Multi-Task Hero

One of my favorite people at work is KM.  She is the Organizational Development (OD) specialist for a >1,000 person organization that consists primarily of scientists and engineers.  She should get combat pay for dealing with introverted, communicationally-challenged and surprisingly emotionally needy humans on a daily basis.

We bonded fairly early after my arrival in the new shop about two years ago.  Every now and then she would stop by my office just to say “Fuck” because it was a safe place for her to say it.  We have provided mutual respite care for each other when the corporate “You’ve Got To Be Shitting Me?” factor reaches alert levels…

One of the reasons she’s my hero is that she is not only a professional management consultant, but she’s an engaged wife/mother and citizen of the community around her.  Oh, and she decided to start pursuing her PhD this year on top of everything else she takes on… 

We agreed a few months ago that i would be her “Boot In The Ass, B.I.T.A”, checking in with her periodically to watch the stress levels, provide a source of non-judgmental “how’s that working for you?” reflection, and gossip about the nerd-force assess other environmental factors affecting her ability to juggle all of it.

Today was B.I.T.A. Session Number One.

i got to her office around 3:00pm.  She apologized up front…

OD Goddess:   Between the time I pinged you, and the time you got here, I got sucked into an interactive chat session.  A woman at the front office needs to unload some back story about this website development activity we’ve both worked…

daisyfae:  Hey, i can come back later if you need to focus on it… no worries…

OD Goddess:  Oh, no.  I just need to give her a virtual “head nod” every now and then.

She then turned to the computer screen, and typed “Gotcha!” in the chat window.  From there?  She started to give me the status update of her coursework. 

We continued our conversation, and she would periodically disengage for a microsecond, catch up on the chat history, and type “Wow!” or “Oh, Lordy!  Not again!” and then without missing a beat, go on to re-address her current playing field – at work, school and home.  As she laid out her circumstances, we talked about what she really needed from me as “B.I.T.A. Counselor”.  And she continued to provide encouragement to the stressed-out colleague uploading a painful bureaucratic experience.

By the end of the conversation, she needed to re-engage her virtual colleague, and we’d covered the turf necessary.  She laughed as she said “And the next time we’re on chat, you’re going to wonder who the hell is in my office, and what I’m REALLY doing!”

With her ability to multi-task? i suggested there could be a second career for her working sex-chat rooms.  And we could sit together, yak, drink beer and eat chocolate while it was all going down…

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42 thoughts on “Multi-Task Hero

  1. Multi-skilling taken to an extreme level. I am super impressed.

    I have a useful all purpose phrase Pooh, Bum, Fharque, Tit which can be abbreviated to PBFT in the presence of mealy mouthed souls. And one of our cats when unhappy used to say mung, mung, mung – which encompasses most irritating situations well.

    • Thanks for stopping by, and Welcome to The Park! Sounds like you’ve developed a very useful shorthand for telegraphing general crankiness! i like it – as do i like “mung”. what a great word – regardless of human or feline origins!

  2. When I’m with someone like that I always think that it’ll be me she’ll be having to “deal” with at some point whilst good-naturedly complaining about me to someone a bit less needy.

    • i already busted her for that – and we agreed that using chat for substantive conversations was a pretty bad idea. which in this case, wasn’t hers… she was dealing with an interruption to her day as best she could.

    • not sure which Hindu goddess i conjured – it’s the image that popped up A LOT when i did a google image search for “multi-tasking goddess”. go figure?

    • it is anti-zen. but for those of us with terrible focus… and extreme degrees of procrastination-ability? it helps drive something to get done. frantic, though.

  3. This happens to me whenever I’m on IM, which is why I don’t use it anymore. Short replies? Here’s a sample of what I used to get.

    *Nod*
    Meh
    Yep
    LOL
    Dude!
    WTF?
    Totally.
    BRB
    K
    BK
    Nadda
    Later

    That’s a ten minute conversation during which I typed several hundred words to explain some shit while the other guy ate a banana, surfed the web, took a dump, sent his wife an email, and talked to his boss on the phone.

    • exactly why chat is a horrible method of communicating anything of substance. i only use it for quick ‘pings’ – as in “can you send me fred’s phone number?” or “are you back from your dump yet?” IM is awful for anything else.

  4. I’m still not sure exactly what an OD specialist does. writerdood has hit the nail on the head in his comment. Exactly what has your multi-tasking friend accomplished with her “virtual head-nod” to the person she was interacting with via computer? This person would have been just as well off to write in a journal for all the help she got. And at the same time she was showing disrespectful divided attention to you, and to her own needs.

    And as far as multi-tasking goes, I suggest for a start that all multi-taskers read and grasp some of the research on this ubiquitous activity. Start with the wikipedia article on multitasking http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_multitasking and think about the results of that research. My favorite part of that article? “Because the brain cannot fully focus when multitasking, people take longer to complete tasks and are predisposed to error. “

    • i can see where this appears disrespectful, but one of the key functions the OD serves is as sounding board. she knows this woman well, was intimately familiar with the situation that was being vented, and the woman had stated that she just wanted to vent… as for being disrespecful to me? in this case, not at all. i was there as HER counselor. i left it up to her to reschedule so we could focus on the topic she needed to discuss, or not. she chose to press on…

      sure multi-tasking is sub-optimal. but for people like me, who simply don’t focus on a single task (for whatever reason, i’ve never been good at it – won’t claim ADHD), and will procrastinate excessively, nothing juices me to action faster than a pile of things that need to get done quickly.

      • i guess as long as you are both cool with it, the rest of us should not get on your case. I think a lot of people were expressing how they would react to the situation if it happened to them.

        I think that the gal who was venting by chat should remember that nothing that she says in the electronic sphere is actually private from the Powers That Be. It might be safer for her to get a journal and write it down. Or even get an art journal and express it in color and shape, thereby nurturing her creative side and also making it impossible for anyone to quote her…

      • i LOVE the idea of taking notes as an art journal! only i could interpret my notes! no need to shred them after i’m done! a magical new form of encryption of ideas!

  5. The last two comments are a much more articulate explanation of why I don’t like this divided attention that being connected to the internet brings. I still think, that in a face to face communication, you should turn your phone off, and pay attention to the person you’re with. I’m astonished that I even have to make this point. Surely it should be natural, assumed behaviour,

    If someone starts texting, or instantly cutting our conversation short to take a phone call, while we’re down the pub or somewhere… well, they won’t be a real friend for long.

    • again, as i mentioned in the previous responses, it is something that is situationally dependent… i would not send a message to someone saying “Sorry, but i just found out your mom died”. Nor would i send a treatise on operational constructs for a future network architecture.

      since the counseling session was for my friend, the OD Specialist, i let her call the degree of focus she wanted to accomplish what we needed to cover in our first meeting.

      • No no no. If somoene’s talking to you, switch off your phone, turn off your computer. Face to face comes first. There are only two values for “degrees of focus: 1 or zero.

      • anything can be negotiated… and in this case it was negotiated up front. if it didn’t bother her or me, i’m not sure why it’s an issue.

        in general, however, i agree that it’s rude if it hasn’t been discussed up front.

  6. Too funny. I like this woman. I don’t know why this reminds me of this story, but once my mom was blathering on and on and I felt guilty getting off the phone, but needed to go poop. (This was when phones were actually attached to walls.) I went poop, came back, and said, “Uh, huh.” She never knew I was gone.

    • when we first got cordless phones, my weekly hour-long conversation with my mom got easier. i was generally listening to her talk about what she’d had to eat all week. i tried to focus. really, really tried. but once we were cordless, and i found the ‘mute’ button? i could deal with [ahem] biological distractions far more easily.

      i hope someday my kids are taking a crap when the are on the phone with me. i’ll complain about the smell.

  7. 15-20 years ago, I knew a guy who managed a sex-chat-line-boiler room/office. The employees (mostly male; some transgender; mostly recent parolees) carried on conversations with customers while playing Monopoly or cards. ‘oh, yeah, honey…that’s what I want…and a hotel there’

    • this amuses me greatly! i like this better than my vision of older women, in housecoats and sweatpants, doing a lot of heavy breathing while watcing “Oprah” on mute…

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