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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Perception

I stated on this blog that I had had a surprisingly good experience the last time I called the unemployment office. They were courteous and friendly and it has to be hard, dealing with depressed and/or angry unemployed people every day. But they were great.

And then today when I went to the mandatory class at WorkSource - you know, the one that tells you how you need to log at least three work contacts a week; and they have to be of x, y, or z types; and they give you a ton of resources (which - if you are computer-savvy at all - you already have)? Today when they asked for feedback about how many of us had ever come into the WorkSource office for anything other than the required classes... one person (out of about thirty) raised her hand. When asked why, most of the answers were that it didn't seem like anyone working there cared whether we got jobs or not; that they weren't helpful anyway, so why bother? (Mine was not; they seemed helpful enough to me, in spite of my feelings about the class itself which have more to do with been-there-done-that; my issue with going in for help is convenience; the same resources are generally available online from my living room.)

The class instructor was shocked.

But-but-but - that's why they are there, to help us find the right job or retraining or whatever is appropriate for our situations! It was pointed out to him that while that may be true further down the line - when we have individual assessments and the like - when one is first unemployed and has a bajillion generalized resources thrown at one, it seems very impersonal and confusing and overwhelming.

He was a bit plaintive. But we've all been helpful here today, have we not? Yes, indeed you have. But the public perception is that Government Offices are Deliberately Obstructive, and usually in the Most Passive-Aggressive Manner Possible (think Marge Simpson's sisters working in the DMV). The fact that one of our classmates had asked to reschedule his mandatory class because his daughter was having a baby and they said  no... that did not do anything but perpetuate the stereotype of an impersonal government office.

And yet the people there in the Lynnwood office were very nice and they were very helpful. It's amazing how powerful perception is. And that's why my interaction with the folks at UI on the phone was surprisingly good... because I'm just as subject to that cliche as the next person.