Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Baptism by fire

The italicized bits scattered throughout this post are from my feed on Twitter. In case you're wondering what the heck that's all about.

My original title for this post was "Sweet Baby Jesus, make it stop." That should tell you how the project is going, huh?

My first of three new hires was to start work Monday at 10 am. She was planning on working a 4-hour shift (which I thought was crazy ambitious--or maybe just crazy) putting labels on books and recording call numbers on a form attached to a clipboard. We'd agreed to this last week, through email.

Last Saturday afternoon the camera card for my rapidly expiring photo ID showed up in the mail. Of course it did. I couldn't go take care of it on Saturday, 'cause by the time I'd get to the place it'd be closed. I decided to run this errand on Monday, after I got the young lady started.

So, Monday. I send out an email to my teammates telling them I needed to run this errand, will be leaving around quarter of 11, yadda, yadda, yadda. No sooner do I hit the send button then I get a message from my worker--can she start work at 11 instead of 10? Sigh. Sure. I rearrange plans, do something in the morning that I was gonna do in the afternoon, and I meet her at the reception desk at 11.

So far, so good. I take her back to where I have things set up, give her a packet with her name on it, explain what's in it, show her where to pick up and drop off things, and give her a set of the instructions I wrote the week before. I tell her to take a seat and read the instructions, as I don't want her to go all the way out into the stacks only to have to come right back because she doesn't understand what she's supposed to do.

I want to say right here that I ran these instructions past 2 people: one for basic proof-reading and sense, the other for accuracy. They came back with a thumbs up, so I'm confident they are clear.

I don't want to make her nervous by standing over her while she reads, so I go off and do something for a few minutes. When I come back, she's flipping the paper over and over like she's finished with it. She asks me about proper placement of the barcode, to make sure she understands where it goes. I confirm that she is right, ask if she has other questions. Nope. We're good. And away she goes into the stacks. I feel like I'm on a pier waving goodbye to a ship.
jugglingscarves First employee has arrived, been instructed, given supplies, and sent off into the stacks. Project has officially started. *fistpump*
Not five minutes later she's back. With a question about something that was very well-covered on the instructions. There was a graphic and everything. So I answer that question (though what I wanted to say was "read the instructions again."), and off she goes into the stacks again. I wait to see if she'll come back. She doesn't, so I head out to the bus stop.

As I sit on a bench at the stop, I'm beginning to wonder if she actually understood what I said. So I go back into the building to double check -- she's not where she's supposed to be in the stacks. Hmm. Maybe she had another question and is looking for me in the work room? Nope. The packet I gave her is back in its slot, her backpack (which we put in my desk drawer) is gone. And there's a note that says she left early (it doesn't say how early) because of a meeting she forgot she had.
jugglingscarves Aaand she left already. Not a good start.
I got my errand done in surprisingly good time by the way. There were only 4 of us at the DMV, and 2 of the people there were already leaving by the time I sat down.

This morning at the bus stop I resolve to salvage this situation. Maybe she really did have a meeting. I have to remember that she's a student, and her primary focus is not my project. And maybe she's an aural learner, or a learn-by-doing kind of person.
jugglingscarves Declaring a do-over re: yesterday's new hire. Going to take her by the hand & show her what to do.
Unless she's already written off this job as a bad idea.
jugglingscarves If she hasn't already quit via email, that is.
At work I check my email, and I see nothing from her. Okay, so I should expect her. 10 o'clock comes. And goes. No employee. 10:30. Nope. All right, maybe the "can I start at 11" thing was a permanent switch? She actually hasn't been very clear about when I'm to expect her. I go to our faculty member's office and tell him what's been going on. He gets a good laugh or two out of it. "And that," he says, "is why I'm glad I don't supervise anyone."
jugglingscarves Yesterday's new hire is a no-show today. No email, either. I'm somewhere between irritated and relieved.
11 o'clock comes. And goes. At 11:30 I show my faculty person a print-out of an email I'm about to send, prefacing it with the question, "Is this a polite enough way to say where the heck are you?" He says it's very tactful. In the email I tell her I'm writing up a schedule of all the project team's hours and I'm posting it in the work space, but I'm a bit unclear about her hours. Would she please clarify for me when she plans to work? Day and time, please.

Someone following my tweets replies to my last one by writing: "I can't imagine getting a job and then not showing up...who does that?!"
jugglingscarves @[deleted]Well, maybe someone who left 3 hrs and 15 minutes early on the first day. I just sent an email to see if she still works 4 me.
jugglingscarves @[deleted] The shift? Was 4 hours long. Related: I officially hate supervising.
To which my friend replied: "Oh gee, that's too much!"
jugglingscarves @[deleted] She left a note on my desk saying she left early (after we pushed back the start time an hour) because of a meeting she forgot.
jugglingscarves @[deleted] Perhaps she just had a horrible Monday. Or perhaps I'm giving her too much benefit of the doubt.
By 2:30, I still haven't heard from her and I have no idea how to proceed. My own supervisor is out for the next two months (which is why this got farmed out to me), and the only other person I can think of to ask for direction is her boss, our department head. Thank goodness the woman is approachable. I explain the situation, show her the email I sent, and ask what to do next. She said to give the young woman to the end of the day and then call her. Tell her (or her voicemail, which is what we both think I'll probably get) that if she's not here by ten tomorrow and I haven't received a call from her, that she doesn't work here any more.

Whew. Allrightythen.

In the meantime, I have another new hire to train. Having learned from the day before, I decide I'm gonna do like they do in the army: say what I am going to say, then say it, then say what I said. In other words, I will summarize the instructions, send her off to read them, then take her to the stacks and do a couple volumes with her.

This may or may not be relevant, but this other woman is older, and not a student. Both of these people are already employees of the library, see, and I'd worked near both of them at one time or another. I'd observed them both working and had thought both would suit for this job. Never checked with the first person's current supervisor, though. This is a mistake I will not make again. I spoke to someone who was visiting in my department today, someone who worked with my AWOL employee, and she said basically that a) when she heard this person was going to be barcoding, she'd hoped it wasn't beyond her abilities; and b) she was a nice kid, but she did have a problem with showing up consistently. To which my response was, "And she still works for you guys because?"
jugglingscarves Obvious supervisor lesson #1: no matter what I think I know, check references. Turns out she has trouble with showing up regularly. Awesome
A little bit later someone else I follow tweeted me, saying: "sorry ur having rough go at being supervisor. Hope it makes u feel better to know I am thoroughly enjoying ur tweets today."
jugglingscarves @[deleted] Well, as long as someone's getting something out today. I'll call that a partial win. :)
jugglingscarves @[deleted] out *of* today, I meant. Off I go to go train another new hire! (Tweeted this before but Brizzly ate it)
And she responded: "totally am. Eek! to clarify: not at your expense (!!!) but from your creative play-by-plays"
jugglingscarves @[deleted] Flattery will get you everywhere. This 2nd one went better. Learning from my mistakes. Summarize the instructions ...
jugglingscarves @[deleted]... have them read them, then take 'em out demonstrate what I want. This one's a keeper. I think I scared off the other one. :(
Shortly before 5, after an entire day of radio silence from this person, I fired up Word and started to type up a script for myself: what to do if I get her on the phone, what to say to her voicemail. I didn't want to stumble or sound indecisive. I didn't want to be rude, either--another reason to choose my words beforehand. First thing is to say I was expecting her today. Is she all right (she could've gotten sick. That negates all of this. Then it's a simple matter of call-me-when-you're-better)? If she's all right, good. Did she get my email? Explain what my email was about if she didn't read it yet. Ask if she'll be in tomorrow, and at what time. If she later finds that she cannot come, she needs to tell me. I don't need to know why, just that she's not coming. And if we have another day like today, where she doesn't come and doesn't contact me, then I'll assume she no longer wants this job and I will make other arrangements.

Voicemail option? Similar. Only variation is that I need her to show up or contact me tomorrow by 11. I'd originally said 10, but then realized I was going to be at another location from 9-11, so I moved it back to 11.

While I was writing this up, the department head came by to see if I'd called yet. I told her what I was doing. She said she did that too sometimes with phone calls. It's helps you focus and not stumble. Did I want her to stay while I made this call? For moral support? I said, no, I really didn't want anyone witnessing me being a bitch. She laughed, and said, "You don't have to be mean, just firm." That's what I was trying for, I said. In my head I asked myself: Did I just say "bitch" in front of my boss's boss? Yes, I believe I did. Luckily it doesn't seem to bother her.

And so I called. Got her voicemail. Left a message that was polite but firm, and told her that in any event she should make sure she records the time she worked on this project so that she gets paid for it. (Internal snark: yeah, all 45 minutes of it).
jugglingscarves Just left serious do-you-want-to-work-here-you'd-better-call-me message on my AWOL employee's voicemail. She has until 11 tomorrow morning
She'll either call, email, show up, or ignore me altogether. In any event, I know what to do next.

Boy howdy, I sure don't like this supervising thing. On a positive note, the other woman seems to have caught right on. Third person starts Thursday. Here's hoping for 2 out of 3 are keepers!

Edited 3/31 to add: And apparently threats work. She emailed me at 5 minutes after midnight this morning, apologizing for not showing up. She was attending a job fair (that she probably knew about weeks ahead of time, I might add), and she is attending another one today. And she gave me definite start and end times for every day she plans to work (Hallelujah!). She seemed to think she was going to be working this weekend, but that ain't gonna fly. I'd like to be confident that she knows what she's doing before I let her loose in the stacks on a weekend with no one around to answer questions for her. So I emailed her back suggesting we just start over fresh next Tuesday. And I told her that from now on, if she isn't going to show up for a shift I need to be contacted prior to the start of that shift. I need to know whether to expect her or not. She sent me an email back agreeing to this, promising to be there on Tuesday.

Wish us luck. I think we're both going to need it.

Hire #2 continues to be wonderful, bless 'er, and Hire #3 starts tomorrow morning. Man, I hope he works out. I don't think I can take having to chase around someone else.

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