Chaos Attraction

Baby's First Adult Conference

2005-11-09, 3:01 p.m.

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Normally I don't talk about work on here. For one thing, these days you are not supposed to. For another thing, there just isn't much to talk about.

But this is work-related...and yet, not work. So, what to do?

Oh, what the hell.

I went to my first adult conference on Tuesday.

I only went for the day (most people from my office went the day before, so only four of us went today), but it was actually interesting. I'd gotten an e-mail about it and ignored it- "Oh, that's for management"- but my boss bugged me about signing up for it later, and I did. And it turned out not to be boring or useless, YAY!

They had some vendor booths there. I'm not entirely sure why one would have vendors at an academic conference, but they had some nice stuff, including:
(a) a three-headed triangle highlighter pen
(b) one of those water-holder doodahs you take to the beach
(c) a yo-yo
(d) a seashell lei
(e) pineapple cookies
(f) chocolate-covered macadamia nuts (they were advertising for next year's conference in Hawaii, if you were wondering)
(g) a Magic 8-Ball!

You don't know how excited I am about that Magic 8-Ball, either. I promptly showed it off to one of my coworkers when I found him and he was all, "Wow, you really know how to work these things, don't you!"

I also won a free tote bag in the raffle. Another coworker of mine won a fancy dump truck, and she has no idea what to do with it. (The raffle prizes were rather random.)

Oh, and the free lunch was really good. The dessert was fucking heavenly. Some kind of peanut-butter-cup-cheesecake thing. Yum.

I went to workshops on goal-setting, how to deal with change, and organizational cultures. This sounds dull, but wasn't really. (The fourth workshop I went to was on work-life balance, and er, I went to that because the pickins were kind of slim. It was a good workshop, but seeing as I don't have a husband and two children (and anything but doesn't really count as "family", you know!), it didn't really apply to me, so I won't discuss it.)

The most astonishing one was the one on organizational cultures. I'll tactfully not mention the university or what specific office(s) in this tale, but here's how it goes.

Student Services Office A and Office B hate each other like poison. Office A is very rule-obsessed, Office B hates rules. Someone gets the idea to combine the two offices. The presenter dude works in Office B and is asked to go run Office A for six months and then he can flee back to B. Presenter is all, "Hey, if some people can go to war in Iraq, I can go to Office A," and goes.

The office culture there is scary. They've had over 100% turnover, and thus, the more months you've made it there, the higher your seniority is and the higher up you are in the desk hierarchy. People are trying to get others to fire or quit so they can move up by a desk. Noobs are stuck working the front desk and having to deal with students, and this is the sort of office that prominently displays signs saying "This job would be perfect if only for the students." In the eyelines of students. The farther away your desk is from people (or if you can block off entry to your cube entirely), the better you are. Naturally, nobody says so much as hello to anyone else. All they care about is rules because that's the only thing that's lasted in that office. People were calling it a "sweatshop."

After analyzing the scary-ass office culture for a few months, the presenter figured these things out and how to manipulate things- for example, whenever he made changes to the office, he'd tell them it was a new rule. Two years later, nobody's quit in two years, Office A and Office B are now merged, and everyone's shiny and happy.

What a story!

The goal-setting workshop, done by the same guy, talked about cybernetics, which was a pretty cool and different approach to take instead of "Well, pick a goal and go for it! Goals R important!" the way I was kind of expecting. (He made fun of those people. Not to mention posted lots of signs from despair.com. in his PowerPoint presentation. I loved that guy.)

As for the change and transition workshop, it talked about how to cope with that stuff. You want to get as much information as you can because the natural thing someone will do is to fill in blanks with negative information. The speakers pointed out that the part people HATE is the "neutral zone" (otherwise known as "limbo) and compared it to like being in between trapezes- the suspense is the killer. (But anyone who's read this thing knows that.)

In short, it went a lot better and was more useful than I was expecting it to be. Plus I got home early too. Yeehaw.


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