Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Job That Ate July

Hey! You there! I'm still here, and still occasionally knitting, as evidenced by these:
A completed pair of socks. They only took me, oh, months. But they do show what a few rows here and there (at meetings, in the car) can eventually do. The pattern is Pine Tree Socks by Kim Salazar; the yarn is Socks That Rock in the Lagoon colorway. I affectionately call them The Swamp Thing Socks, and I love them, but--they are a bit Snug. As in almost impossible to get on and off. They are comfortable while they are actually on, but...I don't know. I think I might try to stretch them out a bit after washing them. I will be so sad if I can't wear them. Maybe I will just have to wear them for days at a time, without attempting removal. It could be the knitter's version of The Brown Dress Project.

Socks aside, most of my summer is about non-knitting. I have been chasing young'uns at ponds and lakes and fields and museums and small amusement parks. There have been many ice cream cones (which almost make up for the lack of knitting). There have been trips to visit family and there are more trips to plan. There has been a bit of spinning and a bit of sewing. And there is Work.

I don't write much about my job on my blog. First of all, this blog is supposedly about (ahem) knitting, and--sadly--my day job has nothing to do with that. Second of all, I am a licensed social worker, which means that most of what I do is Confidential. While I would love to come home and regale you all with tales of clients and coworkers--oh, the tales I could tell!--that would be unethical. And illegal. And so, not wise.

But today, to distract you from the recent lack of knitting content, I will share a recent work story, one that is not confidential; and one which has some universal WTF? aspects that some of you might appreciate. Settle in and grab your sock knitting--I'll wait.

I currently work part-time at a large community mental health center that serves children and families. I have worked there for several years, and although I only work two days per week I actually have a job with a lot of responsibility, as I oversee all the intakes of new clients and the assignment of cases to appropriate clinicians. My clinic might admit as many as 100 new clients each month, and I read ALL those reports, and I edit those reports, and I teach new clinicians how to write those reports. (And I do some other things, like deal with unhappy consumers and occasionally fix the photocopier. We social workers are versatile.)

In order for me to do my job, I rely heavily on two administrative staffers. One of those is my personal saviour, and for the purposes of this post, she will be known as Steady Betty. She has been around for many years, and she Knows What She Is Doing. She is pleasant, ultraorganized, and reliable. If I could pay her $50/hour, I would. Sadly, we are talking about social services, so she makes far less than that. But--if she ever leaves the agency I am doomed. She keeps track of about a million things. She deals with upset parents, and crisis workers, and insurance gatekeepers. She triages at least ten difficult phone calls each day. She schedules appointments with thirty different clinicians and she Remembers Everything.

The other staff position is currently empty, and that is where the story lies. The other position used to be filled by SuperKate, who was just out of college and full of energy. She worked for me for a year, and I would gladly have kept her on; but she had Big Plans and she moved on to a new job. In March. So we hired a new staffer, who had held a similar position at an affiliated agency, and who seemed to be a good fit. Except that, during her first three weeks at work, she called in sick five times. Five. Including her first day. Now, in her defense, she had a son with diabetes, and he had some unexpected complications at that time. As I happen to be a mother of young children, I am more than willing to be flexible with folks who need special consideration. But this new staffer did not seem to even recognize that missing FIVE days in your first few weeks of work could be a problem. Not once did she call me and say, "Oh, I am so sorry that I am missing all of this work. I really want to figure out how to make it up to you and prove that I am a good employee." No apologies, no explanations, no acknowledgement of the problem. And then, two days after our office manager spoke to her about her absences, she left me a brief voice mail telling me that she was leaving to take a new position.

So--okay. Good riddance and all that. The problem was that hiring a new employee takes a while, and it was now the end of May. SteadyBetty had already been given permission to take a much needed three week vacation in July, and she had plans and plane tickets. We advertised the position and scheduled some interviews, fully expecting that a new staffer would not be able to start until August. We began to make plans to have another administrative person cover part of SteadyBetty's job during her absence. But lo and behold! One of the interviewees (PerkyPam) seemed perfect for the job, and she could start right away. She would have a week of part-time training with SteadyBetty, and along with her past job experience, it would probably be just enough to let us scrape by over the next three weeks.

PerkyPam came for her first afternoon of training on Monday, June 26th. The next day I met with SteadyBetty, who told me that the training went great, and that PerkyPam seemed to be smart, and to catch on quickly, and to have a lot of potential. Relief surged through me--we had found our gal! My summer was saved.

PerkyPam then went AWOL. She never showed up at our office again.

When the office manager finally tracked her down on Thursday the 29th, she was only somewhat embarrassed. "Oh, I changed my mind," she said. "But I was afraid to call and tell you."

WTF???? Would this ever occur to you as a viable option? It just boggles my mind. Would you ever take a job and then JUST NOT SHOW UP?*

So. We had two days before SteadyBetty's departure. Two days to train a new, clueless "front office" receptionist how to keep our complicated program from falling apart. Two days for me to learn how to do all the computer data entry that keeps things going. And I have now spent almost three weeks trying to do my job (which I never have enough time to do in the first place), and SteadyBetty's job, in ten hours. Ten hours per week. And, because summer is usually a SLOW time at work, a time in which I can get some things done at home, I only had childcare for those ten hours. No full time days at daycare, just an adolescent sitter who comes to the house.

I have been tearing out my hair.

But we have muddled through. Somehow. And SteadyBetty returns next Monday. I may just give her a token of my appreciation. Like, you know, a diamond necklace or my first born child. Or something.

And August? Oh, August. Two weeks of vacation coming my way. Both of them involve trips I'm not all that excited about. But it will sure beat working.

I might even have some time to work on the poncho that my five year old has requested, known henceforth as The Pink Atrocity.

*Feel free to share your own work horror stories in the comments.