’ doing as my own. Apparently he had asked her weeks ago if our team needed more help, what with the audit and all the people who were going to be out of the office, and she told him we didn’t. Apparently she thinks four people can do the work of seven; the rest of us beg to differ, and subsequent events have certainly proven otherwise. The managing partner is now quite disgusted that my immediate boss didn’t call these issues to his attention before they reached crisis mode. After all, managing workload is one of her primary duties. I was in such a state, pulmonary and otherwise, by Friday afternoon that he actually asked me to take all the urgent stuff off my desk so he could reassign it and I could go home, take some asthma medicine, and crawl into bed; I told him that if everyone just left me the hell alone to do my work, I could get everything done that was urgent, and so I did.

So the managing partner told me that a) they’ve made an offer to another paralegal, who may be starting as soon as next week; and b) he will have to think about restructuring our team and possibly moving me elsewhere in the office (and at that point it was all I could do to keep from shouting “I told you so!”, because I told him when he switched me to this team more than six months ago that it wasn’t going to work, and exactly why, all of which has been proven true), and c) he will try to push along the client person taking her job back!

So wish me luck, guys! Maybe I’ll get moved to a slightly less insane team…

P.S. It is completely unheard of for someone to be hired for a team without the team leader’s input, which doesn’t bode well for my immediate boss that the managing partner hired a paralegal while she was out of the country on vacation. When my immediate boss talked to me this morning, and I mentioned I hadn’t known we were looking for anyone, she said she hadn’t either. Hmmmm…