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A Painful Sign That Management Doesn’t Care

, , , , , | Working | December 8, 2022

I once worked at a veterinarian’s office as a receptionist. One of the receptionist’s duties was to drag a large hanging sandwich-style sign across the building, across the parking lot, and up a hill and position it by the road. When we closed, we were to drag it back down the hill, across the parking lot, and back into the building, where we were supposed to clean it and put it away for the night.

Though made of plastic, this sign weighed quite a bit, and though it had wheels on one side, there was no way to really steady it when going uphill, especially when the wind kicked up.

I worked there for a very brief period one winter. My first write-up was for not putting the sign out by the road on my first morning opening. I hadn’t been told it existed, so I hadn’t known to do it. My write-up was excused.

I soon learned that every worker tried their best to not take the sign outside in the winter because its incredibly clumsy design would cause it to flap around wildly in the wind. When the hillside was icy, the sign would often get away from you and go tearing off toward a customer’s parked car. Several times, I slipped, fell, and skidded across the parking lot trying to wrassle the sign down the hill at night.

The entire reception staff had bruises and cuts from the sign. One person had a large slash across her neck from where she got tangled in the sign as they fell down the hill. I sliced open a finger on the sharp edge of the sign. I watched a coworker slide across the parking lot like a curling stone on one knee as the sign sailed gracefully into a parked and very much still-occupied car. Mercifully, the damages to the customer’s car were negligible.

Just to add some gravy to this insult entree, we also had to endure complaints about the sign. Sometimes the wind would blow it into the road, so we’d have to dodge heavy traffic to retrieve it. We also had city representatives come in frequently to tell us that signs like that were against city code. We’d keep it inside for a few days, and then the order would come down that we needed to drag it back out again.

Every other week, we had a team meeting, and at every meeting, the entire staff lobbied against the clinic owner and his wife to have the sign removed. They refused because it was “important to bring in new business.”

The twist, you see, is that we were already overbooked two months out, and aside from three blocks of time set aside for emergencies, we couldn’t accommodate new business. Two local practices had just closed and we had absorbed their clients, and one of our three doctors had left the practice. The remaining doctors were incredibly overwhelmed, working open to close seven days a week. They were very much proponents of removing the sign, but even they got shut down. The owners insisted that we needed more business, and they even threatened to get divorced if we didn’t increase profit margins.

None of us actually cared if they got divorced, so the sign would go out during daylight hours only if we felt like it. The owner was too busy to notice, and his wife was busy watching the contractors work on their home renovation.

But, they did occasionally notice. Eventually, it got to the point where they threatened to short the entire staff’s pay for each day the sign was not out or for each day the sign was left out overnight.

I quit for other reasons before this policy went into effect, but thanks to social media, I saw that the entire reception staff and tech team (both teams in charge of the stupid sign) quit within two months of my departure.

Was it all due to the sign? No, of course not. But if you work in a place that is that indifferent to the wellness of their human staff because the owner’s wife wants more money… perhaps moving along is in your best interests.

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