The Long Goodbye

The Thinker by Rodin

I came home Thursday to find a welcome packet from my new employer, the U.S. Geological Survey. Inside was my official job offer letter, lots of forms to be filled out, and a CD about USGS from a human resources perspective. The CD was put together with good intentions. But it was obviously created by somebody with way too much time on his hands. It’s a multimedia CD. It is full of nautical “ports of call” that you must visit, or rather navigate to with your mouse. In the background are the sound of seagulls mourning and waves crashing on a beach. Umm, I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but I would have preferred a manual with the pertinent information. This is just dumb.

But there is no point in watching the CD right away, or even filling out the forms. Because although I gave noticed weeks ago I still have two weeks to go before I can begin my new job. Yes, I have to endure two more weeks of rising at 5:15 AM. Yes, two more weeks of working in some sort of limbo land. Two more weeks of being there and not being there.

Can’t I just leave already? Apparently not. I don’t start at USGS until February 23rd. My new boss is traveling so an earlier date wouldn’t work for her. So I have plenty of time to wind up and transition projects. And I have lots of opportunities to say goodbye over and over again.

Maybe it is just coincidence, but it seems all of a sudden I can get people to work on my projects. Typically when I want others to do work for me, my work drifts to the bottom of a long queue. But since I’m leaving all sorts of mini applications I’ve been working on are moving through development and testing into production. This is good. I’d rather leave things completed if possible. I’m a reasonably tidy person and don’t like to leave loose ends. I have eight more work days to bring them to closure. It should be more than enough.

For days after I gave my boss the news I was leaving I wandered around and no one said anything unusual to me. I found that very odd. Eventually I figured out that the chain of command hadn’t bothered to tell the rank and file that I was leaving. So I just announced it myself. Once the news got out then people stopped by my desk to wish me their best. I thanked them of course, but reminded them that I’d still be around for a while. I don’t want them to forget me quite yet. I don’t want to feel like a ghost walking down the hallways.

I still don’t know if there is a plan to give me a farewell luncheon. I don’t particularly care if I get one or not. I know Lynnette and Yolanda plan to take me out to lunch, and Yolanda is working on some sort of presentation. But I haven’t heard of any date for such an event. Perhaps they will hold it and forget to invite me.

I’ve heard a number of people tell me I am wise to leave at this time. “Get while the getting is good,” I hear often along with “You are one of the first rats off a sinking ship.” I heard this a lot when I left my last job, but AFPCA is still there. And I am sure ACF will continue to exist too. But it’s probably not a good omen for ACF that so many of its people feel this way. I would hope our management would take note. But they seem to be too busy demonstrating they can score all “greens” on the President’s Management Agenda than to worry about minor things like whether the staff’s morale is going down the toilet.

Doubtless to meet one of these pointless goals my position won’t be filled. According to Bush, fewer staff is good because we’ll be meaner and leaner. Our Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration recently publicized our scorecard for the President’s Management Agenda. Woo hoo! We are all green! We’ve met goals like reduced staff counts and increased outsourcing! But this does not mean we are necessarily doing our job better or more effectively. It most likely means the opposite. This means fewer people overseeing work. And that means loss of focus and a higher likelihood that things will be poorly managed.

I’d feel better about leaving such silliness behind but I’m in Club Fed. That means USGS is going through this silliness too. And since I will have some supervisory responsibilities in my new job I too will probably be looking to get green marks to show how effective I am. A note to my new boss: expect me to support these goals but don’t expect me to believe this crap.

Sokhama took me out for a birthday lunch on Monday. Sokhama was my chief customer point of contact for a system I deployed back in late 1999. She since left ACF but since she is still located close by we meet for lunch once a month or so. One of the drawbacks of leaving is I will see a lot less of her. I’ll miss meeting her for lunch on a bench in the gardens of the Smithsonian castle, talking about stuff, then enjoying a walk on the Mall. As much as I’ll be glad not to work in D.C., I’ll also miss the energy of the city and the loveliness of the National Mall that was always so close to me.

I doubt I will have a lunch partner like Sokhama at USGS, but who knows? However, I will be able to come home for lunch any day I choose. And meeting my wife for lunch will be no big deal.

Eventually. Meanwhile, the days pass by so slowly.

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