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.