Monday, July 27, 2009

Tumble out of bed and I stumble in the kitchen, pour myself a cup of ambition...

So, I'm currently in the process of my first yearly review since I began my public service adventure is Godzone. I say 'in the process' because the yearly public service review is no simple exercise. Oh no. It takes weeks. Months. There are charts and guidelines and competencies and some sort of moderation process that I still don't quite understand.

This is a new one on me. For all it's faults, the yearly review process in private practice was almost elegant in its simplicity:

How many hours did you bill this year? Way more than is healthy? Great. Here's a check that looks really big until you divide it by the hours you billed, at which point you will realise that it is slightly less per hour than a barista makes.

So, not fair in the sense that it's rewarding, but fair in the sense that it is straightforward. Law firms all have the same business model. A collection of worker bees toil away for hours, get paid by the hour, hand the money over to the partners and the partners take the lion's share and then dole out what's left to the worker bees, usually based on how much they worked.

Put an hour in, take a dollar out. You want more dollars? Put in more hours. Now there is some merit involved. You can gather enough 'achievements' to put on your law firm profile so they can justify upping your hourly rate and then maybe you can put an hour in and take two dollars out. But in the end, it's driven by profits, which are driven by hours. The firm makes money, you make money. And how does the firm make money? Through you.

That is, of course, unless the firm commits a massive ethical violation through which it represented both sides of a bunch of insurance disputes and 'mediated' its way into lots and lots of fees, from two clients at once, and then gets caught and forced to coff up 8 figures worth of ill-gotten gains. Allegedly. Then, nobody gets anything no matter how much they worked because the one partner who was clean gets the hell out and takes all of the clean clients with him. Hypothetically. Luckily, all that may or may not have gone down after I left that firm so to the extent a bunch of poor worker bees had a very lean Christmas indeed, I was not one of them.

I did work for one firm that based compensation on billables recovered instead of billed hours. Which means, not only did you have to do the work, you had to make sure the client paid. That takes some maneuvering, but is still straightforward. There was only one measure of your worth and everybody was on the same page.

My first job in the public service, in Gilligan's Island, had a review process that was just as straightforward, although completely divorced from merit. It was based only on time served. Been here two years? There's your raise, such as it is. That was awesome.

The process here is completely the opposite of all that. It's complicated and multi-layered. There are competencies you have to demonstrate that are based on goals you may or may not have been given the opportunity to achieve. And then overlaying all of that are the financial realities of the Current Economic Climate (tm). And when you live in the capital, everyone who is not in public service is calling for your head, convinced that you spend your days blissfully ensconced in a blandly coloured and well carpeted office pontificating and being bureaucratic. The upshot is that there aren't many people in this city that don't work in public service, but the downside is that they're loud.

So we all work really hard justifying ourselves and prepare a report that will soon begin a long and winding journey through the various levels of hierarchy. Who knows what it will say when it comes out on the other side about who I am and whether I'm good enough. Or whether I will care. The beauty of the law firm process is that it was so one-dimensional, you knew it couldn't possibly be accurate. The public service review is the same way. It's so complicated, it cannot have any relation to my actual merit.

Still, there is one benefit to a process that does not judge me solely by the hours that I work: You know what I did this Sunday? I practiced taking pictures, sat by the harbour and had a meatloaf sandwich, not in that order. Beats the hell out of document review.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Teenagers scare the living [censored] out of me....

I'm going to change my last name to Henderson. Because I need a mean old lady name and there never was a Mean Ole Miss Johnson.

Yes, that's right. I've become an old lady. A Mean Ole Lady. And not just because certain body parts are shifting their altitude (though they are, sadly).

It all started today when I was catching the bus to go into town (and I had to run for it, mind, you'd think the driver would have waited for an old lady like me). When I got on the bus, I encountered that greatest thorn in my side, the Teenage Girl. And she was staring. I mean a full on up-and-downer, accompanied by Teenage Scowl. You know the one. "Oh my God, my life is so HARD, I don't even know why I'm on this bus, I should be at home in my basement listening to My Chemical Romance painting my nails black, and why didn't Bella just pick Jacob, GOD."

Now, if there's one thing I cannot abide, it is the prevalence of staring here in New Zealand. These people are unstoppable and blatant. I think it comes from living in a country that is still stuck in the 1960s where you don't get stabbed for staring too long at someone, but I seem to recall seeing some article in archives that told me that even in the 1960s, starting was rude, dammit. There is no excuse.

If there is another thing I cannot abide, it is the pathos of the Teenage Girl. These creatures confound me. Actively surly and contemptible, I simply do not understand them, nor do I have patience for them. In fact, central to my decision not to have children is the fact that I have identified the risk that I might have a beautiful baby girl who would one day grow into a Teenage Girl. That very thought gives me nightmares.

So, anyway, this little strumpet gave me the up and down and I scowled back, made a nasty comment, and shuffled back to my seat.

And then! Just as I was getting off the bus, some stupid kid almost took me out by riding his bike on the sidewalk. Oh, the crankiness that ensued. So I was walking down the street muttering under my breath about the kids these days, when some a-hole driver failed to yield to me in the crosswalk.


I could have been hit! At that moment, I wished I actually had a cane to shake at them. I might have even given their bumper a tap with it, that's how close they were.

And get off my lawn!