This is a reprint of an article I published then took down because I was concerned my client at the time might figure out who it was about. Since that client is long in the past, I’m putting it back up. I’m reprinting an old article because it’s been a hell of a week – the industry I work in (financial services) is collapsing, I’ve been struggling with a meltdown client, multiple utilities have been down in our house and last but not least my daughter’s been suffering through thrush (a throat infection). Hopefully I’ll be back on track next week!
When I started working at my current client, I was lucky enough to get an office that was being vacated by a retiring officer. This arrangement made things very simple for everyone – no need to set up a new desk, get a new PC or even get office supplies. I just sat down and started to work.
Imagine my surprise when I found out last week that I was ‘unofficial’ and technically just squatting in the office. I probably should have suspected something since I never received an extension or voicemail (irrelevant to me, though, as a Grand Central user). So a small political disagreement arose between the head of my sub-department and the head of another sub-department over the usage of the office.
I was not terribly concerned about the office. As a consultant I’ve grown accustomed to cubicles and random desks here and there. I found that losing my corner office with floor-to-ceiling windows and a view of lower Manhattan only affected me for a month or two. After adjusting to the lack of an office, I have become uninterested in my physical location as long as I have the basic amenities – a moderately comfortable chair, some tabletop space and adequate air and light. Sounds like I’m a hamster, practically.
The next step in this process, though, was ridiculous. The company has tight budget on the purchase or lease of new PCs, and I was told that temporarily I would have to share a laptop computer with one other consultant (from a different company) and an employee. More than just the logistical insanity of a setup like this, the sheer short-sightedness of it was amazing. I protested that I would just bring my own laptop from home and at least piggyback onto the nearby public library WiFi. I wouldn’t be able to get on the company network but at least I could work offline on reports or documents.
After inquiring why I couldn’t keep the desktop I was currently working on, I was told it was because as an ‘unofficial’ they didn’t want to alert the department executives that a move was taking place, because it might alert them to the empty office and spare equipment. Sadly, it took me two days to realize what this meant – the employees weren’t going to physically move the computer without a work order and the desktop was going to become a paperweight. The office was going to be converted into a room for several new consultants, and they were bringing their own computers.
Frustrated by all of this, I decided to do something myself. So I solved most of my problems this morning by simply unhooking the desktop and physically carrying it over to my new cube and plugging it back in. This bold and decisive step took some of the regular employees back and I was told to assume complete responsibility if asked how it was moved, since apparently I could trigger all sorts of ‘asset removal’ problems. And of course my new cube is also ‘unofficial’, so I continue a vague status as a gypsy consultant. My pay continues to arrive, though, so the other details remain fairly inconsequential to me.
With a decision-making and action-taking process like this I wonder about the future of American business. It’s hard to believe we put a man on the moon sometimes.