13 October, 2010

Communication Theory

Ted, one of the most secretive and treacherous people I've ever worked with, loves to complain about a lack of communication around the office, to the point where he recently announced to the Stress Fiend and the Invertebrate (concerning me): "I hate him! I really hate him! He doesn't talk to me!"

I almost fell off my chair laughing when the Stress Fiend shared this gem. Yes, it's quite true - I don't talk to him, beyond what's necessary to get the job done. And there's an excellent reason for that: the first couple of years of trying to work with and manage Ted convinced me that talking to him was just wasted effort. He'd hear only what he wanted to hear, ignore the rest, and make things up to repeat at a later date.

He also made it abundantly clear during my first few months here (before he and I even had much to do with one another) that he didn't like me, and didn't accept that I had any right to be here when I'd taken a job that should have been his. Not that he knew what the job was, or understood anything about it. But he suspected it paid more, so clearly it should have been his by right of seniority, and that's the important point here. That kind of instant hostility isn't much of an incentive to maintain anything beyond a civil working relationship, and nothing since then has persuaded me otherwise. I tell him what he needs to know to do his job (which obviously isn't a lot), explain why things are done a particular way, and leave it at that.

Anyway. Digression.

Ted's an appalling communicator. He rarely writes anything down, and when he does it's a either a cryptic note in red pen explaining that you've done something wrong with something, but without telling you what, or it's an equally cryptic but even more unintelligible email shotgun-cc'ed at multiple recipients so you're never quite sure who it was meant for in the first place, never mind what it was meant to convey. The underlying message of most of the emails seems to be "I'm confused and I'm angry and I want someone to do something that gives me more money!"

He also doesn't tell people what he's doing, usually because if it's one of his gradually diminishing duties we might ask awkward questions (such as "Why are you doing it that way?" or "How can that possibly take you half a day?"), and if it's not one of his duties it's going to be something affecting one of the rest of us and he knows he shouldn't be doing it in the first place.

Last week he wanted a particular message relayed to La Mondaine, letting her know not to proceed with something that was likely to come through this week, until some additional information was received. He could have emailed her; he could have emailed a general notice to the team in case one of the rest of us had a spare moment to act on it; he could even have written it down. Instead, as a casual aside he told the Stress Fiend to tell La Mondaine when she saw her in three days' time to leave this particular task alone.

The Stress Fiend, not surprisingly - and somewhat understandably - forgot. Or she may have made the assumption that if it was important, Ted would leave some written instructions for when he wasn't here. No, I don't know what colour the sky is on her planet, either.

So this morning Ted is stomping about the office, grumbling to The Invertebrate about the lack of communication. When The Invertebrate innocently raises the thorny question of why Ted hadn't just emailed La Mondaine instead, Ted began looking for better ways to apportion the blame, started rummaging around on the absent Stress Fiend's desk, and then grumped back to his own desk empty-handed while the puzzled Invertebrate looked on.

"What are you looking for?"
"I thought she'd have a folder."
"Of what?"

Because, as Ted loves to complain on a daily basis, people really need to write "stuff" down.

* Where "stuff" = "clear and unequivocal proof that, with malice aforethought, the Stress Fiend conspired with La Mondaine to not do something that subsequently meant Ted had to do a little bit of extra work"  - 20 minutes' worth, by my estimate - "when he began his working week on Wednesday."

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