Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Office Politics

I have been caught amidst office politics in the last 24 hours as the result of a charitable, yet practical move on my part. It was deliberate, a little bit of an experiment, and has been showing some remarkable consequences.
I also may have incidentally interfered with management's attempts attempts to give a fellow worker the old-heave-hoe.

It all started when the formerly 'meek' co-worker of mine found herself without an afternoon class after rejecting what was available. She made some noise, and then got the opportunity to assist me in making the curriculum while the rest of us taught in the afternoon. This sounded good for me at first as she is a resource ferret, capable of finding books and chapters to suit any subject or purpose. But I found her to be difficult to work with. Eventually after being nagged for eight minutes of my ten minute break by her (she didn't have a class), with her speaking over everything I said, and then her complaining about me to the administrator saying I speak to her as if she were a primary school student, I started to wonder what would placate her grumbling disquiet.

Then she found that next week she would have no morning class. She made a noise standing in the doorway of the administrator, asking him what classs he could teach (the answer: no class) and saying that she'd have to look for another job. For me, this was a little awkward in that technically I thought I should stand aside as I am on a casual contract, whereas she was with the company through thick and thin (and boy was it thin in the past year) and is on a more permanent contract than I. But there was never this suggestion by management or to her.

Then I thought briefly about my own position. Since becoming full-time AND doing additional curriculum work, I have stopped applying for other jobs (since my last interview). I have been swamped. And if I don't do anything I will be here forever. So I thought I could propose a win-win situation. I would give up my morning class in the morning to her and restart my job-search. I'd also be freer to do the curriculum development (which still pays) and I would have time to work on my own projects.

BUT the biggest surprise was the administrators reaction. He said that he was under instructions to give work to those who are willing to work, and she, the meek one, was not one to accept what she was given. In other words, she had been rejecting the classes she had been offered and hence was in the situation where she has no classes (and consequently complained). He tried to persuade me to do otherwise, warning me that if I were to give her my classes, she might not give them back when I return. I thought that would be an interesting eventuality (would she feel any right to return the class?). He told me about the discontent of management with her. But I emphasised my reasons for doing so, i.e. to re-start my job search. He eventually conceded (as he had to). And later the meek one commented without much excitement that she was teaching my class next week.

LATER, the meek one complained about a new development announced by management. The edict from above was that seniority doesn't apply to teachers. This was fascinatingly unnatural. Why would a company say that new teachers (even the part-timers) should keep their classes when a committed full-time teacher lacks a class (as the result of merging or graduation)? This became clearer in three following situations. The administrator came to me, and told me I should discuss with her what happens after two weeks. i.e. to make some agreement to share, or return the class back to me rather than wait till that time came. Then the general manager came to me and made sure of my reasons for doing having the break in the morning. He doesn't usually get involved with staffing issues but he came to me to ask whether I was really doing this for my own reasons or whether I was being gentlemanly and standing aside for her. After I told him I wasn't being gentlemanly, he said it was fine and reiterated that they wouldn't stand in my way to pursue other employment and left.

Just before the meek one left for the day, I asked her about what would happen when I came back, and she said quite plainly that management had told her that the two weeks of morning class I asked for were a 'holiday' (despite me working in the afternoons) and that due to seniority not mattering any more I would definitely go back to the Intermediate class I was teaching 2 weeks previously upon my return to full-time teaching. So interesting! My conclusion is that management wants to give her an indirect flick and make her jump. But then I ruined the culmination of this plan. They had disgruntled her, stripped her of work and then the Daniel fly landed squarely in the ointment. As a result, they had even changed the implicit rules of seniority to maintain the edge in evicting her from the job.

All in an 'Auckland' day...

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