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Management Really Isn’t For Everyone

, , , , , | Working | November 11, 2022

Where to start? There are two people I consider the worst I’ve worked with. Ironically, I was warned a few years before about working with one guy, and people I’ve spoken to since who know him either change the subject or discuss how awful he is. I saw him regularly berate people in the middle of the office, telling them he could do a better job, they were not up to it, and on and on.

The other guy was my first experience of working with someone bad. I was part of a manufacturing engineering and facilities management team. It was a good team — so good, in fact, that initial plans to outsource the facilities management aspect of our team would prove more expensive than keeping it in-house. It happened eventually, though, and we were split along the line of where we were working at the time. We rotated through responsibilities: six months in facilities management and six months in manufacturing engineering.

This was how [Manager] became our manager. [Manager] was one of the manufacturing engineers with whom we had little interaction other than seeing the outcome of his projects. As part of the wider team, he had come to nights out with us and seemed like an okay guy — chatty, friendly, and so forth. That didn’t translate into our team. First, he stood at 5’6” or thereabouts and suffered from “small-man syndrome”. It didn’t help that the shortest member of our team topped six feet tall, so he always had to look up to us.

And so we come to the things that made him a horrific person to work with.

The stories of [Manager] are endless. Suffice it to say, after he became our manager, a team that had worked well for almost eight years was bickering, arguing, and fighting amongst themselves any time he interacted with us.

[Manager] demanded respect, and if he felt you didn’t pay him the respect he was due, he’d remind you of his position. That said, he didn’t respect his team. Here are some instances.

1) A secure storage project went off the rails. The team had to work an entire weekend to resolve the problems he caused, while he had his son christened and had a big party. His boss was invited to the event, and when he found out what was happening with the project, he stopped the christening and ordered [Manager] back to work.

2) One of the team earned an innovation award and bonus; [Manager] “forgot” to approve it with payroll for six months. A meeting between the two in the workshop, while the rest of the team waited on the far side of the production floor, sounded like they were brawling and kicking the stuffing out of each other. [Manager] stormed out and we went back.

The Team: “Paddy! What happened? We told you to keep it cool.”

Paddy: “I was sitting on my hands the entire time and never left my seat. [Manager] was slamming cabinets and banging doors, yelling and screaming about how I made him look bad with my complaints.”

The award was paid soon after.

3) One day, I was stuck on my own due to illness and holidays. The machine that was the heart of each production line started acting up, so I had ten production lines with the same problem. Nothing I did fixed it, so I called for a service engineer. In the meantime, I was able to apply temporary fixes that would keep the lines running, but it meant I needed to cycle through each line making constant adjustments. [Manager] turned up and started shadowing me as I moved from line to line. As I turned to go back to the first line again, I saw that all the lines were shut down.

Manager: “You can’t handle this. Call a service engineer. I don’t understand this at all; the machines were working when I bought them.”

(Note: the most recent machine installed was five years old.)

I responded, raising my voice slightly to be heard over the hiss of compressed air from the machines.

Me: “I have; he’ll be here shortly.”

When the problem was resolved a few hours later, [Manager] cornered me in the workshop.

Manager: “If you ever talk to me like that again, I’ll fire you on the spot!” 

Me: “Like what?” 

Manager: “You raised your voice at me. Respect me or leave. You wouldn’t talk to [Vice President] like that.”

Me: “Yes, I would, so they would be able to hear me.”

Manager: “Well, you don’t talk to me like that; I’m your manager.

There were other stories — far too many — so I found a new job. Two weeks into my four-week notice, Paddy quit with no notice. He emailed Human Resources, explained why, and left. Speaking with him a few months later, he said the company had contacted him immediately to find out why and he explained. [Manager] had seen a copy of what was said and told us it was all lies.

At my exit interview, which [Manager] forgot to arrange with Human Resources, I told them everything that had happened. In less than eighteen months, [Manager] had destroyed the team.

The week after I left, there was a first round of redundancies. Guess who was the first marched to the door? [Manager].

A Fifteen-Minute Drive Ahead Of The Bosses

, , , , , , , | Working | October 25, 2022

Years ago, I got hired by a company that had just been bought out by a much larger parent company that owned a lot of other sub-companies. The new management kept saying “nothing’s going to change,” but the more they said it, the more things changed. That was no big surprise, really; even as a newcomer, I could see that coming.

Six months after I joined, they decided to build a new head office for our city on the other side of the city, but they promised that the current branch would remain open (which actually did happen, what a shock).

Construction took about nine months from announcing their decision to being ready to move in. Halfway through construction, they announced that apart from management, one particular buyer would be moving to the new office, and a rumour went around that he might be taking someone to work with him from the old office.

Shortly before moving, everyone from sales, data processing, and a few other departments was called up one at a time to speak with the general manager. I presume everyone got a similar spiel that finished off with a request that “nothing gets discussed with your colleagues until we’ve spoken with everyone.”

The pitch was they wanted people to think about moving to the new office.

Me: “Yes, I’ll do it.”

General Manager: “No, you’ve misunderstood. We just want you to think about relocating.”

Me: “I get that. I’m saying yes.”

General Manager: “No, [My Name], you just need to think about it now.”

Me: *Laughing* “I have been thinking about the possibility since I saw where you were building the new branch. You’ll be a fifteen-minute drive or a twenty-five-minute push bike ride from where I live, as opposed to the hour or so of motorised travel or hour and twenty minutes on public transport to work I have at the moment. I’ve only been here for about a year, about a month or two before you arrived here. I get along well with my coworkers, but I’m sure I’ll keep in touch with them and make new friends and relationships at the new branch if I go. You’re providing parking for staff, which will be much better than here, where there’s no staff parking and street parking is thin on the ground. All in all, moving has lots of benefits and few losses, which is why I’m saying yes.”

General Manager: *Shocked* “I didn’t think anyone would have gone that far. Thanks for letting us know. We’ll update everyone soon.”

I didn’t tell him that I knew at least three other people who had mentioned in casual conversation that they would go if needed to but would rather stay where they were because, for them, staying would be easier.

Not soon after, I was offered a position at the new branch, and it came as no surprise to them that I accepted.

It’s funny when the “masters” get smacked in the face by the drones, thinking outside the boxes they’ve placed us in.

Welcome To Big Bob’s Bonfire!

, , , , , , , | Working | September 28, 2022

Big Bob was one of the sweetest, nicest guys you would ever encounter. That being said, he was also the most boneheaded. He was one of the floaters who would fill in here and there where help was needed in installing, the warehouse, and the workshop.

One day, our owner had piles of files that needed to be destroyed due to customer-sensitive material. Instead of calling a shredding company, they decided it would be best to take a metal barrel outside and burn the paperwork. That was a separate issue all in itself. Big Bob was put in charge of said task.

At one point in the day, I went outside to track down one of the warehouse guys and was treated to the vision of Big Bob’s car blasting country music, smoke billowing out of the metal barrel, and Big Bob himself walking through all the ash and smoke shirtless like someone out of a music video. I was hard-pressed not to laugh as I scolded him.

Me: “You should keep your shirt on since you’re playing with fire!”

Big Bob: “But it’s hot!”

When I came to work the next day, I noticed that our plastic dumpster lid was bent seven ways to Sunday and looked melted. When I asked what happened, I was told that once the burning of files was done and all the paper was a smoldering pile of ash, Big Bob had decided to dump the still-hot remains IN THE DUMPSTER. Surprise, the metal barrel was still hot from its long day of burning, and Big Bob had grabbed it with no gloves. He had grabbed it quickly, so he didn’t feel the error of his decision until said barrel was over the dumpster, and he dropped it, barrel and all, into the dumpster. In no time flat, the dumpster and all its contents caught on fire, melting the lid.

Again, Big Bob was the sweetest guy, which was probably why he kept his job, but from then on, he was not allowed near fire, and we disposed of our important documents properly.

Fifty? Like… American Dollars? Are You Nuts?!

, , , | Right | August 26, 2022

A client contacted me to do a video presentation for a car part manufacturing company.

Me: “So, how do you want the presentation to be, and can you please show me the footage you have?”

Client: “There is no footage. I need you to show a car in the video, and BOOM! It has to blast! And the exterior of the car should not be there; only the engine parts should be shown. Then, the engine should rotate slowly, and BOOM! The part which we manufacture for the car engine should be shown. So, how much is it going to cost me? Also, include the rush rate for this project as I need it by tomorrow evening.”

Me: “I am sorry, sir, but what you are asking is not just a video presentation. It involves 3D work to be done, and I don’t think I am the right guy to do it. I am also sure that no 3D artist can do your project in eighteen hours.”

Client: “Sure, you can. You’re young. Can’t you just learn 3D in a few hours and do it? When I was your age, if I didn’t know something, I would make sure to find an answer somehow.”

Me: “Sir, I understand, and I can connect you to a friend of mine who is a 3D designer. But I think he will need a minimum of two weeks to complete it.”

Client: “Listen, son, I am ready to pay even $50 for this video, but I need it by tomorrow.”

Barely Keeping It Together

, , , , , | Working | May 9, 2022

I work on the manufacturing of an experimental biotech product. When we manufacture our product, we have to maintain careful batch records, which are a series of handwritten documents attesting to the quality of the product. The documents are, for good reason, very carefully controlled.

The particular batch of records I’m in charge of maintaining and submitting is a stack of about fifty sheets of paper by the time we’re done. For years, I’ve been submitting them to Quality Control with a paper clip or binder clip holding them together. This seems to work fine, and no one has ever suggested I do otherwise.

Then, some of the documents are lost. Now, pretty much everyone at the company knows how they were lost: our terrible head of Quality likes to take documents home, where she promptly loses them. This happens over and over, and nothing happens, because she’s BFFs with the head of manufacturing. In fact, every time documents go missing, the question is not where they could possibly be; the question is where they could possibly be other than the head of Quality’s dining room.

So, when part of my batch records go missing — batch records that I submitted months ago — the hammer falls on my group and how we must have lost the documents.

Head Of Manufacturing: “I don’t understand. Where are the batch records now?”

Me: “Well, I turned them in to Quality on [date], and—”

Head Of Manufacturing: “You’re blaming Quality? You’re blaming Quality for your mistake? I just can’t believe you wouldn’t take responsibility for your own actions.”

Me: “I’m not saying it’s Quality’s fault. I’m just saying I turned them in—”

Head Of Manufacturing: “And these batch records. Were they stapled together?”

Me: “Uh, no? We never do that. It’s, like, fifty sheets of paper. I don’t even think we have a stapler at the company that could do that.”

Head Of Manufacturing: “So, these were lost because you never bothered to staple them.”

Me: “That’s not really—”

Head Of Manufacturing: “From now on, staple the batch records! Staple them! How hard is it to do that?”

Me: “Fine. We’ll staple them from now on.”

I figure this is over. Not even close. She emails my boss and tells him that, from now on, we have to staple the batch records. She tells him to make sure the entire team understands this.

Okay, we get it. We find a special stapler in a closet somewhere that can handle fifty sheets — not without jamming every stupid time, but still. My boss emails our entire team, six people, to let us know that, from now on, we staple.

Not good enough! The Head of Manufacturing finds my boss in his office.

Head Of Manufacturing: “You sent an email telling your team to staple the batch records.”

My Boss: “Yes.”

Head Of Manufacturing: “That isn’t enough! We can’t afford to lose these batch records! This is too important!”

My Boss: “So, what do you want me to do?”

Head of Manufacturing: “I want you to look your entire team in the eye and tell them to use the stapler. I want you to have a training session.”

My Boss: “A training session… on… the use of a stapler.”

Head Of Manufacturing: “Yes! And I want the training session documented, with signatures!”

And that’s how my team — all of us with advanced degrees in molecular biology or biomedical engineering — ends up having to have formal training on how to operate a stapler.

The kicker: the first time I turn in batch records after the training session, I staple them and hand them into our Document Control person. The next day, she pulls me aside.

Document Control Person: “Hey, could you not staple these batch records? I noticed you started doing that, and it’s a real pain because the first thing I need to do to scan them is remove that staple — and it’s really hard to take off.”

Apologetically, I told her the story of the stapler training, and how, despite it making her job harder, I would be using that stapler from now on. From then on, every time, I’d staple the batch records, hand them to her, and she would begin the process of trying to pry out the staple.

I am so glad I no longer work there.