Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Walkout

After being given the official title of Human Resources Manager at my workplace, I started talking with individual employees.  The new owner has been running things for over a year now, so there have been a lot of ups and downs that the team has had to ride out.  The team is a good one, and the teamwork is building very well.  So, I expected employee engagement to be on the rise.  I expected some complaints, suggestions for improvement, and challenges to face.  But what I found was a very dissatisfied lot!  The entire team was on the verge of staging a walkout!

I work from home, so I decided to spend a few hours in the shop to see how their work conditions really were.  I witnessed the boss have a melt-down when his employee left for lunch.  I saw that all of the employees were very disgusted by his reaction.  So, I asked him to explain to me what the issue was.  He said, "Gerald just left us high and dry!"  I said, "Where did he go?"  He said, "I don't know, that's the problem.  He just disappears on us!"  I asked the receptionist if she knew where he had gone.  "To lunch, I think."  I asked her to confirm whether he had clocked out or not.  She said he had.  The I asked the boss when Gerald was supposed to go to lunch.  "He's supposed to go at 11:30"  I said, "Well, since it is 12:30 I suppose he was getting rather hungry.  But why didn't he go at 11:30?" I already knew the answer was that Gerald had been waiting on the boss to return to cover the front sales counter and the boss had been late.  Further, when the boss arrived, he did not relieve Gerald, but hid in the back to avoid me (I had an 11am appointment with the boss which appointment he had missed and apparently did not intend to hold even though I had stuck around).  The boss claimed not to know why Gerald hadn't gone to lunch at his usual time, but emphasized that the problem lie in leaving his post with no one watching the front counter.  I said, "Well, he did take care of all of the waiting customers before taking his leave.  And he did clock out.  And he is allowed a lunch break.  And the receptionist is keeping an eye out for customers, so I still don't see the problem."  The boss said, "Well, why does it have to be a big mystery?!?"  I said, "When he asked you if you'd like to have him bring you some lunch, that didn't tip you off to his plans?  That would have been the right time to say, 'I need you to delay your lunch until I've finished with ____'."  (The boss didn't realize that I had been privy to that conversation.)

Then I spoke to our technician.  He was upset because the boss would hardly speak to him and when he had cornered the boss to find out why, he had been told that he was working too slowly.  But the job he was just hired to do is one that takes a year to learn and after 3 days of training, he'd been left on his own to just "figure it out, that's what I'm paying you for."  Poor guy has been having to read the instruction sheets to install parts--and you know the instructions were written in Chinese and translated into English by a German.  Gee, I wonder why he's so slow--duh!  And the installation that was "taking too long" was done perfectly and the customer left us extremely happy with his purchase.  And I checked with our sales manager who used to be our head installer and he confirmed that the project was a difficult one if you'd never installed that part before.  So, again, what is the problem?  Or rather--who is the problem?

After speaking to the others, I realized that they all loved their jobs, loved the work and the customers and coworkers, the hours and even the low pay were satisfactory.  But the treatment they--and at times even customers--received by the owner was unbearable.  

A customer had witnessed one of the boss's fits and overheard bits of the team's subsequent conference attempting to meet his unreasonable demands with the least inconvenience to clients.  They devised a game plan and went their separate ways to tackle their respective assignments.  The receptionist noticed the customer's inquisitive gaze and apologized for the scene.  He said that as a manager of grocery store for 15 years, the only option the employees had was to wait for the busiest time of day and walk off the job, leaving the fallout to their unappreciative boss.  He had no idea how many times that suggestion had been entertained between the staff!

I begged them all to allow me time to address the issue with the boss, before they took such a drastic step.  So, I have my work cut out for me!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Tattoo Taste

I'm cool with marking your body with ink.  I just don't like when it looks like a dozen artists took turns doodling on you.  It is odd to me when one person has a Snoopy cartoon character on one shoulder, an enormous apocalyptic skull on their back, barbed wire around a finger, a delicate fairy on their ankle, and Chinese characters on their butt!  If you're going to commit to permanently marking your body, pick a genre, style, and stick to it for life.

Everyone should have to visit a water park before deciding whether or not to tattoo.  Tattoos do not age well.

I considered getting a tattoo above my navel once, but a coworker told me of her daughter's cute little mushroom she had on her hip.  After the girl had a baby, the mushroom looked like a one-legged centipede!

Friday, April 3, 2015

A Generous Cheapskate

My mother-in-law has a reputation for being a generous person--someone who would really give you the clothes off her back.  How she got this reputation is something of a mystery.

A year and a half ago, she wanted to throw me a baby shower.  My sister had already volunteered, so I asked her to assist my sister instead of doing a party of her own.  She never contacted my sister, but badgered me about the details of the party questioning whether my sister's home was big enough to accommodate all of my mother-in-law's guest list and suggesting that we allow her to rent a hall.  I thought the offer was rather generous, but suspected that this was just her way of taking over my sister's shower. Well, my sister ended up losing her job and her home, so she asked if my mother-in-law could do it.  I expected my mother-in-law to be elated by my sister's bad fortune since it meant she would have her own way regarding the shower.

Her first response was as I'd expected.  She planned to book a hall that she'd rented on several occasions for dances of various kinds.  She would not include my sister in any of the plans, but we gave her all of the materials we'd accumulated in preparation for the shower including the guest list.  After a few days, my mother-in-law informed me that she would not be able to host a shower for my side of the family.  I was puzzled because the hall she'd spoken of renting would easily hold over 300 people.  Her response was that she couldn't be expected to rent a hall when she could use her own house if she limited the guests to her own family.  Then, she played the fixed income card.  (Admittedly, she is on a fixed income, but it is a generous fixed income--about twice what my family of 3 lives on and she has virtually no expenses.)

My husband and I rented a hall of our own liking and had a beautiful shower at our own expense which my mother-in-law did not attend.

Now, my sister-in-law is pregnant.  And our mother-in-law wanted to take over the shower planned by the other side of the family.  Sister-in-law thought it would be better if both grandmas-to-be did their own parties separately.  So, our mother-in-law planned to invite her friends and family to a buffet-style restaurant for the shower.  This way, she would avoid incurring any expense of food or renting a hall.  The invitations were to include the price of buffet and tip.  She asked me to print up the invitations so she could send them out immediately.  I asked whether she had cleared the plans with the mother-to-be and she said she'd been told to do whatever she wanted.  I thought that was a rather defensive response, but I pressed a little more because I knew my sister-in-law would think it very tacky to ask guests to bring gifts and pay for their own meal.  Judiciously, I said, "Well, at least clear the date and time with her.  You don't want to plan a shower and then have the guest of honor unable to attend!"  She agreed to do as much, but insisted that I go ahead and finish printing the invitations.  I refused more firmly.  So, she said that she would talk to her on the way home.  In about 20 minutes I received a text to go ahead and print.  I couldn't believe that the matter could have been ironed out in such a short time, so I called my sister-in-law to be sure.  She was shocked and angry because the entire conversation she'd just had with our mother-in-law was as follows:
"Hey, what are you doing Saturday, the 28th?"
"I don't know; I don't think we have any plans."
A huge family argument resulted with everyone coming to the defense of one party or the other and after several days of not speaking and a few apologies, a new plan came together.  A family friend with an enormous house hosted the party, did all of the decorations, and most of the food.  Our mother-in-law attended this shower as it's nominal hostess, but did not speak one word to her daughter-in-law, except "oh, you're here" as a greeting.  The lady of the house even did the games and prizes.

A few of months later (delayed due to a house fire), my sister-in-laws mother held her shower.  My mother-in-law saw my invitation to it and asked if I planned to attend.  "Of course!  I wouldn't miss it for anything!"  She asked if I knew why she was having another shower--as if to say,"wasn't the shower I threw good enough for her?"  I said, "Well you don't suppose her mom would cancel her shower just because of a little kitchen fire do you?  The remodel will be finished in time."  (I was gifting her a kinder motive because I wanted her to know what she ought to be concerned about).  Then she asked if I planned to bring another gift.  I said, "Well, I'm sure it is optional, but I picked up a little something for baby."  She seemed to be insinuating that she'd spent enough on the unborn child already, but she couldn't have spent much since she managed to have someone else foot the bill for the party she had thrown.  Then she asked whether I'd be bringing my baby.  In that moment I decided to leave him with my mother, because it seemed she was going to volunteer to keep him instead of attending the shower or perhaps monopolize him at the shower as an excuse not to participate.

So, my mother-in-law attended (she was the last one to arrive, and one of the first to leave), but spoke to no one besides her son who did the cooking for the females.  I didn't see whether or not she brought a gift, but I never saw her make her way to the gift table either.

Our mother-in-law is also planning to have a show-off party for the women in her family, and she has asked her brother if she could use his house for the party and whether he would be willing to barbecue for them.  If he agrees, she'll get to host yet another party without going to any personal expense.  

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

"They Won't Let Me Lead"

For the past year, I've been coaching the new owner of the business I worked for before my son was born.  He is a young man of about 25.  He is very charming and well-spoken, but very inexperienced when it comes to running a business.  This lack of experience is a real challenge because his leadership skills are so weak.  When he is disappointed in an employee's performance, he pouts or stomps around huffing angrily, but refuses to confront the employee or the issue.  He is always wanting me to mention these offenses at staff meetings.  I explained to him that while bringing up the topic in a general way at a staff meeting has value, it doesn't usually cure the problem.  He needs to follow up with individual conversations and disciplinary actions for repeated offenses.  When I first broached the subject of leadership, his response was, "I try to lead, but they won't let me."

I had to bite my tongue to keep from snorting or laughing out loud!  I don't think there was ever a leader who needed permission from those being led to lead.  Besides, submitting to be employed is permission enough.  A good leader will be followed.