For my regular readers, it will come as no surprise that I loathe my job. Well, that’s not entirely true, I don’t mind the work itself, but I don’t particularly care for the individuals who work in my department. It is an exercise in awkward social dynamics, for certain, one where the claws often come out, and bully tactics reign supreme. The incident I experienced the other day is no exception.
My role in my department is as auditor. Without getting into a lot of boring detail, my role is mainly that of quality assurance. We maintain regulatory documentation, as do our customers. By the regulation, they must be maintained by both parties, and failure to do so can cause big problems. Groups like ours have been shut down for failures that would seem rather banal by outsider standpoints. However, these are simply the rules of the sandbox, which we all must agree to in order to play.
As auditor, my job often leads me to do site visits with customers, often when there is a change in staffing. This is done in the practical spirit of covering one’s ass, and in the not so kind way of pinning all errors on the person who is no longer here. It’s easy to do this, as the person is no longer there to defend themselves.
In the last year, our office has relocated twice. After the last move, our source files have remained in a completely different building, a quarter mile’s walk away from our current office. Before that, though, even when our source files were located in the same room, steps away, my colleagues were often quite reluctant to do their own filing. When things began to fall behind, to the tune of months of outstanding documents which should be filed but weren’t, I foolishly began asking them to give me their filing so I could ensure the source files were up to date.
This foolish inquiry, the seemingly generous offer of help, was interpreted to mean that from that moment on, they would never do another lick of filing. It didn’t bother me to do the work, but the spirit of the outright laziness did. Still, at the end of the day, the work was getting done, my source files needed for my audits were complete and up to date, and a few days out of the month, I could put on my headphones and listen to music and tune out the unsavory characters I shared an office with.
We moved to another location, and some of our file cabinets simply didn’t fit. The move was initiated by a sort of hostile takeover, the inevitable nut flexing of a new upper manager following the retirement of our incredibly hands-off predecessor. Rather than understand the regulations and rules for our records retention requirement, they simply tossed the extra files into a basement storage area for us to “figure out” how to get rid of. We had no way to dispose of them, unfortunately, as we were required to keep them. And, so they remained in the basement, where one thing was absolutely certain, no one but me would ever bother to file anything again.
In the move, we were cramped into tiny cubicles in an already tight space. Existing departments who felt more entitled to the space became understandably irritated by our arrival, complaining daily about the file cabinets, our use of “their” space, and so on. My colleague and I were given an office to share, which was actually much worse than having my own cubicle. The filing stopped, as we simply had no place to put it.
Fortunately, about six months later, the new manager went out on leave. Apparently, he struggled with mental illness and would need to be hospitalized. No jokes about it from me, only the lamentation that the same mental illness he suffers from is the one I am also diagnosed with. There’s simply no way I could ever get away with taking leave in the manner that he did.
Eventually he opted not to return to work at all, leaving our group without a leader. The departments fractured under the uncertainty, and my supervisor took the opportunity to move our group out and into another building. Unfortunately, with this move, none of our files could come along. We had the option to leave them in the basement, and the remainder in the old office space. We came up with an option to send some of them that were eligible for destruction in the next three years to an off site storage (which cost a ludicrous amount of money) and to keep the remainder in the basement.
In addition to packing my own office, I spent three days in the basement, working around the clock to archive and ship off about 90 boxes and reshifting all the files to fit into the remaining cabinets. In the meantime, my colleagues gave me all their back filing, some of which went back to before the first move when the files were only steps away. I shook my head, saying nothing as I put these items away.
While I was doing this, my office-mate went through my carefully packed boxes of office items and took them apart. I’m not entirely certain why, perhaps looking for some kind of evidence against me, perhaps determining that I’d used too many of the moving bins for my own items and claiming some for her own. Whatever her rationale, when I returned for lunch one day, I saw a bunch of my items on a counter, loosely tagged in her handwriting. If left this way, they would have certainly been lost or mishandled in the move. When confronted, however, she flatly denied any wrongdoing, in spite of the tags being written in her handwriting.
When we arrived at the new location, I was happy to have my own office, as we all were. It was a generous gift from our new interim manager, but the files still needed to be resolved. It quickly became obvious that I would handle the filing, as there was no way the others would be caught dead walking their files over to the old building, which was now a quarter mile away.
I began going over once or twice a month to handle this, which I resented but never so much as when I found out I was pregnant. The able-bodies, albeit much fatter coworkers never so much as offered to help me handle this task. And, as I became larger and larger, the files they must have “found” from before the move, now nearly a year old, began to surface in the mysterious piles that appeared on my bookshelf each morning.
With some 90 boxes now off site for storage, some of the filing naturally belonged with those source files, but for practical financial reasons, it was unreasonable to have the boxes returned for a single item. I brought this to the attention of my supervisor, and that’s when the problems really began.