Friday, August 04, 2006

Never volunteer.

A famous admonition from the Army, but not always true in real (civilian) life.

A few years ago my plant was owned for 21 months by Unocal. That corporation, itself subsequently acquired and absorbed by the giant Chevron-Texaco, placed a great deal of value on “community service” by its employees.

In fact, one of its slogans was, “Improving the lives of people wherever we work.” The bosses were SO intent on employees volunteering for community service that it was part of our annual performance appraisal—an expected part of our job duties. Thus when the local Workforce Development Board (an arm of our state employment service) asked me—a good, upstanding Unocal employee—to serve as a director, I smiled and said, “Sure.”

For the past two days I’ve found myself poring over two proposals by contract firms bidding on the job of staffing and running the various local Workforce offices in our seven-county area. These proposals were each well over an inch thick, and were composed of narrative answers to 138 questions. Some of the answers were only a paragraph, but some were four pages long.

You ask; why was I doing this?

Well, the board is required by law to bid out this job every two years. Groups who bid on the job submit these humongous proposals. Each proposal must then be read and “evaluated” by at least three board members and two staffers.

I was asked to “help” with the evaluations. I figured it would take an hour or so. No big deal. All part of my community involvement duties. So, *sigh* I volunteered.

Oh, but these narratives are DULL! The proposers seem to think that we score their submission by weight, not quality of content. I could read through the answers for only about 20 minutes at a stretch before my mind wandered and I had to do something else for a while.

Thus yesterday and today combined, I made it through only about half of the first proposal. The questions tend to be repetitive, and the answers even more so. And when I’ve finished THIS one, I have to start on the second one.

And now, since Unocal no longer owns our plant and the present owner couldn’t care less if the employees are involved in community activities or service, I wonder why I’m doing this.

I was in the Navy, not the Army. I guess I never learned that particular lesson.


Unknown said...

My grandfather was a Navy man, and the 2 things he taught me from his years of service were a) the more you know how to do, the more you have to do, and b)...never volunteer.

kenju said...

Come and look at my letter from a Navy man - from 62 yrs. ago.

Badabing said...

Hehe...I feel for ya'. I used to do government contractiing work that required bi-monthly written reports. I remember one contracting officer who said to me, after I submitted a very concise report, something like: "That was a great report. Accurate, concise, to the point. But,uh, could you do me a favor and bulk it up a bit? I need something a bit thicker to show my boss." Since we were working on a cost-plus contract I gladly accomodated him.

Christina said...

OMG, that sounds like it sucks BEEG TIME! Bet you've learned the elsson now.

Christina said...

I meant lesson...

Miss Cellania said...

Why not try reading the first sentence of each paragraph. If that doesn't make things clear, then skip the whole paragraph, the rest of it won't make any more sense.

Good luck!