Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I don't know what's wrong with these kids today

It’s another sign that I am really getting old. At this point I have grown to a begrudging point of acceptance at being called “ma’am” sometimes and I have learned to turn a blind eye to my gray hair (since I truly got dealt a bad hand and started going gray at 21 -- I blame my Dad's side of the family for that one.) But now, I have started using the phrase “these kids today” with some regularity, and that lets me know I am O-L-D and there ain’t no turning back.

I have recently been lamenting the loss of my assistant who is out on maternity leave and the temp who is filling in until she returns. I was sad for my assistant to leave for a number of reasons – she is the only other department colleague I have here in the DC office, she knows what to do/where to find things/who to ask and knows what people need even before they do, and she let’s me know when she is going to get an afternoon pick-me-up from the cupcake truck. What's not to love? She is an intelligent person who is a hard worker and takes pride in her work from start to finish -- and her good sense of humor and cheerful disposition are just an added bonus. Like me, she never had dreams of working in a law firm. And like me, she doesn’t see this as something she wants to do forever. But we both know it is where we are today, so darn it, we are going to give it our best shot.

So I really couldn’t tell if the current temp assistant (let’s just call her CTA) was disappointing me because she wasn’t my wonderful, amazing assistant and perhaps I may have set the bar too high. Or if she was just disappointing me because she generally wasn’t giving anything her best shot. As the weeks have gone on, it is becoming increasingly clear that CTA hasn’t given anything her best shot since the shots she did at the bar in Dewey last weekend. I don’t hold that against her, she’s 22 and just graduated from college. I (vaguely) remember what it is like to be that age. But CTA simply doesn’t give a sh*t about anything here at work. A request to send out 10 emails takes her ALL day to do. I find simple and easy-to-manage administrative tasks for her to do and she somehow finds a way to do them completely wrong, so not only am I out the hour I took to explain it to her in painful detail, but the hours I need to spend fixing up her f*ck ups. I even take the time to explain the reason behind the request, and how her seemingly simple task is going to add value to a project or initiative. I thought maybe if she understood the "why" of what she was being asked to do, it would seem less like a trivial and boring chore and she might feel more like an integral part of the process. Nope, still takes her 3 times as long to do it as it should, and she does it incorrectly just to make my life more fun.

Lately, I have noticed her sauntering by my office at 4:50 to leave for the day. Do I think there is tons to do in the ten minutes leading up to 5pm? Not really, but if you are supposed to work until 5, then that’s when you leave. The fact that she casually strolls by my office door to leave means that she didn’t even care enough to find an alternate route to the elevator to sneak out. It's sad, but I think it would bother me less if she at least tried to cover up the fact that she was clearly leaving early.

Sadly, it isn’t just her. It’s characteristic of the young people I come in contact with nowadays. Most come from upper-middle class families and have every advantage that I never had -- private prep school educations, college tuition paid for by their parents, after-college apartments and living expenses "subsidized" by mom and dad so they can live a life they couldn't afford on their own meager salaries. Kids that were basically born on third base and act like they hit a home run. They have an overwhelming sense of entitlement about many things in life, but it's really apparent in the workplace. Most of them think that you should graduate and immediately have a job that gives you a private office and a great salary without having to go through any of the grunt work or lower level jobs to get there. One assistant at my current firm (not my rock-star assistant of course!) lamented that she had to take notes during a meeting. Now I know that taking meeting notes is not an exciting job and all, but it is in your job description so stop with your b*tching and take the nfreaking otes. And then just generally work hard, take pride in your work and you will move on to a better job and someone ELSE will have to take the meeting notes. That’s how it works, it’s not complicated.

At one of my first jobs after graduate school I would spend DAYS in a conference room stuffing folders to be used at conferences and workshops. I used to set little goals for myself, like if I could make it until 2pm I would treat myself to something from Starbucks -- anything to keep me from going bonkers (and this was before the ipod came to be, so I did this all in dead silence.) Hell, even DURING graduate school I worked two different waitressing jobs to pay for my rent and bills. CTA lives at home in Bethesda with her parents and I am pretty sure she only uses her paychecks for cute shoes and bar tabs.

It’s going to be a LONG couple months with CTA. I guess I should count my blessings that she doesn't call me ma'am. But I am positive I have more gray hair now than when she started.

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