Consistent Inconsistency

I took a vacation over Christmas and New Years to see my parents. My employer has known about this since February, ten months. Some of my tasks are inventory related and inventory fell on 31 Dec. This is the first inventory I have missed in seven years.

Guess how much prep my manager and the others responsible for inventory did for my absence.

I’m paid hourly, so in my, and our union’s, opinion, my work needs to be covered when I am absent. There is no plan in our company for covering tasks. There’s just a mad scramble to do what they can, despite training we put together and they then skip, and it is left to the hourly employees to fix the problems created, without extra pay and without extra time.

I am good at my job and have improved the processes and built a few crude tools in spreadsheets to speed up the tedious bits. If they hired to replace me I estimate it would take most people in my company 48 hours / week to do my job, on average. A few would get it done in 40, even fewer in 30-34 hours / week. Most weeks it takes me 24 hours.

The week after my vacation? It’s going to take 40 and bleed into next week, because I also have to double-check everything that was done, finish what was skipped, and fix innumerable errors.1 So most weeks I pad my work time and draw it out to 40 hours because I am already underpaid for the breadth and depth of my job responsibilities. Then, on the crunch weeks, I have the additional time to do the unpaid labor to get my job back into some semblance of order.

My biggest problem though is that my co-workers do some tasks one way and then start doing it another, and, when confronted, with evidence, deny that there is any change. One of them is an inveterate liar and discounting him I face the question of “are they doing this intentionally?” I think the answer is no — they think so little while doing their jobs that it doesn’t register when they make a change. Some of the changes probably percolate over time (most of them work in a food production environment - cooking and baking), and then suddenly evolve into a new form - a sort of punctuated equilibrium. Not all of the changes are bad, but they do all have consequences, some of which my co-workers will never see.

I don’t have the energy or tools to track the changes over time and it isn’t my job to think for them. I started, mid-December, just refusing to fill simple, but unneeded requests. I ask follow-up questions and point out how they could find the information themselves without involving anyone else and then turn back to my computer screen. “Will that work?” I ask, as I start entering data into another field.

It’s my new consistency: pointing at the toolbox and dismissing them from my attention. So far, it appears to be working just fine.

  1. Despite having created step-by-step guides for every task - “The Idiot’s Guide to Counting and Entering Inventory” if you will. Par example: last quarter, auditing the count and data entry found five obvious errors that needed correction. I did that one. This inventory, so far, I’ve found 112 obvious errors, which doubled our inventory for one department and was thousands short for another.