Where Logic Meets Love

I Want to Work Hard! ...Please?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

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I Want to Work Hard! ...Please? | Faith Permeating Life
So I'm back to square one at work.

You may recall that a few months after I started my job, I had way too much downtime at work. I was so bored that I started doing extra work for the other departments on my floor, which eventually led to my skills being in greater demand and a lot more total work for me, because I was doing 1) my actual job I was hired to do plus 2) a bunch of data analysis and survey design work, which I loved.

I made it clear last spring that I eventually wanted this other work to be my full-time job because, while I enjoyed that all the various projects were keeping me busy, I was still having to drop everything if one of my actual bosses needed me to do some heavy-duty work as part of my actual job. And I was managing our school's entire student course evaluation process while still signing my e-mails "office assistant," which seemed a little silly.

So in October someone else took over my biggest responsibility, managing the VP's calendar. A few other responsibilities, like tracking attendance and processing stipends for our technology workshops, went to another coworker. And then in December I was told that I would be getting a new title and a raise for 2011. All awesome.

What was never clearly worked out was what was going to happen to all of my other responsibilities that I had been doing as part of job #1. Some of them, minor ones, like ordering office supplies, I was happy to give up, while other ones, like helping people register for the technology workshops and answering their questions, I really loved and wanted to keep doing.

So I kept quiet about the whole thing until finally the associate VP cornered me and asked me why I hadn't passed off all my technology workshop responsibilities to my coworker. Other than the fact that I enjoyed it, there were a couple other hesitations I had that I won't go into here, but she told me I needed to give these responsibilities up and train my coworker to take them over. Of course, no one had bothered to tell him this, so suddenly he's being asked to take on a bunch of work he doesn't want, while I'm being forced to give up work I enjoy.

The end result of all this is that now I'm back to not having enough work to keep me busy.

I really don't want to go back to where I was a year and a half ago, asking around the office if anyone needed help. For one thing, I really don't feel like getting stuck with everyone's odds and ends, and for another, it seems kind of ridiculous for them to give me a promotion and then me draw attention to the fact that I'm getting less done than I was before. Not that I'm not fulfilling everything I'm asked to do and more, because I am. But the nature of a 40-hour-a-week office job is that you're expected to fill 40 hours. If the work you're assigned doesn't fill that, then you don't go home, you find a way to fill up the rest yourself. And I am -- I'm taking a programming class, learning Illustrator, and starting an app design class next week. But that still doesn't fill 40 hours.

It's completely possible that this point in the semester is just a bad one, where everyone is so busy they don't have time to think about the long-range assessment projects that I could help them with, and my boss is so busy it takes him forever to give me his portion of the projects he wants me to help with. I'm developing a website for our department, which I'm excited about and which will hopefully bring in more work, but that won't go up until I get the copy my boss wants to write about the areas he's responsible for... and that could be a while.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not ungrateful. I'm thankful that not only do I have a job, it's doing work I enjoy with people who are super-awesome. There are many, many blessings associated with my job. Mainly I'm just scratching my head about how work that I actually liked doing could get taken away from me, leaving me with not enough work to fill my days. That seems silly.

On a good note, it's left me more time to devote to a small, cross-college committee I'm on that I've been very passionate about for the last year. Today I finally succeeded in getting a meeting together with some key people that's likely going to lead to our committee's proposal becoming a full-fledged college-wide campaign kicked off by the president in the fall. That makes me excited because I think if it works, it's going to make a huge difference in how our students feel about the college. It's data-driven and common sense and catchy. I'm excited.

Have you been in this kind of position before? Do you have ideas for how I can fill my time and actually feel productive? Being bored for long stretches of time is honestly exhausting... I need something semi-challenging where I can feel accomplished. Stuff that's good for the school or my department is even better. I'm open to suggestions!


  1. I can really relate to this! I too, am happiest when I have a manageable-challenge to tackle. I've had a few jobs where I've been expected to amuse myself. It's a tough position to be in; you don't want to be a pain always asking for something to do, yet you don't want to be seen as not working either! The only positive thing is that it makes you stand out as a "self-starter" to your supervisors =)

    1. Yep, you get what I'm talking about. It's great to be seen as efficient and an independent worker, but it's truly exhausting to have to keep yourself busy. I'm more a fan of Results-Oriented Work Environments, where your job performance is measured by the actual amount and quality of work you produce, not the number of hours you spend in the office. It doesn't make sense to wear out your best and most efficient workers by making them spend more time in the office than they need to.


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