How’m I Doin’?Well, I finally came to a decision: I am not going to leave my job on May 27, as I had intended. With a new boss and a new atmosphere in the office, my job satisfaction has improved beyond all expectations; and with the economy in the shithole, a bird in the hand is worth rather more than two in the bush (although setting two birds loose in Bush sounds like fun... I vote for California condors, or bald eagles). Between these two factors, the lack of group insurance and the lack of upward mobility or of a motivating rewards system (my other reasons for leaving, besides the emotionally poisonous atmosphere created by the former boss) pale into insignificance.
One thing, though... since I'm staying, I am now in on the Evaluation Process that the new boss is trying to complete in order to pass his next year's staffing recommendations on to the executive body for approval. Which means that I have to write a self-evaluation before the end of the day: a description of my tasks and responsibilities (aside from the Job Description I wrote last month), followed by a description of what talents I bring to those tasks, and finishing up with a description of areas that could be improved. I have never written a self-evaluation before, of course, since the former boss never bothered with evaluating the contracted professional staff whose contracts call for annual evaluations, much less requiring such a thing of the uncontracted clerical staff. But the new boss is thorough, if nothing else.
I find it very difficult to gain a correct and honest perspective on my own job performance. So much of my self-esteem is involved — and any time my self-esteem gets involved, perspective goes right out the window. The two most important components of a self-evaluation are to describe what I'm especially good at, and to discuss those areas where I could improve. And while it's fairly easy to simply "get into character" and let Marlénè sing my praises (she has no trouble with low self-esteem, quite the opposite), I fear that any shortcomings I profess under the banner of "areas where I could improve" would raise an expectation that I would, in fact, improve upon them. And this is where I get a little wobbly.
For example, one of my major shortcomings here is my ever-shifting mood swings, which some days make me SuperSecretary and some days make me SuperSurlySloth. I can go several weeks operating as a paragon of the clerical arts, my cape flowing in the breeze while beams of celestial light emanate from my person, and then can turn right around and give you three weeks of quite startling ineptitude, like Stan Laurel after a few bong-hits. And even in my upward swings of energy and efficiency, I can't always overcome the slovenly messes that I make in my downward swings. Like the stacks and stacks of anonymous papers that I have instead of a useful filing system.
Now, that is certainly an area that can use improvement, but I don't know how to improve on it, or even if it is possible for me to improve. It seems to me just one of those little untidinesses of life, a condition that must be accepted rather than a problem that can be solved. But is that true? Or is it just my native laziness refusing to work any harder than I feel like?
Another area where I feel myself inept is my inability to say NO to my "superiors," which quite often leads me to take on more tasks than I can actually handle. I allow people to overload me with responsibilities, and then when my mood swings down I become immediately overwhelmed, leaving an ever-increasing number of tasks undone or done badly. With certain people, I have often found it easier to just say I'll do something and then not do it, or do it late and half-assedly, rather than speak up and say that I won't do it and you can't make me. This is something that I actually want to improve upon, but how do I express it in such a way that I don't look like a lazy whiner?
Oh, well, I'm sure the answer will come to me eventually. One of my known talents, which I am perfectly comfortable crowing over, is my skill with the written word. If truth fails me, I'll just make something up that sounds good.
But in the meantime, I am now going to take a sinfully long lunch break (part of my new schedule with my new boss is a half-hour unpaid lunch, and I never take more than ten minutes for lunch but still work the extra time on the end of the day, so I save up all the extra off-time for Friday, when there's nobody here to stop me). I must walk up to Jack London Square, where I am told there is a little shop dealing with Japanese imports, which carries a most dazzling array of tea things... I am going to see if I can find some of those cast-iron teapots with the built-in strainers that I was hunting earlier in the week (God, was that only four days ago? This has been a very long week).
Okay, so I finally finished my self-evaluation. It took me forever, and I got so wrapped up in it that I forgot to go to eBay and buy that lovely mink scarf that went for $11.50! On the other hand, I did have my long lunch and found the iron teapots... which were surprisingly and prohibitively expensive ($80), so I ended up not buying any after all. Oh well.
Here are the sole and lonely fruits of today's labors:
On a daily basis, my main tasks are answering the phone (directing calls to others if they’re available or else taking messages; if possible I callers’ questions) and writing/word-processing all letters and other documents sent from this office. I also download emails (though I seldom read them, as most are from listserves, I just archive them) from our AOL account every day. I sometimes sort the mail, but JB does this rather more often than I do, though if I notice something important in the mail pile I will pull it out.
Another of my ongoing duties (though not a daily occurrence) is the maintenance of the membership database; I input new members, compare membership activity against the payroll deduction registers, forward membership information to the national affiliate (via an internet/network interface for which I received two days’ training), and answer membership queries from the Faculty and our affiliates. I also use this database, as well as my access to the District’s mainframe, to look up phone numbers and other contact information for the Professional Staff.
Twice a month I distribute (usually by mail) the agenda/attachments and minutes of the Executive Body Meetings. I reserve the room for these meetings, assemble and deliver refreshments, and take notes. This calendar year I have also become the sole writer of meeting minutes (in the past, I only did so occasionally). For the twice-a-semester Membership Meetings, I make room reservations, advertise the meeting, prepare the sign-in sheets, and take notes.
Once a month, I receive the due and fee deductions from the District payroll department, deposit those and all other income in the bank account, and calculate the per capita numbers sent to the national and other affiliates. More recently (this calendar year) I have become responsible for the paying of bills, which entails collecting and opening bills when they arrive, writing checks for those bills, getting the checks signed, and remitting the bills; I then report all the checks and deposits to the Bookkeeper (in the recent past, the former bookkeeper did all this; in the more distant past, I did all except write the checks); I generally do this twice a month, to coincide with Executive Body meetings.
On an as-needed basis: I edit from contributed copy (and occasionally contribute to) and format (and now print) the faculty newsletter and distribute it to all four campuses (which entails thirty miles of driving and an average twenty minutes of box-stuffing); I post an online version of these to our AOL website, along with any other information that is needed or requested or of interest; write, format, print, and distribute all flyers (on an average of two per month); print, fold, label, assemble, seal, and post all mailers, including but not limited to all secret-ballot elections and the annual fee-payers’ notices (an average of five a year); shop for office supplies and groceries; and run miscellaneous errands as required.
My best skill is writing: I have a certain flair for formal writing that has stood me in good stead when writing or editing letters to administrators and other such correspondents; I am very good at filling out newsletter articles or finding information to squeeze into the blank spaces; and I am fairly skilled in writing explanations and instructions that cover all bases. I am furthermore very skilled in formatting documents, creating flyers, newsletters, ballots, sign-in sheets, etc., in a visually pleasing manner.
I also have a certain talent for dealing with office machines: I can usually figure out how to operate any business machine with a minimum of training; I am very good at learning the quirks and foibles of a particular machine and can usually troubleshoot equipment problems; and I can often find ways of making older machines perform efficiently.
I learn new processes very quickly, I have a fairly retentive memory for contract language and other information, and am blessed with an excellent telephone manner. I am extremely flexible about my schedule, am usually willing to be out-of-pocket when purchasing supplies or groceries for which we do not maintain accounts, and have no compunction about using gas and putting miles on my car in the course of my work.
Areas for Improvement
I am by nature extremely untidy: I have found it impossible to create an organized system of paper-placement, either on my desk or in the filing cabinets; while I can occasionally force myself to tidy up around my desk and file loose documents (using the various systems that evolved before I arrived), I have never been able to achieve any consistent improvement or workable overarching system. While I am by no means averse to improving, I have no idea how to go about it.
It is also very difficult for me to admit my own shortcomings: I have often agreed to take on responsibilities that I am not capable of dealing with, rather than stating outright that the task is beyond either my abilities or my time constraints. As a result, I become overwhelmed and either the new task or a series of other tasks suffer from inattention (which can occasionally result in serious consequences).
I feel extreme discomfort making outgoing phone calls, especially to people I do not know; I suffer from “mood swings” (the beginnings of bipolar disorder), mental and physical depressions that sometimes adversely affect my performance; and I have a tendency to procrastinate endlessly when faced with mindless and repetitive tasks.
I suppose I'll still have a job after this gets read. Honestly, I'm more worried about taking an unprofessional tone than I am about the actual content. I'm fairly confident of my skills, and feel that my shortcomings pale by comparison. But for some reason the shortcoming section sounds more serious and dire than the preceding paragraphs. Oh, well... I've already emailed it to Mr. Boss Man, so there's no going back.
Speaking of backs...