Tuesday, September 1, 2009

How to Avoid HR

Two jobs, two different stories, each of which could potentially put me in trouble with those respective HR groups.

Story one: (My "real" job. You know, the one that pays the bills.) Since this is a very large company, there are groups and departments just full of people that have nothing better to do than to make my life miserable. That's a slight exaggeration. I'm sure they make other people's lives miserable as well. There are those of us who do things -- who make things happen. And everyone else just...manages. Or mucks up processes that already work perfectly well. Our HR department is an example of this. For the past five months, a certain person who I'll call Billy has been trying to take a process that I've whipped into peak performance and HR-ify it. You know, mess it up. He's doing a swimmingly swell job at it, despite my best efforts to belay it.

Every time I get a request from him (or one of his minions) to comply with one of his self-aggrandizing whims, I hem and haw and defer and balk and come up with really good reasons why that won't work. It's been mostly successful, but the sheer act and energy exerted to hem, haw, defer and balk is exhausting and has resulted in a simmering hatred of HR in general and this man specifically.

Long story short (too late!) my manager asked me the other day, "Well, what happens when Billy asks you why you didn't do such and such?" (In other words, what happens on the extremely slim chance that Billy decides that it's not enough to throw processes over processes, but decides it's time to follow up on those redundant processes, thus doubling my misery.)

I shrugged and said, "I'll just say (assumes blank look), 'Oh, I didn't realize that it was supposed to work that way, so I was just doing what I thought I was supposed to be doing.'"

My manager knows I'm not dumb. I'm blonde, yes, but mostly of the bottled variety. The blank look did not work on him, but he appreciated the effort and said, "Yes, just act like a dumb blonde -- pretend like you don't know anything."

I said, "Oh, like plausible deniability?"

...Which, kind of takes away from the whole dumb blonde thing.

Moral of story #1: Either do what HR asks you to do, regardless of how stupid it is, or be better at being a dumb blonde.

Story #2: Job number two -- (the one that I might as well keep just volunteering at, because working 2 hours a week at the local YMCA is not going to make me rich anytime soon).
Spin class fitness instructor. We had just finished doing "jumps," so the classroom was silent as the song finished and we waiting for my iPod to cycle through to the next one. Though musically silent, I could tell I was pushing the participants as hard as I needed to because all I could hear was breathing. A lot of it. Ten people breathing heavily is loud.

So I said, through my own huffing and puffing (I work as hard as I ask my students to do), "Wow, all that heavy breathing is such a great sound! It sounds like a night at my house."

Yes, I'll give you a moment to digest that little gem.


It really did sound as bad as it does as you read it. But I didn't mean it that way! Well, I mostly didn't mean it that way.

I was going to make a joke about having another part time job doing phone...work that results in heavy breathing. But I kind of stepped on my own joke. Then it didn't make any sense to explain what I was going to say because now the heavy breathing was replaced by loud laughter.

I bumbled on, thinking maybe I could explain my way out of it, but then realized there was really no way out of it. So I said, "My manager's name is Maryam if anyone feels like they need to complain."

They all laughed and said, "No! We want Laura THREE nights a week!" ... Which made me think they either appreciate my mad spin skilz, or ... Yeah, I dunno either.

Moral #2: Don't inadvertently sexually harass an entire class of people. Well, don't sexually harass anyone, inadvertenly or otherwise, but especially not multiple people at the same time. Although, maybe that's exactly what will protect me from anyone turning me in!

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