Friday, June 10, 2011

Work woes

Just had a little cry in the toilets at work, so hopefully won't repeat that shortly. Thing is, I have to have an annual review at work, starting with filling out a form saying everything I've done this year and my future objectives and followed by an interview with my boss. So okay, that's kind of stressful and unpleasant for everyone, but not usually crying material. But it's just upsetting me that everyone seems to be completely oblivious and insensitive to the fact that this is actually really hard for me to do, and that it's much harder for me than them. For example, I just asked a colleague what I should put for 'position in the structure' and he answered 'ha ha I don't know - ground floor?'.

Then I got to a bit that said you should answer this section using the information in your job description. I was looking through my emails to find the information the secretary had sent me about the assessment and I found out that there is no job description and she expects me to go to this (not very helpful) website and fill it out myself. To be fair, she did email me that information weeks ago and I've just put off dealing with it because it's stressful and I didn't have time, so that's my fault, but I just don't think it's fair to expect me to fill out my own job description. I don't have a single clue how to fill in the 'political, strategic, legal or reglatory framework' for my job, for example, and I don't see why I should have to. Surely it's their job to lay out all that information for me from the beginning?

Still, maybe it wouldn't upset me that much if it just didn't bring up wider issues that I feel like people don't take the time to explain things to me clearly and help me with this sort of thing. Don't get me wrong, I'm good at my job and I know what I'm doing, but I feel all the time like I'm doing my own thing and I end up disconnected from everyone else. Like there'll suddenly be a meeting that no-one told me about - it's possible that it was vaguely mentioned between themselves, but I need them to actually say "Gwan, there's a meeting about such and such on such and such a date" and they never do. Or technical things are never clearly explained - like they'll throw around acronyms to do with IT stuff I don't understand and never say what they're talking about. By the way, it's not just me who feels this way, the girl I eat lunch with also often says she doesn't get what x or y is, but obviously it's 10 times more difficult for me to pick up on stuff.

Then, and this is a bit different, there's the feeling that it's not fair that I have to do everything there is to do in English whereas they can pick and choose what they're good at or what interests them amongst themselves in French. But I mean that's just intrinsic to the job, there's nothing I can really do about it.

I don't really know whether to bring these things up in my assessment. On the one hand, I don't want to come across like I'm calling my colleagues out on something. I just think they genuinely don't get it, and I can understand that. I remember about 5-6 years ago working with a foreign library assistant who used to screw everything up all the time, and we all just used to sigh and call her useless instead of trying to explain and help her. It was really annoying because you'd go into the shelving room after her and everything would be misshelved (which, I dunno, isn't really a language issue anyway but...) and so you'd end up having to re-do all the "work" she'd done, which obviously puts you offside with her. Obviously no-one's having to re-do my work, but I don't want my colleagues to similarily feel like I'm this burden on them if they're having to take extra time to explain stuff. At the same time though, I do understand if they just speak directly to me and say things clearly instead of just making vague allusions to stuff across the desks to each other while we're working.

I know that it's my choice to take a job in a foreign country and language so in a way maybe it's not fair to expect special treatment. But at the same time, it's a post for a native English-speaker, so I do feel that if you're going to specifically look to hire someone foreign you should be sensitive to the fact that they may need extra assistance and support, including for things that are really obvious to you like labour laws or whatever. I just find it really hard as well to admit I don't know something and ask for help, which again is my fault. I think they could be meeting me halfway though. :(


  1. What you've said is fair comment and it would be constructive to convey a modified form of it in the review session. Write what you do and what you plan to do but use parts where the form is asking the impossible (such as the bit about the strategic, legal framework) to open a discussion on what that means and ask the boss to tell YOU what the strategic framework is for your job, as you would really like to know. This isn't a test designed to trip you up. It is a two-way process which is supposed to be a positive thing. It is meant to result in you and the boss having a better understanding of how things are going and how they could be improved if necessary. Don't think it is one-sided. YOU have value to them - the power is not all one way! Be confident in your own worth and talent. They would be hard-pressed to replace you.

  2. You should consider the ethnic approach to these problems as follows:
    1. The English approach - walk around with a stiff upper lip saying absolutely nothing for several years.
    2. The Sicilian approach. Say absolutely nothing while planting a bomb under the homes of each colleague.
    3. The American approach - buy a high powered rifle and slay bat least 26 people at random, (preferably include one or two colleagues or it'll be a complete waste).
    4. The Australian approach - she'll be right mate.
    5. The Irish apprach - start a fight with everybody that you meet for the next 4 weeks and make it up by drinking several gallons of guiness.
    As you see the possibilities are endless. I'll leave you to think of the French solution (probably to sulk and blame the Americans and English).


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