Cubicle Death #17: Follow Instructions

Ellen hard at work.

It’s been awhile since I ranted about office problems.  I figure now is as good a time as any.  I’ve probably changed jobs a hundred times since the last rant, but really, it doesn’t matter where you work.  Some of these issues are universal.  Many of you will understand.

I now work for a very large company (I will call it Large Co.), which is broken down into business units and sectors and further broken down into programs which are broken down into departments.  It’s all very complicated and a little bit irrelevant, but it helps to get some context.  My program is mid-size, but there are only two people in my department:  me and my employee.  It’s not really impressive to say that I’m the lead of a two person department.  For a long time I was the only one here until Large Co. hired my employee (and I had no input), whom I’ll call Older Completely Clueless Lady Returns To Work Force.  For short, we’ll call her Ellen.

Ellen is really nice, but she is older.  This is not some discrimination thing, because I don’t have a problem how old or young you are, as long as you can do the job, which Ellen cannot.  She is sadly out of touch with today’s technology.  Many days she has trouble even turning on the computer.  For example, just this very morning it took her almost half an hour to figure out why her logins didn’t work.  (The caps lock was on.)  After a number of password resets and a visit from the tech guys, they got it all figured it out, but I had to go on a coffee break because I was getting frustrated.  I needed her to get into her system so she could recall this fucked up ass email she sent out on Friday. 

I really like that Ellen is working with me, because it was lonely in here by myself.  I like to talk and so does Ellen, but Ellen’s problem is that SHE DOESN’T FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS.  Like, at all.  In order for her to do the work in the way it should be done, I often have to write long detailed instructions, which she doesn’t follow or will repeatedly ask questions as if she did not understand.  For example, if I say, Step 1. Turn on the computer, she will ask, “Did you want me to turn the computer on first?”  Or she will turn the computer on and then turn it back off, not understanding that I wanted the computer to stay on.  Or she will not do anything at all and wait for me to return to confirm that I actually wanted the computer on.

It has been incredibly busy in this office the past few weeks.  We’d been so dead and then suddenly all this work fell from the sky.  Last week, we got a big job.  It was so big that I handled it first, then I sent it on to her as a backup because when the job is big like that you can’t really do good work on your own.  You need two sets of eyes.  I wrote out lengthy instructions on how to complete the job, including the due date.  The shit was so big I had to ask the customer for an extension.  The customer agreed that instead of Wednesday, we could return the work on Friday.  I told Ellen how particular this customer is.  This customer is not the one you bullshit, and I really felt I impressed this upon Ellen.  This was Thursday.

I don’t work Fridays, and when I came to work on Monday I saw an email from Ellen to the customer indicating that she was finished with job and attached was her work product.  I was flabbergasted because there was no way Ellen could have finished that work so quickly.  And I was right.  Let me quote exactly what you she wrote to the customer:

Hello Customer,

Attached is your work product.  Absolutely wonderful job on your work product.  I didn’t go through the entire work product myself, but I did the best I could.  Very perfect.



This is what happens when I leave Ellen alone for too long.

Uh, what the fuck?  You didn’t go through the work product yourself?  You did the best you could?  Why would you tell the customer that?  I was furious because it makes our whole department (all two of us) look bad.  Plus, it is in writing that you didn’t do your job.  Way to bring us all down with evidence!  This is why I wanted her to recall the email, but she couldn’t log in her computer because she didn’t realise the fucking caps lock was still on.  She got locked out and then the stupid ass tech guys had to come because she couldn’t figure out what was wrong.  By then, the customer had already seen the email.  We tried to recall it but too late now.  The customer has not responded yet, probably because she’s sitting on her end of the computer foaming at the fucking mouth.  She probably cannot even come up with the words necessary to cuss Ellen out.

Also, I don’t understand why Ellen praised the customer’s work.  I don’t even know what that is about and I can’t ask because every time I think about it I want to shit myself.  I think Ellen is a nice person but she needs to get with the program.  The reason I started writing long detailed instructions is because she could not understand my verbal commands.  She would get really confused and then not to do any work because she needed clarification.  I realise that I tend to bark or scream everything so I thought writing it down would help, that it would be less aggressive.  She told me she preferred the list of instructions.



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