I’ve been answering a lot of questions around my office about my trip to Atlanta. A lot of it is just casual interest, wanting to know where I’d gone and what I had been doing and how it all went. They’re not terribly interested in what I was doing, just typical office chit-chat.
David, my manager-boss, the guy who volunteered me and sent me up there, actually hasn’t asked about it at all, but I suspect it was because he was heading out of town yesterday afternoon and had a lot to take care of. He’s out for the rest of the week, along with several other guys from the office and it is crazy quiet around here.
My director, however, did ask about it when I passed his office to make sure he’d been able to find a document. He seemed pleased that I’d been able to help out and hopefully manage to get the people I worked with to get a little bit ahead.
What gets me really confused is the attitude that I feel from people around my office toward the people who I went up to help. My director’s comment was that they are so unbelievably slow. Another coworker described the office where I was visiting as “the lion’s den” where I should be careful because they’re likely to grill me about what we’re doing over here. He was joking, and the director’s comment was light-hearted, too, but I’m struggling with it.
I understand that the office where I went last week is a government office with oversight responsibilities for our company. As such, they’re known for picking on what we do to make sure that we’re doing it “by the book,” so to speak, which is precisely what they’re there to do. And the people I spoke with were both incredibly overwhelmed and buried underneath the massive amounts of paperwork that we send to them on a daily basis.
My suspicion is that people down here have no idea what’s happening up in Atlanta. But it’s “the Man” and they’re not going to just sit back and take it. They’re going to say little insidious comments and jokes and complain about it and look at the whole situation as an Us vs. Them situation.
I just don’t get it.
Now, part of the reason why they’re so slow might be because they’re buried under mountains of paperwork that they haven’t found ways to effectively corral. Part of what I did while I was there was to try to make headway into that problem. I didn’t get nearly as far as I would have liked, but we made some progress.
And now that I’m back here, I’m trying to work with people here to make things work better for people up there. There are small things that we can do that make things easier for the people in Atlanta. And, coincidentally, easier for a handful of people down here, too.
In Atlanta, I never got that Us vs. Them feeling about the situation. What I got was enormous gratitude for my willingness to help and the sense that they were trying to do something similar for us—that their position in their office is to help my company succeed. And they’re working as hard as they can to make sure that’s possible. What do they get from us in return? Complaints and bitterness.
Why is that? And what can I do to help change that?