“Yes, that’s right”, I say politely, wondering where the conversation is going.
“The thing is” says New Boss. “We need to involve one of the external volunteers. But I want it to be X”.
He pauses. It is clearly A Cue for some response on my part. Only I do not know what response I am expected to make.
“Yeeeeeeees…?” I say interrogatively.
“I absolutely do not want it to be Y,” says New Boss, naming the volunteer with whom I work most closely. “But I have to send out an email to all of the volunteers asking one of them to get involved. What wording do you think I should put in the email which will make totally and utterly sure Y will not put himself forward?”
I do not respond for about 30 seconds. In truth, I am at a loss exactly how to reply. New Boss starts squawking on the end of the phone, wondering if I have heard him clearly enough.
“I can’t help you, I’m afraid,” I say eventually. “I can’t think like that”.
“I’m sorry,,” I try to explain. “It’s just that what I would do is: send out the email, wait and see who volunteers, and then work with that person. I wouldn’t feel comfortable with trying to manipulate the situation. I’m so sorry. I’m not trying to be difficult. It’s just that – honestly - my brain doesn’t work like that”.
There is a short pause. I can almost feel my Blackberry trembling with the vibrations from New Boss’s violently rolling eyes.
“But I don’t think Y is the right person!” he expostulates. “I want X to work on the project”.
“Then just ask X,” I say patiently. “Don’t play games. Just ask X and let that be an end to it”.
“I can’t,” says New Boss sulkily. “That wouldn’t be fair”.
I wrestle with the advisability of pointing out to New Boss that if he wanted to be fair, he would just stick to honourable and transparent processes rather than the convoluted piece of skulduggery upon which he is recklessly embarking. Discretion is rapidly thrashed senseless by Valour, so I hear myself uttering the words above whilst knowing that they will be as welcome as waking up to a beeping sound and realising that the freezer door has been left open all night (this has just happened to me, so I can confidently say this is the most unwelcome thing I can currently think of…..)
New Boss spends ten minutes lecturing me on my naivete and inability to comprehend corporate processes. I just go “mmmmmmm” whilst my feet take me into an adjacent branch of T K Maxx where I can safely distract myself by looking at an array of colourful handbags (internal soundtrack: "my God! There’s a red Osprey bag in here reduced from £245 to £65 !!!" etc etc). At one point during the conversation, I actually suggest to New Boss that I withdraw from the project. But he won’t allow me to do so. I have no idea why not, frankly; as this would solve our current philosophical dilemma.
The phone call is terminated before my desperation for distraction has led me to purchase said bag. I manage to wander back out of the shop with my debit card untouched, knowing that New Boss has now written me off as a promotional prospect, and labelled me A Prissy Moralistic Bore.
For about the millionth time, I ask myself how I have ended up working in local government when I am so obviously unsuited to it. Because most of the time I feel that I am surrounded by people who are totally different to me, and that makes me feel very isolated.
I was once on a training course where we were asked to write down 10 alternative jobs we would have liked to have done, if we weren't doing what we were already doing. And I wrote:
- Massage therapist
- Yoga teacher
- Make up artist
- Children’s entertainer
- Dog walker
- Colour consultant
(some of these were slightly more – ahem – fantastical than others, you understand).
But even so.
How the flaming hookles did I end up as a local government officer...?
I can only put it down to Extremely Bad Planning.