Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday Reruns: The Handwriting on the Wall (or, in this case... on the Post-it)

(original post-date: July 21, 2010)

Back in the late ‘80s, when I was employed by the Ford Foundation, I had a co-worker friend who amused me one day by sharing something she had found in her boss’ outbox. It was a one-page letter onto which he had placed a post-it.

The post-it said, “Toss.”

Lest you think that Ford had a shortage of wastebaskets, don’t even go there. Said boss could easily have saved himself a few offline keystrokes by simply doing the “Toss” maneuver all by himself. But nooooo… He had to delegate!

I don’t write this with any desire to condemn the Ford Foundation. To this day, I greatly admire the work they do. Nonprofits across the world need their philanthropy, and because of their grantmaking, positive things happen and lives are saved.

That being said, I also am happy to have learned that, in the wake of recent economic upsets, the Foundation reduced its staff by about a third.

Good for them.

When I was there, and when I was working as a Grants Administrator, I could easily have done my Monday-Friday, 9-to-5 job in about 10 hours a week. But I was on staff, and so… I showed up every day. At least, I did as much until I reached that two-year mark, when I knew that, even if I quit, I could walk away with two-months’ salary.

And that’s also what I did.

Yup, it was with that “grant” from the Ford Foundation that I moved to California to pursue a television writing career. And while that free money didn’t lead to the Hollywood gigs I had envisioned, it nevertheless did open the door to a new chapter. It put me on the other side of the country, where I’ve been establishing my turf ever since.

I realize that the Ford Foundation (what with its fairyland perks) is one end of the spectrum, and mom-and-pop joints are another. I get it, too, that a lot of hard-working people are experiencing some serious suffering right now. But there’s also been a lot of spoiled, wasted time outside mom-and-pop world, and frankly, I’m glad that many of the big cheeses are having to revisit their staffing plans. Getting rid of the dead weight is long overdue, and the existence of those superfluous bodies is hardly unique to Ford.

By the late ‘90’s, I had been exposed to enough government workers to know that a lot of them are way too comfortable. It’s been said (and I didn’t say it first) that it’s nearly impossible to get fired from a government job.

While that statement may no longer hold true, I consider Linda Tripp its ultimate poster girl.

Remember her?

She’s the one who had nothing better to do with her day than to track her “friend” Monica’s comings-and-goings, particularly in relation to a certain stained dress and a different spelling of the word “coming.”

Our tax dollars at work. Gotta love it.

As for the present? I’m aware of what’s happening in California, and I’m guessing it’s also happening in states and municipalities across the country: layoffs, government furloughs, and general restructuring. As our elected officials make their decisions, I hope they are taking a good, hard look not just at the boxes on the org charts but also at the people they have working for them. Get rid of the Lindas if only to protect, ultimately, the moms-and-pops.

It’s high time our economy revolved around real work, not idle gossip.

And we certainly don’t need to support bosses who delegate the disposal of their trash.


Sioux said...


And when are YOU running for an office? I'd vote for you.

Jules said...

I always wondered, A) what women kept a stained dress in the closet and B) what kind of woman took notes on it? (LOL) ;)

Sorry I've been so busy it has made me MIA, soon I'll be back. :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Linda Medrano said...

I was really glad when the "administrative" positions sort of dried up. The problem was that the people in charge began abusing their "power" and delegating their staff to arrange for their personal errands. Gifts for Mom, oil changes for their vehicles, reservations for their cruise, etc. With a computer sitting on every desk, this makes less sense now than ever before. "Toss" indeed!

Michelle Fayard said...

I technically work for the state of California as an employee of the University of California. Two jobs ago I worked for the federal government for the Department of Defense. The sad thing it what you wrote about I also say in the newsroom and at nonprofits. I'd like to say it's only in government jobs, but poor business decisions regretfully can happen anywhere.

I’m glad to be a new follower and have left a response to your comment on Bird’s-eye View at