Friday, August 05, 2005

Off form

What is it with forms? Or rather, those who send them out?

How come they can never make them reflect the possible answers, and certainly never acknowledge context. Or that ambiguity may mean there is not the definitive answer they demand.

I was... am... a writer, and certainly like things to say what they mean, and mean what they say. I’m also a scientist. So if asked how many angels could dance on the head of a pin I'd probably first need to know if they were doing the Tango or Waltz. And I flatly refuse to sign anything unless I agree with everything I am being required put my name to, or at least articulated in a way with which I am comfortable.

I lost out on a job opportunity a few years ago, having gone through a series of very successful personal interviews, only to fail a psychometric analysis. I know why, and it wasn't my answers. It was what I didn't, or refused, to answer. The pin-strip and braces kept insisting I had to tick a box when the accurate response was not adequately represented in the options, and then got in a snit because I was pushing his £300/per fee beyond the assigned time for his secretarial services. I hope the company found the compliant box-ticker they were seeking.

Government is always a rich seam. My wife got confused with a census form when she had to put herself down as either Oriental or Asian, when she considers herself to be both.

And I had a fun series of exchanges with a funder where they insisted I sign a form that I couldn't and wouldn't, which ended up with me sending a blank form along with a 3-page letter to put important issues in context. I'd had the money so was none too worried, and never heard back, so I wonder what happened there?

All I ask is that if you can't deal with the possible answers, then don't ask the question.

So enough with the forms, and if you really want to know something, ask me in person and be ready to work with the reply I provide. Or if you have to have it in a form only a computer can love, at least put in an option in there like:

[ ] none of these allow for a valid feedback on this question as posed, please call me to discuss on....

And then doubtless file my reply under 'not understanding/cooperative' and put me in another neat box, instead of wondering if your way of asking questions is flawed.