21 July, 2010

Housekeeping, grave-robbing and a bit of history.

So we're now several weeks into Ted's gentle cruise into retirement and (hopefully) out of my life. More on that eventually when I start to work through the backlog, but it hasn't actually been as bad as I'd feared.

It's worse. Oh, how it's worse.

A little over a year ago, The Invertebrate decided to let our one useful and competent team member go when their contract ran out. This was someone who could simultaneously perform both Ted's and the Stress Fiend's jobs to a higher standard than they could, and still have time to find ways to correct historical errors and fix broken processes; clearly, we just couldn't tolerate someone like that on our team especially when they did irresponsible things like recovering close to $100,000 in missing revenue.

I'm still in touch with them, and when I shared the happy news that Ted finally looked like he was moving on, they mentioned they'd be interested in some part-time work during that same period. On paper, it was a win/win situation: they get some work that suits the hours they're after, and we get someone who doesn't need to be trained from scratch, and we know we can rely on.

I broached the idea with The Invertebrate. He doesn't know about his nickname, but seems determined to defend it to the death and rejected the idea on the basis that:
  • the Stress Fiend would feel threatened;
  • the Stress Fiend won't give up any of the workload she can't handle, and won't relinquish control over any of it. Especially not to someone she knows will do it better;
  • the Stress Fiend will be unhappy if we have someone who doesn't just see where things are broken, but actively works on coming up with and implementing solutions;
  • the Stress Fiend doesn't want to work with someone more competent and capable of delivering all the changes she claims to be working on and would have had ready except someone else always finds a way to ruin things for her (curse those meddling kids!).
Instead, he's opted for Plan B: grave-robbing.

Okay, perhaps that's a little harsh. On the other hand, after the last couple of days dealing with La Mondaine, I don't feel it's entirely undeserved.

In the closing years of the last century, this organisation was a very different place. The team leader had a crazy and morale-destroying obsession with trivial details, true, but this was offset by an organisational culture that celebrated long social lunches, lunchtime drinks, crashing as many vendors' Christmas parties as possible, and so on (somewhat paradoxically, the OCD team leader led the charge on all these). It was a happier, chattier, boozier time when the boundaries between work and social life bled into one another.

Personally I'd have hated it, but I think it's fairly well-established by now that I don't socialise well with certain kinds of people. But this was the environment La Mondaine lived and breathed in her time here.

Then came The Dawn of The Ted. To La Mondaine, the arrival of Ted E. quickly turned into a struggle of Darwinian proportions, as they competed to see who could be the most obsessive about insignificant details, the most strident in demanding that every conceivable contingency be thoroughly analysed and documented ... and the most bloody inefficient at actually doing their job. La Mondaine was outclassed when it came to simple bloody-minded treachery and malfeasance, though, and eventually opted for early retirement rather than deal with Ted on a daily basis.

And yet... she couldn't bring herself to say good-bye to the poisoned social ties of the workplace. Soon she came back as one of the small horde of casuals the old team leader loved to have around, and the old battles began anew, just in time for me to start working here. The weekly team meetings with Ted, La Mondaine, the old Team Leader were nightmarishly epic three-hour affairs where the three would bicker and argue and "But what if...?" endlessly while the rest of our large and unwieldy team would break into small protective huddles to work on pet projects under cover of the storm.

(This, incidentally, is Ted's fondly-remembered Golden Age).

Eventually La Mondaine couldn't take anymore. Ted continued to outflank her by virtue of simple ambient toxicity, and after a series of increasingly explosive exchanges with the old Team Leader she resigned for a second time in a dramatic huff, and a couple of us were finally able to get on with cleaning up all the mistakes she'd made in the database.

Now, with the old Team Leader long gone and Ted ambling slowly off into the sunset, she's realised once again that she misses the social life here and that it's time to stage yet another come back.She's remained in touch with the Stress Fiend throughout, the Stress Fiend pointed her at The Invertebrate ... and the rest is history. The kind of history you'd like to see expunged from the books. The kind that makes you want to send Arnold Schwarzenegger back in time to perform some selective adjustments.

But more on that later. La Mondaine has returned, and within two days she's already made Ted appear ... not exactly as the lesser of two evils, but certainly the more subtle.

There's also a punchline to all of this. La Mondaine is only interested in working casually, part-time, and probably only short-term (especially as reality begins to sink in) and we still have no longer-term fix for our staffing problems.  The Invertebrate's solution is to find yet another casual that we'll need to train up from scratch, and then rotate them, La Mondaine and Ted E. through the week. If The Invertebrate deliberately set out to maximise the amount of confusion and inefficiency within the team, he couldn't have come up with a better plan.

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