Protocol Abandoned

I was at church yesterday. I serve in a few different volunteer roles at my church during the service— among other things, I read some weeks and I sing in the choir. Yesterday, I was just supposed to sing. So I got there and rehearsed with the choir. But five minutes before the service was supposed to start, I didn’t see the readers. They’re supposed to be there 20 minutes in advance, and get the book from a prep room 10 minutes before the service and put it on our ambo (if you’re not Catholic, you’d call it a pulpit.)

I excused myself and went to get the book. The rule in our parish is that we want two separate non-clergy readers, unless only one of them is dressed appropriately. When I got back from putting the book in the ambo, one of the readers was arriving.

“You’re not my partner, this week!” she said, in a tone that sounded accusatory, to me.

“No, but I saw that neither of you were here and thought I’d at least get the book for you.”

“Well, she’s coming. She called me. She’s coming.”

“Great. I was just getting the book. Given that we’re getting close to the start of Mass, which reading was she supposed to do? I can just give it a look in case she doesn’t make it in time.”

“She called and said she’s coming!”

“Right, but she’s late, and if she’s much later, someone’s going to have to step in. Would you rather read them both?”

“No.” Sullen. “I’m reading the second reading.”

“Okay, so I’ll just look over the first.” And I did.

She arrived in time— after the service started, but before she had to read. She read, I minded my own business. But here’s the thing— this wasn’t about me trying to control the situation— if I had done nothing, it has happened that someone (me) had a flat tire on the way to church and someone had to pinch hit. Other lectors have been stuck in traffic or unavoidably detained. If the book isn’t there, it creates problems. If someone has to pinch hit and goes up unprepared, it causes problems.What I was doing was reasonable, and entirely followed the established protocol, so the pouty face from a woman much older than me did not leave me feeling the most Christian charity about the situation.

Today, I got to work. I had reached out to my boss and co-worker a week ago about one project and several days ago about another project. They did not get back to me in a timely fashion. Today, the projects kind of blew up, and my boss wants me to cover them both. Except that she’s the one who established the protocol, another of her employees is behind in getting me information, so I’m just supposed to fix it.Fine— I’m not above quick and dirty. Except that it’s going to delay what I’m working on, and there is a reason the protocol is there. And I can’t tell if we’re abandoning the protocol fully, if I’m taking over parts of the protocol, or what. And when I ask, I don’t hear back.

This happened earlier this year— my co-worker didn’t do her part of a job that has a deadline in a way that let me meet the deadline. I have several other things I’m working on, so it got missed. She gives me part A,  which I need to do process X, we give combined result Y. My boss asked me why I didn’t prompt the co-worker. So this time, I prompted her, she still didn’t do it in time for things not to blow up, and again, I’m the obstructionist.

If you don’t care how it gets done, maybe the elaborate joint protocol needs to be reviewed. I’m just tired of getting blowback when I’m not the one who’s underfunctioning. And when I get yelled at because my primary job falls behind when I have to do her job and the vendor’s job (we can’t give the files to the vendor with enough time to work on them, so I get to work on them), I don’t take it well and get dinged for being defensive. Or not being willing to put in the extra hours. Or whatever. I’ll be honest, I’m less willing to put in extra hours when I get everything late. At a certain point, I’m just perpetuating an unworkable cycle. So if you send me everything late, I may shuffle my schedule, I may work through lunch or stay an extra half-hour, but I’m too far down this road not to recognize the scenario that had me working 80-hour weeks as an editor, and I’m not doing this job until 2 a.m. I’ve compromised my life and health for work before, and I’m going to need a pretty serious incentive to do it again.I like my job and my work well enough, but fix what’s broken and then we can talk about me doubling down.

If you see the flaw in my logic, here, you can try to point it out to me. Understand that I am defensive— that’s not a bad observation on my boss’s part, so try to be prepared for that, but if it’s not a double-bind where I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t, I’d love not to find myself in this situation again.


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