Ostomy Memories of Spinning Wheels


THERE WAS A COLLEAGUE that I once worked with who was constantly spinning his wheels.  He always seemed to be working hard, yet he was always behind, always playing catch up, always needing help to get his workload done.  Movement doesn’t necessarily translate into progress.  My cohort was simply incapable of properly planning how to get through his responsibilities in a manageable, sensible, timely manner.  We would waste time unnecessarily; he would talk too much; he would permit others to talk too much; he would allow others with whom he was having to interface to prolong things beyond what was needed to complete a task.  The upshot was that, by noon on any given day, by which time he should have accomplished a major portion of his daily to-do list, he would already be lagging behind.  He did not possess the wherewithal to do better during the afternoon so that he’d catch up.  As a result, others of us would be wrapping up our day and heading home while he was still sweating over what he ought to have completed by then.  My lasting image of this poor fellow is a worried expression, sweat on his brow, his hair tousled, perhaps a ketchup stain on the front of his shirt from a rushed lunch, surrounded by over-strained staff staring at their watches and shaking their heads.  If I could have, I’d have given him a trip to a time management seminar for a gift.  Or a less demanding job.


Hello Henry M.
When I was at work, almost all of my clients were what is loosely described as 'suicidal'. Thus I could recognise the signs in people who were not expected to be that way.
One of my colleagues was a little like the person you describe in your post in that she was diligent and conscientious in her work. However, over a period of months and years she gradually accumulated all her case notes on scraps of paper, which rarely ever made their way to be an accepted part of any of her official files. 
She carried these notes in (heavy) bags  which she carried about with her everywhere she went illustrating what could only be described as a physical manifestation of her mental burden.
Eventually, she broke down in tears in front of me and wanted to know how I ‘managed’ to keep on top of my paperwork with such a ridiculously high number of cases. 
Trying not to be patronising, I asked her if she would like me to help her in that regard. But, on the condition that she did not tell anyone else the ‘simple-secrets’of staying on top.
Needless to say, she agreed to those conditions and we set to work in enabling her to see the folly of her worries. 
Basically, we worked in a bureaucracy, which demanded more and more ‘paperwork’ as some kind of ‘proof’ that we were doing ‘something’. This focus on paperwork, interfered so much with the ‘real’ work,(with clients) that many folks had already left our ‘profession’, on the grounds that what they were required to do was not what they signed up for. 
My approach was to have analysed more precisely what the organisation wanted and their checks on whether we were fulfilling that element of the work.  My conclusions were that it was extremely rare that anyone would read the notes that were written on the files, which made them practically useless, (yet bureaucratically essential). 
The only time the files (& therefore the notes) were read, was if anything should happen to go wrong. In these cases, the management were looking for any little thing that would indicate that the worker concerned was not adhering to the volumes and volumes of ‘rules’ that had been invented over the years to safeguard the management from any ‘blame’.(for anything- including caseloads that were almost impossible to service adequately.) 
Having explained this crucial aspect, I then went on to tell (and show) my colleague that I always prefixed any notes with the fact that my caseload was far too high to do justice to any of the demands made by the organisation and, that any responsibility for any lack of adequate ‘filing and note taking’ should be laid at the door of the ‘management’, who had been made fully aware of this untenable situation on many occasions.
When writing books, this would count as a ‘disclaimer’ and, if anyone ever queried it (which they once did – but only once!)I would ask them whether they thought it was untrue. If ever my assertions were not warranted, then I would withdraw them ( This did not happen).
We then progressed to what this lady might do with her notes (now and in future) to either dump them or make them ‘acceptable’ for filing.  Before starting on the practical aspect I asked her what she thought was important to note on file. We made a short list of items such as who was seen, for how long, and whether there were problems to be addressed. Almost everything else was superfluous to needs.
From there, we sat down and I speed-read her notes and dictated the bare essentials for her to write on file. As soon as each note was translated into file form I binned it.
Within four hours we had emptied her bags of ‘baggage’ and she was set to start again.
This was a new phase of the exercise, for if she had carried on with her old system, she would have quickly started to accumulate scraps of paper notes again. 
I explained that my own approach to this work was to treat the ‘clients’ as much more important than the paperwork. Therefore, in order to spend more time with clients, I would write my accounts of our meetings while I was still with them. I would then either give the notes to them or read them back so that they could check what I was writing and correct anything they thought was wrong. 
This approach was much more satisfying both for me and them as it showed an openness to share what was going on their files  before the ‘bureaucracy’ made them permanent. 
I also explained my own belief that these files tend to be treated as undisputable ‘facts’, whereas what they were was just someone’s interpretation of what they saw.
Another ‘technique’ I had was to write in such a way that it was impossible for anyone else but me to decipher what was written. After about ten years in the job, I was asked to type all my notes, this was done on a palmtop (The equivalent of an early phone without the phone aspect) so I could still show the clients what had been written. 
Interestingly, after this colleague had been trying out the new techniques for a few months, she came back to thank me and indicate that working in such an overbearing bureaucratic system was not what she wanted, and thought she would try working as a home-carer instead.
At that time she asked me why and how I managed to stay working in such an environment for so long.
My response was to present her with my first book of rhymes entitled: 
‘Poor Little Independent Me- Verses-The Great Bureaucracy’. As a poet, examining all aspects of ‘bullying I felt I needed to be there, in the thick of things, to get first-hand experience, of the underlying reasons why some people were almost forced to feel suicidal.

And, as a finale to this reminiscent rant, I will leave you all with the introduction rhyme in that book.

Best wishes




Experience tells me that very few care
about all the why’s, and the what’s, and the where.
And as for listening to personal pain,
I watch them switch off again and again

There’s so much amiss, both large and small,
I need to recall how I see it all.
I’ve tried to protest in both speech and prose,
but no-one takes notice of either of those.

Truth and emotions are hard to explore
for when they’re together they’re so much more.
Personal perception interprets for us,
to make sense of those things that cause us most fuss.

What can we do and what can we say,
when problems surround us for most of the day.
If things seem so bad that they cannot get worse
I tend to sit down and explain it in verse.

This gives me release from the pressure within,
it helps me to think and it helps me to win.
It helps me relax and it helps me to know,
It helps my momentum more freely to flow.

An escape from the pain of those who are trapped,
and those who have lifestyles so rigidly mapped.
Relief from the doleful, sad look in their eye
As they give up their fight and not longer try.


                                                                        B. Withers 1990

(In: ‘Poor Little Independent Me-Verses-The Great Bureaucracy’)

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Hi Henry,Your post made me think of a former coworker of mine. She spent inordinate amounts of time frittering away her day, doing anything that wasn't actually the work she should have been doing. Talking, cleaning her office, cleaning the lunchroom, talking some more. Each of us had our assigned caseloads of clients that we were responsible for. If your work didn't get done, one of your coworkers ended up having to do it. I once mentioned to this woman that I always tried to keep up with my caseload, as I didn't think it fair to leave it for someone else to do. She told me she had learned long ago not to think in terms of "my work", but instead to think of it as "the work". That way, she felt no guilt. I guess that tells you all you need to know about her.


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