Friday, November 1, 2019

Employee Disengagement

Tales from a Toxic Work Environment #2

  Based on recent behavior patterns, I'm guessing that one of our newest hires may be on his way out.
It became apparent two weeks ago that he was beginning to disconnect from the job; showing little interest in learning or expanding his knowledge base, spending far too much time sitting by the machine oblivious to his surroundings, and just this week he has called out two days in a row.
 We only work three days this week, so that's a lot.

 If I had to guess, I'd say that he was burning his limited vacation days because he wasn't planning to be around much longer.  That's the obvious first step when someone has disengaged and no longer cares about the job, the team, or the company. In my experience the pattern is fairly consistent. 

 I am further qualified to spot disengagement because in my three years here I have gone from proud to be here, to why am i still here, because I stopped drinking the Kool aid over a year ago. There was an incident, and that put me in the frame of mind to notice deeper issues, and that's when the realization occurred to me that I no longer really cared. I had essentially allowed all the joy to be sucked out of my work. That actually hurt, because I genuinely liked my job.

 This plant is less than two years old, so being here for three means I am a member of the founder's club. That original group of twenty people, of which I am a member, has been whittled down to about 13 now. Some have quit, some were let go, and that's par for the course.

 I've been on four teams in those three years. My first supervisor became a friend, and then she quit to move home to Chicago. We still share a text on occasion.
 My second supervisor was the subject of a prior post, TFATWE #1, and in the six months that we worked together he managed to say exactly 12 words to me. I was tolerated, and he didn't hide it well.
 My third team was my favorite because my supervisor was an intelligent, down-to-earth ex-cop who actually looked me in the eye and spoke to me like a human. He was respectful, fair, and honest and I respected the hell out of him for it.
 But, I was moved once again to a newer line so that my prior line experience could make their startup easier. I get it, but it's not ideal. And like I said, I disengaged a long time ago.

 One of the issues that led to this state of mind is all the attention being placed on the glass ceiling here. Being a new plant, there is a lot of room for overhead growth. Both middle and upper management slots waiting to be filled, lots of shuffling going on, and this quickly became a full-time preoccupation for every manager at every level.
 So much so, that it became clear to us on the floor that we were basically alone here. Our support was non existent because it was off brown-nosing for the next promotion.
You couldn't get anyone's actual attention because all of our supervisors weren't engaged themselves; none wanted the job they had, but were instead sniffing for the next level job they wanted. They simply needed you to make them look good so they could leave you in their wake.
 That went on heavily for about a year, and it has started to slow a bit by now.

 Engagement is still an issue however, so obviously the problem runs a bit deeper than just a group of non-committed managers. Maybe it's a general feeling that the work doesn't really matter.
 Maybe it's a general feeling that you don't really matter. Certain managers have a way of conveying that message regularly, despite the best intentions of corporate or management.
 Maybe it has to do with being treated like idiotic children instead of like thinking, rational adults.
 For example, management has recently started littering the plant with these moron signs, like the one at each trash hopper that says, " This is the cardboard hopper. Only put cardboard into the cardboard hopper". It has pictures. Of cardboard. In the cardboard hopper. In case you're really stupid.
 The walls of every hall are plastered with childish posters depicting aspects of the safety guidelines. From outside, the building is a work of art. The main lobby is tastefully appointed with integral works of art. But walk the halls, and it's an elementary school. It's quite embarrassing, TBH.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Dehumanizing Treatment of Employees

 Tales from a Toxic Work Environment #1


 Now that we have reached the so-called Age of Enlightenment, wherein socially conscious managers would never dream of forcing arcane rules or personal whims on their underlings, it is considered by most people to be at the very least morally wrong for a supervisor to intentionally create a hostile work environment for personal or emotional pleasure.

 This is exactly the type of behavior I have witnessed on multiple occasions at the P&G Tabler Station plant however, regardless of plant, company or corporate policies. 
 Because to be blunt; Policies don't mean squat in the day-to-day, minute-by-minute operations of a manufacturing plant when people with little to no proper management training are making the little decisions that will affect the lives of their team members.

 In one recent example, a low-level (bottom rung) manager of only three team members with a reputation for harassment of female employees set his sights on a newly hired young lady on his team.
 He asked her out repeatedly, and she was placed in the awkward position of needing to explain that she was not only engaged but also not really interested in him, while at the same time preserving his fragile ego so that her new career would not be jeopardized by making an enemy of her new boss.

 Being a friend of a friend, I was allowed to follow this drama through first hand sharing and second-hand followups. She was a sweet kid, and I have a grandfather vibe, so we talked on occasion. 
 Because she was an adult, I didn't presume to stick my two cents into another adult's story.
I never notified HR or anyone who maybe could help her because I tend my own garden.

  Anyway, she seemed to be taking it fairly well, and showed a solid sense of humor about the whole thing in general. That is until a few weeks ago when she decided that he had gone too far.
 Because he was the first approval for requested vacation days, she had submitted a request for her birthday so she could spend it with her fiance.
 Her request for the day off was denied, despite it being a valid request in every sense. She was disappointed but mature about it. Until her boss took that same day off himself. She was convinced that he was exhibiting a childishly spiteful abuse of power, and rubbing her nose in it to boot.

 She then requested a transfer to another line, any line, in the hope of starting fresh with a fair manager. This request too was denied. Her boss was (is) also an excellent brown-noser, and held in fine regard by all of his supervisors (middle management) because he tells them what they want to hear and appears eager to learn. 
 In my experience, this usually means an ambitious and hungry jackal has his eye on his next promotion, but that's not my problem. The point is, he had their collective ear and if he wanted autonomous control over a team member it was a simple matter of placating his own bosses with some well crafted bullshit.  

 So, feeling trapped with a childish and vindictive drama queen of a boss, this young girl with aspirations of a career with Proctor and Gamble simply quit her new job to seek greener and less painful pastures.
  Her friends suggested an exit interview, so that at the very least someone from HR would listen to her reasons for leaving, even if she chose not to pursue proper recourse.  I don't know if that meeting ever happened; We rotate shifts regularly, so I came in one day and she was just gone.

 It's a shame that stories like hers rarely get told, and maybe that's why I bothered to write it out here for you to peruse. Maybe her life is much better now. Maybe she is reading this with you and smiling at the wasted tears she allowed that saddle-sniffer to extract from her.

 Maybe you or a friend are in a similar situation, and shedding a few tears of your own, and hoping for encouragement. The best advice I can offer is to speak up.
 Don't allow dark intentions to remain in the dark. Drop by the HR office, or just drop an email asking for some advice on how best to correct any misunderstandings you may have with your boss.
 Shedding some light on small miscommunications or outright mistreatment has a wonderful way of bringing the sun out again. 
 And you deserve a bit more sunshine in your life, don't you?