, ,

My job includes the responsibility of coordinating all our employees’ daily tasks as well as maintaining company policies and insisting that those policies get followed. I’m also the shipping, sales and inventory guy for the company, so I have to make sure that everything coming into and out of the office is accounted for, paperwork-wise. Since without paperwork we have a hard time billing the client (or at least explaining the billing to them when they balk) that is a non-trivial concern, especially for the management and financial side of the company. As our company has grown over the past few years, part of my job has evolved into liaising between the technical staff and the financial staff and making sure that everything lines up properly.

Doing the necessary paperwork can, I know, be a source of frustration for our technical employees, who tend to see a problem and then just want to fix it, generally with the absolute minimum of paperwork (or maybe even less than that if they can get away with it.) Given some of the personalities involved, I have to hassle people to make sure they’re filling out the details… and frankly I often have to go back and retroactively fill out the details my own damn self just to make sure they’re on file.

All that middle-management, fill-out-your-forms crap takes time away from my other responsibilities, including the technical ones I’ve got (everyone in the company is expected to handle at least a minimum of technical duties at need.) It was especially frustrating to me since I’m not middle management and therefore have (or rather, had, more on that below) little to no authority in backing up my criticism. Quite frankly, I ended up having to nag. And I hate it when I’m nagged, so I can imagine how our technicians have felt about me nagging them. It’s been intensely frustrating for me… some days I feel like I’m trying to herd cats, and that’s at the best of times. At the worst of times I get run ragged… and then I start to stress that I’m not doing any of my jobs properly.

The last little while at the office hasn’t been the best of times: We had to let one of our employees go. Without going into details, let me just say that there were a series of problems, mostly personality based, and they had started getting worse and not better. Those problems tended to be in spheres where I was the person required to lay down the law… and so a lot of resentment got built up towards me, which only exacerbated the personality conflict, and by the end of that rather vicious feedback loop I finally had to kick it up to the Boss and he had to come back from his vacation and deal with it.

And as my Mother used to say when we were kids: “If Mom’s not happy, nobody’s happy.”

So we’re even more short-handed at the office now. Not only am I doing my job, I’m doing a big chunk of the former-employee’s job too. The Boss outright cancelled the final week of his vacation and has picked up the rest of the slack and then some (he’s pulled, as near as I can tell, an 80-hour work-week so far) and we’re coping. (This is one of the things I like about working for him — the Boss digs right in during a crisis, unlike some of my former employers who preferred the “dump it on the employees and yell” style of management.) I got officially bumped up to full time — which is good, since I was already doing a 40-plus-hour work-week out of sheer necessity during those last couple of weeks of drama — and we’re looking to hire a couple of new people in the near future to take the pressure off.

We’ve also done a corporate restructuring, in that we now actually have a formal structure. We’ve come a long way since the “three guys in a basement” model under which I was hired, and it’s become clear we’re going to have to go further still… with all the attendant bureaucracy. And I’ve been get an official job title and description: Inside Sales and Support, located a hair below (and off to one side of) the IT Manager and just a hair below (and off to the one side of) the CFO and Accounts Manager; answerable to both of them and also to the CEO… whose technical workflow I am also required to coordinate. In that small-business sort of way, it all works out. It’s kind of like a pyramid with a dip in the middle. I’m the dip.

And if there’s a silver lining coming out of the last month of chaos, at least anyone we hire in the future will have a clear idea of their responsibilities, my responsibilities, and the way authority derives from that. We’ve built have a management structure that should survive any amount of scaling up. But it’s kind of weird for me to be in this position: I’m reminded, rather forcefully, of Albert Einstein’s wry statement “To punish me for my contempt for authority, fate made me an authority myself.”