The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation


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sometimes, it's like this
children of dune - leto 1
seperis
Trufax: the day before a major deployment at work is stressful.

Trufax: yesterday me and my boss mused if we shouldn't be so hard on dev, being as a.) obviously they'd never seen a computer before and b.) probably lacked opposable thumbs.

Trufax: my very first supervisor in the agency is now supervisor of a different unit that is equivalent pay to ours and was poaching in my unit with my lead. I made my feelings on trying to lure away my lead clear. Because I do not say this lightly, our entire section will collapse and die forever if she does. He laughed at me. Goddamn him for being awesome.



It's tempting in a lot of ways to think about it. He is actually even better a manager than he thinks he is and that's actually saying something and the majority of his unit turnover is promotion, not lateral and even for that is pretty low because of the flexibility in work hours and work location. People can work from home from almost anywhere in the state. There are mandatory times you have to be in the office, but it doesn't have to be in Austin either.

Turnover is a really, really, really good indicator of a good manager in the agency. In general, it's not that there isn't ambition, but in the state, there's a lot people who do plan to stay with the state for the full twenty years, so unless you're miserable at your job, there's not a lot of rush when you're pretty okay with where you are when it's not directly related to the political parts. You need two things to move up, experience and nepotism, and staying in one place helps with both.

This can be hard to explain, the value of nepotism, because it has so many truly horrific connotations, and hey, I've benefited from it. The thing is, there is no one in the agency who doesn't or hasn't benefited from it, because that's the entire point when you move around, to find a job you like with a supervisor you can deal with and use that to move up. I was specifically instructed in this by one of my supervisors when I nervously told her years ago that I was going to an interview; that's what I was supposed to do.

All of my supervisors remember me fondly because one, I don't like being bad at what I do and everyone loves merit raises and I've made a virtue of my sheer impatience with boredom, and two, I throw origami at them when I want attention. This is actually known about me in some circles due to certain meetings where it was cranes from candy wrappers or falling asleep. Even my worst supervisor liked me like a lot, because when she was in the kind of mood where I could not possibly do anything right, if I heard her coming (you always did), I hid under my desk until she went away. Also, literal. I had a book and everything.

This is not a perfect system, but here are some reasons it's kind of necessary:

1.) the black hole effect of some units; you can't get out because your supervisor sucks so much that the unit gets a bad rep, and the supervisor themselves blocks transfers due to being dicks. These two things don't always go together, but you might be surprised to know there overlap is huge.

2.) some units also are by nature so limited in what they do that even being good at that still means your skillset is abysmal and hard to use out of it. In the state, there are built-in mechanisms for dealing with this, so it's more a matter of patience than actually being stuck there forever.

3.) doomed jobs--this is not common, but it has, does, and will happen and at any given time is happening to a department somewhere--where what you are given to do is over your head (and not by your fault; no one saw that dept would be given X to do and wtf) due to the legislature, politics, internal politics, or just pure bad luck. Especially with these, there are internal mechanisms that do deal with this--not like management isn't aware they are fucking you--but it really is a matter of being patient until the horror passes.

4.) random ass attrition - this is a conservative state, and social services are always first on the chopping block, which is hilarious in a black comedy way which I'll explain later. First line of defense is to basically kill all unfilled positions that exist--there are always a lot where someone left but hte position hasn't been filled for Reasons. Second is to remove existing jobs on a delay; ie, the jobs will be killed when the holder retires, which is actually effective, because most people will retire the minute they are able, take a year or two off, then come back. Third is to actively remove jobs in a delay of about year, wihch gives you plenty of time to go through the stages of grief and get another job.

5.) Rarely, but very consistently in some areas, a supervisor thinks you are too valuable to let go.

6.) Your supervisor/manager does not like you. This is almost never actually problem by itself, because it's really painfully obvious and the type who will do this tend to not do it to one person only in their entire lives, and everyone knows it's happening. In fact, it will be the equivalent of a billboard if they only do it to a single person for three years if you are in a major city, because if anyone is as terrible or whatever as this supervisor/manager says, then why on earth haven't they been fired. It's a problem when attached to one or five.

None of this is unique to the state, but it's not necessarily considered a drawback because a.) state employment can be generational so you've been raised to it and b.) I do not say this in a mean way but in a realistic way--if you work for the state for ten years, hate your job, and can't get out because you have no contacts anywhere else, then you have to be actively working never to meet anyone and actively hostile to those you do. My first two years, against my will, I was interacting one layer of bureaucracy away from the legislature and the office of internal investigations without even leaving my office.

(Note: That was because when my supervisor was in a bad mood I hid under my desk and only interacted with her when it was positive, true, so she thought I was wonderful--she'd never had an argument with me about anything ever! I was so positive and sympathetic!--and my punishment was to have three legislative aids with blackberries awkwardly try to interact with my clients while I interviewed them (me and my clients would kind of stare at each other in mutual embarrassment after each truly painful attempt, and at least a couple of my Spanish speaking ones lost their English entirely the second they walked into my office, which trust me, if I could have done the same thing, I would have. The OIG were slightly more canny about that, but when my clients realized they were there to make me nervous and didn't have any intention of trying to appear benevolently interested in the pain of the poor, they had a blast.)

I mean, there is a reason I've been a tester for a while now. I've applied for only one other type of position a few times, and even at my last interview I wasn't really feeling all that excited at the thought of leaving. Id' rather promote internally in my unit, to be honest.

There's also this: in terms of the level I'm at, I'm still kind of above natural paygrade and will be until I hit at least fifteen years tenure. In state employment, in my job, and for that matter the speed I went from caseworker to tester is not in any way unique, though it's somewhat unusual, I'm years away from being considered for some jobs. It does show; no matter how good I am at my job, there are a lot of people with more tenure and more experience that I can't compete with directly when they look at my resume. My mother didn't get to my level before her late forties and she had massive amounts of experience as well.

More importantly, and this I can't prove but I'm pretty sure is a consideration, is how fast I moved was merited, yes, but not necessarily for the right reasons to move up again anytime soon. A lot of why I interviewed well for tester was, well, fandom, not even going to lie--all my tech experience, understanding of programming, the fact I'd been doing program testing and documentation at my former job because the boredom principle had come into effect and my manager was tired of origami cranes on his desk so gave me something to do. But moving up is now complicated by that.

I was a good caseworker. I know this empirically; my stats, my evaluations, and my merit raises are all documented, so even during my worst days, I can look at my file and know I wasn't just good at it, I was probably the best in my unit and if Events hadn't occurred, I would have naturally moved up to supervisor and then up the regular caseworker hierarchy before getting where I am if I'd ever had a goal as tester. The thing is, I wasn't a caseworker long enough or ever a supervisor. Policy, state policy, is something that as a caseworker you learn down to your bones. By the end, I could--and still can--read an application and accurately tell someone whether they probably qualify for benefits with ninety degree accuracy.

My mother could ask them three questions and know with perfect accuracy.

It doesn't sound like a huge difference, but any caseworker after five years could do that. When I was a caseworker, my worker iv could interview someone while at the front desk and work the entire case in her head in less than ten minutes with their application and a piece of scratch paper if she had to. Any job I want now will be directly competing with people who could do that, and probably were supervisors as well. And for that matter, they know the people who are interviewing; they worked with them as caseworkers.

I don't have a problem with that. Testing is horrifically stressful and I hate some days like you would not believe, and every other build is a nightmare from which I sometimes think I will not awaken. But I love my job itself. I hate that the good is the enemy of the perfect is true, and that I cannot make myself accept that.

* My math says it costs the state more to do this than just leaving everything alone. Like with child protective services, they cut the budget and then there was a rash of inexplicable and really fucking public nursing home and adult and child abuse cases hitting all the papers. People blame the caseworkers, and they should in some of those cases, don't get me wrong here there was neglect of job duties, but what helps is when a workload allows workers to also sleep, and as a former food stamp/medicaid/tanf caseworker, if you were around when I was journaliing about this, sleep was one of the things that I wasn't getting a lot of, and my job at no time had a kid or elderly person's actual life hanging in the balance, just their medical care and ability to eat. After the abuse thing, the state recruited and bonused the fuck out of anyone who would apply and effectively had to spend a lot more than if they'd just left status quo. It cost them a lot with my agency when they treid to eliimiate three thousand jobs and then in horror realized a.) doing that would literally collapse the entire system and b.) before they realized that, everyone retired fast and got better jobs nad wouldn't come back to save their lives. Etnire offices were desperately made up of new hires and let me say, I'd stare at the stats in those offices with an expression not unlike that of a dog doing math; like, what the hell. Also, the state lost money to lawsuits and the feds for pulling that. Like, wow.)



The deployment was tonight, and they already scheduled people to come in tomorrow due to anticipating how badly this is probably going to go. By the grace of God I am not one of them this time.

Posted at Dreamwidth: http://seperis.dreamwidth.org/948546.html. | You can reply here or there. | comment count unavailable comments

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