BOFH: Who us? Sysadmins? Spend time with other departments?
Oh yes. We'd be only too happy to leave our basement dwelling and frolic among you
Episode 15 "And these are the Systems people – Simon and Stephen," the Boss says, leading a smiling man into the office.
"Simon, Stephen, this is Daniel. Daniel's the Company's new internal relationship manager."
"Our what now?"
"The new Internal Relationship Manager."
"Did we have an old Internal Relationship Manager?" I ask.
"No, it's a new position – hence the word new preceding the Internal Relationship Manager," the Boss says testily.
"Yes, but it could be interpreted two ways," the PFY says. "A new position, or a new person in an existing position. Because the last person accidentally ate something that disagreed with them."
"Like this powdered glass," I say, shaking a small bottle of fine white powder.
"Or this box of cage nuts," the PFY says rattling a small cardboard box.
"How would anyone acciden..."
"Ignore them," the Boss says.
"So, what will our Internal Relationship Manager be doing?" I ask.
"My remit is to work with divisions of the company to help foster workplace relationships. The Company's Board feels that there's been some disconnects due to the workplace separation of the pandemic so they're looking at ways of reconnecting disparate departments."
"Sorry," the PFY said. "I may have slipped into a temporary coma. What was that again?"
"Yeah, that's where I lost you the first time," the PFY chips in.
"What sort of skillset would you need for that role?" I interrupt, before things get nasty.
"I have a Master's degree in Workplace Social Engineering."
"A Masters in Workplace Social Engineering!," the PFY echos, in the tone of wonder.
"Tell me," I say. "Will we be doing trust exercises and playing team games?"
"Like murder in the dark?" the PFY asks.
"No, no!" Daniel says. "I don't work with people directly – I help them put systems in place so they can work with each other to reach common goals."
"Oh yes," I say "And how do you achieve that? Personality trait testing, strength analysis, the six hats thing – then feed all that into a compatibility matrix?"
"You sound like a bit of an expert in this," Daniel says glibly.
"I'm more an expert in management fads," I say. "I see them come; I see them go. As a rule they last a month or two till someone in the organization holds a pillow over them till the struggling stops."
"And that's just the internal relationship managers," the PFY adds.
"Well hopefully I'll be able to change your mind – and give you some new tools to work effectively with other teams."
I may sound like a broken record when it comes to working with other groups – but in my defence, those groups don't want to work with us either. Each area of the business has, over the years, developed a sort of herd immunity to the intrusion of people from other areas. This has culminated in "antibodies" (ie, complainers) who surround the foreign body and smother them in the powerful toxins of pointless questions, rumor, onions-in-their-belt stories and general "that's-not-how-we-do-things"-isms. Who knows what would happen to Daniel if he were to meet them en masse.
"We should have a meeting!" I suggest. "Get each area to send a couple of people along to really bring this idea to fruition!"
Daniel, whose degree apparently didn't include the paper "Poison Chalice Recognition 101", likes this idea – and the resultant meeting is looking good. Several departments have sent their more fractious personalities and the accountants are represented by an Olympic-level stick-in-the-mud.
Daniel kicks the meeting off with a history of group dynamics which is so thorough that it almost includes the discovery of fire. Several of the older attendees slip off to sleep during this – at which point the PFY and I realize that Daniel may not be the sheep in sheep's clothing we thought he was.
"...and so, when we work together in function-based, interdepartmental groups, we'll all have much more free time, and with free time comes the possibility of promotion," Daniel concludes.
There are murmurs of approval at the thought of more free time and money so the PFY have some spade work to do. While I'm trying to remember where I left that pillow, the PFY steps in.
"I for one can't wait," the PFY says. "We'll finally get the chance to work closely with people and pool our resources to share the costs of any new equipment we might need."
- BOFH: Selling the boss on a crypto startup
- BOFH: Where do you think you are going with that toner cartridge?
- BOFH: The Geek's Countergambit – outwitted at an electronics store
- BOFH: Oh go on. Strap me to your Hell Desk, PFY
The murmurs drop a little as people contemplate us identifying the need for their department to pay for our new coffee machine.
"And I'm looking forward to spending many profitable hours with my fellow workers," I say. "It'll give me a chance to share my two new passions – of interpretive dance and unicycle knife juggling."
I suspect the mental image of me cycling around an office in an overly tight leotard, tossing sharp metal around is enough to worry even the staunchest of supporters and a couple of test lunges is enough to convince the rest that a slight pay rise is no compensation for a poorly choreographed hospital pass.
In a matter of moments the complainers have woken from their slumber and several hands are raised in unison.
I may not need that pillow after all.