Sunday, 27 August 2017

It's A Cruel Summer

It is a given, when dealing with the public, that one will encounter all manner of douchebaggery. What buggers the mind is the stultifying magnitude of the public's willful stupidity, hostility, ignorance and entitlement. It is never easy or pleasant to deal with, even if, like me, one is able to find a modicum of humour in all of that crap.

And this is why it is doubly disappointing when there are people in one's office who *are* the public and behave just like them. Way back here, I blogged about Bananarama, who has turned out to be, alongside Oscillating Fan, one of the worst offenders. Her behaviour has been an ongoing concern for the clerks, our supervisor, Bananarama's supervisor and the other adjusters. She is a bully and an asshole such that she has been *required* to take the Respectful Workplace workshop twice. But I think Bananarama is made of teflon, because it isn't sticking.

Bananarama is, like OF, immune to social cues and feels entitled to your time, no matter what you happen to be doing or how busy you are. Her files are to take precedence over all other files and whatever other tasks you might have before you. There is a process for the adjusters if they want changes or updates to their files. They are either to send an email with instructions to a specific mailbox (in which case the changes are made within two days) or put the physical file in a specially-marked bin. We always have at least one clerk, often two, dedicated to such miscellaneous requests.

But Bananarama regularly brings the file directly to the last clerk who looked at it to explain how we fucked up (even though her instructions about certain procedures vary from week to week). She utterly ignores the established protocol and sails into one's office to demand special attention. And when one says (through one's sandwich), "I'm on lunch", she responds with, "Okay, but I just want to show you this one thing..."

We have a new director in our department, and Bananarama hates him with a passion. This is, quite possibly, the best endorsement of his capabilities that we might have, because if Bananarama hates him, he's probably not putting up with her shit the way the former director did. The former director was a rather studious, stooped, slender man with a shock of thick white hair and a gently wry sense of humour. He always reminded me of a medieval monk. He was an excellent leader, but he was older and tired of his work, and one could see that he was just looking forward to hitting the links in Arizona. Which is what he is doing right now, and I wish him joy of it.

The New Guy *might* be forty years old, comes from the public sector, and is as bright and shiny as a new penny. He is shy and awkward like a schoolboy, but has been vociferous in defending his new department against the usual municipal bureaucracy, makes an effort to make a personal connection with each of us at least once a day and remembers little details about us from conversation to conversation. I think he is fantastic, and the only one who seems to have an overt issue with The New Guy is Bananarama. The rest of us would marry him tomorrow.

So this past week, the office was short-staffed. My supervisor is away for two weeks, the awesome man who oversees the adjusters is on medical leave until September, and Pancreas (one of the three clerks) was on holidays. And it was a brutally busy week.  If I opened one claim, I must have opened sixty or seventy (which I assure you is a lot) in addition to my other duties. In fact, because Pancreas didn't open a single claim last Thursday or Friday (when the Clueless One was absent), I was still working on claims from last week on Monday.

So, whatever, right? It is what it is, and the only thing one can do is put one's head down and get the work done. 

Except on Monday at 12:15, Bananarama came to my cubicle with a file in her hand and asked if I was opening claims.

"I am after 1:00," I said."Right now, I'm on lunch."

She moved further into my office to stand next to my desk. "Okay, I just want to ask you if you'll open this claim for me right away."

"I can't. I'm still working on claims from last week." (This is against policy, by the way. We clerks have been told we're not permitted to tell the adjusters "no". But my experience with Bananarama is that if you give her an inch, she'll put a battlecruiser in it.)

"Yeah, but this woman has already been waiting a long time and blahblahblah."

Now to clarify, this woman had been waiting a little while, but not because we were behind in our work. The claimant had not gone through the regular channels, and therefore all Bananarama had was a collection of emails to her from another department. But as usual, she felt that her file should be opened on a priority level. Rather than argue with her, I told her that I would try to get to it as soon as possible, and she finally left my office.

She came to me the next morning to ask if the claim had been opened yet. I said "No". So she came back again at 1:00 to badger me further about it. I felt harassed and bullied, so took the fucking file and opened it right then and there. Unfortunately, in my haste (and resentment), I sent the wrong acknowledgement letter to the claimant. 

Bananarama lost her mind. She came back to my office to point out the error in no uncertain terms, insisted I resend it with an apology, and then, on her way out of the office, she stood in the hallway and said, "You guys (i.e.clerks) really need to pay attention to what you're doing."

The rest of the week was equally challenging. By the time Friday rolled around, I was ready to rage-quit. And the day started shittily when I discovered that the Clueless One wasn't coming in because of some issue with her mommy (not medical). I was, therefore, the only clerk on duty.

Now I will take a moment right here and now to say that the other adjusters pitched right in. They knew what kind of week I'd had and both Ruby and M. offered to open their own claims and generally do whatever they could to lessen my load. It was really nice and I absolutely appreciated their offers. It is people like this that keep me coming back to the office at times like this.

I had a busy morning, and decided to take my lunch a few minutes early. At 11:45, I went to the kitchen to heat my pasta. When I came back, Bananarama was seated in my chair at my desk, writing instructions for me on a file she wanted me to work on that afternoon. She didn't say anything except "hi", and proceeded to sit there at my desk, forcing me to stand and wait for several minutes while she wrote a note. Then she wanted to explain what she had written.

I was, by this time, seething with rage. I almost told her to fuck right off. Seriously. Only the spectre of my fucking mortgage kept my tongue still. But by that time, I had had enough. So I choked down my lunch, and spent the rest of my lunch hour composing a long and precise letter to The New Guy about what had happened this week and over the past few months with both O.F. and Bananarama. Let me tell you, that letter compiled an exhaustive list of their various transgressions, and I did apologize for bringing the concerns to him, but in the absence of absolutely everyone else, it went to him by default.

His response?

"Please never feel that you cannot come to me with your concerns, that is what I am here for.

"We will fix this."

So for a while I felt a little better, especially when he sad he wanted to set up a meeting with me next week to talk, and that if Bananarama came to me at all that afternoon, he was to tell me and he would provide an intervention. And I do hold out hope that The New Guy can effect some kind of change or standards so that this culture of bullying will stop. We will certainly see what happens in early September after our departmental meeting.

But on Friday after work, the Fragrant Missus and I came home to discover that some addict had been in our garage and jacked some of our shit, some of which will be difficult to replace.

So, I'm not in the best space right now, kids. I'm thinking there isn't enough Prozac in the world to make me feel right about people again. 

No comments: