Job offers no duties, no rewards

Dear Joan:
I am employed as a clerk-typist in municipal government. In this position, I have about two hours of work a week. With the remaining 38 hours a week, I read the newspaper or do any other personal duties that I care to do. Needless to say, I am going mad. I recently had a conference with the manager of the department to vent my frustrations and guilt over doing absolutely nothing. He stated that he sympathized with my, but it was all right with him for me to do anything to occupy myself.

I have been in this position for about two years and the workload has goon downhill steadily in that time. I am presently on a transfer list for another job, which I hope comes through soon.

My fear now is the lack of job development in this position due to the fact that no clerical work is delegated to me (mail, filing, data entry, etc.). My manager does more of my duties each month.

I have talked to the union, affirmative action, a social worker, and employee assistance. Some advice handed down was that it was admirable to want to actually work 40 hours, that I should fill my off time with hobbies, but don't open Pandora's box.

I have been with this branch of government for eight years and am appalled at the lack of opportunities for advancement in this system.

What do you recommend that I do to retain my sanity for whatever time I have left on this job? I have considered resigning to take another position even if it is less money. I take self-improvement courses from time to time...real estate, business, secretarial, etc.

You have done everything in your power to act responsibly to change the situation. The fact that you went to a number of professional agencies and your boss demonstrates that you are trying to do a professional job and a fair day's work.

It's interesting that the universal response was, "Don't rock the boat." Have you asked your boss if there are some circumstances that you are unaware of? Are things on hold because of some budget cutbacks or a pending reorganization due to all the recent changes in government? Is your fear that your manager (and others) are more interested in protecting jobs than in managing responsibly?

If there isn't enough work to go around, your manager might consider making a recommendation to streamline the department. There must be other areas of government that could use the talents of the people who might lose their jobs in a consolidation.

The question boils down to this: "Is job security the only reason you work?" From your letter, it appears that your motivation is the same as millions of other workers: achievement, recognition for achievement, the work itself, responsibility and growth or advancement. In countless studies, these factors have proved to be the key motivators.

Since your boss has given you permission to "do anything," I'd recommend that you fill your days with job hunting. Since you have already confided in your boss, you might even feel comfortable telling him what you are doing. Perhaps he will do the same thing or be motivated to recommend some changes for his department.

It is my understanding that many employers are looking for qualified administrative assistants and secretaries and would welcome someone who is looking for a challenging opportunity. In fact, when you interview, you would be wise to say you were looking fact a job in which you were kept productive and encouraged to take on more.

If your skills and qualifications are solid you may be surprised to find that you don't have to take a pay cut. Once you start your new job you'll look back and wonder why you ever waited so long.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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