Confessions of a Benefits Manager

Blogs confessions imageCandid: Big Bad Boss has been whisked away to work on a special mentoring project in the US. I don’t know who thought that one up, because they must be mad. What Big Bad Boss knows about mentoring could be summarised in one very short sentence: zero. His idea of coaching is to refrain from saying “and I want it now” when he asks for a piece of work.

However, because he is going to be away for a full three months (yay), they have sent over a bigwig from the US to fill the gap (boo).

The fact they think we can’t manage without Big Bad Boss is quite insulting. Don’t I manage the department single-handedly already? Haven’t I covered for all his (all-too-frequent) holidays without mishap? But despite all that, they have sent Snaky Steve to keep an eye on us. And beady eyes they are, too. He smiles a lot. He has a great big smile, which stays in place all the while he talks, but his eyes don’t join in — they glitter and watch. I feel a bit like a mouse in the presence of a mouse-eating snake.

We don’t get off to a good start. The first thing he does is ask me about the bonus under accrual. Oh my god, he’s heard about the bonus under accrual. Will I never live this down? Will this blot my career for the rest of my life? You see, what happened was this: we underestimated the bonus payout last year. And it wasn’t just a bit wrong, just a little bit dodgy; it was so far off that we almost missed out quarter-one results. Finance had to do all sorts of skulduggery to get us back to looking like we were making a profit.

It wasn’t even me who made the fatal mistake in the accrual sheet, it was Tina, the toxic temp. She was incapable of getting anything right. She could screw up her own coffee order. Everything she touched turned to smelly stuff, including the bonus accruals. I wasn’t even responsible for checking her work, because she was reporting to Big Bad Boss at the time, but someone permanent had to carry the can, and it certainly wasn’t going to be Big Bad Boss. As I am the only person who does anything around here, naturally this honour fell to me. I try explaining all this to Snaky Steve. He goes on flashing all those teeth at me, but I can tell he doesn’t buy it. His eyes are now narrow slits of disdain.

The worst of it is, he seems to have taken to Lazy Susan. Honestly. I can’t believe it. It’s true she has never made a mistake — not one in the five years she has been here — but that’s only because she hasn’t actually done any work during that time. That is until now. Snaky Steve, having decided I can’t be trusted, keeps asking her to do reports and create presentations for him. I don’t think she has had to work so hard in her entire life. It could be quite fun to watch, only she keeps coming to me for help. And of course, unpicking her mistakes is harder than doing it from scratch.

Now Snaky has asked to look at this year’s bonus accruals. He is coiled in his office with a list of employees, a calculator and the bonus accruals, checking each and every row. He is paid a lot — significantly more per year than the value of my house — so you would think he could find something more high-level to do. I see him frowning, and I know it is because he can’t find anything wrong. Maybe I am being paranoid, but I could swear he wants something to have a go at me about.

At length, he comes over waving the printout. Oh god, he has found something. He points to the list of employees. Two of them are missing from the accrual. My heart sinks as I realise my career is over. But wait, I look at the hire date: they joined only in the last two months, so they are not eligible this year. Hurrah, my credibility is restored. Snaky goes back into his office, having failed to justify his existence.

He soon slithers out again. This time he points to the bonus accrual and demands to know why it is overstated. It seems that two names are not on the current list of employees. I look at the names. They are two Higher Beings (our executive management team) who have recently fallen from grace and been “let go”. Unlike when mere mortals are made redundant, Higher Beings are allowed to go on gardening leave for six months, during which time they continue to collect full pay and bonuses, and carry on driving their company car. Some of them even receive extra pension contributions to boot. I sigh with relief; it is perfectly correct that these two should remain on the bonus list. Steve looks crestfallen, if you can imagine what a crestfallen snake looks like.

Having failed to catch me out on the bonus accruals, he goes on to check the benefits inventory, the merit planning summary, and any other official-looking document he can get his hands on. Soon there is smoke coming out of his calculator.

Just when I think I can take this intense scrutiny no longer, I get an email from Big Bad Boss. The mentoring project has been scrapped, and he will be back on Monday. I’m dying to know if it is because they’ve sussed that he is the last person on earth to give advice on mentoring, but I guess I’ll never find out the truth. It is enough that I won’t have to work for that snake any longer. Who’d have thought I would ever be pleased to see Big Bad Boss?n

Next time…Candid does due diligence.

Confessions of a benefits manager – February 2008