Thursday, July 9, 2009

Paying attention (or not)

I got really mad at an employee today. A mistake was made on Monday that came to light today: someone forgot to attach the whosits to the whirlygigs, and instead sent the lot off to the doohickey factory without all the right components. It was quite a problem: I got a call from Mr. Foreman who couldn't reconcile his thingamajigs, therefore wasn't paying his bill, and he needs his whirlygigs RIGHT NOW. It was a big fucking deal.

Aside from causing a problem for a customer, I really felt like whoever made the mistake should have known better. I mean, I'm a responsible manager and I have worked very hard at providing information to my group so that these types of mistakes do not happen. I have spreadsheets to help people do their jobs better, what more can a person need?

So I do that manager thing where I breathe deeply to get the murder out of my brain and then I start creating documentation. I figure out who made the mistake -then I had to do some more deep breathing because that person has worked for me in the same capacity for close to five years and why in the name of all that is right in the world would she suddenly forget how attach the whosits and whatnot?- and I start filling out forms. I furiously type of the nature of the incident, filling in dates and employee numbers and what is expected of a person in her position, and so on.

As I do this I prepare myself mentally for the conversation I will have with her: I will explain why her mistake is such an incredible problem for me, and for us all. I will elucidate the sort of research she should do in the future when she performs the same task -the task she has performed a thousand Mondays in a row. I will outline for her, both verbally and in writing, what I expect of her (attention to detail, thankyouverymuch and god-dammit) when I expect it and what will happen if she doesn't straighten herself up, posthaste.

Attention to detail is among the most important factors of what my group does. There isn't a mistake that I cannot fix; there isn't one thing, no matter how bad, that anyone who works for me can do that I haven't already fucked up royally. I have made the worst mistakes of anyone and I know how to fix them all. And from it I have learned that the majority of the mistakes I have made were from lack of attention to detail. Follow the rules, clarify what you don't understand, and pay attention to what you're doing and why you're doing it, and everything will work out fine. I drill this into their heads, have been repeating it for years. Imagine my frustration.

Because I'm such a busy little bee (or maybe just disorganised), I can rarely complete any task before getting interrupted. I don't get to finish my forms before someone comes to remind me that I'm late (again) to my weekly meeting with my core support staff. So I leave my half-finished forms and head into the conference room.

Straight off one of my (favourite, shhh) employees says to me, "You know, I think I made a mistake last week when I was putting the whosits with the whirlygigs, and the more I think about it the more I'm sure I didn't do it right. Can you help me figure that out when we're done here?"

Imagine my blank stare. This isn't the person I was boiling mad at. I was certain it was a different employee. After the meeting I went back to my desk and double checked who made the mistake and I had the employee all wrong. I was looking at a different column when I was doing my initial research and almost jumped down the throat of the wrong person. The girl who actually made the mistake? Well, she's new to that task so the mistake is suddenly a lot more forgivable.

Some attention to detail I've got, huh? Oops.


Gin said...

I have to give managers credit. You guys juggle so much "junk"! I think one little slip up on your part could be forgiven seeing all that you have on your plate.

Jade said...

Want to come work for me? ;)

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