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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

HR’s Not Gonna Want to Hear This

There are many situations in life when a person may speak on your behalf. In court, for instance. During certain kinds of business deals. In a police interrogation room, from what I see in cop shows, if you can afford a fancy three-piece-suit lawyer.

What I’d like to know is: can I get someone to speak for me at my next employee review at work?

My last review — which is to say my current one, concerning what I’ve done in the past year — was this afternoon. Two bosses — from a cast of thousands, as they say in show biz — sat in with me for the evaluation. For most of the talk, everything went well.

Or as well as can be expected, at least. If you don’t expect too much. These are not the sorts of proceedings where it helps to be a ‘glass half-full’ kind of guy going in.

“Nobody asks how they can help me; at best, they maybe nod in acknowledgement as they’re dumping burning emergencies in my lap or carting off my Swingline or emptying my pockets of winning lottery tickets.”

But generally, things went okay. We spent most of the time going over a self-review I’d been asked to write a few weeks ago — pretty standard stuff, in my experience. It was a questionnaire that asked me to detail what I’d accomplished in the past twelve months (a couple of projects, advanced creative excuse writing, plenty of catatonic rocking back and forth under my desk), how I felt my skills matched up with the job duties (I said I’d be much more effective with an invisibility cloak), and my plans for the upcoming year (more rocking, perhaps some low keening and wailing, preferably winning a large lottery jackpot).

We made it through all of these points, and I listened to their constructive criticism and suggestions — that I move my desk to the basement and hand in my red stapler, that wailing in a bathroom stall will produce the most haunting reverb, and that nobody wins the lottery any more and if I want to throw my money away on an obvious scam, there’s always our 401k to think about.

I thought I was out of the woods at that point. I figured we’d wrap up, agree to make me try harder, and I could take my megaphone and fetal position down to the handicapped stall in the john downstairs for a nice moaning sob. But that’s when they threw me a curveball. They went off-script, and out of nowhere asked me:

So how can we help you be more productive?

I was unprepared for that. Nobody asks how they can help me; at best, they maybe nod in acknowledgement as they’re dumping burning emergencies in my lap or carting off my Swingline or emptying my pockets of winning lottery tickets. But help me? Inconceivable.

So I had to think — on my feet, which is already strikes one through six, and counting — about the challenges I face at the office. If they’re willing to help — or even willing to say they’re willing to help — then it’s up to me to lay out what they’re meant to help with. Not so easy, on the spur of the moment.

At first, I thought of going with that. In a sort of ‘You can help me by not making me have this conversation and thinking up ways you’re supposed to help me‘ way. And that would have helped. But it seemed a little ‘meta’ to be the right answer. The higher-ups aren’t typically quite so subtle in their web-weaving diabolicality.

So I came up with something — an actual issue, and one that they might genuinely be able to assist with. Only I didn’t have time to put my thoughts together — and didn’t have some fancy silver-tongued lawyer speaking for me — so it didn’t exactly come out the way I wanted. And now I don’t know what the hell they’re going to do for me. Or to me. Or in my general vicinity. Here’s what I told them:

Well, we do a lot of multitasking around here, which is fine. Having several different types of things to juggle can be interesting, sure. I don’t mind keeping a few balls in the air.

It’s just lately it feels like I’m juggling someone else’s balls all the time. And I think I’d like to minimize the time I’m doing that.

They looked at each other and blinked. One boss gently tried to get me to reword what I’d just said: ‘You mean, you want to minimize your time spent…?

I wouldn’t be rephrased so easily. “Well, you know, like I just said…

Juggling. Someone else’s balls?

Right. Less time doing that.

I see.

Eventually, they gave up on getting me to put things in a different way, and simply agreed that this ‘other-ball jugglement’ was clearly not in the best interests of the team’s efficiency as a whole. But I don’t know whether they were understanding metaphorically, as I wanted them to, or whether they… well, didn’t. I don’t know what a literal interpretation of my suggestion would entail, and I’m not looking forward to finding out.

(Company-issued codpieces come to mind, and there is no way in hell I’m getting into that mess.

Not again. That one incident at Chik-Fil-A was plenty enough for me, thanks.)

So tomorrow I suppose I’ll see what’s implemented or planned to keep other folks’ balls away from my own juggling hands. Figuratively, I hope. Otherwise, there’ll be a lot of uncomfortable looks shooting around the next time the overlords come to my office to chat. And I certainly don’t need that.

Because I’ve already got my hands full, with all these damned other-people balls to attend to. And now I’m scouring the Yellow Pages to tind a good personal spokesman, so this sort of embarrassment doesn’t happen to me ever again.

I suppose I could find a spokeswoman. But I’m just not sure she’d have the… oh, what’s the word? The cojones for this job. There really is an awful lot of juggling involved. Did I mention that already?

I did? And to the bosses, during a formal review? Oh, goody. Yaa-aaay, me.

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