Saturday, July 13, 2013

Clerk Coping Mechanisms: I am very busy!

It is time for another episode of  "How a clerk copes, coping methods of the clerks!" which would come with some very dramatic music and mesmerizingly flashy graphics if we were that sort of blog, which we aren't. We are just one humble, simple blog quietly pursuing our old-fashioned and simple quest um,


to either:

A. Utterly remake the very fabric of reality to the high standards we feel it has fallen short of, or to

B. Just sort of say "Hey" in a friendly, undemanding way.

Today's clerk coping mechanism is the "I Am Very Busy" coping mechanism. A clerk who uses this coping mechanism is a clerk who will-

Oh. Wait. Excuse me. Sorry to interrupt myself. I have to go flip the fuse on the meter that keeps the Internet running. Could you hold this blog for a moment? Yes, right here. And I promised the Vice President of the Internet I would check in on Amazon, big site, very important. I'll be right back! Just, you could put down a few more blog sentences while I'm gone, or do nothing. I'll be right back.

A clerk who employs this coping mechanism will usually be a person of great energy. They will...

Okay, sorry, I'm back. Thanks, just, you know, I said I'd do that with the fuse. Will you remind me to call Internet Services for replacement fuses? The whole fuse thing is a mess. At one I'm meeting with ISS to talk about the fuse issue, and the highway/racetrack thing, but I'm totally here now for the blog until-

What?! It's one o'clock now? Oh my god! I've got to go! I know it's a lot to ask, but, can you take care of this? Just, you know, maybe finish up the blog post. Don't worry. It doesn't have to be too good. These things practically write themselves.

Okay, so, I guess I will be the one to finish up this blog post them. Hmm, the keyboard is all weird. It seems the "I" key has gone funny!

Anyway, I think you see there a bit of how it works. This is a coping mechanism for high energy people. It is best taken on by people who can manage to invent, pile on, volunteer for, expand, and frankly, seize, a huge amount of duties. Ideally none of these duties should traditionally be their own. I have also seen it done though by people grabbing as few as one extra duty which they've managed to turn into something unending and overwhelming. The dynamic for that type is created by switching from regular duties to, desperately, the special duty, the frantic speed and persistence of juggling two duties hopefully obscuring the fact that there are only, well, two duties.

Like many of these coping mechanisms this might seem a little "other" until you connect it up to yourself. Few people are so indolent, even keeled, or together, that they have not dabbled in this behavior. Your energy is up. You're getting things done. You start cranking your efficiencies. Cleaning, cooking, making calls, bathing the cat. You enter a state of heightened awareness of things needing to be done. You're on the very edge of your capacity. Now there is no way to stop neatly, without crashing. Slow moving bystanders appear to be doing less and less as you go faster and faster until that moment where they suddenly look a lot like semi-idle, available helpers. Soon you are an army, your march cannot be stopped.

Of course, at home, or occasionally, this can mainly be an enthusiasm for getting a lot done, but, especially in a work environment, the benefits expand from there, and some of those can be irresistibly appealing to the right sort of clerk. Not least of these is the taking of a job of modest, very modest, importance, engagement and responsibility, and making it a hothouse of demanding involvement and complication. Take on this coping mechanism and your job is decidedly not boring. There is no time for boring. Everything is infused with a sense of the frantic and vital, and your place in the work constellation  (squatted though it may be) burns brightly. No one hierarchically above you (and you are a clerk, so many, many people are above you) will mistake your importance for more than it is, but people below and roughly equal to you sometimes will and will sometimes reflexively accord you authority. People above you will occasionally find your availability and enthusiasm and energy irresistible (both in a useful way and as taking too much effort to put a stop to) and so they will feed your need for further responsibilities.

The other big benefit to this coping mechanism is one curiously common to many coping mechanisms, and that is, it provides rich opportunity for a person to avoid their actual job. My theory is that most workers are expected to do about twice as much work as any normal person is willing or at all happy to do, so they must deal with this doubled excess. If they are intensely engaged in high energy affairs that look to be of great importance, or if they're eagerly in discussion with a passing senior manager, they not only give themselves something else to do that feels justified, but they are also much less likely to be stopped and told "Hey, aren't you supposed to be at the front desk?"

I may sound a bit acid about this coping mechanism, but I can be approving of it too. Heck, I have gone so far as to employ it quite a few times myself. My approval mostly depends on how much of this extracurricular activity is genuinely useful or meaningful. The range I've seen with heavy users generally runs from close to zero percent useful up to about 50 percent useful. I'm good with anyone who can get it and keep it over maybe 35 percent. I can write off up to 65 percent wheel spinning. A person at 35 percent and up is generally going to be on your team and can be a useful, knowledgeable resource or ally. The downside is that this person will occasionally try and dump stuff off on you, or need help, emergency like, much more than any other co worker. And too, sometimes, they just wont be where they're supposed to be, forcing you to step in. Most of this isn't too bad if they stay respectful and keep it to a minimum. If it gets to be too much sometimes the only solution is to get ferociously busy yourself, doesn't matter with what.

You just make something up.

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