Is it better to be known or remain invisible?

Working in a minute administration office for a large corporate entity is a very strange experience. It combines the difficulties of both working in a small team and also of working for a large, faceless organisation. Basically, in the small team, every player has quite a big role to play and if they aren’t pulling their weight, then everyone knows it. So in this office, we are all very confident and know each other very well. But there are occasions when we have to leave the office and stray into the larger confines of the organisation. This can go one of two ways; well and extremely badly. My experiences tend to tell me that they rarely go well. This might sound a little negative and it isn’t meant to worry you; I don’t let my cock ups worry me, so don’t you go losing sleep over it.

I think my favourite of these experiences was when I was required to go over to our European HQ in the Netherlands; I meet up with the rest of the training team (sounds grand, but there are 3 of us) once a quarter to organise our diaries and schedules. It so happened that the only time we could do this was when two out of the three of us were in Hoofddorp, so I flew over to meet them. Flying on my own? I managed. Getting to the hotel on a series of complicated shuttles? I conquered. But when the Vice President of the European side of the business came in to meet with my manager, I was truly shown up. He has only had one association with me before and because of that, I really did not want him to remember who I was. Essentially it is because I am related to my sister and it caused some trouble when taking me on, so now that I have a permanent post, I didn’t want the issue to raise its little head again. I decided that the best method of defence would be to continue working whilst they had their meeting. That worked brilliantly, but at the end, he looked at me, saying “I don’t think we’ve met before?” So I had to introduce myself and when he asked me what I do, all three of us dismissed it very quickly; “ohh, she doesn’t nothing much.” “Admin mainly.” “Sales support, not much training”. So, I got away with it, but now he thinks I’m a freeloading weirdo who works somewhere in the company, doing something.

Being in the lower echelons of the company (ranking somewhere level with the gutter, I think) I tend to get given the jobs other people don’t want or can’t fit it. Sometimes I am asked to go onto conference calls on someone else’s behalf and this was my latest embarrassment. I was asked to join a “training improvement” meeting to take notes. So, at the said time, I clicked on the Live Meeting link and the screen turned blue, but there was no sound. I turned my speakers up, but nothing. So then I waited for a few minutes (after all, I was a little early), but I still couldn’t hear. So I left the meeting to try and reconnect. However, in the minute or so that I had left, the American Trainer who was running it, had stopped the webinar to ring me to see if I had got on ok. Having told him I had a few audio problems, he sent me the dial in details. Now on the email it said: Local Dial in 012345678 or International Dial in 876543210. (It obviously didn’t have those numbers; I just can’t be bothered to think of actual numbers.) So, as I am dialling in internationally, I try the international number. The following then happens:

Gruff Birmingham Accent (We’ll call him Man): “Hello?”

Me: “Oh, erm hello. I don’t think I’ve dialled the right number. I was trying to dial into a conference call.”

Man: “Well why did you ring me then? I’m Customer Support.”

Me: “Well, I dialled the number on my conference acceptance email. But if you are customer support, perhaps you can help me?”

Man: (sighs) “Well what country are you ringing from?”

Me: “The UK.”

Man: “Really?”

Me: “Yes, really.”

Man: “And where were you calling?”

Me: “The States.”

Man: “Well, let me check.” (Holds hand over headset) “Mart, I’ve got someone here trying to dial into a conference call!” (Comes back onto phone) “Nah, we can’t help.” (Hangs up.)

Me: Gee thanks?

I don’t even understand what happened there; did I speak to A & T Conferences or was it just a bloke in his living room in Dudley? I was inclined to opt for the second, but I still hadn’t got a clue how I had got through to him. So by now, I’m feeling pretty flustered, so I dial the American number and then magically get through. Delightfully, when I joined the call, the person presenting stopped, asked me who I was and asked me to introduce myself to everyone. Cue my flustered “I’m nobody, I’m here to take notes for Shelley. I am so unimportant!”

Why do I have this inbuilt inability to show myself off? Someone asks me what I do and I should reply with “Well, I organise corporate hospitality and support at international equestrian competitions.” Instead, I make the standard joke about being a PA to the sales team and then mutter something about proofreading powerpoint presentations. Why am I so bloody English?


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