Wednesday, August 17, 2011


1: one who serves in a certain function
2: one holding office in a government or political party

1a : a liveried servant
1b : one performing menial or miscellaneous duties

(The above courtesy of the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.)

I'll lay claim to having created the term flunctionary and define it as a person with a self-esteem-building-but-meaningless title who performs menial or miscellaneous duties for an organization and usually has no idea why those duties are performed.

Case in point is a woman I spoke with recently who works for an accounting firm that performs audits on behalf of various unions. She insisted that they had to perform a payroll audit for the years 2008 to 2010 on a firm that has been out of business for two years and had no income, work, or employees since 2001.
Rather than listen to what was being said to her, she said she would refer it to the union's legal department if we refused to comply. I suppose we could have scheduled the audit and, when the auditor showed up, just handed over an empty folder with the comment, "Here are all the records for the period."

Other flunctionaries I've dealt with in the past include those people who insist that invoices we submit must be done on a form that they've been using for the past few decades, ignoring the fact that said form exists only as a pdf file of an old photocopy that would have to be filled out on a typewriter (presuming one still has one) or by hand. On more than one occasion I have recreated their form as and Excel or Word document so that I could do our monthly requisitions on my computer. I've gone so far as to duplicate the layout, design and fonts used on the originals, including one on which I repeated a misspelling that their form has had since the dawn of time. I never told those flunctionaries what I'd done and smile at the thought of them wondering how I'd gotten such a clean copy to use.

Standard responses from flunctionaries include:
"That's the way it's always been done."
"Everybody does it this way."
"No one else has a problem with this."

And, of course, the flunctionaries are the ones who invaribly ask for three or four or six "originals" of any form we submit. (See my June posting for that one.)

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