Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Tensions Rising

NO, I'M NOT TALKING about our poufy-haired buddy in Pyongyang. I'm talking at work. Over the past couple of weeks, the background level of tension seems to be escalating very slowly. I'm posting to hash out why.

Granted, we did just pass the end of our fiscal year, and all of the high managers were rushing about, trying to get the numbers all lined up in efficient, shiny rows. This trickles down to us only in the sense that those databases wherein we track our publications have to be up to date. This is a reflex I learned at my last job, where we had a spreadsheet/database program similar in intent. When the numbers indicate a project is offpress, it can be realized as revenue, and it is this final digit in the lineup that means everything to the beancounters. Still, our group keeps the database well stocked with those vital numbers, so that doesn't pose a problem.

The looming project in which we switch our production methods was rumored to begin this fall. Some said it even might launch in October. With one third of the month done, I have my doubts . . . and these are fueled by the continuing confusion over exactly how this whole system will be implemented.

I hear the manager — my former department head — who was responsible for getting the company into this way of production still fussing over minuscule details. I also hear her wasting time arguing with her husband and yelling at her children on the phone, agonizing over the thorny details of a lunch order, and laughing it up with the staff she now supervises to undertake the seemingly infinite number of remaining sticking points of this process. I hear my immediate supervisor trying to glean from said manager basic information on how we need to reformat our publications, and failing to get the information she needs. In addition to this, she is performing the duties of a publications trafficker — a position that our former manager, in a critically short-sighted act, eliminated — and fielding a tide of questions from a sister office on products with which we should have no involvement whatsoever. We have also been directed by HQ to switch printers by the end of this month for budget-consolidation purposes. All of this is being overseen by our new manager, who had our little group of designers thrust upon her when it became clear that our old boss no longer had time to devote to actually supervising us. Our new boss, who I feel has an enlightened no-bullshit attitude, is nonetheless herself learning just what she needs to do, and this in the early stages of a very busy period in the book-production side of our department, her previous, and continuing, focus in the operation.

Now you can see why it's getting steadily crazier by the week at my shop.

Things could be considerably worse. Two friends and former coworkers of mine — let's grant them anonymity here in their unfolding situation — just got word that their boss is selling the company. Because the buyer is not local, their positions are not guaranteed. I survived a round of layoffs at my company 3 years ago, but because my former department head (who, to her credit, thought very clearly when she had a specific focus like this) stuffed our desks with work, we managed to slide past the Reaper under the guise of being the shepherds of more sheep, so to speak, than the company could afford to let wander unwatched. This is not an option for my friends, one of whom stunned me with news of the sale this Friday.

We are not near that point where I work, not by a long shot. One might argue that the neck on which the axe of retribution might fall, should this new initiative fail, could simply be that of my former boss. My current supervisor can't do much to rock the boat, because the company is paying for her graduate education. She could find freelance work tomorrow with just a few phone calls, but this wouldn't cover the completion of her degree. Me? I have no debts or obligations of that sort, and I am far enough down the ladder from all of these decisions and their possible consequences not to be targeted for any failure (unless I very specifically fuck something up, which – as the entire process is not yet known to me — I don't know how I would manage).

What does worry me is that my skill set is a bit specialized. I don't have a solid command of Photoshop, and I could certainly get better with Illustrator. I'm not a "real" graphic designer in that sense. I do still have a good eye for editing, though the escape plan that I occasionally flirt with did involve easing into copyediting, jobs for which I would have sought . . . at my previous company. I haven't made up a resume in years, and I suspect mine might be a bit thin.

I will hold off on any thoughts regarding departure until I truly see this new mode of production in descriptive detail, if not in action. There could be dark humor in some of the process. For the moment, however, I still consider hitting the deadlines of my publications my top job, one at which I am good and for which the checks don't seem to be bouncing. It couldn't hurt, however, to consider the options should my stay there be cut short by someone looking to add a teak floor to his yacht in the main office.

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