Throughout the month of December, I’ll be participating in #reverb13: Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days.
Day 24 – Crazy
What one little thing drove you crazy this year? Was it unique to this past year or has it been buggin’ you for a while? How do you intend to get rid of it or resolve it in 2014?
It's funny that this is the post I planned to answer today. The answer to the question was seemingly easy last week. The thorn in my side most of 2013 was my assistant at work. Technically, that thorn was there in 2011 and 2012 as well, but it felt like a sharper thorn in my side in 2013.
I started off my career in big law, where most of the secretaries were very professional and competent -- even the ones who were sleeping with attorneys. And my last two secretaries at the big firm were both spectacularly good at their jobs and worked plenty of overtime (for me and for other attorneys).
Then I went to small law, where the secretaries and legal assistants were very unprofessional and farily incompetent. But in general, I was expected to do a lot of the grunt work myself. Sure, someone would fax letters and print envelopes, but I even did most of my own reference filing.
Then I came to my current job where my assistant is best described as an idiot. In an "ugly" moment, I candidly told my husband that she epitomizes my ultimate fear for the future -- she's nearly 70 and still working, she's overweight and very unhealthy, she's financially bankrupt, she's alone, she's disliked by many, and she's incredibly stupid. Of course now I hate even admitting to saying those things, but I did.
But bottom line is that I don't even like exchanging pleasantries with her. I've learned the hard way that she's both lonely and an oversharer. If I ask her in passing (or what I think is in passing) how her weekend was, it turns into a 10 minute soliloquy that frequently seems to go back to gout, her diminishing control of her bladder/bowels, her financial problems, or something I else I just want to unhear. I'm not sure if she tells me all this because she thinks I'll understand as a woman or what, but I know she doesn't share such gruesome details with my boss (though she overshares with him too, he's heard all kinds of medical history on less disgusting topics). I've tried walking away from the conversation and she'll follow me into my office. I've tried putting my finger on words on my computer screen when she starts talking in my office so she can see I'm in the middle of WORKING. I've also tried to just turn to my computer and start typing while she talks. I've also picked up the phone and held the receiver so she can see I'm waiting to make a call. Hints don't work. I have to cut her off by actually saying something like, "that sounds painful, I'm sorry to hear it, but I have to wrap this case up right now."
In preparation for the couple audits we have each year at work, I review my files and see the mistakes she's made. And on a frequent basis, I am forced to see how far behind she is in doing her job. And all of that makes my job harder. Hence the "ugly" outburst shared with my husband.
But this week I found out that there is going to be a fairly substantial RIF here tomorrow (Friday). My boss didn't share with me who would be let go, but he made it clear that it wasn't me (whew!). But as I've voiced my frustration with her before, and knowing how others seem to feel about her, I have to think she's one on the chopping block. And it's particularly sad because I cannot imagine anyone else being willing to hire her. I certainly don't wish her any ill will, and I sincerely hope she lands on her feet -- but at the same time, I don't feel like there's any way I could give her a good reference.
So the thorn in my side may well be gone by the end of January 2014, but part of me worries that whatever comes next might make me wish I had her back. It may be a more competent but overworked assistant shared by more attorneys. Or it may be a job outsourced to India or something. For now, I'll just think positively that it will be a professional, competent, pleasant new assistant...