Starting a new job is an exciting, terrifying and exhausting experience. You’ll almost certainly have a giant volume of new scientific material to absorb as well as countless names to fail at remembering and office fridge etiquette to understand. But before you get to any of those problems you still have to make friends with the tentacle monster.
Admin (or if you’re feeling fancy ‘administration’) is the sprawling structure around research that ensures that you don’t kill yourself (health and safety), kill someone else (security), order things that might kill people (purchasing), hire someone that might kill you (human resources) and if you do then there’s even one to make sure that everyone is fine with being lots of newly dead people (marketing).
Now admin doesn’t work like a normal structure – it has many ‘arms’ that reach deep into every aspect of research. Each arm, or tentacle, of admin is armed with its own particular secretion of rules and paperwork which must be adhered to lest you anger the beast.
Every institution has one of these tentacled admin beasts with their slimy arms integrating themselves into your research.
Different tentacle monsters
But while every admin beast is made up of broadly the same tentacles, no beast is the same, so you have to relearn how to survive an encounter every time you change institution. A well aimed B60 that might tame the HR tentacle at one university would simply enrage it at another.
You would think that all tentacle monsters could be trained to be the same, but as anyone that has worked with one for a while will realise you can’t control a giant tentacle admin monster. Not even the head of a company or the chancellor of a university can control a tentacle monster. The monster controls you.
The key with the many tentacled beast is not to fight but to just accept that you will now have to live with this new slimy presence. When you start a new job this is often discussed as orientation or induction to make it sound better, but the actual intent is simple – you are used to dealing with other tentacle monsters and you now need to be introduced to this one and need to accept that you will now be living with its tentacles hovering over everything you do.
This can take days, but don’t think of it as mandatory 3 hours of HR induction or 4 hours of Heath and Safety training, it’s simply all tentacle charming. Knowing exactly which form to put in the suckers of which tentacle can be invaluable information for any new starter and avoid awkward moments of tentacle confusion.
It can be difficult and particularly if you’re used to your previous tentacle admin beast you might be tempted to try and fight and even suggest new things the tentacles might prefer. This is a mistake.
How to survive
As a new starter your best bet is to give in to the tentacles and try to get through without either accidentally treading on one or letting one of them in places a tentacle really shouldn’t go.
Tentacle orientation/induction only lasts a few days and in no time at all you’ll have welcomed the new tentacle beast into your work and will be merrily on your way to working alongside its oozing mass. You’ll forget it’s even there.
Whatever you do, don’t provoke the many tentacled beast. There are plenty of ways to upset it and they have long memories and vindictive tendencies. Avoid doing anything that might be viewed as disrespectful like, for example, writing a 650 word blog post comparing them to a tentacled beast in your first week on the job…