Imagine that you worked for a County Council as a receptionist/telephonist, one of a dwindling number of such staff — the result of cost cutting measures — charged with answering and redirecting all inbound calls for the whole Council.
Suppose that, in the last year, many of the departments you served had asked you to take on many of the more routine jobs they were supposed to do, whilst still being responsible for your own job. Picture the staff of these same departments simultaneously refusing to take more difficult calls at all, citing “pressure of work”, and asking you to take a message instead. Imagine their tasks are frequently onerous and require specialist knowledge of the work and their systems, yet suppose your training was limited to around one hour per department. Don’t forget, though, that you are expected to complete the work on their behalf without fault of any kind, lest you find yourself the subject of a cautionary e-mail from a high-up in that department to a high-up in your department.
Now contemplate that, as a result, you are currently doing the work of scores of other people, which fact has inevitably knocked through onto call waiting times — callers are now routinely waiting up to 30 minutes before someone even answers the phone. Picture that many of these callers, already in a bad mood because they were ringing in the first place to complain about some negative aspect of Council service, are by this time incandescent with rage and liable to scream obscenities at whomever is unfortunate enough to field the call. Suppose that your day now comprises scores of such calls, as opposed to the once-in-a-blue-moon Mister Angry of yesteryear.
Assume, for a moment, that you work for a management which actually believes that this ridiculous scenario, far from being a short-term fudge which could never seriously be expected to work in a million years, is instead a shining example of brilliant leadership. Envision that not only do they see it as a working plan, but that they intend to extrapolate upon it in 2016 by adding yet more departments’ tasks to your already extensive list.
Finally, imagine that last week management told you that to do this spectacularly unappealing job, you could no longer work from home (only necessary because cost-cutting measures meant they had insufficient hot desk space at the office) unless you were prepared to fund it yourself. Oh, and by the way, don’t expect that pay rise we promised you. All pay increments are frozen. Oh, and the money we should contribute to your lighting and heating since you’re working from home? Alas, also discontinued.
Surely, you might ask, no council could be that dim-witted? Surely a body paying its Chief Executive hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money to think up elegant strategies could conjure up something a little more, well, elegant?
Sadly not, it seems. This is no hypothetical example. That job is done by a good friend of mine and the tale is actually even sorrier in real life than I have depicted. I daresay it is not even a rare example in today’s brave new public sector world.
Quite frankly, if this is the best they can do, things are not going to get any better anytime soon. My friend, as you might well further imagine, is currently seeking new employment.