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.