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Job Descriptions
July 15, 2013 - 9:34pm

The day before I had the interview for my current position, I had another interview at the University – a job for which I was significantly more qualified and experienced. While walking into the second interview, the same HR rep from the day before whispered that this interviewer knew nothing of my previous meeting. While I appreciated the spirit of her “reassurance,” I resented the implication that we shared some sort of secret, as I didn’t really feel I was being sneaky – I needed work – and the University was where I wanted to be.

I was shocked when offered my current job and not the other but also excited for the new challenge. Fast forward five years later, and I am now being forced to evaluate the position from an insider’s perspective. The terms of our last union contract negotiations demanded an evaluation of all positions at my level. If you’re curious: I am an “Administrative 3” – and all people in the “Administrative” class are required to write out their own job descriptions for appraisal. We got a speech from HR about it in a big open forum a couple months back, but I won’t bore you with all the details – suffice it to say: it is a LOT of work, but it’s been an unexpectedly fruitful exercise.

One of the requirements of the task is to critically analyze the work required for the job, without any consideration for the person doing the position (i.e. me) or the volume of work. Consequently, it really forces you to think about what’s important, and how your work fits into the rest of the institution. Now, we were given these (hilarious?) (frustrating?) (useless?) super duper helpful formulae from HR in order to calculate the percentage of time you spend on each task – and I actually found it mildly alarming. I don’t feel like I spend that much of my time staring into space – but when I tried to figure out the math on each individual activity, it seemed like I only worked about 40% of the time. I decided that so much time with a calculator was just hazardous to morale, so I ditched that exercise and just made some “educated” estimates. I mean, I’m an awesome employee, surely I don’t spend more than 17% of my time filing my nails/staring out the window/making myself tea. Right?

One of the aspects I struggled with though – is the question of whether I am classed where I should be. I don’t actually know if these reviews will result in any re-classifications, but it seems to me that it’s an implicit part of the work of the review committee. We have some generic job descriptions for our classes posted on the website – and while not all requirements are applicable to all positions, it still offers some decent guidelines – so I reviewed those for the appropriate HR-ese language and to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything. And then for interest, I also pulled the Admin 4 & 5 positions. Interestingly enough, the higher up the ladder you go, the shorter the job descriptions were – I guess you do fewer, but more important things at the top?

At my last performance appraisal, my boss asked me if I felt I should be re-classed to an Admin 4. At the time, I told her that I felt that I was probably in the proper classification, and that for now we should just leave things as they are. However, as I reviewed the Admin 4 & 5 descriptions, and I noticed I was doing work in all 3 levels I began to wonder if I wasn’t doing myself an injustice. But when some fellow Admin 3’s shared their descriptions with me, I despairingly concluded that I was a mere peon who should be concerned that I won’t get classed down. Doing these descriptions are apparently a more emotionally wrought task than anticipated.

I’ve heard about people who negotiate and argue for raises, re-classes, promotions etc and while I admire their ambition, I always found the idea of doing so a little distasteful. Shouldn’t my superiors simply recognize what a valuable employee I am and reward me accordingly? A quaint, romantic notion, perhaps taking my so-called Canadian politeness and humility to extreme. But now I wonder – perhaps that’s precisely what my boss was trying to do – re-classification involves a lot of work, and she wanted to know if I was willing to put forth the effort to do so, as she clearly felt I was worth it. Perhaps while I am trying to be humble, I am losing out on opportunities. This job description exercise has forced me to evaluate not only my position, but also how I position myself within it and within the institution. An unexpected side effect, but one that was probably necessary and ultimately really useful for me as a person.

 

Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada

Deanna England is a member of the editorial collective at University of Venus.

 

 

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