Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Old Order Changeth

TIME FOR SOME CATCH-UP. On St. Patrick's Day, I got a call at work from someone I'll call "N from the Central City office." His name was vaguely familiar to me; I soon realized during our ensuing chat that he'd been a guest speaker at a company conference in our parts 2 months ago. I didn't realize this at first, though, so I politely returned his greetings and listened to his introduction as managing editor of a number of our other publications. He then told me that he was calling to discuss the move of my own magazine's staff, and the managing-editor responsibilities, to Central City and his desk, respectively.

Flash back to a week prior. The graphic designer who works with our art director asked, after dropping off some materials from the previous issue, why the three open positions on the magazine staff were listed on the company site as being in Central City. Too many to be a mistake, we agreed. I thought perhaps one of the execs out there would participate in the interview process, though this seemed odd; with the managing editor being a remotely based person, I imagined the bemused candidate sitting in the HR conference room with two speakerphones jabbering at him or her. I filed away the hiring datum and proceeded with my week.

Now I knew why the listing was for Central City.

N was quick to assure me — and did so repeatedly through the call — that they wanted to keep me on the staff, that he looked forward to working with me in getting up to speed with the book, and that I was to remain in New Jersey. (Damn right I am, I mentally replied.)

Once I got over my initial shock, we actually had a very pleasant half-hour conversation regarding the status of the magazine, what makes us different from the competition, and what I do month to month. Conveniently, I had been working on the employee self-assessment of my performance review before he'd called, so I had a fine list of my duties right in front of me.

The biggest change, clearly, would be that my current managing editor, with whom my three former coworkers had had beefs of varying degrees that led them to other shores, would cede almost all involvement, and all control, over the magazine. I assume the staff evaporation was the primary reason for the shift.

I assume the decision to hire in Central City, rather than in this area, has to do with cost. After my by-no-means-unique flirtation with stress earlier this month, I surrendered all desire to take my departed boss's old job. Had I lobbied for that, perhaps they might have considered placing new staff in my office, so I could train them directly. My hatred of training, however, was one of the biggest reasons I didn't advocate for the slot, and after my trip to the hospital, I decided I wanted no part of the rest of the responsibilities and burdens such a position would entail.

I don't say the following out of self-deprecation, but from a business standpoint: I am surprised they didn't make some sort of push to have me move there, or eliminate me altogether and just hire another person. Perhaps they believe I know more about the "street" aspect of running the magazine than my current boss. I'd disagree with this. Maybe they feel they've reached the end of their string with her involvement on the book, and they'd rather have a subordinate employee act as trainer for a new manager while feeling more secure that he wasn't cut or impelled to pack a U-Haul. Or perhaps they will put the pressure on me to move after N feels comfortable enough, and has enough of a magazine staff there, to do so.

This new staff arrangement makes me the remote editor, oddly enough, which is one of the gripes that my former mates had registered about my current/their former manager. I have extensive experience working with coworkers in remote shops, collaborative online workflow, and the like, but the pressure will be on to support their choice to retain an out-of-house person in a more expensive area of the country. My work can be done anywhere. It will be my task, as long as this position offers me challenges, growth, and writing opportunities of interest, to show them that what I do cannot be done by anyone else.

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