Saturday, September 11, 2010

Thinking about work

I shouldn't be thinking about work on the weekend -- after all, one of the charms of being R.I.P. is that supposedly once I step out the door on Friday afternoon I don't have to think about anything happening in the office until the following Monday morning -- but it was an odder week than usual.  It was also one of those weeks that had me once again being grateful I've almost never had to be in a supervisory position (I don't think ordering teaching assistants around counts -- that's not a manager-underling relationship, it's more like master-slave).

In any case, I'm wondering if the colleague who was out sick all week will be back in the office on Monday.  The Atlanta air apparently tried to kill her -- an asthma attack over the Labor Day weekend resulted in a trip to the ER, and that in turn led to hospitalization while the doctors try to stop the wheezing.  That in itself would not particularly noteworthy -- deserving of some twinges of sympathy maybe, but people end up getting sick or injured all the time.  You wish them a speedy recovery, but that's usually about it.

No, this time it affected me -- not surprisingly, when someone's in the hospital indefinitely, co-workers are going to have to step in to cover for that person.  However, we were at a point in our production schedule where the bulk of the editing for the November articles should be done.  Our desktop publishing guy starts layout in InDesign any day now, so at this point every article should be close to the final step in the process. We split what was in our colleague's queue so we could take care of what we all thought would be the final bits to get the articles into production. 

Except it was not the final bits.  Of the 7 or so articles assigned to this copyeditor, none, zero, zip, nada had even gone to the author as page proofs (we send page proofs to the authors for corrections and last minute revisions; we send galleys after layout for a final proofreading before it goes to the printer so they've got two shots at fixing stuff we screw up).  So we kind of do a collective, WTF?! -- a week until deadline and nothing's gone to an author yet? -- sigh, and move on -- and then we start discovering our colleague hadn't placed the graphics into the production review folder.  The manuscripts had references to figures in text, but there were no figures filed where they should have been.   That's when the collective pissing and moaning turned intense. 

We actually have a clearly defined procedure to handling the graphics that accompany an accepted paper:  as soon as we get the downloaded manuscript, we're supposed to move any and all figures into a folder on the share drive so our graphics expert can check them ASAP.  That way if authors submit figures where the resolution is too low, the dimensions are too small, or there are other problems we can kick the figures back to the authors for repair work fast.  More collective pissing and moaning, with probably the lowest volume coming from the graphics expert -- she was actually seeing things a few days early instead of having to go hunting for them at the last minute. 

Bottom line -- I got stuck trying to do a fast edit on several papers that very clearly had not seen the hand of an editor at all yet, despite the colleague reassuring me on the phone that they were all "just about ready to go for a second edit."  Just for the sheer hell of it, I did a line by line comparison of the one that had been in the colleague's share drive folder and the original as submitted, and the only apparent change was the one on the share drive had been run through the software we use for styles -- where I come from, formatting doesn't count as editing. 

And, as I've been doing this clean-up work, I once again found myself thinking I'm so happy I'm not a supervisor -- because if there was ever someone who deserved to have a paper trail built, a less than successful performance review declared, a P.I.P. implemented, and (eventually) a nudge out the door for sheer incompetence delivered, it's probably this colleague, a woman who is extremely likable on a purely social level but is obviously working at a job that she is totally unsuited for. 

The real kicker, of course, is that when I chatted with her on the phone yesterday she was annoyed as hell that our team lead had actually assigned those articles to other editors -- because even though she has no clue when she's getting out of the hospital, and even though she was no where close to having any of them done, she's totally convinced she would have wrapped them all up in time to get everything into production by Wednesday.   

It's an absolutely classic example of most people being incapable of assessing their own strengths and weaknesses with any degree of accuracy.  The least competent workers are always completely convinced they're doing a stellar job, and my colleague is no exception. 

It's also a good example of finding out stuff I really wish I didn't know.  It's always so much easier to commiserate with co-workers when you can halfway believe their bitching. 

1 comment:

  1. This verifies my belief that many people I have worked with were not actually doing much of anything all the while behaving as if they were working away.

    Sorry it landed in your lap.


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