Monday, May 29, 2006

Fired, part Doh!

Note – I considered committing suicide instead of posting this (you gotta admit, the irony is nice and juicy) but I haven’t tried everything at Umezono, so I’ll stick around.

Before I get into the details of what happened, let me take a moment to describe the type of corporate phonies for whom I worked. There’s an Atlanta radio station we called the Corporate Station that plays inoffensive light jazz, the kind of stuff that Barry Manilow wouldn’t touch because it doesn’t have enough in-your-face attitude. Corporate employees were fond of tuning into that station and leaving it on a moderate volume when they exited their cars. If, during the course of the day, they had to take clients out to lunch or drive their fellow coworkers and managers to a meeting, they would crank the car and this jazz-like elevator music would emanate from the speakers. Then the employee would say “Whoops – I left the radio on”, pretend to be mildly embarrassed, and shut it off. It was supposed to look like the radio had been accidentally left on and tuned to their favorite station. The light jazz implied the employee had a great personality and was hip and modern without actually listening to something as potentially offensive as, say, real jazz. Country music would brand you as an ignorant redneck, and rock & roll is still considered subversive by the BS powers that be. No, only light jazz would do, or possibly big band once you made it into upper management.

The thing that really got me is that all the management and potential management robots knew this maneuver, and yet still pretended to be impressed whenever a BS coworker pulled that stunt on them. I saw done several times, and instead of pointing out what a bunch of hypocrites they all were, I kept my thoughts to myself. I didn’t fit in with those people, and I had no desire to put on an act for 40+ hours a week, so silence was the tool I used to get through my day. As it turned out – bad idea.

After I got settled into my newly created position (BellSouth likes to reorganize constantly), I found that I had an abundance of duties and responsibilities but no real authority to get anything done. The only two people directly reporting to me were good workers who generally kept things running without needing anything from me except a little space in which to operate. The majority of the workers who impacted my admin and materials department were unionized; their supervisors only had limited control over them and didn’t care to exercise that control on my behalf.

To make matters worse, I was stuck in the unenviable position of dealing with the local railroads. We often joked the BS stance on customer service was “We don’t care – we’re the phone company”, but BS had nothing on the railroads. In a meeting with our previous plant manager, the RR reps had openly laughed – really laughed – when our guy complained about their deliveries. To top that, most of the complaints I was ordered to address sprang from lies created by our own BS employees who were just making excuses for not doing their jobs.

And to make matters even worse, the accounting division of our BS company (a full third of the office workers were accountants) demanded that I drop every matter when they came calling without an appointment, but refused to assist me when asked. The woman who had also applied for my position was particularly fond of rejecting all my paperwork, claiming I didn’t use the correct accounting codes. She said she didn’t know the right codes, but would instinctively know if the paperwork was correct. It was all she could do to contain her grin when informing me of BS stuff like that.

I had already resumed writing so I had begun the process of putting my life on the path I wanted instead of the one assigned to me by work and my mother, but I was still attending college and working every day of the week, often sleeping less than four hours a night. My ulcer was growing worse and my hair continuing to thin, and I knew I needed to get out of that job. I had been in talks with my boss, the plant manager, to either get a new job (not what they wanted) or to at least make my job more equitable. I had expressed the usual watered-down corporate feelings (“I am dissatisfied with my job” and “I am very dissatisfied with my job”), but nothing seemed to make an impression.

The day I got quit or got fired (you make the call) was total hell. My phone rang every few minutes with either a complaint or request from some department or employee. I spent the first part of the morning in a phone meeting with a supplier who sold us bad materials and refused to back their product. Then an accountant dropped by and demanded an immediate explanation for all the materials wasted on one job. After nearly an hour of researching the job and providing possible explanations, to which he brushed away saying “That doesn’t explain what I’m seeing here”, I stopped and asked what waste percentage his calculations showed (the accountants felt they should be able to demand an explanation without revealing their secret, private numbers). He told me the waste for that job was 170% - that’s right, his paperwork told him that while making our product, we threw away nearly twice the amount of raw materials that existed in the first place. I patiently explained that while 170% may work in the math world, in the real world you can’t go over 100% or under 0%. He left to investigate, un-humbled and doubting my claim. What did I know? I wasn’t a college graduate like himself.

Next I got to deal with another BS / RR issue. BS claimed the railroad passed us by without a shipment, while the RR said they stopped by but we hadn’t unloaded the previous shipment so they had to leave those cars in place. The plant manager told me to always assume the RR was lying, but it had always been our guys who looked guilty whenever I researched an issue. I recommended we roll back the security tape and see who was lying, which made my BS boss go into wide-eyed panic mode and say “No no no, don’t do that, don’t do that.” That’s when I finally understood that they didn’t want me to solve any problems, they just wanted a low-level manager to take the blame for everything. Note – my department was not only in charge of materials, but also scheduling the work flow so it was a convenient one-stop shop for blamestorming.

Just before lunch, the accounting bitch who still hated me for getting the job from hell dropped by, suppressing a huge grin, and informed me that she had just rejected my quarterly reports because they didn’t have the correct codes. Again, she didn’t know the right codes, but she’d know when the paperwork looked correct. I had entered the data into an antiquated BS system that only accepted manual input and took hours to complete and would now have to be restarted from scratch.

My stomach was rumbling worse than ever, and it finally dawned on me that this job was literally killing me. More accurately, I was letting it kill me because I carted about my job performance and was putting everything I had into a position that mostly served as a dumping ground for the accountants and other managers. In an attempt to downsize, BS had been offering sizeable severance packages to any employees who volunteered to quit. Most didn’t, but they got a few to leave by surreptitiously informing them that if they didn’t quit they’d get fired anyway and would lose the money. Even though I wasn’t one targeted for termination, I decided that I’d had enough and wanted out.

I don’t remember precisely what I said, but this is the basic information I included in my resignation e-mail: “I hate this job. I want to discuss accepting BS’s offer of voluntary resignation in exchange for their severance package. I’m going home for the rest of the day and don’t want to be bothered, but I’ll be back in the morning and we can discuss it then.” Then I set the e-mail to deliver to the plant manager and HR manager shortly after I left and went home.

Some of you can probably guess what caused the problem, but you’ll have to wait for the next part to find out for sure. Stay tuned for part San, when the skullduggery really hits the fan.


SJ said...

So... what did you do about the thinning air.

Thanks for making me feel superior for workign in a better job than you.

Tracy Lynn said...

AHHHHHH, skullduggery. Very sweet. Can't wait to see the resolution.

Seven said...

You should have told them you were an unhappy muslim. This could work for you on 2 different levels.
Feigned 'liberal' enthusiasm for a 'different' kind of employee...or...fear you would blow them to smithereeens.

PBS said...

Hope Umezono keeps refreshing its menu. Your job was worse, far worse than mine, and I hate my job. But the music thing is pretty much the same. I'm wondering if they disputed paying out the severance to you. It's doubtful if they would turn nice just because you quit. This is a grim tale.

Leesa said...

I feel for you. And I hate for BellSouth.

Angie said...

lol. This sounds like the company I work for. I'm curious if they responded to your email by offering you a glass of water????

Kira said...

Oh, man, this is great stuff! Nothing like corporations to come up with crap to make good stories. Truth IS typically stranger than fiction.

Ok, now I want the rest of the story. You realize, of course, your only function of note on planet Earth is to entertain me, so you MUST obey. Now. Get cracking!

Corona Red said...

Well, you kept me reading...can't wait to hear what happened. You sound like the type who can bounce back.

H.E.Eigler said...

Damn you and your cliffhangers!

Really, though - I'd never have the guts to send an email like that so kudos to you for recognizing the BS @ BS!

Kerry said...

I cant wait to hear 'the rest of the story' ;)

Go get em, Tiger!

kimber the wolfgrrrl said...

Do phone companies only work properly if they're treating their employees like crap? I worked for a phone company for all of six months, at which point I was hospitalized for stress-related intestinal problems (read: bloody huge tear in my intestines... emphasis on 'bloody'.)

Can't wait for the rest of your harrowing tale.

messiah said...

i must be doing something wrong. during my last performance review, i told my direct supervisor (management) he was a son-of-a-bitch. to his face. twice. and then i rephrased it, and accused him of screwing me over by putting me in charge of a project i had told him i wanted nothing to do with 6 months earlier.

his response? my wife says it gets easier the longer we're together.


Grant said...

sj - I'm assuming you work customer service for an American company. :p

tracy - it should be available tonight (work is still too busy for proper blogging).

rick - I managed to impart the fear without screaming "Praise Allah!", talented as I am.

pbs - Umezono's menu hasn't changed since I found it, but it's already pretty extensive.

leesa - yes, BS is the devil. And not the cool devil, like the one on my CD cases. BS is the bad devil.

angie - no, they didn't do the glass of water (or any other suggestion on that list). I wonder if I should drop by and complain that they cheated me.

kira - in my experience, the military and corporate America operate the same, but the military is less subtle.

corona - thanks. I think I did eventually bounce back.

hee - I think if you were pushed that far, you'd definitelly want to quit, although you'd probably do it the smart way instead of running afoul of one of their BS zero tolerance policies.

kerry - I'm getting so much encouragement, I think I'll quit blogging just for spite. Or charge to hear the ending. :p

kimber - it must be an unwritten rule. Scott Adams (Dilbert creator) also worked for the phone company.

messiah - it's because you Canadians don't have the ability to flip out over nothing like us Americans. Until you do, you will never be like us. Thank the zombie jebus.

patti_cake said...

My BIL works for Bellsouth and has for almost 30 years.
I am going on 20 years with my company. Corporate asshats suck.

Melissa said...

Dear god, boy, I was about to panic. I didn't realize this wasn't your current job until about halfway down. That will teach me to keep up.

patti_cake said...

Oh and by the way you are a hottie Grant even though I can't see the pic anymore :) Those girls at Umezono don't know what their missing!

JessN said...

My dad worked for BS for 30 years. It is a poor excuse for a company--you're better off somewhere else. I imagine you know that already, though...

VomitGod said...

My sympathy, and having recently been involved in similar shenanigans, empathy, brother Grant!

Enemy of the Republic said...

Gosh, SJ, you are a trip. I know, my job is pretty good too.

My brother went through exactly the same thing. He showed a pair when they asked him to travel during the holidays by saying he wanted to spend time with his family at Christmas--can you imagine such a request from a corporate slave? He then got written up for insubordination after a 14 year perfect record; he replied by lodging a formal complaint against his superior--eventually he got put in another department, then was told that he had to go report for "reevaluation" which in corporate-speak means (I think) "one more month, asshole." So he resigned with a generous severance package. Now he teaches high school. He misses the money--it was good 6 figure cash, but he had no life.

Mel said...

Jeebus! I think I wanted to quit my job after reading the shyte you had to put up with -
But for my own entertainment I kept reading 'Bullshit' whenever you wrote BS - so this was way funny. Can't wait for San...

SJ said...

-EOR ok what's a trip?

Grant, I don't work for lowly customer service industries. I am a software testerr for an American company. I get to find faults with other people's code. Yayyyy!!!.

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