Wednesday, May 31, 2006

BS Woes, part Shi

I drove back to work after my (non-Ninja Bunny) dental appointment, wondering what BellSouth had in store for me. So far the morning hadn’t gone according to plan. I had wanted to arrange an amicable and professional separation from BS, complete with at least a two-week notice to train a replacement and a nice severance package for myself. Instead I had been treated like an escaped death-row convict and been told I was on my way out as soon as they worked out the details. I had a little money saved – very little – but I knew I was going to face major problems if I found myself suddenly out of work with no backup fundage.

The security guards had already forgotten the morning’s excitement; in fact, they didn’t even seem excited when management was having a conniption. They had taken my ID badge that morning, so I began the embarrassing task of trying to explain to the guard on duty that I was still technically an employee but didn’t have my badge without reliving the details of the morning. I got as far as “I don’t have my badge, but I do work here” before the guard grunted and waved me through. At least that went well.

I checked in with the front desk receptionist who seemed oblivious to my plight, and then waited as instructed in the conference room. The Plant Manager joined me after about a half hour (I never saw the HR Manager again – good riddance). He still looked worried, but also saddened like a kid on Xmas morning who didn’t get his Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle. He informed me that he had spoken to the BS lawyers who apparently didn’t feel secure in firing me outright for the offense of showing a strong emotion, especially in light of my years of devoted BS service while killing nobody they could recall. He had been authorized to offer me a severance package but with the stipulation that I sign a contract which would give me seven days to change my mind. The standard severance package would have given me a little over two months’ pay, but I countered by saying I wouldn’t voluntarily quit for less than three. He eagerly agreed. I should have asked for four. Given the squirrelly way he was acting, I could have asked for the year’s remaining operating budget.

He left me in the conference room with orders to stay put while he finalized the paperwork. I got hungry and went for lunch, leaving and returning with no problems from security despite blatantly wielding a Taco Bell burrito, the most toxic substance known to man besides nuclear waste and Jerry Springer. That afternoon he brought me the contract which stipulated I was leaving BS under no duress or coercion, that I would keep my meager retirement fund, and I would be paid three months’ worth of my current salary. It also stated I could never again seek employment with BS or any of its subsidiaries, sister companies, or any other company officially associated with BS in any way. I had no desire to ever be a BS employee again, so that didn’t bother me except that I worried I would one day awaken to news headlines proclaiming BellSouth the official owner of every publishing company worldwide.

I signed it and was told to take the rest of the day off while they made copies for me. This was on a Wednesday, and even though the BS lawyers told them to give me at least a week to change my mind, they told me to just work out the rest of the week and then I could stay home, as if they were doing me a favor with the early release. They further instructed me to finish the week by staying in my office and avoiding contact with other employees. I was instructed to not e-mail or call anybody, and to produce no paperwork or do anything else that in any way impacted plant operations. I asked about training a replacement and they said they would handle it, even though I was the only one in Atlanta who really knew what I did for BS.

When I returned to work Thursday (they had at least given me back my badge), I saw they had posted a notice telling the company that I was leaving to explore other opportunities, which I guess was technically true – unemployment would be a different opportunity. It made me wonder about the true story behind all the others who had left suddenly to explore other opportunities. Had security dragged them out by their legs, nails digging into the carpet, as the HR minions posted the sad news of their voluntary withdrawal?

I stayed in my office as ordered. A few fellow employees dropped by to hear what happened, and I gave them a lean version with all the bitter recriminations and BS stupidity left out. One woman dropped by and asked me to show her where the company stood on materials, and I took great pleasure in transferring the workload and associated backstabbing to her since she was one who always delighted in screwing me (and not in the fun way) for her personal amusement, but I resisted the urge to feck her over good by giving her bad data. I was determined to go out the way I had come in, as a true professional who didn’t let personal feelings intrude into the workplace.

The PM dropped by that afternoon with my copy of the paperwork, said “No hard feelings” and offered to shake my hand. I left him dangling for a moment while I considered telling him to feck off, but again I decided not to let BS assholiness determine how I was going to act, so I agreed and shook hands. He spent the next day in meetings (I think mainly to avoid me), so it was the last I saw of him as well.

I still had a couple of friends inside BS, so I kept tabs to see if there was any fallout. For the most part, I was quickly forgotten like all the other people who mysteriously and abruptly voluntarily quit, largely in part because BS management treated my name like a forbidden topic. There was one small and amusing incident – the guy they hired to replace me (who inherited my computer) found a couple of things I left on it. One was a sample database of generic food products installed by MS-Access for training purposes. The other was a picture I accidentally left on the hard drive; in fact, it’s the one I’m using as my profile pic. He put two and two together and came out with pi, then brought his findings to one of my former employees. My replacement, based on his findings, claimed he suspected I had been abusing my position as materials manager to smuggle arms through BS. My employee could have politely called him a BS management moron, but I like the way he handled it better. He said “Yeah, he was pretty strange. Best not to discuss it further.” I don’t know if the matter went any further, although I kind of hope they wasted some energy in trying to build a case against me before the BS lawyers slapped them down again.

Meanwhile, I was enjoying life more than I ever had. Although still attending college at night, I was writing every day and living the life I had always envisioned, filled with writing and reading and studies and exploring nature on little jaunts to the state parks with my dog. It was near the end of the year, so I took a little over a month to myself and began the serious job search the following January.

I won’t bore you with all the details of my job search except to say 1) my lack of a degree impeded me constantly and 2) my job experience didn’t count for squat without a BS degree (and, yes, that is the degree I finally got – a Bachelors in Science). I tried to avoid working for a big corporation, instead focusing on positions with smaller companies, but being highly skilled and semi-intelligent with no degree or professional contacts kept me from getting past the second stage of interviews. I got desperate as the money dissipated (although not having to go to work allowed me to stretch my three months of pay into over six months of living) and I began applying for work with temp agencies, but still no work. I could (and one day will) write an entire post about their practices, but again I had nothing they wanted – degree, business contacts, or blonde hair and a D-cup. Literally on the day that I ran out of money (I had less than $20 cash between my wallet and bank account, although I had enough canned vegetables and potatoes to last another week before I would begin to starve), I got a call from a temp agency to work for the American Cancer Society for one day. The woman who owned the agency had once been the HR manager at the same BS company that ousted me, so she gave me a chance.

The ACS may support a worthy cause, but it’s an organizational nightmare. I’m glad I don’t work there, although (and I may be completely wrong since I only worked there one day) I didn’t sense the BS corporate backstabbing vibe within their building. Fortunately I worked hard and even volunteered to do work not specifically assigned to me, and the ACS manager I supported took the time to tell the temp agency I was a wonderful employee, which made an impact. “Hey, maybe hardworking skilled undereducated white guys can serve a purpose beyond being blamed for the world’s problems.” They next sent me to a large real estate office to do data entry, and the manager there was so impressed she requested that I be sent first whenever she asked for supplemental employees.

That helped me pay the bills, and the recommendations I got from various managers helped me to get on with my current company. I had been trying to stick with small companies to avoid the BS backstabbing mentality. Instead, I now find myself employed as a contractor supporting a major computer firm, one that makes BS look like a 98 pound weakling in the world of global commerce (I’m not ashamed to mention the name, but I don’t want to get dooce’d out of the job). Apparently, for some of us, there is no escape from Corporate America.

And how is it? Well, I can’t say I love my job (therefore I get to keep it, Doug), but I don’t hate it either. Work is boring because…well, it’s work. It’s not what I would do voluntarily for fun and fulfillment, but as a way of paying the bills it’s not bad. Sometimes it’s slow and sometimes (like now) I’m blessed with an overabundance. Bad things happen, but it’s rare that they’re due to an intentional effort from a coworker to feck me over, and even if that did happen I work for decent people who would try to help ameliorate the situation if I felt the need to draw them into the fracas, which is thankfully rare.

Part of if is the environment – I sense there is more competition amongst the company regulars than the permanent contractors such as me, although it’s nowhere near BS levels. The other part of it is me – I have adopted a healthier attitude towards work. Now it’s just a way to get money to pay bills and taxes and enjoy material things; it’s no longer a part of my identity. Although I don’t relish the prospect of going to work every day, my stomach doesn’t do a cliff dive whenever I see the building in which I work. I’m even happier now than I was during my period of blissful unemployment, which I think is at least partially due to all you Internet weirdos who have become part of my life (thanks, freaks =). I now realize that it’s entirely possible that I might spend the rest of my life working in a cubicle during the day, then writing for virtually no audience at night. If that’s the extent of my life’s work, then so be it. I’ll call it a good life and die happy. Especially if I can go out by wasting a Scientology church in the process.

We’re finally done. Feck off.


Angie said...

OMG! I don't know where to begin...the ninja bunny lyrics, lol. Glad you figured out that a job is just a job, not a life. I had to figure that out the hard way too.

SJ said...

**boo hoo, sniff sniff** how tragic and touching and ... hey it's very like my story.

GirlGoyle said...

Corporate America sux! But unfortunately there are bills to pay. Ugh.

PBS said...

I have lots of temp experience too. In one way I kind of liked it, no real commitment, variety, and best of all--I stayed clear of company politics and backstabbing! Bet you could write a book on just the temp jobs. Glad this had a happy ending, I was getting worried there. I'd like to hear more work stories from you!

Kira said...

I can just imagine the lawyers seeing your email, laughing hysterically, then informing HR that they screwed up because there's nothing in there that would defend their asses from the idiocy they were attempting.

It just now dawned on me after reading all of this that it's Bell South that screwed over my friend from Tampa, too...except she sued. And won. Long story. They just have a bad habit of finding no reason to fire somebody they don't like who is doing a great job.

I love my job, but it barely pays. I don't think the jobs one can love typically pay. Still, since it's a unique experience (to love my job), I'm reluctant to let go of it even though I still lack health insurance.

Tracy Lynn said...

Very good. I especially liked the part about the interstellar space battle.

krisbtterfly said...

i've been a loyal reader but never posted. till now. why did i chose this particular day to bother you, you ask? because i think your writing is excellent and very entertaining to read- especially when i can relate to things that are going on.
thanks for being a source of entertainment while i endure a job where i am not allowed to think... for the next year.
ok. that is all.

peace & crackers,

Doug Murata said...

You think we're friends? I'm so happy! :D

I think it's good to have a job you don't hate. I'm glad you're there.

Saur♥Kraut said...

which I guess was technically true – unemployment would be a different opportunity :D FUNNY!

Yeah, we've all been through similar BS. You got lucky with a 3 month severance pay contract. Whadja have, info on the CEO's sexual practices?

hellbunny said...

it goes to show that if you work hard you can get a good job.I did laugh about that photo on your hard drive at work.

patti_cake said...

Okay it did end up okay. I'm glad. Not getting severance would have SUCKED.

Grant said...

angie - it seems like a lesson everybody has to learn the hard way. I wonder why we're never taught that growing up?

sj - BS is apparently a worldwide problem.

girlgoyle - and, unfortunately, prostitution hasn't worked for me thus far.

pbs - my temp jobs were usually too boring, and always paid much less than working directly for the company.

kira - BS apparently exists as an organization to apply reversed poetic justice, to their customers and employees.

tracy - dou itashimashite.

kristie - thank you.

doug - actually, I'd rather be in Seattle. Or Tokyo. =)

saur - no, just the personal fear of a silly plant manager.

hellbunny - actually, it goes to show that hard work can land you a good job, or not. Or something in between.

patti - yes, I would have been forced into a life of crime or prostitution.

Leesa said...

grant: I really enjoyed this post. It sort of sucked me in, and it didn't suck. I once was let go at a place, and they should have given me three weeks, but my manager lied and said I quit. I sort of wish I would have approached the board. But we are talking about little money.

Kerry said...

You have such great posts.

I'm glad you didnt starve.

Tai said...

I'm a little saddened that there wasn't more dismemberment to the tale.

But on the other hand, I'm glad you got a better job!

mal said...

sheeesh, I was mid management for a Fortune 100 company. Your story sounds familiar. We always new when we saw the "left to pursue other opportunities" that it was not a pleasant separation.

When I finally found other work and tried to express why I was leaving, they did not want to hear it, never gave me an exit interview (required) cut off my phone and e mail within an hour and generally treated me like a leper. Their loss, their business continues to slide in the toilet.

Irony? They tried to hire me back a few months ago. I was tempted to hang up the phone laughing but managed to remain polite

The Stiltwalker said...

"I was instructed to not e-mail or call anybody, and to produce no paperwork or do anything else that in any way impacted plant operations." WTF? They may as well have told you to sit in the corner with a dunce hat on.

Glad to hear everything worked out for ya though. Great read.

Grant said...

leesa - unfortunately, rotten companies seem easier to find than the good ones. I won't say my current company is great, but at least it's free of people actively trying to screw me.

kerry - thanks. I'm sure the quality of my blog would suffer had I starved to death.

tai - unfortunately, if I killed them I would have inadvertently proved them right, and that couldn't happen.

mallory - I think you would have been justified in laughing in their faces.

stiltwalker - I think they were afraid any interaction would infect the coworkers with rage. Or that word would get out that "leaving to pursue other interests" could actually mean "run out on a rail".

Spider Girl said...

"Dooc'ed"'s the main reason I barely ever write about my job except to mention an amusing thing a preschooler might have said.

Occasionally I'd like to comment on those people who "suddenly leave for other opportunities", but too many people I know read my blog. Sigh.

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