Saturday, February 15, 2014

Days of Our Work Lives: An unvarnished look at work today: Part II: Susan's Saga. Episode 12: The Fairy Tale

Part II: Susan's Saga  

Episode 12
The Fairy Tale

In the previous episode, Susan landed her target job, albeit a temporary one, as an academic adviser at North Central Washington University. 

And unlike her baptism by fire at Rory's Ag Supply, her onramping at NCWU was textbook. Susan watched the best advisers conducting sessions and, after each, Susan was encouraged to ask questions. When she felt ready, she did some easy advising, with a master adviser watching and after each session offering feedback. Her boss told her the department's unofficial rules, the things that wouldn't appear in the employee handbook. For example, "We have a joking-around culture but never with the students or staff as the butt of the joke." Her boss said he had an open door and meant it. Each time she walked into his office, he smiled and she never felt rushed or demeaned. She thought, "I didn't think this existed any more in the real world."

The fairy tale continued, with Susan quickly becoming beloved by her fellow advisers and by students. Indeed, first-time visitors to the advising center would often ask if Susan was still taking on new advisees.

But the real world, alas, too often isn't all rainbows and fairy godmothers. One day, her boss walked into her office, his relaxed demeanor replaced by a furrowed brow. He sighed and said, "Susan, I told you the position was temporary but I didn't know how temporary. The dean has informed us that we have to replace 40 percent of our FTEs: 20 percent with computerized advising--some new artificial-intelligence thing--and 20 percent will be outsourced to a firm in India, which will cost us--when you count the benefits and protections--85 percent less. I just couldn't fight that. Susan, you could not have been more of a star. I'm so sorry."

"But if you say I'm so good, why can't you choose someone else?"

He sighed again: "Union rule: Last hired, first fired."

She was thinking of saying, "How come you administrators never think of outsourcing or automating yourselves," but she liked her boss and besides, didn't want to burn bridges--she'd need a great reference from him.

So Susan was, yet again, shoved back to the starting line. With her short tenure at each of her recent jobs, behind the starting line. 

The next episode is HERE

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