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Where I get angry about where blame falls

by John on December 20th, 2012

When I was in high school, I was very active in my church1. In fact, I was one of the founders, and the original president, of the church youth group. Any group, big or small, needs some kind of funding to exist — and we were no exception. Basically, we looked to raise money to pay the entrance fee for any dance/retreat we went to. We would then donate any funds, at the end of the church season, to a charity (usually with the money earmarked toward aiding the victims of a recent natural disaster).

The fundraisers we had were of varying success — the talent show we put on was a lot of fun, but didn’t bring in a lot of money. The pie sale, I think, in the end, we ended up losing money on. Leaf-raking and snow-shoveling were inconsistent. But our real money came from what we called our “shaming the parishioners” activity.

Our small, suburban, Episcopal church had a regular schedule of tasks – lay reader (people who read the lessons before the Gospel), acolyte (people who assisted in the preparation of communion – you may be more familiar with the term “altar boy2), counter (people who would count & record the money given during the offertory), and chalice bearer (people who offer a chalice of wine to the parishioners after they had received the communion wafer). Most of the time, the people scheduled for these tasks would show up, and show up on time. But, not always.

And that’s where the youth group fundraiser came in.

If you didn’t show up to church, when you were anticipated, we covered the task for you. And then, in the mailbox, we left a note saying “hey, don’t worry, we covered when you weren’t here, even though you were scheduled to be here. And, in case you didn’t know, we do accept donations.”

Not a single “pick up” went by that didn’t increase the size of our coffers.

The one difficulty from taking these tasks was that of chalice bearer, though. Not anyone can just stand up & be a chalice bearer — you do need to be licensed. So, while we’d often send a freshman up in front of the church to read a lesson, only the most senior members of the group ever were chalice bearers.

The thing is, as we were qualified to perform each of these tasks, we were also on the schedule for each of these tasks.

One day, during the summer, as I put on my robe to take my scheduled turn as chalice bearer, someone came up to me. “John, I’m very upset,” she said — and she seemed very upset. “Last week, I was all set to enjoy a Sunday in church without any responsibilities when I had to put on my chalice bearer robes. You need to come in when it’s your turn!” And then she lectured me about responsibility for the next 20 minutes or so, until church started.

I sat through the service, sick, convinced that I had misread the schedule, and that I was supposed to handle my duties the week before, not this week, though nobody else had stepped forward for my responsibilities. After the service, I walked up to the schedule — my name was listed for that very day. For the previous week, my name wasn’t on it. However, another member of the youth group was. This woman proceeded to lecture me, because it was, obviously, my fault that someone else didn’t do their job.

That brings us to today. I just got back from lunch to find an email box filled with vitriol. There were 8 voice mail messages awaiting me.

I’m the manager of an off-shore development team. Someone in the offshore office, but someone who does not work for me, and has no relation to me, entered a critical request ticket for something that was not a critical request. Alarm bells were sounded, people got called at home and on their cell phones. In firefighter terms, a three-alarm fire was claimed because someone wanted to be sure that they properly extinguished their campfire on a damp, cool, windless night.

I agree that the “sky is falling” alarms suck, especially if they’re completely unwarranted. However, I came into the office from lunch to a pile of suck, all because I have two employees, working for me, who happen to be located in the same physical office building as the person who called in the false alarm. Basically, a whole bunch of people needed someone to yell at, and rather than yelling at the guy who called in the false alarm, or looking at an org chart to determine that person’s manager, or that person’s manager, or that person’s manager . . . it all came to me.

So I’m left with a sick feeling for a problem that has nothing to do with me.

1 Stop snickering, I was! For reals!
2 So yeah, I was an altar boy as well. :-p
3 Summers were always interesting – because not everyone cross referenced the church calendar with their own vacation calendars.
  1. Too bad management shaming rarely works in one’s favor…

  2. I’ve been very successful at accepting roles which require little or no responsibility. So um….

    But in my current position I regularly go through fire drills because my boss doesn’t know how to do my job and sets the alarm. Even when I’m half way across the country, during Christmas. Its lovely.

    Sorry dude.

    • It’s life – I deal with it.

      But isn’t it great having to talk people through doing your tasks?

  3. Ugh, I’ve been in similar situations before, and it sucks. I hope things got better for you! Happy holidays!

    • I hope your holidays were grand — and, I’m working on ways to make things better . . . time will tell if I’m successful.

  4. That sucks. I’m sorry. And I’ve been lazy and didn’t have a good comment for this post but realized that maybe you’re waiting to hear my solving of bad things before posting the next one and I really want the next post, so here it goes: puppies.

    That is all.

    • I assure you, while I always love comments from you, and my lack of posting had nothing to do with a comment dearth from you, the puppies comment made me smile . . . and may have lead to subsequent postings 🙂

  5. That sucks. I hate that. Shaming them would be awesome…

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