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Grit Your Teeth And Admit You Were Wrong

, , , , , | Working | June 7, 2021

I work as a repairer and maintainer for a grounds care company that basically looks after the local authorities’ landscaping and does various seasonal grounds maintenance tasks. One summer, our company purchases some new-to-the-market hand-propelled gritting machines in readiness for the next winter season.

Six months later, the snow falls and the gritting machines are taken out and put to use. An hour later, the operator returns to the workshop holding the drive belt in his hand, reporting that the machine lasted two minutes and the belt keeps coming off every time it’s replaced. I inspect the machine and see a major design flaw, and in two days, I manufacture a remedy for the fault.

I phone the manufacturer.

Me: “Your hand gritters seem to have a design flaw. I’ve made a modification, but I want to know if fitting it will affect any warranties we have with your machine.”

Manufacturer: “What flaw? What’s wrong with it?”

Me: “The operator used it for two minutes, and the belt chokes up with the grit and keeps coming off.”

Manufacturer: “Your operator is using the machine wrong; there’s no flaw with the machine.”

Me: “How can he be using it wrong? Grit is loaded in and you push it as you walk.”

Manufacturer: “Well, he must be doing it wrong. We’ve had no problems and no other customers have complained about it.”

Me: “I think the part of the country where I am has had the first snowfalls this winter, so no customers will complain until they get snow and have the opportunity to use your product.”

Manufacturer: “There’ve been plenty of customers using them and you are the only ones to complain. There’s no fault with the machine; it’s your operator.”

I give up and go ahead with fitting the modification, and the machine works flawlessly.

Another month passes and the whole of the UK is hit with major snow. I get a phone call from the gritter manufacturer.

Manufacturer: “Are you the guy who called about the belt constantly coming off our hand gritter?”

Me: “Yes.”

Manufacturer: “I recall you mentioned a modification. Did you design one and did it work?”

Me: “The gritter works fine now.”

Manufacturer: “Ah, great. Was it the modification that sorted the problem?”

Me: “Have you been getting problems?”

Manufacturer: “Erm… no, erm… Nobody else has reported any problems.”

Me: “Well, our gritter is fine now.”

Manufacturer: “Was it the modification that fixed it?”

Me: “It was.”

Manufacturer: “Could you email us the details of the modification? We’d like to look at it.”

Me: “You don’t need it; you said you had no reported problems.”

Manufacturer: “We, err, don’t. It’s just out of interest.”

Me: “You weren’t interested in the initial complaint, so I’m not interested in showing you the design. Besides, according to you, it’s not needed.”

I hung up, but over the next week, I received many emails requesting the design, with their wording still denying any fault with the product.

The next summer, our company received their new product catalogue. The gritter was no longer listed for sale.

The Squeaky Wheel Gets A Promotion, Part 2

, , , , , | Working | May 25, 2021

I work in a factory. We were supposed to spend a little time in each department and then choose where to work. Instead, we are all dumped on the shop floor, mopping up spills, replacing the hundreds of time light bulbs, and rewiring plugs.

Four years of study for this? I feel conned and bored; this isn’t the job I accepted. I am going nowhere and barely sleeping, and I dread every Monday. 

I am complaining about it to another guy my age who’s in the same position.

Coworker: “I don’t know why you are complaining. It’s a job, isn’t it?”

Me: “Aren’t you bored? All we do is the same thing over and over.”

Coworker: “I don’t mind it.”

Me: “But this is a dead end. If we stay, this is all it is ever going to be.”

Coworker: “I’m going to try to get the team leader role.”

Me: “I mean, sure, but that is one vacancy and there are five people who have been here longer. Look, it just isn’t for me.”

Coworker: “Whatever. I would just keep your head down.”

I don’t. I apply for the first job I can in another department. My coworker calls me crazy. But before long, I am promoted and then promoted again. I leave the company for a more senior role and then am promoted again. Eventually, I end up working on some cutting-edge stuff for a great company.

I get a message from my former coworker.

Coworker: “Hey, how’re things? I heard you got made redundant and I thought I would let you know, your old job is open again. Shame you left; you could have been team leader now. I just took the role.”

I didn’t bother replying.

Related:
The Squeaky Wheel Gets A Promotion

No Effort, No Outcome

, , , , , , | Working | May 21, 2021

My coworker is a chore to work with. Ask him to do anything he doesn’t deem “his job” and he refuses. I have actually watched him not report a smoldering fire because he was going on his break. He just said, “I am entitled to a break; someone will sort it out.”

I think he thinks he is some great hero of the people, fighting some bourgeoisie. In reality, it is a small family business, and his stupid behaviour makes people dislike him.

Christmas is coming up and I am putting in some extra hours to earn some extra cash. All hours are posted on a notice board; I’m happy to see that I’m scheduled again for both shifts. 

Coworker: “How come you got overtime again?”

Me: “I can run [machine]; that’s where the work is.”

Coworker: “How come you got training? I wasn’t offered training!”

I sigh as this is going to be another of his outbursts to deal with.

Me: “I got training as I volunteered to help set the machine up. I also took the time to read the manual, which is available to everyone and still is.”

Coworker: “Well, I could have done that!”

Me: “Yes, but you didn’t, did you? We needed as many volunteers as we could; instead, we spent a whole weekend struggling.”

Coworker: “I didn’t know I would get overtime out of it!”

Me: “None of us did. We volunteered because they asked us and it needed to be done. Maybe if you helped out more, they would—”

Coworker: *Cutting me off* “This isn’t right. I’m being discriminated against. I’m speaking to [Manager]!”

I can only assume they told him to shut up and get back to work, as he reappeared moments later. [Coworker] never got on the overtime sheet, but he complained all the way up to Christmas about it, still not actually making any effort to learn the jobs that were in high demand.

You Can Lead A Horse To Tools…

, , , , , | Working | May 17, 2021

Part of my job is to take the complaints made by customers and prevent them from reoccurring.  This can be as simple as stopping the packing guys from dumping their breakfast wrappers in the boxes going to the customers or as complex as helping devise a new machining method to improve the accuracy of parts.

A major complaint comes in from the main customer; potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds of stock are affected by an issue that’s almost impossible to detect after it leaves us. We should be catching it, yet they are finding more and more issues. This could be serious.

I quickly find that the root of the issue is the way the guys are checking the parts. It just isn’t good enough and it’s the reason why we kept sending bad parts through. I call the team together.

Me: “Okay, everyone. We have had some major issues reported by the customer. It’s affecting potentially thousands of parts, it’s about the height of this part.”

I can see several of them not listening and rolling their eyes. One is chatting at the back.

Me: “Can we pay attention, please? If this isn’t resolved quickly, we could have a massive issue; if they send all the parts back, it could close us down!”

They begrudgingly start to listen.

Me: “The new way to check these parts is with this new tool and doing it this way.”

I demonstrate.

Worker: “That will take too long! I don’t have time for that!”

Me: “This is the new process. If we don’t do it and we keep sending scrap to our customers, you will have all the time in the world, as we won’t have jobs! Everything is described on this single page, which is laminated and stuck to the machine. I have placed a tool at the machine and with the team lead. Understood?”

They just stare at me in apathy. They don’t care that this is such a huge problem, or they don’t believe me. I decide to check on them in a week’s time.

Me: “How is it working out?”

Worker: “Yeah, okay.”

Me: “This is the old tool. Why are you not following the process?”

Worker: “The new one got lost.”

Me: “So, you didn’t ask or report it?”

He shrugged his shoulders. I found a replacement tool and removed the old one from him. 

I decided to check on him in a few days and found him using the new tool but the old way. After another few days, someone had ripped the instructions down and “lost” the tool again. 

The customer kept finding more and more issues, even on the ones that we said should now be good. The next year, the customer didn’t renew their contract, and the company slowly collapsed as no other new work came in.

I found a new job before it went completely under; some stayed to the end. I later saw a newspaper article about the company closing. The same faces were there saying they were devastated the company closed, blaming the company for not doing more, etc. Some people will find blame anywhere but themselves.

Doctor’s Notes Are Powerful

, , , , , , | Working | May 7, 2021

I have chronic back issues that may flare up quite unexpectedly. My team leader is aware of that. After a few years working in the factory, with increasingly poor ergonomy, my back begins to act up more often. Permanent workers can get a sick day or two just by letting the team leader know.

A few months go by. I call or message the team leader if I have a really bad day, and I don’t go to work that day.

Team Leader: “I can’t let you take any more sick days without a doctor’s note.”

Me: “So, even if it’s one day — like it’s been this far — I need to visit a doctor and get a note?”

Team Leader: “That’s right. I hope you understand.”

Me: “All right.”

From then on, every time my back flared up — not talking about a minor twinge or muscle cramp here — I called the occupational healthcare clinic, got an appointment, and got a doctor’s note. Those notes ALWAYS prescribed at least three days of paid sick leave, sometimes a week!