Friday, March 02, 2007

Separation, With No Anxiety

THIS WEEK, THE OFFICE was flooded with visitors. One was from a satellite office down South that will inherit trafficking duties from my much-belabored supervisor. We also had visits from outsourcing folks from India, both the group that has been doing our book typesetting and XML coding for some time, and the new batch of clowns now struggling with our newsletters. Their visits underscored for me and my supervisor how very ready we are to get the hell out of this office and be about our proper business.

The person from the satellite office has no real conception of what will hit that locale when we're gone. My supervisor has been working to get our bosses to place the other office on a more independent footing for more than a year. Despite this, we are still sent their reprint requests, faulty artwork for repair in Photoshop or Illustrator, and advance issues from the printer to review. Much of this extra work goes across the desk of — you guessed it — my super, who up until the release of our two junior designers, was doing about three full-time jobs from one desk.

Even as her recommendations are met with disdain or hostility from our former boss and current department director, she has been urging the chief of the satellite office to take more control over these aspects of the job. Without us to backstop her, she will need to hire and train competent design and trafficking staff to get these things done. Based on the lousy design work I've seen out of that office, I doubt subtle points or low-key mistakes in layout or incrementing (e.g., upping a PIN by one each issue) will be noticed. Combine this with a dimwitted in-house printer and a hapless outsourced design group that can't answer queries swiftly due to the time difference, and you're looking at a person standing under a swiftly dropping sandbag.

My supervisor sometimes feels pity for this person, and even for the director of the department. I try my best to dissuade her from this sympathy. Our director has become a shrill little man, his voice rising to a whining crescendo by way of his attempting to hide his fear behind what remains of his authority. To her credit, my super has been deriving clandestine glee out of highlighting his ignorance of what we have been doing for the past 5 years in front of coworkers, and in one glorious moment, while a stultified outsourcing drone looked on.

His list of allies is not long. He has all but cashiered our old boss, who made the mistake of hiring an ambitious consultant who subsequently became her superior. If the current workflow-reform project fails, our old boss figuratively will leave the company the way much of the French aristocracy left the public square 'round the 1790s: in a dripping basket. Once that project launches, she will be like the chrysalis from the standpoint of the butterfly. And the department veep makes occasional stops at his office and that of our old boss to inquire sharply about the lack of progress. Yet more amusement for the humble remainder of the design team, both of whom happen to be within immediate earshot.

None of this affects my super and I. I have told her point blank that I am working solely for her, and that my top job is to keep her sane amid all of this. Lately, in fact, we've been spending time discussing and reviewing the declining fortunes of our soon-to-be-former superiors, and inevitably drifting on to other topics various and sundry. This Tuesday in particular, we chatted about relationships and dating, which pulled me out of one of my rare, but periodic, acutely single-feeling funks. I will miss having daily access to her level-headed, pragmatic view on life.

I worry about how well I will integrate into the culture and personalities at the next workplace. I know I won't find anyone precisely like my current super. I'd settle for some hard workers with good senses of humor and an appreciation for a level of culture above that of reality shows and top-40 radio. There's a fairly decent chance of that in the editing and design worlds. I also happen to know that there's a 100% chance of it if I ever go solo. But first things first: a new full-time job, continuity of employer-assisted insurance and retirement-fund contribution, and the chance to fill in some skill gaps and truly research the freelance life.

No comments: