Friday, September 5, 2008


Unlike the title may imply, I'm not referring the benefits of being a professor, I'm referring to the Benefits Office, or the people who control things like health insurance. This is my least favorite part of changing jobs - dealing with changing health insurance. In fact, next to moving, I would have to say this is my next "least favorite task" - if I was asked to rank them - assuming major things like surgery, death, etc were taken out of the rankings.

In fact, I hate dealing with these people so much, I almost missed the deadline to sign up. I made it by a day - and my transactions with them today have been equally, if not more, nightmarish than at my last three jobs.

The people in the office are extremely rude - irregardless of how nice you are to them. Okay, I shouldn't generalize. The person I spoke to last week was very nice. But, I guess she is out this week. The person I spoke to today verged on being obstinate just for fun. An example:

The school has very good health care, in part because there is a medical school/hospital on campus, and if you go there, you get very, very good prices (free with very low monthly payment). So, I wanted to sign both me and my husband up (me +1 adult). This meant I had to show I was married - ie bring proof of marriage to the office. So, I called the office to find out where they were located (I'm still working on figuring out where all of the buildings are) so I could bring it over. I was first berated for not attending orientation (which I did), then I was berated for not paying attention during orientation (which I did). It wasn't covered in my orientation - mine was 3hrs long, and Benefits simply handed out a book, said to do everything in it, and call with any questions.

Now, after talking to my dept's admin asst, apparently the staff orientation is given in three parts, each one is a day long, and in theirs, things like which building Benefits is in are covered.

In any case, we (the Benefits guy and I) finally decided I would simply fax it to him. So I did. I called back to verify he got it and make sure he didn't need anything else and find out a timeframe. Apparently, things like timeframes were also covered in orientation - um, not mine.

At this point, I explained (calmly) that my orientation and his were different. Mine was 1 day, and his was longer. Mine did not involve a presentation from Benefits, and his clearly did. And that I would appreciate if he would simply answer my question, as I was told he would do, because this discussion was a waste of time. In the end he answered my question. But, seriously, why all of the drama?

I know, I shouldn't let this kind of stuff bother me (my husband just told me as much). But really, I know the reason he treated me like crap is that I sound like I'm 12 on the phone, so he thinks I'm 12 (or maybe 20), and a graduate student, and so he can treat me like crap. If I sounded like I was 50 and male, he probably wouldn't have treated me the same. I realize I sound like I'm viewing everything through the gender lens and all, but the person last week knew I was a professor, and the person this week didn't. And the person last week was extremely helpful.

Since I tend not to call and say "hi, I'm Prof X, can you please answer my question?", I can only assume that the difference is based on this knowledge - otherwise, all I can assume is that the person I spoke to today really enjoys making other people miserable. And I would really rather not jump to this conclusion.


Anonymous said...

I have been battling the Benefits office for 5 months here. I have NOT BEEN PAID A DIME from a federal grant. I just this week got in the system (award was released in April). They were complaining TO ME that they have to backpay me.... WTF?! I got the same shit you did.... I had to use the "this is Dr. Blah Blah calling about my contract." Even then, I was treated rudely by many retards. So, I hauled my ass over to the "Benefits" Office at least once a week for the past 8 weeks.

I literally hung up the phone on one "person in charge" when she started chatting with someone who called AFTER I arrived - 10 minutes later, I grabbed the phone from her grubby ear, clicked it off, and gave her my own earful. Dr. Blah Blah has left the universe... Dr. Bitch is here. I even told her that I wasn't leaving until she typed in my benefits info because I refuse to let them keep my matching money for another month (which with the backpay would be a significant amount). When the phone rang again, I threatened her - I told her "if you answer that, I will break it into a million pieces." The look on her face was priceless... I can't imagine what the vein popping out of my forehead looked like.

When the program director asked me casually how things are going last week, I told him my story. He told me he's heard worse about the admin - great. If I actually get a paycheck on the last day of the month, I will be stunned. If I don't, you might feel the vibrations from the pounding I give them around the globe.

AsstFemaleProf said...

Entertainingly, we actually discussed staff reviews at our last faculty meeting... But I'll save that discussion for my next post.

And my paycheck was also late.

Anonymous said...

You get to review the BENEFITS whacks? really? I am soooo asking about that here. They all get an F. BIG F. + 5 months of back Fs.

AsstFemaleProf said...

I really, really don't have time this morning - I'm so sorry. But I promise I'll write something on Monday.

And a lot of people are giving them F's.

Candid Engineer said...

By all means, you should try to get the respect you deserve if it actually makes a difference when dealing with these sorts of people. If they do care who you are, then a simple, "Hi this is Jane Doe, I'm an assistant professor in the X department, blah blah blah." If that doesn't work, then I wish you patience.

Anonymous said...

Our director does get to evaluate the "benefits" whacks. He agreed they are awful and he gets plenty of gripes from faculty about the system. And the dean could care less - he's a twit.
I emailed a new head honcho of the university asking for the opportunity for fac and staff to submit reviews of human "resources" and facilities. I sat next to him at THE benefits meeting. Let's see how that goes.