Processing a payroll check follows a predictable order of steps:

  • First: make sure the employee’s tax information is in the system.
  • Next: set up a template for that employee on that show in those states.
  • Next: create the payroll list and attempt to upload it into the system. (Occasionally repeating this step several times if templates are missing or misspelled.
  • Next: enter the accounts receivable line items until the payroll total matches the invoice total.
  • Next: cut the checks, checking them line by line. Then run a report. Then print the checks.

None of these steps are difficult, but some of them are more tedious and finicky than others- setup and templates being the most finicky and tedious of all. Details matter and there is a lot of key-command navigating from page to page that has to be done even if the information is already there just to make sure it’s correct. There are codes. There are sub codes. There are show codes and payroll codes and state codes.

Codes. Codes. Codes. Codes.

Every payroll.

The most efficient way of working is to b batch all the payrolls together at each step: do all the setups, then all the templates, then all the uploads, etc. It saves a lot of time and task switching.

“Oh, are you done with the setups?”

This is the voice of my co-worker, surveying the eight or ten payrolls that I’ve just finished setting up and uploading and have laid out in order by invoice number and check date on my desk to begin cutting.

We’ll call him Zonk.

“Ye-” I start to say.

“Ok. I’ll cut them. Do the setup on these.”

*Phoom* A haphazard stack of new payrolls land on my desk as Zonk gathers up the ones ready to cut and scuttles back into his office nextdoor. He is nominally my supervisor so I don’t complain. I don’t even know why it bothers me: we both do the same work. Cutting isn’t especially exciting or fun, but it does have the advantage of having an End. When you’re done cutting and you print the checks, the payroll is done and you get to drop it in the basket where it becomes the Auditors problem. It is off your desk. Visible progress is made.

But somehow it always feels like Zonk is stealing my thunder. Zonk, who strolls in around ten. Zonk who routinely sits with his arms crossed and eyes closed in his darkened office while I’m still processing away. Zonk who once fell asleep and snored so loudly it was possible to hear it three offices away.


So I’ve stopped batching my payrolls. Instead, I work one payroll at a time, from start to finish until the checks are cut and the payroll is in the basket. Then I start all over on the next one.

It’s inefficient.

It’s petty.

It’s so very satisfying when Zonk comes looking for easy work and has to do his own dratted setup.

Which just goes to show how worker morale affects efficiency.

I don’t think I’d even mind if my task was just to do the setup- which sometimes it is: sometimes a payroll isn’t approved yet but we have all the employee information and I’ll happily work through a stack of setups. But again: this is a task that has an end. When the setup is finished I get to clear it off my desk until the payroll gets approved.

It’s the disruption of my process that annoys me. It’s the new pile of work that sets me right back at the beginning while Zonk finishes the easy bits and then naps in his office on the time that my work saved him that bothers me.

So it might be time to move on: to find a work environment that inspires me to streamline the system instead of acquiescing to the inertia of office politics.

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on September 19, 2018.

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