The Psychology of being Frankensteined in the workplace
A few weeks back I wrote a letter to the new me. Have you ever seen the television show the “adventures of old Christine?” See Christine’s ex-husband remarries and his new wife is named Christine. The new Christine is younger, perkier and in a solid relationship. The show was a bit funny, although comedy shows are not my ting. I far prefer gore and blood than canned-laughter. Anyway, I can’t help but think about how I find myself laughing at the poor person that goes on to be the “new mimi” in my former workplace.
Again, I do not believe I am irreplaceable. However, when you get to read the job description that is used to advertise your former position, it is illuminating on many levels. I was told that they cut back on my job description. Yet, what they put forth was five pages long and appeared to be the cobbling product of at least three different job positions together. It was the most “frankensteined” piece of writing I have seen in a while and I write grants often, mind you.
My former job description posting listed 17 responsibilities and 16 requirements. According to a the Washington Post column you shouldn’t list more than eight requirements — “More than that, and it starts to look like you’re looking for Superman.” Yup! I always knew I was good and gave too much of my life to that place and that job description proves it. When I showed individuals the job description they incredulously asked “that was the reduced-duties job description”?
Part of my brain, my heart and my oratory skills were put on demand. They put out a job description that called for writing, directing, supervising, and making miracles. What was missing was my chutzpuh and laughter. Which, I most note are part of my unique charm and effectiveness. They might as well have noted that they were looking for a unicorn. I hear they exist… somewhere.
When I first saw the job posting, I laughed while also feeling offended. I was a tad angry for this lengthy job description made me realize that I had been used, in a way. Interestingly, at one point last year, I had noted that there was a sense of burnout in the office air. The person I noted this to was offended and stated that he didn’t understand why people would be burned out and that he slept well at night. Well, I can tell you that if we were to compare job descriptions, it would become quite evident why he slept and I didn’t. As he typed up that job ad (who am I kidding he probably delegated a cut and paste job to his monkey) I hope he was able to reflect back to that conversation we had a year ago.
It was partly my fault that my job description was so long. I worked hard and efficiently and can just accomplish way more than most other people there. However, the fact that someone then wrote up what I did (only partially at that) as a job description with no sense of understanding, offended me.
I have slowly come to appreciate that the job description was validating. As someone noted on a listserve once “90% of the time when the job description is that detail they already have somebody lined up and the description is tailored to that person. Basically, they are just going through legal motions.” Yes, it seemed quite obvious that they were looking for me. They lost me and still wanted me. They may have known it at the time but their laundry list surely reflected that sentiment.
Although that job description was validating, when such a job description appears to be so “frankensteined” it lets one know right away that the person in charge of that position doesn’t really know what that position is meant to do. Furthermore, it also means that the person in charge doesn’t know what they themselves are doing. They have some job vacancy that they have to fill but are not quite sure as to what tasks are truly descriptive of the position. As one programmer noted in a listserve “Oh, I always loved the people who wanted 3 years of Windows 2000 administration experience… in 2001. Sometimes the people making these requirements don’t have a clue what they’re talking about.”
If you ever are thinking of accepting a position based on an overwritten job description I have one word of advice for you: run.