Learn From This, Readers

, , , , , , | Working | April 3, 2020

A few years ago, I was working two part-time jobs in different companies: one as a receptionist in an office and one in a CD/DVD store. One day, our area manager came into the store with forms for us all to sign. She explained that it was not a big deal, just some “dumb government thing,” and we needed to sign it, and once we did, we’d get a $50 bonus in our next pay “for our trouble.” This sounded pretty good to us; all of us were struggling with low wages and an extra $50 would make life a little easier.

It was extremely long, with pages and pages of complicated jargon I couldn’t make heads or tails of. Then, in bold at the bottom, written in plain English, was a line about the extra $50 in our next pay if we signed. My area manager hovered over me the whole time I was reading, literally standing in my personal space, arms folded, huffing and sighing and checking her watch.

Something didn’t feel right, so I told her I was going to take it home and read it properly. She didn’t like that one bit. She complained that I was making her life difficult, that everyone else had already done it, why did I have to cause such a fuss, the company was being so generous, and it would be rude for me not to get it back ASAP, etc. I dug my heels in and took it home. 

I showed it to my parents and friends, and none of them could make any sense of it, either. I took it to my office job and asked if the HR manager could look over it for me.

She did, and she was furious. She boiled it down for me: the company had been caught underpaying its employees and was now supposed to pay back the wages we were owed. The form we were asked to sign was basically us forfeiting our rights to claim that money, in exchange for a $50 “bonus”.

I called my area manager and told her that I wasn’t signing and I wanted my backpay.

Even though I had only worked for the company for a few months, I was entitled to over $800 in wages. My coworkers were devastated when I told them; they had signed without reading, took the managers at their word, and had probably missed out on a few thousand dollars.

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Of Course You Won’t

, , , , | Working | April 3, 2020

(I used to work as a front desk/secretary/whatever the h*** the owners thought they needed for a furniture store. Hindsight being what it is, I brought a lot of the issues on myself because I didn’t fight hard enough at the beginning, but still…)

Manager: “I need you to come in tomorrow for a few hours because I have to take my daughter to the dentist.”

(I normally have Tuesday and Wednesday off, but she is asking me to come in on Tuesday.)

Me: “Sure. But since you’re going to be so long, can I just work all day and then take the next Wednesday and Thursday off, instead?”

(Timing-wise, between appointments and travel to and from the office, getting her daughter back to school and then getting to the store, the day is going to be like two-thirds done.)

Manager: “That should be fine.”

(On the day of the dentist appointment, the manager shows up and the day is actually like 80% over.)

Manager: “Oh, by the way, I need you in on Thursday because I won’t be here.”

Me: *stunned silence*

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A Not-So-Sweet Response

, , , , , | Working | April 2, 2020

(My coworker’s contract will not be renewed due to certain circumstances. She is the one who always fills the team’s candy jar, out of her own pocket, just because she wants to.)

Manager: *jokingly* “[Coworker], we’ve run out of candy.”

Coworker: *deadly serious* “Yeah, well, I’ve run out of contract, so what are you gonna do about it?”

(I needed about two minutes to catch my breath again from laughing. The manager was awfully silent for the rest of the day.)

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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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They’re Not Russian To Pay You Any More

, , , , | Working | March 30, 2020

(My boss, the CEO, calls me to his office. When I come, the HR director is also present. Both of them can speak Russian.)

CEO: “[My Name], next week we will have VIP guests from Russia. I want you to give them the factory tour and show them our workshop, offices, etc.”

Me: “Okay, who’s going to interpret? [Secretary/Interpreter] has a week off next week.”

CEO: “You speak Russian; you don’t need an interpreter.”

Me: “Well, while that may be true, I’m not paid to speak Russian.”

CEO: “But you can speak Russian.”

Me: “When I was hired, I was told I’d get a bonus for every language I could speak except for English, which was one of the main requirements for the position I hold. In my contract, it is written that I’m paid for one foreign language and that’s English; I’d get a bonus for other languages. When I asked for it, you personally told me that I ‘don’t have a paper,’ so no bonus for me.”

HR Director: “Um, yes, that’s our policy that you need a certificate. But in your CV, you stated that your mother tongues are Czech and Russian, right?”

Me: “Yes, your point?”

HR Director: “So, you can speak Russian.”

Me: “Yes, but I’m not paid to do so. Since I ‘don’t have a paper to prove it.'”

HR Director: “But it’s your mother tongue.”

Me: “So I don’t need a paper to get my bonus?”

HR Director: “Ugh, um, it’s your mother tongue, so it’s not a foreign language.”

Me: “But it is for you. We are based in the Czech Republic. Russian isn’t an official language here, so by definition it is a foreign language in this state. Is [Half-Russian Coworker] getting a bonus for speaking Russian?”

HR Director: “Ugh…”

Me: “Don’t worry. I know the answer, which is yes. One of her mother tongues is Russian and she is getting a bonus for it.” *turns to my boss* “Sorry, boss, but if you want me to speak Russian at work, you pay me to do it.” *in Russian* “No money, no Russian.”

(I didn’t give that tour.)

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