Sunday, May 28, 2006

Take this job and restaff it, part ichi

When I was about thirty, although I don’t remember on which side of that milestone, I had a kind of midlife crisis – not the kind where you buy a Corvette and start cruising the high schools dates, but the kind where you question the direction your life is taking and wonder if you’re on the right path. In my case, I was on the corporate career track with the same goal assigned to everybody else in the corporate world – to make money and reach the highest level of management possible before retiring or dropping dead of a stroke at your desk. I wanted all the things I was told to want – personal parking space with my name in bold letters, private office with a corner view, and a secretary I could use for sex.

Unfortunately, the company for which I worked represented the worst of two worlds. It was small, and like all small companies there were few chances for advancement. It was also a wholly owned subsidiary of BellSouth (who I like to call BS and with good reason) so the place also had a very cutthroat environment, not entirely unlike working for pirates. The thing that allowed me to advance in our cutthroat little BS subsidiary, the saving grace if you want to call it that, was that the turnover in that company was over 20%, meaning at least one out of every five employees would be gone by the next year.

In the years before, BS allowed its subsidiaries to operate however they wanted, with different benefits and pay structures and their own methods of promoting and staffing positions, but that had changed by the time I worked my way from an hourly production floor employee to a low-level office supervisor. BS insisted that we get in line with everything they did, except for the higher pay and better benefits. We jettisoned our outdated and conflicting software and switched to Microsoft products (and that was a major improvement), but the company also implemented BS standards which required a college degree in something (didn’t matter what) for any position above the lowest ranked clerks.

So I found myself at thirty-ish attending school at night to obtain a degree so I could get promoted out of my lousy position which involved supervising others (something I hate), being responsible for materials without having the authority to regulate their use, and having to justify our numbers to the accountants who really enjoyed fecking me over, especially since I had been promoted into my position ahead of one of them. I was doing everything that was expected of me – working too many hours, trying to shield my employees from the fallout of management stupidity while covering for them at the same time, going to school and getting top marks, etc. My life was proceeding right on schedule – I had gained extra weight, felt depressed, had an ulcer, and then one morning I looked in the mirror and noticed I could see my scalp. Note – rather than drag out the suspense, I’ll go ahead and tell you that after I left that company my hair and stomach lining grew back and the added weight melted away leaving me at my normal level of fat.

Normally I wouldn’t have been too disturbed by losing my hair, but I remember looking and thinking “Oh, man, not that too.” I could cope with the ulcer and the life that was completely focused on succeeding in corporate America and the way my stomach dropped every time I rounded the corner and saw the building in which I toiled, but the hair loss was the final straw. I began to question all these goals I was pursuing, none of which was created by me or made me even remotely happy. By the time I left BS, I had already begun writing again (I quit when I began the corporate trek), and was planning to finish my degree so I could get another job within the BS family. I believed in company loyalty, and since BS was paying for some of my college, I planned to stick with them, although I wanted to get out of my little backstabbing corner of their empire.

While all this was going on, management continued to inflict their BS policies upon us. One was the Drugs Don’t Work fad, which sounds good but is another stupid zero tolerance policy under the influence of management, essentially the same as a loaded bazooka in the hands of a retarded child. During our DDW orientation, the lecturer informed us that, according to BS policy, you can’t use illegal drugs or alcohol while working for BS. One employee raised his hand and asked if that meant we couldn’t have a beer on our own time. The woman answered with a bit of useless corporate BS lingo – “We’re not saying you can’t drink. We’re just saying you can’t drink AND work for BellSouth.” Several people attempted to clarify, and got the exact same response. Bear in mind this is coming from a company that serves alcohol at management meetings. We all recognized it for what it was – useless BS rules that wouldn’t be enforced on upper management who rarely worked while sober, but that could be used to screw an employee of their choosing. I often drank at company functions where it was expected, although never to excess, unlike our HR manager who was known to get toasted and dance on the tables.

But that one wasn’t the ZT policy that got me. I dodged that bullet only to be fired under the new ZT policy on workplace violence. Yeah, I went fucking postal on their asses. Or at least that’s how they reacted. More on that later.

The BS ZTP on WV was printed on a one-page flyer, and included tips on how to spot violence (or impending violence), how to calm the nutjob, and the only allowable punishment (immediate termination). We all got a good laugh out of that BS policy. Some helpful hints for identifying potentially violent employees said to be on the lookout for anyone who displayed any strong emotions, who had a fascination with weapons, or who expressed the opinion that the company had mistreated them. A fellow supervisor read that one and mimicked a conversation with his boss. “I kind of feel like I’ve been done wrong.” “Okay. You’re fired.”

It also said that to calm the angry employee, you should not face them squarely or look them in the eye, try to lead them to another area, and try to distract them with small requests such as asking if they wanted a glass of water. I don’t know about you, but if I was angry, I think the thing that would really cause me to go over the edge would be if the person refused to look me in the eye, kept turning away from me, and tried to change the subject to something trivial. At least we got a good laugh out of it. For weeks, whenever one of our coworkers got frustrated, we’d turn to the side and offer them a glass of water, and then we’d all laugh. I frequently said that somebody, somewhere was really going to get screwed under that policy by a zealous managerial assclown – I just didn’t realize it would be me.

Okay, now I’ll draw out the suspense. The rest should be available tomorrow.

12 comments:

Tracy Lynn said...

HOORAY! I KNEW there would be pirates.
I'm pretty sure that the skullduggery will be along in the next installment.
That would be part Ni. I can't wait.

Kira said...

damnit, I hate "to be continued" stories! Get crackin' on part two!

hellbunny said...

leave us all in suspense.
That seems like an awful place to work.Dictacting how you lead your personal life.

Grant said...

tracy - aren't there always pirates?

kira - I'm on it.

hellbunny - they don't formally dictate your personal behaviour, it's just that corporate America has very rigid unwritten rules if you want to fit in, and you have to fit in order to succeed.

messiah said...

i hear you on the stress, the stomach churning feeling, and the hatred of supervision.

i bet it was your assclow comment that did you in, warn't it.

looks like they were using ZT as an excuse to fire anyone they didn't think fit their corporate look/goal/evil empire of inhumanity.

H.E.Eigler said...

Damn you and your cliffhanger!

PBS said...

I like being in suspense, gives time to think over and consider what you've already written.

That sound clip would be a dream come true for me at work!

Grant said...

messiah - wrong on the assclown bit, but exactly right on the rest. I'll post the rest of the story today.

hee - =)

pbs - for legal reasons, I can't officially endorse that behaviour. Unofficially, remember to aim center mass. :p

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