Thursday, March 30, 2006

Inconsistently Angry

I mentioned yesterday's post to a former team member (FTM) and he reminded me how bad our former workplace was. Thinking of this craphole (where I was trapped for two years due to a bad job market) always makes me angry.

Sometimes venting is cathartic but ranting about that dump just makes me angry because I keep remembering progressively worse things that happened there the longer I dwell on it. So largely, my response to that place is a healthy suppression of emotion and pretending it never happened.

I could probably keep posting for a whole year just on how bad that place was (and I probably will return to it from time to time) but variety is the spice of life. And I’m angry about so very many different things. Today I’ll focus on the one thing that I think was the worst there: inconsistency.

I work in IT and my job tends to revolve around writing specifications and requirements documents. In this workplace the structure was that I (and FTM) would write a document and submit it to our manager for approval. There was no objective standard for measuring the quality of our work; it was all down to the subjective judgement of our manager.

Sometimes things would sail through with only minor revisions, sometimes she would want major changes but most often it was the death of a thousand cuts. She would send the document back with all her little “change this” notes – fair enough. Then I would re-submit the document and she would reject it again, attaching another bunch of “change this” notes. The angry-making bit of this was that the things she noted the second time around were almost always in the document the first time around. And they didn’t seem to be a problem then.

Now, I’m a believer in re-reading and thoroughness – you’ll often see things on a second reading you didn’t see the first time. But this wouldn’t happen once or twice, it was common to be forced through five or six iterations and, on occasion, ten or more times. Then someone would ask “when is that document going to be finished” and the only honest answer I could give was “I don’t know.”

I had no way of knowing what was “right” because of the inconsistent control freakery of this manager. There were a lot of things wrong with that workplace, but this behaviour alone was enough to drive me to despair. And invariably, the manager would blame us for the delays. Never mind that she couldn’t give us objective standards to adhere to so we could do things “right”. Never mind that she was completely inconsistent in her assessments. Never mind that she would insist we should put something in for one iteration then insist it was wrong in another and disavow ever having told us to do it in the first place.

It was all our fault.

And in a way, it was. I never stood up and called bullshit on her behaviour. I never stood up for what I thought was right. I just didn’t see any point.

Instead I just got the hell out.

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