So… Wait… You Want What Now?

, , , , | Working | March 31, 2020

(It is the middle of the recession and jobs are extra hard to find, and if you do find something it is probably temporary. A detachment agency I worked for before contacts me for a job. Let’s call it a lab technician level one, for sake of ease, while my education would put me at level three, and with experience at level four. I would be receiving a level one salary and job title, but hey, it’s a job. I would be allowed to look for something else, provided the agency got “dibs/first pick” if it was a position through agencies, and failing that, they would keep me on the payroll to find something else afterwards. Not a bad deal, so I adjust my mindset and go in for the interview. Instead of boasting about my experience, I emphasise that I am excited to work with a new product. Instead of saying that I am looking for a stable position, I say that I am curious to see what opportunities for growth might come in the long term, etc. Then, they wrap up with some questions about my personality, which is not uncommon.)

Manager: “How would you position yourself in a team?”

Me: “Initially, I tend to be a bit quieter, observe, and learn first, but over time I’ll become part of the group.”

Manager: “Are you headstrong or more go with the flow?”

Me: “I’m not one to start a fight; I know when to let things go, but I’m not going to lie or hide my opinion.”

Manager: “So, a lot of people in this team are a huge fan of [Sports Team]; would you feel comfortable saying you support the opponents?”

Me: “Well, I don’t care about sports at all.”

Manager: *laughs* “Okay, that’s a good, honest start.”

Me: “But if I favored the opponents, sure, I would say so.”

(I end up getting the job, and in this field, it’s very common that no matter what your education or experience is, you go through a phase of training with your hand being held — almost literally — so the company can check off and certify that you’ve been trained. Mentally, I roll my eyes, but I take it in stride. This period lasts pretty long in this job, though, and at some point, the training starts to scale down, but I hardly get any real work to keep me busy. What little work I do receive is very easy so I do it pretty fast, yet I get fairly limited access on the software systems, leaving others to “finish” my work for me. I start asking my trainer and manager for more work, but they brush it off or refer to the posted schedule. Said schedule uses all kinds of color coding and descriptions which are far from immediately obvious. In fact, when I ask about it, it seems everyone knows just enough to do their own job, but all the other information on the schedule is a foreign language to them. I end up talking to the planner and he only knows that when job A comes in it’s yellow, job B is blue, C is yellow, etc., but when I ask why A and C are yellow even though they are very different tasks, he basically shrugs. I go through several weeks and more phenomena like this, along with some odd bits. A coworker tries to sell a phone he found on the street, and when I point out to management that he is essentially selling stolen goods, the response is, “Yes, we will discuss with him that he shouldn’t do this at work,” and my motivation takes a hit, to say the least. I get called to the manager.)

Manager: “So, it’s clear that you aren’t really making improvements to the department.”

Me: “Do you mean I should work harder? I want to, but nobody will train me.”

Manager: “No, not like that. We hired you because your education and experience put you on a higher level than the rest of the team and we’re expecting you to take the team to a higher level.”

Me: “I thought I was hired as a level one technician, so that’s the job I’ve been doing. I’ll be happy to give you feedback on any shortcomings I see; I just didn’t want to be too critical as a newcomer.”

Manager: “Yes, you’re a level one technician. We specifically asked during your interview if you would speak openly and address things you would disagree with. So, when you see things not going well, we expect you’ll take the initiative and improve them, not just report them to management.”

Me: “So, I should develop myself into something like a team leader?”

Manager: “No, I’m the manager; you’re a technician just like the rest. But you should make things go better.”

Me: “O… kay… So, I should use my experience to see where you can reduce costs or make tests go faster?”

Manager: “Don’t think in terms of specific metrics. You’ve attended several team meetings now and heard the criticism we get from upper management. You also should have noticed that things aren’t going as well as they should.”

Me: “Sure, for one thing, it seems nobody fully understands the schedule.”

Manager: “Yeah, don’t mess with that; the planner takes care of the schedule.”

Me: “So, you don’t want me to train the rest of the team, nor will you give me any form of authority. You want me to make improvements, not to share critiques with you but to fix it on my own. I should not change the way the team is run and I shouldn’t be thinking of any measurable efficiency like costs, time, accuracy of results, etc.?”

Manager: “I’m glad you understand. Now get to it.”

(After a few weeks of mutual frustration, they kicked me out for failing to meet expectations. Initially, the agency was pretty pissed, but once they confirmed my story of the contradictory role, they became more sympathetic and admitted that there had been a big miscommunication on what kind of person the company was looking for. I ended up doing some headhunting for the agency until they found me a position that worked out a lot better.)

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