25 February, 2006

Cow-orker: Hobbies

The Cow-orker has developed a new hobby.

First she finds something that she's not responsible for. Then she finds the person most affected by that something without actually being responsible for managing it, either. Then she encourages them to tell her about problems they're having with it, without actually telling them that she's not the person who'll be dealing with it anyway.

At this point, having successfully identified a random problem, she throws the panic switch. Things then go one of two ways.


She sits on the issue for two to three days to build up a good panic-driven head of steam while the information she's gleaned from her unsuspecting source gradually becomes obsolete. Then she rings her source back and panics them more by telling them how much more critical their situation has become because of the two or three days that have elapsed. It doesn't matter if she tells them exactly what they told her in the first place; the Cow-orker is a master at inflating something into a full-blown crisis and has been known to send people running in circles like headless chickens just through the sheer weight of conviction she can bring to her claims that they're doomed. Plus, of course, they're under the impression that she's actually been looking into their concerns since she last spoke to them.

Then she rings me and tells me she's just spoken to whoever, and they're really stressing out about whatever the issue is, because they're in an awful situation, they're doomed, and they don't know what to do. At this point it's customary for me to act surprised and explain to her that I've actually been speaking to these people before and since she first pumped them for information, that they're aware the situation is either under control or on its way to being resolved, and that her victims should know there's nothing new to worry about.

Her customary response? "Well they're in a blind panic at the moment for some reason, so someone really needs to speak to them to sort things out. Would you like me to do it?"

Are bears Catholic?


Rather than stew on the issue, she begins contacting everyone she can think of (senior management, middle management, operational supervisors) and rants desperately about the great crisis of our times and how we're morally obliged to act now now now and implement some half-arsed solution she's made up on the spot and which has the twin benefits of being completely unworkable and not having been run past the people who would actually need to implement it.

Not that it matters what they might have to say, however. The Cow-orker has decided that there's a moral obligation at stake, and that the only solution is to make it someone else's problem immediately whether or not they're equipped to handle it in the first place. Following this, she'll ring me and rave down the phone, approaching borderline hysteria when I won't agree to begin trying to implement her plan, and ramping up the volume in the belief it will make her case more persuasive.

"But they have to do it! We have a moral obligation!" (Which I'm assuming is either her new buzzword, or means that, having convinced someone else that the sky is about to fall, she's then promised she'll take care of things for them without checking first to see whether she actually can).

This is followed by my token effort to convince her that implementing a poorly though-out knee-jerk solution without consulting any of the people expected to deliver it, which has no resources to support it, and which we can be reasonably confident will fail, is likely to upset clients far more than simply explaining to them that we're working on a solution to what's actually a non-critical problem of her own invention.

This option usually ends in dire warnings of imminent catastrophe, the necessity of calling back an equally frantic client or workmate immediately (because they've somehow gotten it into their head that the end is nigh and "are in a blind panic"), and further exhortations to do something immediately even if it doesn't even give the illusion of being remotely useful.


Anonymous said...

I've been following the cow-orker saga for nearing over two years now, and I must say that not only am I surprised that she is still employed, but empolyed by the same company. Also, kudos to you for not killing her yet, I'm not sure I could have been as tolerant as you've been my man.

How is it that people haven't realized that she is a complete drama queen and moron??? I assume many of these people that she seems to distress know her personality and her exploits.

Is this new posting about something specific or is it just a general observation as to your plights working with her?

Pat M.
London, Canada

Argh said...

Some people are just slow learners. Plus she can usually manage to speak with great conviction as long as the person she's speaking to knows less about what's going on than she does.

She's been doing both these things with regard to two different things I'm working on. She keeps me on my toes by varying which one she she applies each option to.