Does the Temp Type?

21st May 2010:

A version of this article appeared the “Moneypenny” secretarial/PA e-newsletter.


Does the Temp Type?


You know me.  I appear in your office with little or no warning.  One day, I’m nowhere to be seen and then next – I’m just there, sitting in the corner, watching, listening.


I spend my day asking questions: “where’s the Ladies / coffee machine / accounts / photocopier / way out?” I sit there, typing, filing, for a week, two, perhaps longer.  Then I’m gone again, just as suddenly as I arrived.  So suddenly, in fact, you didn’t even get around to remembering my name.  But that’s okay – just call me “The Temp”.


Think about the last time a temp appeared in your office, with or without warning.  How was she (or he) received in the office?  Do you think you treated her (or him) well?  Were you and your colleagues friendly and helpful?  Do you think the temp thought so?  Honestly?


I have temped at various times, at various stages in my career and have worked in some wonderful offices, with some wonderful people who treated me as part of the team from Day One, 0900 hours.  I was sad to leave these places, even when I’d only been there a few days.


Then there were the other places.   And there have been some horrors.   Oh, of course, there’s the usual stuff: not being shown around the office, work not being explained properly, staff not speaking to you.  Temps get used to that.  It goes with the territory.


But it gets worse: staff members allocated to look after you being unavailable most of the time and totally unhelpful the rest; senior staff (managers and directors) talking to you in a way they would never speak to their permanent staff; ignored when requesting help and treated with the appalling discourtesy when asking a question.


There was one memorable assignment when, on my first (and last) day, the PA supposedly looking after me, had a stand up row with her boss, about me – whilst I was standing there.   Again, temps get used to being invisible and dealing with the ‘unprofessionalism’ of so-called professional offices.


Temps also know that the only stupid question is the one you don’t ask.  But they also know that if you do ask a question, you may be ignored or you’re looked upon so badly that you cannot bring yourself to ask a second time.  I know that feeling all too well.  I’ve been in that position once.  Or twice.


Yes, there are bad temps, just as there are bad employees but there is a feeling that temps are only doing what they’re doing because they cannot get a proper job.


Now, this may come as something of a shock to some of you, but there are temps out there (me included) who don’t want a ‘proper’ job.  Can you imagine such a thing?


The reasons for temping are many and various: between jobs; returning from a career break; updating skills; freelancing in industries where work is intermittent (theatre, TV, etc).  Or, like me, just love the flexibility and the variety of long-term temping, looking upon it as a career in itself and treating it just as seriously.


So next time you see a stranger struggling to unjam the photocopier, looking for “Gavin who does the payroll” or wandering around completely lost having finally found her own way to the loos (but not back to her desk), just smile, say hi and introduce yourself – but ignore her at your peril.  Remember, she could be freelance journalist – just waiting for a scoop on “the World Worst Office”.


… or, it could be me …


Christine – from the Shed.


Back to the Diary Room