What do they DO all day??

A number of years ago I worked with a FANTASTIC HR Rep.  Jen was super bright, organized, ambitious and a fast-learner.  She handled every thing with aplomb and always asked for more. A particular strength was her ability to manage up and I’m sure I tested her patience in this area regularly (managing up to Mr. Magoo wouldn’t be too strong an analogy).

She was heading out for vacation at the end of the week and wrapping up her To Do’s when she came into my office concerned about how we would handle the new Weight Watchers class we had set up as an employee benefit.  The class was scheduled and needed to be marketed but Jen was concerned that if she sent it out from her email address, she wouldn’t be there to respond to folks in a timely way.  (Thinking ahead (check), taking initiative (check), fully engaged in providing excellent client service (check).

I told her she needn’t worry, that I would handle it.

Now, Jen was always the picture of professionalism: positive, respectful, diplomatic in every way.  But the look she gave me at that moment was none of the above.  I might as well have said that I’d be manning the next space shuttle to fix some stuff gone wrong up on the Hubble Telescope.  She said, “I don’t think you want to do that.”

Of course, I’m thinking, how hard can it be to send out a marketing email to the employee population letting them know of a nice new benefit.  They respond yes or no, I save the emails and by the time Jen comes back, we’ve got a nice neat list and we’re ready to go.  “You’re going to get a lot of questions”, she says.  “I can handle it”, I assure her, and we finally came to (her reluctant) agreement that I indeed could.

Holy Time Suck Batman!

I sent the email Friday and by Monday my inbox and voicemail were full. Of this: I can’t stay for the whole class time, can I still sign up? Can we consider a different location? I’m diabetic, will the program work for me? Do you know who the instructor is? If the instructor is Laurie she’s great. If you didn’t get Laurie, do you want me to call and see if we can secure her? I use Jenny Craig, is there any way we can bring that in house?……..  I’m not kidding. I spent much of the day and a great deal of additional time of the week responding to the plethora of inquiries generated by the invitation.

It’s funny how as individual contributors, we can’t wait to become managers. We won’t have to deal with the copier jamming, people not responding to us, too many people responding to us, emergencies that are not our own.  We happily trade up for more “fun” responsibilities like managing others.  And then when things don’t move fast enough or staff has the nerve to feel under-appreciated we ask impatiently: “Well, what do they DO all day?”

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