The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #58012   Message #916641
Posted By: Don Firth
23-Mar-03 - 05:11 PM
Thread Name: BS: Help! My Job is a Dilbert Cartoon!
Subject: RE: BS: Help! My Job is a Dilbert Cartoon!
I have a rich lode of stories about the various jobs I have worked, but a real doozey was when I worked for an accounting firm under contract to the Bonneville Power Administration.

The BPA had an extensive, statewide residential weatherization program going (having determined that it was cheaper to encourage conservation that it was to build more dams and power-plants). The firm I worked for inspected the newly weatherized homes to make sure that everything was up to specs, and my job was to take the various inspectors' reports (sometimes fifty at a shot) and boil them down to one six-page report, then submit them to the BPA. My official title was "Administrative Assistant/Technical Writer." (I know what a "technical writer" is, but what's an "administrative assistant?" Well—what the heck! It sounds impressive.)

At first, the dozen of us (ten inspectors and two technical writers) worked at home. I sat at my computer and one of the inspectors would drop by and bring me a stack of inspection sheets. I would go through them and turn them into one comprehensive report. Sometimes I had to work for ten or twelve hours a day for several days in a row to get one out on time, sometimes a couple of days would go by with nothing to do. Whichever it was, I still got paid for a regular eight-hour day. Great job! No commuting, nobody watching over my shoulder, I could sit there and work in my jammies if I wanted to, and I could work my own hours, just as long as I got the report finished before the deadline. We'd all have a breakfast meeting at a downtown restaurant once a week.

But people in the downtown offices chafed. Frank at the BPA kept saying "We pay these people to work eight hours a day. But if they're working at home, how do we know they are actually working?" (Worry worry worry fret fret fret) This, despite the fact that the work was getting done, and always on time. In the meantime, Barry at the accounting firm had the cloying lusts of an empire-builder. He was a lowly contract supervisor. He wanted to be an office manager (covet covet covet). But we didn't work in an office, we worked at home. Frank and Barry conspired. They lobbied. They agitated. They wheedled. Finally the BPA and the accounting firm agreed to lease a suite of offices one floor down from the BPA offices, and now, we former free souls all had to come in there and work—from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

The BPA covered the accounting firm's expenses, of course, and with the new arrangement, they had to pay for the leased office space, office furniture, phones, computers, and the usual stuff that you need in a business office. But—Frank could come downstairs, walk around and peer into the cubicles, and thus assuring himself that everybody actually was working. And Barry had an office of his very own, complete with ficus plant in a large ceramic pot in the corner and a nice view of Puget Sound where he would sit, rub his hands together, and smile. And we'd have our meetings there, in Barry's office. The company wouldn't buy us our once-a-week breakfast anymore.

In the meantime, the work-load was piling up and some of it wasn't getting done on time anymore. We no longer worked ten or twelve hours a day when needed because they wouldn't authorize overtime, so when 5:00 o'clock rolled around, we were gone, whether the reports were done or not. So they hired more people. This meant they need more space, more office furniture, and more computers. We had started with a dozen and we were getting the job done. Now we had two dozen, and the work was getting done, but just barely.

So—when it came time to renew the contract between BPA and the accounting firm, the Powers That Be at BPA decided that the whole thing had become much too expensive. They declined to renew the contract and assigned some of their own staff to do what we—the suddenly unemployed—had been doing.

Thanks, Frank. Thanks, Barry. Hi, Dilbert. . . .

Don Firth