Do You Fly By the Seat of Your Pants?

In my last position as Administrative Assistant, I worked in the parish office of a Catholic Church. Now one would think that this would be the perfect, no stress job. Your bosses are priests, deacons and nuns – hugs and kisses right? Not quite. I came in and took over for Sister Rosile who was in her late 70’s. She had been running the show reliably for many years.

One of my favorite things about being a secretary is coming in and identifying issues and things that are lacking (in organization or action) and find a way to solve them. Our head Pastor gave the illusion of being perfectly organized, but that was just because he would scrape everything off of his desk into his desk drawers! He wanted to be the perfectly organized person, but he didn’t have the time. But he wouldn’t let me help him get organized either – for what reason I don’t know why and never will. He was a wonderful priest, but lacking in boss and administrative skills. Things got done, and he saw the end result as positive – it got done right? But what he turned a blind eye to was the process – the times when people were pulling their hair out because he provided no leadership or backup for us when we needed it.

So I flew by the seat of my pants for the 4 and a half years I worked there. I was efficient at my job – I stayed in my office and got things done. I received no input, good or bad from my boss. I love input – tell me if I’m doing good occasionally and definately tell me if I’m lacking or not doing something the proper way. Well, eventually flying by the seat of your pants will come to bite you in the pants!

Our parish had a school and the parish office received all of the deliveries. During the summer the school office was closed. Textbooks would come in by the box loads, we would sign for them, and the maintenance men would take them away. I also worked abbreviated hours during the summer to be home with the kids. So one day I got a call from the principle asking me where the boxes of history textbooks were. I told her I had no idea – this answer did not please her at all. She told me the company said that I had signed for the shipment and that it was $5,000 worth of books. She asked if we didn’t open the boxes to see what was in them. I told her we simply verified the box count, signed off to the deliverer and the guys took them out of the office to wherever she told them. When I went back to work, people had searched my office (there wasn’t any space in there for them, even if I had them!), I was interrogated over and over again, and I went to our pastor and told him I was having issues. The scenario escalated, many people got involved and tempers flared. I finally found out that the book company had just pulled names of previous signers for shipments to cover the fact that they had not yet shipped the books. I didn’t not find this out from the principle, nor did I receive any apologies.

The story ends with the development of an official shipment receiving procedure, created by me, to more accurately document how many boxes, the company they originated from, # of boxes, with the threat of death if anyone didn’t fill in the info. ‘The boys’ were instructed not to take any boxes out of the office unless they were marked with an X, indicating that they had been logged. Did we all live happily ever after – I ended up quitting my job because of many things, but that was the straw that broke the camels back, as they say. And that, as they say, is the rest of the story.

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