Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sharing a Bed

Do you ever get used to sharing a bed with someone? My husband out-weighs me by nearly 100lbs and we had a waterbed when we got married. I used to get launched into the air if he jumped into bed too forcefully. As the years went by, we graduated to a firm waveless waterbed, which eliminated that particular problem. But the war over blankets raged on. So, we got separate blankets. Just when I think we’ve worked out every conceivable issue, I roll over in bed (sound asleep) and crack my eye-socket on HIS elbow that is resting on MY pillow!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Copier Cussed Me Out

I fat-fingered the fax number as I attempted to send a document to another office on our campus, and apparently dialed a phone number instead. A voice issues forth from the copy machine (multi-function digital imager, I should say), "Hello. Helllllloo?" and suddenly, "Well, F--- you then!" I nearly fell over from shock. I cancelled the transmission, which was now ringing in that annoying fax machine chime, which severed the line. But I huffed around swearing that if I could just remember how I had mis-dialed, I would call back and demand to speak to the woman's manager. At first, I thought it was hopeless. But, the copier is set to automatically print an error report--which includes, ta da!--the number dialed. I decided to Google the number first to make sure it was a business and not a residence. The phone number belonged to someone on our very campus! I dialed the number and asked my coworker why she cussed me out for misdialling.

She was completely unaware that human ears had heard her rude comments. She imagined that she was just screaming at a machine that was buzzing in her ear. So, if you have a filthy mouth, you might want to be advised about this possibility. Some facsimiles have this special direct dial function. Gotta love technology!

That Is the Correct Answer

I braved the crowds at the grocery store the other day. As I navigated through the busy aisles, I observed a mother and her son whose age I imagine to be round 5 or 6 years old. The boy was chattering away, and his mother responded, "Well, would you rather have a mother who is pretty or one who is NICE to you?"

I thought to myself, "Don't answer, Kid! It's a set-up! It's like when I ask my husband if a certain outfit makes me look fat--there really is no right answer!" The woman was pretty, but had badly thinning hair and I dreaded the child's response.

But I was engaged. I could no longer pass by quietly--I had to know how it would play out. I stopped cold in my tracks and stared.

The little boy considered the question briefly, then looked up at his mother adoringly and exclaimed, "You're BOTH, mom!"

Without thinking of being discreet, I blurted out, "THAT is the correct answer! Well done."

The mother smiled, being especially flattered that someone had witnessed his precious words.

As I managed to pull myself from the scene in search of rice noodles, I thought how the young one had learned what some grown men never do.

Just adore us; what is so difficult about that? It's what women want.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Manager of the Year

This year, Manager of the Year was decided by employee vote. One manager was slighted by not being included on the ballot. One name on the ballot was not technically a manager. Most employees did not even receive a ballot, and only those employees with company email accounts were ever aware of the voting arrangement. But that is typical method of operation at our workplace. The whole thing being a popularity contest--and poorly orchestrated at that--destroyed any honor that might have otherwise been assigned to the award. Bottom line: no one cared about winning. No one except for my boss who daily finds reasons to remind her staff that she is their boss as if they haven’t known the fact for years. She is anxiously awaiting the results of the vote, which much to her dismay would not be announced until the employee meeting. And she had scheduled a vacation day on the day of the meeting. When her best friend, who is the HR manager insisted that she attend the company meeting even though it fell on her day off, she began to expect to receive the award. (I’m sure her ego had convinced her that she deserved it long before her friend ever hinted at the idea.) Well, another well-liked manager, who was recovering from back surgery, was also emphatically encouraged to attend in his delicate condition, he also expected to receive the award. When the award was presented to a manager that had been hired only 7 months ago, my boss turned beet-red. Rage shown in her eyes (she despises new people, especially capable ones), and she slid from a standing position against the wall, into a sitting position on the floor. She stayed slumped there on the floor with her jaw dropped and eyes wide for several minutes before she could compose herself. In fact, it was some time after his acceptance speech before she could be coaxed up off of the floor. The girls on her staff darted glances at each other and then low giggles and comments. None of them had voted for her.

The next day, a coworker complained about the choice for manager of the year. He thought the man with the back problems should have won because of his seniority. I argued that the award ought to go to someone who could point to tangible accomplishments specific to this year’s business. I pointed out that the recipient had saved the company thousands of dollars by getting to the bottom of an issue with the facility that his predecessors had ignored for years. The man clung to his original argument, insisting that manager of the YEAR shouldn’t go to someone who had served less than a year with the company. I said, "the man accomplished more in 7 months than all of the others did in a whole year." Then he told me how several people from that department wanted to honor the senior manager’s assistant, so they staged a write in vote for her instead of casting their votes for him. I asked, "what does that say about a manager whose employees would rather waste their vote on someone who would be disqualified rather than vote for their own manager?"

What I found most interesting is that the man who did win is not the nice manager who tries to be everyone’s buddy, and it was not one who has been their the longest, or even the one with the most responsibility. It was the military man, highly organized, exacting, demanding, who runs a tight ship and holds everyone to a lofty standard. He is universally hated by all other managers because he shows up their complacency. I would have expected the majority of employees to prefer the complacent, lazy managers who cut corners and allow slacking, but I was wrong. I hope this sends a message to the other managers that we expect them to push us to succeed.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Do the Math

Recently, the evil genius that is my supervisor, informed me that my hours were going to be cut even further. On Wednesdays, I would now be arriving to work in the afternoon instead of the morning. Having no options in the matter, I submitted and arrived at noon the following Wednesday. She was very upset because she had intended to work me from 1pm to 5pm, and I had already clocked in at 12:00. She began to scold me, but I reminded her that she had not specified an exact time, adding that most people consider the "afternoon" to begin at 12:00. She sent me home at 4pm to punish me, which meant that she had to complete an unfinished task that she finds particularly unpleasant.

The next day, she approached me in another department and took great satisfaction in snarling, "Oh, and Friday, I won’t be needing you, so don’t bother coming in." I just smiled and thanked her for letting me know ahead of time.

Two hours later, after considering the workload she would be facing alone, she dialed my extension, "Scratch that, I’m going to need you here at 10:00." Since most of the staff goes home at noon on Fridays, I inquired how long a shift I should expect. She said I would be needed until 2 or 3pm. I am happy to drive for 2 hours for 4 or 5 hours of pay, but not for 2, so I agreed.

On Friday, I arrived at 10:00am and was sent home at 11:30am. I drove for 2 hours to make an hour and a half of wages. That is absolutely ridiculous! I spoke to her manager about it before I left the premises. He seemed sympathetic, but ultimately could not care less. I actually sat down and did the math. After subtracting out my travel expenses, I made $4.51 per hour when I work a 2 hour day. What I need is a salary based on the 28 hours per week that I was promised; then I would be thrilled to be sent home early every day!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Game

Today I was set up perfectly to disappoint my boss by a coworker. I was so impressed by the artful execution of the technique that I almost forgot to be mad about it. It was really well-done, but far in the background somewhere I was also furious. I knew she was cunning, but I had underestimated her–-now I know that she is an evil genius!

Because I arrive so promptly each day, our boss entrusted me with an assignment to prepare a daily progress report for him. My supervisor was very jealous when she found out, but since she is a late riser and the report must be prepared for a morning meeting, she could not reassign the task to herself (which is her usual method of operation when she feels that a task is too prestigious for me).

Well, on this particular morning, the meeting had been canceled. So, he asked me to delay creating the report until the previous evening’s paperwork could be processed, so that the information would reflect up to the minute progress. I started to process the paperwork, but found a note from my supervisor requesting me to enter the month-end inventory for my first task. So, while I was entering the inventory, she arrived and began processing the previous evening’s paperwork. Now, normally, this paperwork is left for me while my supervisor listens to her voice messages, and checks her email, horoscope, catches up on current events online and such. Just as I finished with inventory, she stood up from her chair, announced that she had finished the paperwork and would be completely bored for the rest of the morning. To further demonstrate that she was finished, she went to the coffee station and mixed herself a hot chocolate and chatted about nothing in particular. I checked the inbox to confirm that it was indeed empty. It was. So, I prepared my bosses progress report and set it on his desk. When he returned to his desk, he was visibly thrilled to see the report at his disposal. I beamed proudly. Then she settled into her chair to watch it all unravel. As he studies the report, devising his plan of attack for the day, he looked up and said, "we already did this" and then, "these should have been done yesterday," and to my dismay, "when was this report printed?" Then my supervisor pulled an enormous stack of papers from under her keyboard and says sarcastically, "Of course your report is wrong, I haven’t finished processing your paperwork." Yes, I had prepared a report that was basically worthless because she fed me misinformation. He was so utterly disgusted with my performance, and his body language was so animated as he dashed the report into the trashcan and stormed out that I did not even dare to defend myself. She’d beaten me soundly and now there was nothing to do but applaud.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Skip the Mall

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Play the Game

I have a deep aversion to game playings and politics in the workplace. In my view, I work for the company. And the good of the company supercedes any loyalties I might have to coworkers or bosses. But this is not a popular position to take.

After my boss granted a small raise in my wages, I was expected to look the other way while some unsavory business practices were carried out. At another jobsite, my boss attempted to pull me into her inner circle by bribing me with joining her favorites for luncheons and other networking events. But these ladies were disappointed to find how resolute I can be.

I read people very well and am fearless when it comes to confrontation over issues of right and wrong. But I have poor skills of manipulation and rarely get my way.

Well, my husband has been teaching me the art of diplomacy. Little by little I have tried to develop this skill. In my present work environment, it is vital to my survival.

I have been working in a department whose manager has no interest in me whatsoever. He leaves all of my instruction to a young woman who has worked with him for several years. She has enjoyed having me to push around, and I have completely submitted to her direction and yes, even her whim. Some days she will even dismiss the janitor and asked me to do the mop the floors. I have taken the position of being unquestioningly cooperative, and she has tested the limits extensively (although, to her credit, she has never asked me to do anything dishonest). Three days per week, I am allotted 4 hours each day. Lately, she has been testing the bounds of her authority by interfering in my schedule. On several occasions she has sent me home early, asked me to come in late or take extended lunch periods when the workload is light. This means that I travel 45 minutes each way only to work 2 or 3 hours. Whenever I have objected to this, she finds a way to punish me. Once, she sent me home early, and instead of leaving the premises, I assisted in another department to fill my 4 hours of allotted time. When she found out, she was furious, but outwardly congratulated me for my industriousness. But I knew from her tone that the other shoe was about to drop. Sure enough, she "gave" me an unscheduled day off so that I would lose 4 hours of wages. Her excuse was the light workload, of course, but Monday we struggled to finish what had been left undone the previous Friday.

Well, she instructed me to take another extended lunch last week. I intended to go along without making any waves, but during my lunch I discovered that I was being transfered to another department that afternoon for a special project. I decided that I had better take a regular length lunch break so as to make myself available for as long as possible in her department. To my surprise, she had shortened her lunch break as well and she returned just as I had logged back into my workstation. She demanded to know why I did not obey. So, I explained my reasons. She had quite a tantrum, which I largely ignored. Since her manipulating my schedule had more to do with control than having a logical plan to complete our daily duties, she did not care for my solution. She was angry that I had improvised in her absense.

Well, her boss witnessed this scene without addressing it. The following day, he announced that he needed to speak with me about a matter before I left for home. I attempted to approach him several times that morning, but each time he said it could wait. When my shift was up, I gave him one last chance to talk, but he still did not have time. I wondered, and worried as most people would. I reasoned that it could not be earth shattering news, or he would have made time to talk with me. Then I remembered that my coworker did not even hint at what the subject might be, as if she wanted no part in the matter. That was out of character for her which made me suspicious. Finally, I settled down, sure that I had solved the puzzle.

Today, I was able to confirm my suspicions when I finally pinned him down. He simply let me know that when the gal in the office asks me to take an extended lunch, he expects me to do as she asks. He apologized for playing such a limited role as the department head. I asked whether he had heard my explanation for cutting my lunch short, and he wavered a bit. He had thought it reasonable, but for the sake of peace asked that I just let her make those decisions. I went very easy on him because I knew it wasn't HIS issue, and let him know that I understood his position.

Guess who was waiting for me outside. She asked what he had said (as if she hadn't instigated the whole issue). I was already locked into game mode, so I didn't falter, "he overheard our conversation the other day about the long lunch, and he was still heated about it. He was just letting me know that he was on your side. Funny that he didn't have anything to say about it then...."

In a way, I'm proud that I played the game well. But there is still the self-loathing that comes with acting like one of them.

One of the new managers told me that when he complains about the favoritism, the big bosses just advise him to learn the game, and play it well. His response was, "I stopped playing games in 3rd grade," but he knows that the only other choice is to find another job.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Domestic Violence

I have only been a witness to domestic violence once in my life. Sadly, I was so shocked and bewildered that I did nothing. I had finished shopping and was headed to my car. Ahead of me in the parking lot was a woman carrying a small child and a man. As they got closer to my position, I could hear that they were arguing. About what, I could not tell, but the tones did not indicate any cause for alarm. I wondered if they would curb the argument as I got closer, but despite being directly in my path, they did not seem to notice me. Then the man swung his arm around and punched the woman in the face. Neither of them broke stride, the baby did not react, the woman did not react. Their expressions never changed and they continued on as if nothing had happened. I stopped dead in my tracks, mouth gaping. Still, they paid no mind to my presence and passed me by in a moment or two. By the time I had gathered my wits, they had entered the store. I could not think of what to do. I was even questioning whether I had really seen what I had just seen. But I was shaking so violently, that I was sure I could not have simply imagined the incident. My imagination is not that sharp or brooding.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Request Denied

This week has been very slow at work. We have half of the inventory we would have normally since the sales team has been using up all of their vacation time so as not to lose it at year's end. (I really dislike that policy. Particularly since our company has worked half-staff all year long so no one has had any opportunity to use their time off benefits. Most of these die-hard, live-to-work employees would rather be paid the unused portion.) So, all week long, I have driven 35 miles only to be sent home after 2 hours of work. On Monday I requested Friday off. I checked with the department manager who simply joked, "I don't know what we'd do without you. . . what do you do here anyway?" I promised to run it by the gal who shares the workload with me. She got such a big head when I asked her for the time off that she delighted to tell me, "No, I'm going to need you for at least 2 hours." When she realized that I actually had a fairly good reason to be absent, she decided to put off the final decision until Thursday evening.

I will be out of town on Friday and therefore I will be absent at work. They don't have to give me any notice, so it is only out of courtesy that I am letting them know my plans. And the decision to authorize the day off is not hers to make. She forgets that she is not my boss. While having superior experience and seniority, she is my coworker. We are equal.

I decided not to make an issue of it now because there is no way to win. Everyone would rally behind her, and she would dig her heels in. I am hoping that, while exercising her imagined authority, she will--pridefully, magnanimously, eventually--grant my request for the day off. And if not, they will find a way to manage without me, and I will take the heat upon returning to work on Monday. I could lose my job if I am a "no call, no show," but I plan to argue that my manager had no objection to it and while my coworker did not approve, she had no authority to grant or deny my request. At this point, I am more invested in my plans for the weekend than I am in keeping my 2 hour per day secular job for which I have to travel a great distance only to be mistreated.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Can't Make Employer Care

My husband works as a security guard at our facility. A customer wanted access just minutes after closing, so he took the lock off of the gate and let himself into the parking lot. (A few stragglers were still leaving the lot, so the lock was only posed as if locked and not fully latched, to allow for easy exit). Since the chain and padlock had not detered the man, my husband approached him and explained that the facility was closed and would re-open at 6am the following morning. The man insisted that he would not leave without finishing his business that night. My husband continued to restate the policy and asked the man to leave quietly. The man then threatened to run my husband over with his car and the car lunged forward. My husband jumped out of the way, and the man entered the facility, finished his business, and left. When my husband created the incident report this morning, his boss accused him of hassling the man. He said it was in our company's best interest to get all of the business we could drum up, and that we ought to allow customers to enter after-hours. My husband asked that the security tape be reviewed before a final decision was made. At that point, he was told that he could drop the issue or be removed from his position.

Sadly, you can't make an employer care about their employees.

Lost and Found

Although we don't have an official policy, we generally turn in lost & found property to the security office. If no one claims the item within 30 days, the finder is allowed to take possession of the item. Many things of high value are lost and recovered at our facility.

My husband found a navigation device, new in it's original packaging. He turned it into the security guard on duty and 30 days later, it was his! He found $14.00 in cash. He put it into an envelope and turned it into the security guard on duty. As the 30 day mark approached, he asked whether the item had ever been claimed. No one had claimed it, but the security guard asked what it was. Interestingly, the item disappeared without record when it's contents became known.

A sublet employee discovered a wedding gown new in it's own box. She was getting married and loved the dress. Following the rules, she turned it in to the department where she knew the most people, which happened not to be security. In 30 days she checked back. But one of our employees had discovered it and intended to list the item on eBay to raise money for a company picnic. No one wanted to release the dress to her, so they told her that it was 60 days that she needed to wait. Well, it has been countless months now and she took the dress home today. Today is also the day that the eBayer came to claim the dress, but it was gone. The woman was told to return the dress or she would be fired for stealing.

How can I work for these crooks!?! Does anyone even remember what fairness is?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

When You Are In Charge, Then YOU Are In Charge!

One of the new bosses is x-military and very organized. Well, recently he was given oversight of the maintenance team. A new kitchen crew is starting to work the cafeteria this week and his maintenance crew was assigned to help prepare by performing a deep cleaning. This assignment was strange indeed, since x-military man was never informed about the task. When he found that his crew was out of pocket, working busily in the kitchen, he started asking questions. One request he made was to receive a copy of the contract, so that he would know precisely what role his crew was legally bound to perform. Well, this request hurt someone's feelings. And it became a huge contraversy and his powers over the crew were curbed. How a military man will ever cope with the mess that is our work environment, I have yet to see. I'm hoping to follow his lead, but so far he seems as frustrated as I do.

I received a new position, and a tiny responsibility was entrusted to me. I am in charge of all billing pertaining to one of our sublet companies. I have taken an unusual amount of pride in the assignment because the sublet company is run by a spineless man who our company constantly cheats. (For instance, he makes 52% of whatever we bill our customer. Every other sublet company who works for us gets 90%.) Well the pride is in the fact that I fully intend to run interference enough to ensure that the company is paid for all of the work they perform for us. Unfortunately, the spineless man doesn't realize that I am his ally. He keeps going to the gal who used to be in charge for every matter. Admittedly, he is receiving mixed signals, since the gal often decides to steal my work so that she can remain at work drawing wages while sending me home without pay. She also interferes constantly and scolds me rather publicly. I attempted to clarify her position, but the HR director left it up to the gal to define. I had thought that although she trained me, we were equals, but it seems much more of a mother/child relationship or trainer/dog relationship. I'm about tired of playing the kicked pup.

Today, I found out that she had told him that he was authorized to do a very time-consuming, costly job for us. After the work was done, he was told that he would be paid one fifth of the amount agreed upon. She apologized, but it meant nothing since she was the author of the lie. I suggested that, in the future, he ought to refuse to do anything out of the ordinary without written approval, which is what his own superiors later suggested. I took a fine scolding for that as well.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


My husband and several of his friends (all in their 30s) collect Star Wars figures. My husband's collection primarily revolves around the characters of the Jedi Order. They really get into it, trading, and buying items for one another. My husband opens the packages and poses them on bookshelves, and hides them in my houseplants for display purposes. One of his friends has all unopened packages locked in his official toy room that is rarely seen by anyone but himself.

I tolerate this practice since my husband doesn't really have a hobby outside of this and it costs little. But I think the behavior is odd--or at least I did think it odd.

Consider how many people collect things like stamps, coins, or books. Some people have strange collections. For instance I recently read on a forum that a woman saves her cat's shed wiskers in a little jar.

You may be a collector and not even know it. My brother recently returned from vacation, bringing me a souvenier carved seashell. When I opened the package and discovered the gift, he said, "I knew you collected these." I thought, "I do?" Sure enough, I have picked up a number of them. I'm a collector. It was news to me.

I would love to get your comments on your collections and collectibles.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Petty Boss Lady

Today, my boss complained because I had not clocked out when changing departments. I explained to her that once you clock out, the system does not allow you to clock back in for 15 minutes. I had turned in a timesheet form, detailing the time spent in each department so that each department pays for my wages according to our arrangement. She was so confused, that she called the HR manager to help her input the data into our payroll system. While she was receiving instruction, she argued that I ought to clock out because it takes time to walk across the campus to begin work at the other department.

Is that petty? Would you clock yourself out? We have parking lot attendants who spend the entire day walking the lot which makes her assertion that much more ridiculous. She walks across the lot weekly to get documents signed by various employees. Does she clock out to walk across the parking lot? I doubt it.

To my surprise, the HR manager set her straight. I was grateful for that.

Friday, October 1, 2010

At My Age, I Don't Buy Green Bananas

A neighbor lady insisted that another neighbor man in his 90s, have his female dog spade. The dog had never been out of the yard in it’s life, and there was no real danger of her becoming pregnant through the high, sturdy fence. But the woman finally obtained his permission, and had the dog spade. The next day, as she was in the yard with the dog, I mentioned that the dog seemed ill. She explained that the dog was recovering from surgery. I told her that it was not normal behavior, even after surgery. A few days later, the dog died. A sponge had been left inside the dog during the surgery and she had been feverish with infection. The man was devastated. I thought that perhaps this nosey neighbor might have learned her lesson, and might stop intruding in everyone’s business. But no. She brought him a puppy. Now, at this point he was nearly bed-ridden and could only get acquainted with the puppy by throwing it treats out of the window. When I spoke with him, he worried what would become of the puppy who would almost certainly outlive him. He said, "at my age, I don't buy green bananas."

Thursday, September 30, 2010

He's Retarded

When I was a kid, the term "retarded" wasn't taboo, and our family used it freely. We used it to describe silly behavior and it was almost a term of endearment. Well, my mom was grocery shopping with 3 small children in tow. The checker had the bagger help us to the car with our purchase. As the parking lot attendant pushed the cart toward our car, my little brother was making this shrill chirping noise with his mouth. He practiced it habitually, just as most children learn to whistle. He also was making a point to stop and kick each loose rock in the pavement. The clerk seemed distracted by this behavior, so my sister dismissed her concern, by saying, "Don't mind him. He's retarded." The lady, thinking that my brother had some severe birth defect or mental illness, simply said, "Oh" and was careful not to stare. My mom was too embarrassed to correct the mistake.

It is amazing how politically incorrect the word has become. In fact, I noticed that while posting on a forum that the word was bleeped out as if it were a curse word. I was simply stating that salt retards the growth of mold, but the filter caught it and marked it "r*&%#)@."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Protect Your Signature

After what transpired between me and my supervisor last week, I remembered another shady business practice of hers. I thought that I ought to take steps to remove the power she has over my times and wages.

There are copious amounts of corporate forms that must be filled out for me since I work interdepartmentally. It is not enough just to clock-in. I must submit a form stating which department will be paying for my wages for specific days and times. I may work in 3 departments in a single day, so you can see what a hassle it might be for my supervisor to collect these forms from me in the various departments spread over a large campus. So, she and I agreed that she could keep a quantity of blank forms with my signature. Then, at her convenience, she would fill in the necessary information from my recorded time card punches and submit them without my involvement.

From the beginning, I was uneasy about the arrangement. And I know of at least one time when she shaved 15 minutes off of my actual punched time without my consent. Well, now that distrust has become a greater issue, I decided that the arrangement was no longer mutually beneficial. So, I removed the signed forms from her desk drawer and shredded them without her knowledge. (The drawer is not locked and the staff have always been welcome to find needed documents within that drawer.)

I wasn't present when she discovered that the pre-signed forms were no longer available, but from office gossip, it sent her into quite a tailspin. To irritate matters worse, another employee refused to sign a document (I think, a misplaced attempt to support me).

I suppose that I should have confronted my supervisor and asked her directly to surrender the pre-signed documents, but I simply wanted it to stop. Besides, I really did not trust her to turn over ALL of the copies she had made because I actually discovered another stash she had created unbeknownst to me.

I hope that all of this will blow over soon, but it seems to be escalating. It is a war she can't win. I want peace, but not at the expense of my principles or my paycheck!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Had Him On The Ropes

Things went fine with my supervisor today. She was a little cold, but she wasn't retaliating in any way. Interestingly, she went into a rage about it moments after she and I clashed (yesterday), but she did it behind a closed door and only one person saw it.

But the real story here happened at our weekly sales and focus meeting. The general manager was very receptive and open today, and warmly commended a new employee for addressing some concerns with the group. One issue was customer complaints and a rumor that we are closing down. The GM reassured us that our corporate office is trimming the fat tightly now, so that when the banks resume loaning money, we will still be in operation. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. The GM was surprised that his words seemed unexpected. I spoke up, "I have a suggestion, you should say things like that at our employee meetings. I've attended these meetings for a year now and I have never heard anything so reassuring. I would guess that at least half of our employees believe that we will close our doors. That may be where our customers are getting their information. And perception can kill the business faster than a down economy."

He admitted that he neglects to share information, assuming that most people don't care. My reply was, "My husband and I both work here. All of our eggs are in this basket. We often wonder whether there is a future here for us. If no threat to our job exists, then we'd like to know that. We would sleep better at night."

He assured everyone that if they have any doubts or questions, his door is always open. Then he thanked me for my question. I interrupted, "I didn't ask a question. It was a suggestion. You should say more things like that. You'll get more work out of people who feel like they have job security."

"OK, it is a good suggestion. I'm going to take it to heart. But if you ever feel that your job is in jeopardy, you can come to me. Just ask--"

I came back with, "--And if corporate is closing us down, you'll tell us." I said it as if I fully believed him--no hint of sarcasm--but everyone knows that such things are always kept strictly secret, so they all giggled low.

He smiled big and said very kindly, "You know, this may be hard to believe, but I'm actually the type of person that if corporate said we're closing don't tell, I'd be the one to leak the information."

I said, "Good. I'm going to hold you to that."

Well, the whole exchange was only a minute or two, and it was very light in mood and tone. I thought it the best meeting I'd attended and went away relieved and light-hearted.

I met my husband on the other side of the campus, for his shift was just beginning as mine ended. He questioned me about my participation in the meeting. I wondered what he'd heard, since he was not present for the meeting himself. His boss was tickled that a mousy little quiet woman would have the nerve to question the GM that way, and to keep pressing him the way I did. Of course, he told it much bigger than it really was, but he found it comical enough. "Your wife had the big man on the ropes! He couldn't argue with her 'cause she was right. I was so proud that she spoke up for herself. She said just what I was thinking, but no one has the nerve to stand up to him."

It was so bizarre to have this said of me. First of all, I'm not a quiet or timid person. If it weren't for my small stature, there wouldn't be anything little about me. My husband tells me that if not for my faith that God will right every wrong, I'd be a terrorist or a cut-throat lawyer or a crazed activist of some sort. I'm the person who fights the urge to follow a careless motorist home and confiscate their drivers license or make a citizen's arrest. I'm not the wall-flower that so many people take me for.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Just Sign Here Please

Since my date of hire, I was designated the inventory queen. I always perform the inventory which takes several hours. Our corporate rules require that someone outside of the department perform the inventory. I work in the department, so I'm familiar with the products, but my official position in the company is unrelated. This makes me the perfect candidate. The job takes me about 2-3 hours and it must be submitted to the corporate office monthly. My supervisor (the crazy screaming lunatic of last week, if you're following the blog) oversees this duty, but cannot interfere or participate in it in any way. After I enter the inventory count into the computer, several reports print out that I have to sign.

Well, due to some cut backs, I am only allowed to work in that department for 8 hours (1 day) per week. They used to allot more hours for me to help with inventory, but that ended.

Last month, my supervisor approached me and ordered me to sign off on the inventory. I told her that I had not performed the inventory and that it should be signed by whoever physically counted. Well, a member of the department had counted and entered, but corporate will not accept the inventory signed by a department member. (Might have something with Sarbanes-Oxley compliance; I'm not sure.) At first, I refused to sign. I spelled out my reasons: it was dishonest, and I felt as if she had cheated me out of 2-3 hours of wages. She begged and enlisted another manager to pressure me into signing, and I finally caved under the pressure. I signed. And I haven't quite forgiven myself for it! But I soothed my conscience by reasoning that at least I had made the conversation uncomfortable enough that I was certain she would never dare to ask me again. And I resolved not to turn into a spineless jellyfish ever again.

Yesterday, I noticed that inventory was marked on her calendar for the 9/21/10, but she had not requested that I work that day. I mentioned it to some coworkers, who said that she was having the same person perform the inventory as last month. The same person who isn't allowed to do it. So, I prepared myself.

This afternoon, when I passed by her office on my way to the lunchroom, my supervisor hollered out, "See me after lunch! I need your signature on some paperwork." (Not in itself a remarkable request since we probably sign our names several hundred times per day in our line of work.) I promised to stop back by after lunch. I calmed myself as best I could. Before my lunch was finished, she tried to create a hurried rush, hoping I would sign something shoved under my nose without really looking, "Oh, I'm sorry to interrupt your lunch, but I've got to turn in this paperwork right away!"

"Oh, this is the inventory. I'm not signing that."

"Why not?"

"Well, I thought I was very clear when we discussed this last month. I'm surprised that you would even ask me to sign, knowing how I feel about it."

She started to get really pouty and apologetic, "I'd love to give you the hours, but you know my hands are tied."

"So are mine." Then I got very composed and said, "I am not signing that." Then resolutely, "I'm not."

"Fine." She grabbed up her papers angrily.

As I left the area (I only had 5 minutes of lunch left by then), I noticed a quiet employee sitting nearby. I wondered whether she had witnessed what had transpired. Then I noticed that my supervisor had left her station. I walked down a hallway until I was out of site and called the quiet employee on the phone, "where is our boss?" She answered, "she went to find someone to sign your papers for her." I said, "So you heard that whole thing?" "Yes, and I have your back! As soon as you left, she asked me to sign, but I told her that I didn't want to get involved. I refused to sign too."

Tomorrow, I have to work in that department again. With the HR manager in her pocket, I really do fear reprisal. But I certainly didn't giver her any reason to punish me. I was controlled and even nice. My supervisor had better be kind to me or I will be reporting her. And heaven help the person who signed those papers!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Bad Forum Behavior

I really like connecting with people on forums. I like the anonymity and the control over who you talk to and when. I visit several of them on a weekly basis, or perhaps more. Sometime I lurke and sometimes I participate.

Well, today I started a thread thanking the admin for the great job they've done with recent improvements to the site. Others jumped on board, sharing their similar sentiments with gracious comments of thanks. Then one user jumped on criticizing the administrative team and site developers. When the post following her returned to the subject of thanks, the critical user came back on and started listing his complaints and criticizing other forum members for being appreciative. The crazy thing is, that the user is on the forum advertising his products and he uses the site itself for selling his wares.

Why would you represent your business by being snarky with the very people who are shopping your store? Now, face-to-face in a brick-n-mortar storefront, I can see coming back with a cutting remark, but in a venue like the internet there is plenty of opportunity to think before you type. It just reinforces something that I heard some years ago: a lot of business owners have mental or emotional illnesses. They're drawn to jobs where they have control and cannot be fired for their bad behavior that often goes unchecked.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Two-headed Boss

My supervisor is normally very easy-going, leaving most everyone to their work. But her outbursts are very unpredictable. What will set her off is quite an elusive mystery.

Today, most of the staff were gathered off in a back room for lunch. The customer traffic had died down to an easy pace. My supervisor and I were taking care of the front counter. She received a phone call from a customer wanting to know what our holiday schedule might look like (a question to which she did not know the answer). A client's employee happened to be walking through the lobby as she fumbled on the phone,"Oh, let me think, last year I think we were open on...well, when is Thanksgiving? It seems to me that Friday--wait--that's not right, let me look at my calendar." The passerby fancied himself helpful by confidently blurting out, "Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday."

With the phone still to her ear, my supervisor began yelling at the man, "You don't even know what I'm talking about! Why don't you mind your own business instead of interrupting my personal conversation! Who are you anyway? Who do you work for?"

The man cowered, apologized (one of those "gee, you crazy lady" kind of apologies), and nearly ran for the exit. She took off after him, then realized that her phone cord wouldn't allow her to go beyond her desk, so she put her caller on hold to pursue the passerby (now fleeing). She hurried to the other end of the office toward the exit doors, but the man was out of reach. She returned to her caller.

It only took her another 30 seconds or so to finish her call. Then she began ranting, "Can you believe that man?!" I said very calmly, "Perhaps it is time for you to get a bite to eat. I think you may have overreacted a bit." Just then, the HR director came running in to find out what all of the shrill screaming had been about. My supervisor began a fictional tale about how some rude passerby had started yelling at her! My mouth dropped. The HR director taking this report seriously looked at me for confirmation, but I shook my head emphatically and rolled my eyes. She wondered why I wasn't in agreement, and insisted that if we could identify him, she would pursue the matter.

Interestingly, the HR director said at one point, "He did? I didn't hear him yell, I only heard you [the supervisor]."

Her behavior was very shameful. Shameful enough to warrant disciplinary action, but since the HR director is her best friend nothing will be done. I only hope that no one will ever identify the man, for I am sure that these two women would stop at nothing to cause him whatever trouble they could.

Interestingly, this is the same woman who makes speeches at staff meetings about what a shame it is that our customer service has been lacking lately.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Employment Update

After our accountant was let go, her assistant moved into her spot, giving up a large portion of her duties to me. So, I have been allotted full part-time hours. I also received a little raise in pay, which I thought was quite a gesture since the company is having financial difficulty. (And here I had been thinking that the only raise employers ever give their employees was a raise in blood pressure!)

I was afraid for a while that I might be bouncing between departments at everyone's disposal, but it seems that I'm going to settle in nicely into a well-defined job description.

Prank Gone Wrong

Someone who had better remain anonymous--if they know what is good for them--duct taped a child's baby doll to the grill of my friend's vehicle. Well, you might think that is somewhat comical. But, my friend had just suffered a miscarriage. The image was very disturbing! She tried to have a sense of humor about it, since she figured that the offender must not have known the circumstances that made the joke so distasteful. Still, it was very cruel!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Bad Dog Sitter! Bad!

I have a beautiful red Husky. Most of his litter died of respiratory failure, having been born the night their owner had sprayed his weeds with poison. As a result of the same exposure, our dog has a very poor sense of smell and possibly a very poor sense of taste. He has a poor appetite. Add to this the nervous, skittish nature of his Husky breeding and you have a thin animal. His mother was also naturally thin, even in her prime. At the time, we also had an old Malamute. So, next to the very large (120lbs) Malamute, our Husky appeared positively frail. And since both dogs were painted with similar markings, some observers (mistaking them for the same breed) were concerned that one was healthy, while one was starving.

The neighbor across the street from us would often come into our back yard and feed the dogs treats and pet them. It annoyed me that she presumed to enter our property so casually, and the snacks were often table scraps which didn’t always agree with the dogs. But she had no fear of them and she was conveniently located. So, we trusted her to care for them when we went out of town for a few days. Upon our return she remarked that our Husky had a touch of diarrhea, so we should keep an eye on him. The next morning, a uniformed officer with Animal Control knocked on my door demanding to see my dogs at once. As I put on a robe and slippers (I had slept in late to recover from our trip), and escorted him to the back yard, he explained that he had received a report of a starved animal that was lethargic and had no access to food and water. Both dogs jumped around excitedly, and their food and water dishes were full to the brim. The officer took special interest in the Husky remarking that he was admittedly thin. He followed up in a week and found the same thin, but energetic, animal he’d seen the previous week and was satisfied that nothing was amiss.

But I was furious. For days I resisted the pressing urge to confront the neighbor, for I was certain that she was the originator of the report. Instead, when she came next door to care for another neighbor’s Husky I casually mentioned that she make sure to keep the food and water dishes replenished since "someone" in the area had made a report to Animal Control regarding our dogs. Her voice went really high as she said, "Really? That is terrible. You guys love your pets so much and care for them so well." Still pretending not to suspect her, I said that the officer thought that the report was frivolous. I said, "He said that some people are too stupid to realize that the two breeds have completely different body types. Since the dog you’re caring for now is a Husky, they might report you too." We put padlocks on our gates after that. And we’ll never ask her to dog-sit again.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Surly Hairdresser

I went to Supercuts for a haircut. I had neglected the cut for a while and so had to explain to the stylist how the cut should go. I told her that I wanted it long at the jaw, short at the back with a drastic angle down to the jaw, stacked in the back creating a big bump, but blended with layers on the sides. I wanted the neckline feathery, soft and feminine. She seemed to understand perfectly and sat me in the chair, removed my eyeglasses, and draped me with plastic. Just then another customer entered. The stylist said, "I’ll be with you in a minute, Loretta." I thought, "A minute? It might take slightly longer for my precision cut." Sure enough, she cut my hair with lightning speed, handed me a mirror. I ran my fingers through the lengths and told her that the sides needed to be much shorter. She argued, "but this is the style." I said, yes, I know that this is a very popular style and very similar to what I want, but the sides need to be shorter to give the sharp angled effect that I’m looking for." She just stared at me and said that it looked good. I asked, "can’t you just shorten the sides?" She said, "I CAN, but it is going to look stupid!" Not wanting to allow her the opportunity to make it look "stupid" I went ahead and paid for the cut. Afterall, it did not look bad, it just was not quite what I wanted. I was very please to present my coupon when I paid. My mother was admiring the cut, assuring me that it did look good, when she saw several bunches of long hairs in the back which she clipped off. More evidence that the woman had just been impatient.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Suspicious Behavior

We had a neighbor in his 90s who was very healthy. He spent most of his time gardening and prided himself on keeping a lovely yard and a neat home. But one winter, while removing snow from the walk, he slipped and broke a hip. While he was hospitalized, he gave us his keys so we might bring him a change of clothes and his shaver. We assured him that we would bring him the mail and care for his pets. But when he came home to recover from his surgery, the intrusive neighbor across the street adopted him. Her disability benefits allowed her the freedom to nosey into everything in the neighborhood, so why not take charge of his care. I thought that I should continue to be as helpful as possible although holding down a fulltime job myself. But I felt instinctively that I should limit my involvement. Besides, the man was on the mend, and he loved his independence. The neighbor lady would give my husband and I almost bi-daily reports regarding his diet, progress, and medication. It became a nuisance. She and her 3 sons (all grown but living with their mother) took care of him, even attending to the yard. In fact, he was attended upon so well, that having no occasion to ever leave the comfort of his easy chair, he never regained any strength in his hip.

Now a virtual invalid, he relied upon her for everything. She took full advantage of it. After obtaining power of attorney, she pounded on our door and questioned us about several thousand dollars that had gone missing from his estate. We informed her that we have never had any business in his finances. Suddenly, the progress reports stopped. Shortly thereafter, she put him into a nursing home and let the grass die. (When the grass died, we knew there could be no chance of him returning to his home.) I approached her to ask where I might visit him? She said that he would not recognize me and that he was heavily medicated. I assured her that it made no difference to me, and pressed her for an address. She said it was on the north side of town, but she couldn’t recall the name of the facility. I named facilities, but none were familiar to her. She said that she would call me with an address later. She didn’t. Each time my husband inquired, her response was the same. The next thing we know, her and her sons are hauling away his furniture. We asked whether he had died. He was alive, but they did not expect that he would never return to the home. We weren’t concerned about where his things were being taken; we assumed that he was having them donated to charity (he was like that). And he didn’t have anything of value except for his classic vehicles that were in very good order. For some reason, he had purchased a flashy yellow pickup truck. We thought it very odd, since he was in no condition to ever step up into the cab, and it wasn’t the sort of vehicle that might appeal to an elderly gentlemen. He spoke of it being a prized possession, but I suspected that his caretakers were the ones enamored with the truck.

The next day, the police arrived to take a report of stolen goods. The neighbor lady was expecting them and gave them a tour of the home and the missing items (missing items that they had removed from the home the day before!). We did not interfere, but a theft was definitely something that she would have reported all over the neighborhood a few months prior. Not a single word was ever said about the matter. I assume she received insurance money.

Then one day, the flashy yellow truck had been moved into her own driveway and a for-sale sign was placed on the dead lawn. A couple of weeks passed and I received a phone call from a woman I did not know. When the hip was first broken, I exchanged phone numbers with a relative that lived out of town. Apparently, my number had been circulated within the family as an emergency contact. The woman had tried to communicate with her father for some, but all attempts failed and she wished to know something of his condition. I told her that he had not been living in the house for some time, but had been in a series of nursing homes. She asked whether he had died. I couldn’t verify it. Then she told me that she had seen a memorial online with his name and date of birth. His advanced age and last known condition being factored in, he had most likely died. Surely, the neighbor with power of attorney ought to be able to fill her in on the details, so I gave her the proper phone number. I find it highly suspicious that no report of his death ever circulated in the neighborhood.

On one hand, I think, the woman and her sons did care for him diligently and why should they not get his money? His family did nothing outside of a few phone calls. On the other hand, the sudden secrecy might indicate foul play.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Needy Coworker

I wanted to address the firing of our accountant, and the subsequent promotion of her assistant. The accountant is a wonderful woman, highly skilled, professional, and nurturing. Her assistant is a young recovering drug addict who started out as a server in the cafeteria. Under the tutelage of this motherly accountant, the young woman has been able to grow into a very useful assistant. But whenever I had the joy of working alongside them, it was very evident that the young woman relied heavily on the continuous reassurance and support of the accountant.

As you would expect, the residual effects of a wayward lifestyle are considerable. The young woman has a very difficult home life because her young boys lost respect for her from the days when they were in foster care. I learned that she would receive a morning wake up call from the accountant, and if the accountant felt an unusual amount of tension in the young woman’s voice, she would have a serving of comfort food ready upon her arrival. They would often have to take several minutes to compose and sooth the young woman before any work could be attempted. After any difficult situation (angry customer, heated employee meeting, etc.) a word of comfort would be applied liberally. They both seemed to benefit from the strange relationship, but I had thought of how exhausting I would have considered it.

When I heard that the accountant had been fired, I was certain that the young assistant would be devastated. I could not imagine how she would ever be able to face the job ever again, especially now, when so much responsibility would transfer to her shoulders. To my surprise, the surge of ambition kept the young woman on her feet. She seemed happy as a clam to have the opportunity to replace her predecessor. Now that I have the prospect of joining the same department, I wonder what boundaries will need to be set and what challenges I might face. I don’t do well with unpredictability. And I am not particularly nurturing.

I once had a friend that was bipolar. I did my best through her divorce, but finally had to distance myself from the situation because it had taken such a heavy emotional toll on my psyche. It seemed that no amount of effort would be enough; the more I gave, the worse she got. At the end of the friendship, she was ungrateful, and I was drained of every resource. She remarried a man that refuses to indulge her episodes of depression, and as a result, she is rarely depressed. He is very loving, but withdraws his sympathy when she is acting out. She actually fights her own depression to stay in his favor. It is a much healthier dynamic than her first marriage, and our friendship. We are now again on friendly terms, but with clearly defined boundaries. That lesson actually took me years and years to learn. So, the prospect of working with another unstable person is a bit unnerving.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Be Nobody!

For some months, I have been trying to secure a titled position at my place of employment, without success. I have no real title, I simply work in different departments to cover vacations and help regular employees catch up with duties that have been neglected such as filing. Well, the company has been making cutbacks, reducing allotted hours, and firing highly paid employees. This has caused me a lot of anxiety because I am viewed as an "extra" employee who serves no single vital purpose. Having been rejected for various job openings, I am still a nobody. But, being nobody has served as a protection. Those with titled positions are under intense scrutiny. Last week, our accountant was let go. She was one of the few highly skilled employees. Unfortunately, highly skilled also means highly paid. The fact that she is indispensable did not save her. I am dispensable—and low paid—and I still have a job. It pays to be a nobody!My husband works for the same employer, and despite being highly intelligent, he is also a "nobody." His regular job as a driver pays minimum wage ($7.25/hr) and he gets about 30 hours per week. He was asked to cover for a security guard recovering from surgery for at least 2 months. While in this position, he would make $10.00/ per hour and a full 40 hours per week. The shift he was meant to cover was graveyard. However, ‘the powers that be’ decided to close the facility at 10pm. This should have meant that my husband would no longer be needed. Besides this, his supervisor was looking for an opportunity to retaliate after my husband had reported an employee theft. So, my husband was expecting to be laid off. But instead, he was demoted to another position in another department. Later, we were thrilled to find out that this "demotion" pays $15.00 per hour! He was demoted to a promotion! Yes, he went from being a driver, to a security guard, to a lowly parking attendant who makes a lot more money. I think that there must have been divine interference behind the scene, because we have made our employment a matter for prayer, otherwise this turn of events would be inexplicable. Now, my hours were cut to one day per week, but since the accountant was fired, I was told that the regional controller may insist that the company give me full-time hours to help in that department. I will still be in a very lowly position, but it seems that I may enjoy relative job security as long as I am content to be nobody.

Monday, August 23, 2010

(123) 456-7890

The so-called "marketing director" for our branch is a very dull girl without any creative inclination whatsoever. For some time I thought it quite a mystery how she was able to produce the clever posters, flyers, banners, etc. being as hung-over as she often is. Incapable of working independantly, she often recruits others in the office to assist her in hanging posters or airing up balloons for weekly events. I have often acted as this assistant. After pointing out some errors in the printed materials, she had begun to rely on me as a sort of editor when she gets in a bind. As a result of our close association, I have been privy to the tools provided her. The wonderfully effective posters and banners she prints on her wide format printer actually come to her electronically. The graphics are completely laid out. She has only to change the address and phone number to match those of our particular location. Mystery solved.

Once, after assisting her on some grammatical refinement, she asked me whether I was a college graduate. Evidently, she was impressed with my education. I answered in the negative, and she acted surprised. I asked why she had supposed that I had a higher education. She said that I was smart when it came to grammar and spelling. I simply replied, "I learned all of that in third grade."

I started out being thrilled to be useful, but have since become rather irritated by her gross ignorance and careless mistakes. Each time she is praised by others about the great work she does, I cringe. And each time she humbly accepts such praise is another reason to cringe. My eye relentlessly finds mistakes in her work. If find these mistakes especially irritating, since I have so generously offered my services as editor.

Once she called me to help her to re-work a document. It was a series of certificates that would be given out at an award banquet to our top 5 clients. She wanted to give the certificate meant for the #1 top client distinction. My first suggestion was to spell the client's name correctly.

Another widely distributed advertisement lists services that we do not offer. I figured that since I was not responsible for the content of such advertisements, I would resist taking issue with it. But upon closer inspection, I realized that the phone number clients were directed to call for such unavailable services was (123) 456-7890. That is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 0.

One of the lower clerks in out office receives many more phone calls than anyone else, by far. It remained a mystery for some time, but eventually, it was discovered that the company had been distributing letterhead featuring her direct line. When this lower clerk is on vacation, her voice mail box is always filled to the brim. All of the messages repeat the sentiment of frustration of customers unable to reach a live person for days on end. Once it was discovered, there was no correcting of the matter. Just an office full of chuckles.

No wonder my coworker bought me a t-shirt that says, "You don't have to be crazy to work here; we'll train you!"

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What Goes Around, Comes Around

About a year and a half ago, I was fired from a job after I pointed out several bad business practices of the new CEO. He had me disciplined (on trumped up charges), and fired. The members of the Board of Directors heard me out, but felt that the CEO needed free rein to accomplish his difficult assignment. They reluctantly fired me and promised to provide me with letters of recommendation (which I never received). I was very hurt over the ordeal because I had been sorely mistreated by all accounts. The CEO had made two employees managers, and had them write me up with a list of complaints about my performance. When questioned about the supposed offenses, the two managers had to defer to the CEO's explanation, since they had no idea why I was being accused. I was very angry that they signed the disciplinary form without even agreeing with the action. But I knew the CEO had pressured them to do so, probably under the threat of termination or demotion. Later, they both apologized profusely, saying that he had forced them to do it. The previous week, I had received a $1.50 raise in hourly pay and a gift certificate to a local restaurant from the CEO himself. I think he was setting me up to cover for him, for that is when the questionable business practices began. But my integrity did not fail me. I questioned him directly, but he refused to correct the behavior. So, I reported him to a Member of the Board of Directors. That is when it all blew up in my face.

Well, I drove by the place the other day, and the signs on the front of their building were all taken down. They used to be a very well-known charity, but apparently, they no longer have the rights to sully the name of this reputable charititable organization. They are operating under a new name. But, I can't imagine that the business will survive without the recognition of this international branding. Would you donate goods to an unknown retail store? I think we have seen the beginning of the end.

Monday, August 9, 2010

General Manager Blunders

The company that I work for traditionally does the highest volume of sales in June, July, and August. But the general manager decided to make some extreme staffing changes just before this period. There was a mass exodus, top sales people being fired, and a rash of promotions. The result has been an inept bunch of workers struggling to learn their jobs. Even if the replacements were skilled (I fear they are not skilled), they still have a steep learning curve to navigate. This dismal failure has necessitated cut-backs in employee hours. Each new roll out in cuts has decreased morale and increased frustration for client and employee respectively.

At our weekly employee meeting, my boss lady brought up the topic of client frustration and decreasing focus on customer service. Everyone seemed to agree that they could not return all of the phone calls they receive in a day, or address problems in a timely manner. Listening with some surprise, the General Manager thought it prudent to say something in defense of this accusation. "Well, that is because we are short-staffed with all of the cut-backs." I couldn't help blurting out, "Yes! That is exactly the reason for the frustration!" He didn't seem to acknowledge my assertion, but I hope it will hit him later.

He just doesn't understand that hurting employees is hurting his business.

I once worked with a crisis consultant. Before his arrival, the Board of Directors had cut employee hours and immediately stopped paying out wages. They informed the staff of the nature of our crisis (embezzlement & debt) and begged everyone to continue to work without pay. They intended to pour every penny into catching up on utility bills and other debts. When the crisis consultant arrived, he told them that was the absolute worst move they could have made, since it destroys employee confidence which destroys employee morale, which destroys production, which destroys your business. At his advice, they took out a loan to pay employees all back wages earned, gave key persons raises, and increased every one's hours. After all, if you don't have employees, what need do you have of lights?

Sadly, after a couple of weeks, the Board of Directors appointed an Interim CEO who dismissed the consultant, thinking better of his own business sense. In just over a year, he ruined the business.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Wacky Boss Lady

My supervisor loves being "the boss." She is very easy-going, but really gets over-enthusiastic when she gets to participate in some activity that is exclusively a "boss thing to do"--even if it means firing someone. Wednesday, as I clocked in, she told me to take the receptionist's station instead of logging on at my regular station. It wasn't unusual, but it was strange that there was no explanation given. Later, through the grapevine I found out that there was quite a story behind the receptionist's absence (her brother had complications from a surgery which included a stroke). So, I assumed the position and went to work answering phones. Just before noon, my boss said in an abrupt, authoritive manner, "Log off, collect your belongings, and go directly to the human resource office!"

Well, what would you have thought? The obvious, but inexplicable answer must be that I am about to be fired. Fired for what? I could think of no offense.

My boss followed me into the HR office where I was told that they were only going to need me on Thursdays from now on. The HR manager assured me that it was through no fault of my own; just a temporary cut in hours until the business recovers financially. They intended for the new arrangement to begin immediately and so I was being sent home. That would have left the department nearly crippled for the day's activity since so many were out due to illness or other personal reasons. Besides, I had car-pooled with a group that would work until 6pm or later. So, the benevolent HR manager arranged for me to work through the remainder of the day. Before close of business, I was also informed that in the week to come, I would have a full schedule because another department was short-handed.

This entire scare was probably for nothing. Still, it gave me a jolt.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Recycled/Upcycled Pop Cans

I'd like to introduce you all to
This is one talented recycler! She's made a business of upcycling aluminum cans into fun, flashy, pop-culture jewelry!

Her prices are very affordable!
She is going to be my first stop for gift-shopping this year!
Great inspiration for going "green!"

Monday, August 2, 2010

Do You Recognize A Joke?

Finally, I got a chance to watch an old movie about which I had been curious for a long time: Fiddler On the Roof. When the scene came on wherein the father sings If I Was A Rich Man, I said, "Oh, my goodness, he totally ripped that off from Gwen Stefani!" Everyone laughed at me. It was an awesome joke to be sure, since Gwen Stefani is a modern artist who sings a song, Rich Girl which follows the tune. Sadly, all of my friends thought that I had seriously mistaken who was copying and who was being copied.

Have you ever said something to be funny, and ended up being the butt of the joke?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Guessing Game

Once upon a time I worked in a craft store and a woman asked me for "thin cotton strips used for making Xmas ornaments." I guessed: Ribbon? no.

Then I attempted to draw her out: What color? white. Texture? soft. Definitely cotton? yes.

For a moment, I was at a loss. Then I remembered that the advertisement that week featured a project for making angel ornaments out of cheese cloth. Was that it? I don't know, what is cheese cloth. I escorted her to the cheese cloth and she turned up her nose. no that isn't it. Finally she said she was sure we had what she was looking for and would find it herself. After she had checked out, she found me to rub my nose in my ignorance as she shows me a package of polyfil batting. Then she scoffed about how dumb I was for not figuring it out by her description. I reminded her that she had described it as thin strips and made of cotton. She pointed to the product again and said, "yeah, thin cotton, see!" I said, "Polyfil is poly-ester. You might get better service if you improve your descriptions."

I don't mind stupidity at all. But I do mind being accused of stupidity by an idiot!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Savor Your Meal

I'm the skinny girl that everyone hates, but I wanted to share something that my husband's doctor told him that struck a cord with us.

She said that it is important to take 20 minutes to enjoy your food because filling your stomach is only one of many clues that tell your body that you have taken in nourishment. Even if you have to hog the rest of your meal down to finish in the allotted time, you should be focused on the flavor, texture, temperature and all aspects of each bite of food (putting other matters out of your mind, thinking of nothing but the food). This also requires that you chew slowly and pass food over your tongue repeatedly. Interestingly, you can't "savor" fast food, because it tastes very bad if it is in your mouth for very long. Fast food only seems to taste good when you're shoveling it down because you just get the salt and fat flavors. This will signal your brain that you've eaten and you are full. Delaying this signal will cause you to over-eat since you still feel hungry even when your stomach is full. This concept also applies to the flavor content of the foods. The brain needs to receive a LOT of signals regarding the food, so complex flavors are a must.

This was an ah-ha moment for us because my husband eats rather quickly and likes bland food. I eat slowly and like things spicy and very flavorful. He has to have larger portions to be satisfied, but is less picky about what he eats. I only eat food that is delicious, otherwise it holds no interest for me, and I tend to eat small portions.

Great "Green" Find!

butternutsquash is one resourceful Etsy seller! I love the use of cardboard tubes! And the end result is so polished and attractive!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What the--!

Sometimes I can't believe my ears when I watch the local news channels. My husband and I burst out laughing when a piece came on about the Running of the Bulls in Spain and the news anchor said, "Nine people were gored by bulls. Thankfully, no one was hurt." Excuse me, but I think that people who have been gored would say that pain was definitely involved. If my husband hadn't witnessed the same report, I might have thought that I'd heard wrong.

Another report came, "The stabbing victim was rushed to Lakeview Hospital, where he died at the scene." Wait. Did he die at the hospital or did he die at the scene? I am so confused....

I REALLY need to get a job editing copy.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Would You Step Over a Body?

My friend Karen is a young, beautiful, well-groomed, dark-skinned Hispanic woman. She went to the local Library last winter and slipped on a patch of ice at the entrance, just as the library was openning. She hit her head so hard, that she actually lost consciousness for a short time. When she came to, people were stepping over her limp body to enter the library. Dozens of people saw what happened and not one person stopped to assist her. Though dazed, she was able to pick herself up off the concrete and go about her day. But I can't imagine why no one would help her? I can't imagine a single person who would literally step over a limp body. Good thing she didn't collapse in the middle of the street! There are very few black people in the city in which I live, and she certainly could pass for black. Do you suppose prejudice had something to do with this? Or was it simply a case of monkey-see, monkey-do? Did the first person who encountered her want a special spot in the library so bad that they left her care to someone behind them and each passerby just followed suite? Either way, I was appalled!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hiring Strategies

There is a lot of advice available on job-hunting, resume building, and interviewing skills. But I theorize that there are as many hiring strategies out there as there are employers.

As a teenager, I worked for a man whose strategy it was to hire the best applicants, knowing they would move on to higher paying jobs, and he would have to replace them. He was willing to invest training into everyone, but was unwilling to give pay increases. For the retail business he was in, it worked well for him.

From there I moved on to a job in a lighting store, with slightly better pay, and a chance to move into a commissioned sales position. My employer took out an advertisement for a $8/hr warehouse worker. We received over 300 applications! From them she chose 3 to interview. I told her that there seemed to be better applicants than the ones whom she’d chosen, but she had no interest in them because their résumés were too good. She reasoned that someone too good would leave for higher wages and she’d just have to train someone new. She reasoned that a mediocre job called for a mediocre employee.

In time, I moved into another job where I would be screening applicants and making hiring recommendations myself. The positions that we needed to fill were basic, unskilled labor. I would look over the applications and indicate which applicants I was most interested in interviewing. The operations manager would reject all applications that were not accompanied by a resume. And any resume that was not professional looking was rejected as well. He liked hiring older women because he felt that they were more dependable than younger ones. The physical demands of the job seemed to me better suited to young women or men. After conducting interviews he and I often disagreed on which candidates to hire, but because of the high turnover, we ended up hiring nearly all of the people we had interviewed. I was very satisfied to find, that long after I had left the company, those that I had handpicked from the applicant pool were still thriving there.

I would love for my readers to weigh in on where they stand. Under what circumstances would you hire someone who was over-qualified? What strategies have you seen implemented? And with what results?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Late Night Waitress

I went to IHOP at 11pm yesterday with a couple of friends. Now, I realize that the busier shifts are assigned to the best wait staff, and so I expect lazy service during late night hours at a restaurant. But I was not prepared for this waitress. The service was lousy, the wait for food was ridiculous, my food was a little overcooked, but I was there for the company of friends, not the food. At the end of the meal, she brings the bill and asks if she can clear a few plates out of the way. We all lean away from the table, pulling arms back, so that she has room to maneuver. She stacks several plates and then instructs me to hand her that drinking straw wrapper, that napkin, that bowl, etc. Instinctively, I began to do as I was told. As I’m gathering up the requested items, I suddenly realize that I she has assumed a relaxed posture, resting her hip against the booth while I do her work! I said very calmly, “How much tip should a person leave, if they have to buss their own table?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Holding Up the Line

My husband prefers to drop our mail into the big blue official post office drop boxes to placing it in the box on our house. So, we drive to the post office intending to use the drive through feature. There is another car in front of us, stopped just in front of the drop boxes. We patiently wait. And wait. And wait some more. Finally, my husband honks the horn ever so slightly just to make the woman aware that someone is behind her, thinking perhaps she is oblivious. So, she moves forward a bit and continues to address her envelopes. Only the arrival of the postman who came to empty the box prompted her to complete her transaction and move along. We must have been in line for 15 minutes. I wanted to ask her for her autograph and add, "because you must think you are the Queen of England!" But my husband restrained me. He is good that way.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Interesting Find

A box of used pacemakers was found in the trunk of a car that had been repossessed. The team detailing the car prior to its sale discovered it. Each one was packaged in a bag marked “hazardous materials.” It’s origin is unknown, but the moist corner of the cardboard box was my highest concern. Icky!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Mom's Say the Darn'edest Things

Moms say the darn’dest things. After talking about her challenging workweek, my mother tells me, “I don’t want to be rich, I just don’t want to work for a living.” She made no apologies for her position on the matter, not even when I began to laugh. Talk about wanting what you can’t have! I replied, “then you better marry money.” The thought of remarriage was even more repugnant to her, so I suppose that she will keep her job for a while.

Etsy Find: Bearded Hat

If this doesn't make you smile, then seek professional help!  I love this Etsy artist's ingenius design and I'd love to see one on my sister-in-law!  I know she'd wear it on the ski slopes!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Musical Chairs

The company that I work for is struggling financially and the general manager has started purging management, firing people left and right. This was, of course followed by a hiring frenzy. Two positions were filled internally by employees whose skills are completely inadequate, but who party with the boss. Two other positions were filled by new employees who are very abrasive and who flaunt their positions shamelessly. This has caused some employees to resign. Today, we said goodbye to a beloved employee of some years who resented being passed over for a promotion, and dreaded the prospect of being subordinate to the smug new employees. This loss has caused even more hard feelings across the entire facility. The only consolation is the prospect of securing a better position when the dust settles, and everyone is grabbing and clawing each time a job opening is posted. Gina in HR alerts everyone of each opening via email. But if a serious internal candidate applies, and the general manager does not want them to have it, then he orders that the opening be taken down from the internet site. One manager was promoted to another department. The man who covers for that manager’s vacations is obviously the most qualified candidate, but another new hire who is retired military also wants it. The general manager prefers that the job go to the military man who is struggling with his current managerial position. When it was known that the man intended to apply online, even after he was told that he was not the favorite prospect, Gina in HR closed the position and removed it from the website.

I tried for another position myself. I approached the head of telesales about an opening in her department. Right away she seemed very uncertain about me, but I decided to be aggressive and applied online. I was promptly granted an interview. Immediately she revealed that my supervisor gave me a good recommendation. I almost fell off of my seat! I was shocked that even though we were just going through the motion of a polite interview that would end in a “thank you for your interest, but you’re not what we’re looking for,” she revealed my intention to my supervisor—effectively jeopardizing my relationship with my current supervisor. She assured me that my boss was supportive, and I thought, “outwardly, supportive; internally, furious.”

The interview went well and ended with her asking me if I wanted to continue with the application process. Earlier on in the interview she had offered to have me shadow a telemarketer to get a feel for the job. She had also indicated that she was dissatisfied with the small number of applicants and intended to leave the job open to allow more people to show an interest. So, I said that I wanted to think it over. She quickly cut me off and said, “Then that is a ‘no’ for me. My grandfather taught me that if you see a purse in a store and you have to have it, you should get it without hesitation. It belongs to you, no matter the price. If you can leave the store without it or wait for a sale, then you don’t really want it bad enough.” I calmly replied, “And you may want to hire someone who will jump at the chance to have this job. And I am not impulsive. I never make snap decisions about anything. I have to consider it from every aspect. You are asking for a commitment to stay in the position for no less than one year. I won’t be rushed into something that is going to affect my life for an entire year, so I’m going to take you up on your offer to shadow Chrissy and I’m going to discuss it with my husband, pray about it, and sleep on it.”

I sat for an hour with Chrissy later that day, and sent an email requesting to move ahead and schedule the second interview. But I doubt that the topic will ever come up again. They hired a temp even though I had offered to fill in a couple of days per week until they make a final decision to hire someone.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sales Position Update

So, the sales manager finally hired two sales reps, making a team of 4. One has been here a full month and has not had any tangible success whatsoever, and seems to be struggling with our computer system as well as the whole concept of our business. In her defense, our training methods are lousy. And she has multiple conflicts with other women in the office, which appear to be escalating. The other is newer and at least makes a very good first impression. My feeling is that anyone worth having won’t find incentive to stay with our company, but the economy does strange things.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Crossing Your Fingers Is Not A Business Plan

The economy has presented challenges to management teams all over the country, resulting in lay-offs, downsizing, cut hours, strict budgeting, etc. Not all solutions are created equally.

At my workplace, I am truly an untapped resource. You see, I am by nature a system builder, a problem solver, and a good interpreter of human behavior. I have managerial experience, but due to odd circumstances, I was hired into a very menial role. Instinctively, I know I could be of some assistance, but asserting myself in this environment would be very unwelcome and would damage, not advance my prospects in the company. But it does allow me the leisure to observe without being noticed, like a fly on the wall.

So, I content myself with keenly observing the words and behavior of the management team. I only have scraps from which to glean, and admittedly only get a glimpse into what is happening behind the scenes. The general manager addresses matters rather vaguely during employee meetings. His manner might suggest that he is openly communicating his intentions regarding the company, but he divulges very little substance. But those scraps are quite telling.

From what I can tell, two key sales positions had been filled by poor performers who were eventually let go—one after 15 years, another after a year and a half. The 15 year salesman, had probably just become complacent, but the other gal had blackmailed her way into a position for which she could never have been considered remotely qualified. Since they each headed up two different branches of sales, the affects of their poor performance was widespread. They had allowed relationships with clients to weaken considerably. And, their high wages were a significant drain on the company resources.

Now, I was introduced to a business model at my former employment where skillful salesmen were recruited in, extensively trained, and expected to perform. If anyone at anytime dropped beneath their quota, they were gone. The new hires and the seasoned tenure were all under a no tolerance policy. Failure was not an option. Ill-performance was not excused. Salesmen were lavishly rewarded for their success, and universally indulged.

Coming from this background of strict expectations, and landing here at “amateur central” is quite a culture shock. Here, top positions go to friends, relatives and neighbors or people are promoted from within rather than going to the applicant with matching skill sets. Training is almost non-existent and would best be described as “orientation.” There seem to be no incentives offered. Expectations are neither clearly defined nor enforced.

Well, after removing these two sales persons, the decision was made to allow the positions to remain vacant until things started to pick up. This apparently was an attempt to save the company money. Now, I ask you, which is better? To have poor salesmen, or no salesmen? And how do sales “pick up” without someone to do the selling?

For the past month, emphasis has been on reforming the company dress code. Or rather, enforcing it. And memos have been sent repeatedly, managers have met with their respective teams on the matter of dress and grooming. Pages from the employee handbook have been printed and circulated. Now, this is a respectable, inexpensive improvement to make within the company. I could admire the effort, except that the managers themselves have failed to take the lead. The general manager refuses to wear anything but denim, and the office manager has switched from jeans to obscenely short dresses and hooker heels. It has changed from a casual setting to a nightclub atmosphere.

At our meetings, we are requested to improve customer service so that clients will want to keep coming each week despite the fact that our inventory is drying up. And we are reminded that the industry traditionally slows during these months and we’re all encouraged to take time off (hours already being slashed to 35 hours per week), and hope for the best. Things will turn around and we all just need to ride it out.

On hearing this rhetoric I just want to scream! As an employee, I want to know what is being done to get us out of the mess we are in! Excuse me, but I don’t think that dressing up, being nice to customers, and waiting it out is very constructive way to bring in money. My husband says, “How many times would you return to your favorite store if the shelves were bare every time you went? Would it matter to you that the clerk was nice or well-dressed?” Besides, their customer service is not as great as they think it is. I watched a clerk slap a customer on the back of the head and say, “thanks for hanging up on me the other day, you jerk.” It was not said or received in a jesting manner. The customer simply replied with a dirty look, and no attempts were made to repair the rift.

I spoke to one of the oldest employees who had seen the business thrive in its glory days, and could tell that he was very disappointed with the way things are headed. I remarked that the company has no highly skilled employees, and he agreed. He laughed when I said, “I’m really anxious because both my husband and I are employed here, and there seems to be no real plan to get us out of this mess. I mean, ‘cross your fingers and hope for the best’ is not a business plan. And it’s not like we’ll get a 2 week notice that the place is closing down.”

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Surly Waitress

Late Tuesday night, I arrived at Applebee’s with a large party of friends. A woman rushed over to the table as the hostess was having tables and chairs arranged and began taking our drink orders, even before the last person was settled into a seat. (Later, we would discover that she was intruding on another waiter’s table in hopes that a large party would translate into a large tip.) One diet coke, one water, and then my friend who had been the first to be seated and had already set his heart on a dessert ordered the cheesecake shooter (a tiny portion served in a shot glass). Well, in the tumult, my friend did not realize that she was only accepting drink orders at present. A polished waitress would have taken the order, or at least pretended to and then asked if he would also like something to drink, but not this gal. Her voice seemed to mock his stupidity as she sarcastically questioned him, “Cheesecake?! To drink????” Her intent to embarrass met with sure success. Having vanquished him, she continued the orders and showed marked disappointment when most of the party ordered water. It was 11pm and most of us just wanted a bedtime snack, so we merely ordered appetizers and desserts. This gave me pleasure, knowing that her scheme to cheat her coworker out of a large take would be thwarted by a meager final bill. She mustered some energy and tried to be polite while serving everyone. We were a happy talkative group and she had some difficulty checking on our progress at intervals, but still managed to interject with some antidote about her dog when the subject of someone’s new pet came up in our conversation. She was bussing a nearby table at the time, so I found it rather intrusive. Then the checks came. One 18 year old young man paid for his tiny dessert with a credit card. The waitress looked at him as if she was being pranked and demanded, “don’t you have $2 in CASH?” Then she suggested that someone else in the party might cover his bill with cash. I said, “Yeah, you can take it out of the tip we were going to leave.” She snatched the credit card greedily and finished our transactions.

I really have a difficult time parting with my money under such circumstances.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

You Know It's the End of the Road When...

You know your days are numbered when your HR manager and her best friend and your supervisor are both treating you like a dog at work.

Some time ago there was a simple disagreement between a department head and the HR manager about my role. The HR manager did not get her way and her irritation settled on me. I figured it would blow over since it was not a major issue and I remained completely neutral on the matter.

Then something happened to my paycheck. It never showed up. Twice, HR dismissed my concerns by suggesting that I give the mail a little longer to process. Well, I had done that before ever I went to her for help. On the third day, I headed to her office when she arrived. She was settling in and talking on her cell phone, so I politely waited in the hallway. On site, she knew what the matter was and not wanting to deal with me, she closed the door to her office--shutting me out. I was fuming mad, but I walked calmly to my desk and sent an inquiry as to the status of my replacement check. The email reply seemed to indicate that I had lost my paycheck and insisted on my patience since corporate would take 5 business days to cancel the original check and authorize a reissue. I wanted to scream, then I wanted to ask why she had advised me to put off contacting corporate in the first place. But I didn't ask. I simply replied that any assistance she could render in speeding up the process would be appreciated. Ten minutes later, she was at my supervisor's desk, whispering and glaring at me.

For the next 8 hours, my supervisor grossly mistreated me. She openly criticized me, saying things to customers like, "never mind her, she doesn't know what she's talking about." Now, you have to understand that before this fateful morning, my supervisor adored me. You also have to understand that she is best friends with the HR manager. If they go to lunch together, someone gets fired the next day. Then they go to lunch afterward to gossip about the termination. This does not bode well. I told my husband that I need to find another job quickly because the HR manager is nursing a grudge against me. And my supervisor is following suite.

In the meantime, I am trying to fly under the radar and swallow the insults. One of my coworkers has witnessed my supervisor's behavior toward me and is outraged. But in her opinion my supervisor has always treated me like the idiots that previously held my position. Probably it is true that she can't see my potential for the lowly position I hold.

To add to my fears, there have been a rash of terminations that seem inexplicable, at least on the surface.

I was told that I may receive my check tomorrow. Since two other auction clerks will not be available for tomorrow's big event, I have a notion to refuse to work until I have my paycheck in-hand. It would be a rare opportunity to have some leverage on my side, but it would almost certainly escalate the animosity that is already raging. My husband has asked me not to make more of a fuss than is necessary to obtain the goal, which he maintains is my paycheck. He knows that my goal has really taken on a sinister shape, where I want to crush and expose the wrongdoers even if it costs me a year of paychecks. Unfortunately, in this economy, losing a year of pay is a real possibility.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Casual Fridays

I currently work for a company that only requires business attire one day per week. We host a weekly event, so the beginning of the week is preparation and very few clients come for business purposes. Then, at the end of the week, hundreds of clients attend the event. On that day, and only that day, we are expected to dress up and look presentable. There is an obvious difference in behavior and performance, and it cannot completely be attributed to the excitement over the event. In fact, a few months prior, we had not been required to dress up at any time. While courting a special new VIP customer, we were asked to dress up just for the occasion. The reaction was so positive, that management knew they had to make it permanent.

As an employee, I love casual Fridays. As a patron or a patient, I loathe it! Is there anything different about your clientele or your business routine on Friday that calls for dressing down? Or is it just an excuse to let your hair down and prepare for the weekend on the clock? The only legitimate reason to dress down on Friday is if your store is closed and the staff is cleaning or restocking. If there is any risk in interacting with the public, you need to look professional during all hours of operation! Especially is this so if you are an institution that handles money or practices law or medicine. Once, I happened to be depositing money on Halloween and all of the bank tellers were in costume. One was dressed as a hillbilly with ragged clothes and a tooth blackened to appear as if it were missing. But the prize for inappropriate attire has to go to the teller dressed as a pirate. I mean, everyone knows that pirates are just thieves on water, right? I get the irony, but come on.