Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Somewhat Resolution of the Secretary Debacle

Well, it was somewhat anti-climatic, I'll forewarn you now.

We were supposed to have the discussion in the late afternoon the Friday before Labor Day.  Unfortunately, my secretary screwed up a court filing for me and spent three hours going back and forth with the court out in the Northern District of California to fix the problem, so that took us up until five o'clock, and we all decided to do it on Tuesday morning.  Really, could the timing have been better for another screw up?  The thing she screwed up was something she should have come to me and checked with me about, but she didn't.  I forgot that in the N.D. Cal. when you file a motion you not only select the hearing date, but you select the due date for the other side to respond, then the software calculates the reply date.  So, we had noticed up the motion to be heard toward the end of October, and rather than checking with me as she was filing (for once I wasn't standing over her shoulder watching the process - my mistake), she calculated fourteen days from the hearing date, rather than the service date.  Which. Makes. No. Sense.  Yes, the court will hear us argue, then two weeks later the other side will submit their response brief.  Ugh.  There was also some other nonsense that went on that morning that I don't feel like getting into.

So, at the end of the day on Friday, she came into my office and shut the door.  She was still very confused about why I had been "dragged into" this discussion about her raise.  I explained to her that if she is having a review, I am the person to ask how she is doing, since she works for me.  It's hard for me to even relay how simply lacking in common sense she is.  She asked for a raise when she got a new attorney assigned to her, which isn't unfathomable.  Since we don't do that in the middle of the year, she was told that she'd have a review in six months to see how she was doing, and if she was doing fine, she might buck the system and get a raise in September rather than in December.  She and I talked for a good half hour, and I tried to calm her down about everything, and simply told her that there were some areas I wanted to see improvement that we were going to discuss on Tuesday.  She took it well (she and I get along fine), and asked me if she was going to be fired.  I assured her that she was not (yet), and that I only wanted to see her succeed and that was what this was all about, and I was planning on formally talking to her anyway about some of these issues. 

Tuesday morning the office manager, another associate she works for, and I gathered with her in a conference room.  We had a list of twelve areas for improvement.  (It was, to be fair, a little long.  But they were all things that needed to be addressed.)  We walked through each of them, gave her examples, and she told us her position on some things.  I think I've mentioned that she had something really awful happen in her personal life about two and a half years ago, which is still somewhat ongoing, (it's nothing to do with her health or anything like that), and it is something that we all have great sympathy for her.  It's something you never imagine could happen to someone you know.  At any rate, we have cut her a lot of slack because of this with regards to her work, and in part, this is why some of these issues with her haven't been formally brought up.  She was on the list of people to be laid off right around the time that this happened, but due to it happening, we chose not to lay her off.  (She doesn't know this.)  She also admitted that she basically slacked off for two years both in dealing with that and trying to finish up her degree. 

All in all, it was a good conversation.  We were all very forthright.  She also relayed to us some of the issues she has with us, which was also good.  Toward the end she got a little more defensive, but who can blame her?  I mean, we basically criticized her for about an hour, which is not comfortable at all.  She did aggressively disagree with me that she spends too much time on personal calls, at which point I said "I can hear you from my office!"  But, I made my point.  She also -- to my chagrin -- relied still a little too much on this personal issue, which is still ongoing and could be ongoing for years.  It's not that I don't have huge sympathy for her because I do.  The problem is that I deserve to have a secretary who at least most of the time can commit herself to the job.  We all have shitty days, and that's fine.  I get that.  But at some point the blame on this has to stop.  It's very difficult because I do not want to be bitchy about it because I can't imagine what she's gone through, but at the same time, she has to do her job to a semi-acceptable level, and that hasn't been happening.  And to be fair, in the past two weeks since she found out that I was reviewing her, her performance has improved tremendously.  She may be improving in the common sense department. 

So, we left it at we'll see where she is in a few months.  Already I'm seeing improvements, so she is making an effort and that means a lot to me.  She's fine at general administrative stuff, though.  It's when any sort of problem solving or logical thinking is involved that she runs into problems.  Or if you ask her to do something she hasn't done before, even if it is relatively simple in my mind (like go to Judge X's web site and see when he holds motion calls), that she gets very confused.  I'm just not sure this is the right job for her, but we'll see. 

Anyway, anticlimatic.  There were no blow ups, no tears, and it all went professionally well.  Which is good.  We'll see how she does.  It has been incredibly uncomfortable since the meeting, though.  She's acting very formal around me, which is fine, I guess, but it's weird.           

1 comment:

  1. Wow... seriously anticlimactic but it's good to put her on notice and now there are no excuses when she screws it all up again.

    An entire hour? Oh lord. How draining!

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