Peter’s my boss, and Dilbert’s boss is his boss

I hate working on something without knowing why I’m working on it. I also hate working on something without actually understanding what the desired result is. That’s very, very annoying. It’s also very, very inefficient and ineffective.

These past two weeks at work were prime examples of just such an occurance. The fact that these two weeks were supposed to be the weeks that I was getting additional training just makes this fact even more frustrating. Instead of additional training, which I still feel like I desperately need to be effective at my job (because the particulars of this product are so damn, well, particular), I was tasked with a vague and unexplained assignment.

(The kicker, by the way, is that in addition to the vague assignment, I was also given the task of training a new hire. So let me get this straight. You’re going to cancel my training, and then ask me to train someone. While I apprecaite the vote of absolute confidence, that’s more than a little backwards.)

The problem with vague assignments is that they don’t give me a direction to work in. There is certainly a balance to be struck between micromanaging an employee and giving them no direction. Neither side of the scale is appropriate or helpful. It’s interesting to me, however, because never before in my life have I experienced the “no direction” side of things so often. This assigment takes the cake, even in this job.

I understand now what it means when employers and managers say that they want someone who can “work independently.” What they mean is “we just want to give you some vague idea about what we’re looking for, because honestly we have no idea what it needs to look like and only sort of know what it needs to do, and you should fill in all the details yourself. Oh, and you’d better get it right.” (How the hell should I know what right is if you don’t even know, and I’m doin this for you?) Naturally, this makes a lot of sense and sounds perfect (especially to managers). After all, why shouldn’t employees do this?

Well of course they should. The problem isn’t in the paradigm, it’s in the execution. This paradigm assumes that the employee already knows what the desired result is and how to accomplish it. If this were the case, then the request wouldn’t have seemed vague to begin with. It’s the fact that I don’t know enough about the situation (see infuriating lack of context), the product (see infuriating lack of training), and the requirements (see infuriating lack of clear communication) that make it vague.

Thanks to so many reasons such as the Peter Principle and the nature of managerial work to forego employee’s interests in favor of shareholder’s interests, companies consistently sabotage their own best efforts to be successful. While I am sure that the size of a company is one contributing factor to this sabotage, I think that it misses the point. More to the point is the fact that managers are to blame.

A company that does not strive to “be large and successful” is not going anywhere. But it’s the manager’s fault that such horrendous acts of self-mutilation happen over and over again. Workers need proper training, managers need proper communication skills, and both parties need the wherewithall to understand the basics of teamwork. Frankly, these things are all sorely lacking pretty much everywhere.

Just another of the countless reasons why I know I’ll never be happy in corporate America. The more of this shit that happens, the more convinced I am that I’m here for the experience only. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, right? It’s just a question of when the next better opportunity comes along. There’s no point in suffering to gain experience when experience can be gained without suffering.

One reply on “Peter’s my boss, and Dilbert’s boss is his boss”

  1. Agreed. I hate working on things when I don’t know what they’re for or why I’m doing it. I think the worst thing that can happen in a job is to work for someone who doesn’t know what you do–they ask you to “be independent” but that really just means “I have no idea what your job entails.” I am SO lucky in the current stint in that my boss HAS THE SAME JOB, she’s just been doing it for 20 years. But I’ve definitely been in situations like yours, and can particularly relate to being told I’m too “technical” in my speech. I’ve decided that non-technical people fit into two attitudes when it comes to tech: 1) OMG I have no idea what you did but it’s obviously some kind of MAGICAL MAGIC 2) The people who want everything explained to them even though you KNOW they won’t understand it.

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