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The Ministry Of Lazy Walks

, , , , , | Working | November 16, 2022

My father didn’t really give me a ton of advice growing up; he was more of the practical hands-on type. But one thing he instilled was “Never quit a job until you have something else lined up.” That advice was why I stuck with a particular job as a warehouse worker for over a decade, but that’s a whole litany of other, less interesting stories.

After that company finally downsizes me, I end up taking another job in a warehouse. I make sure they’re aware that my prior warehouse was 99% small items and box shipments under twenty pounds, and most of my experience with pallets was undoing them and moving unwrapped stacks of backstock, not handling actual freight shipments. Still, the manager is shocked when I don’t already know everything about freight shipping, ESPECIALLY not the way they handle things, which is about a 180-degree flip from how my old place did its few pallets a year.

Thankfully, I’m a quick study and already know the basics, and I pick up on the rest of it basically within a week. That’s when I get moved from the shipping area to the actual stocking part of the warehouse. The good news is that the folks in this area are much more casual, and also there are chairs for the computers and sit-down forklifts. Nine-plus-hour shifts on bare concrete where the only sitting is your lunch break and MAYBE the bathroom are very bad for the knees and back.

The bad news is that now the manager has a more direct hand in things, compared to before when the “shipping supervisor” worked over me. The man is a piece of work, alternating between being overly jovial and laughing and being a furious overlord with the flip of a switch. The warehouse is in the middle of a massive reorganization; they’re tearing down entire aisles to make room for more manufacturing on one end and transporting stock to an off-site storage area. New stuff is constantly coming in while we’re also trying to push out old stuff through the same docks. In short, it’s the worst-case scenario for a warehouse not involving structural failure or a fire or something.

That’s when the abuse begins. Granted, the part of New Jersey I’m in has sarcasm as a primary language, and in a setting like that, some light-hearted jabs and messing around are commonplace. No, this is outright insults, including calling the all-male group various derogatory female terms for having a dentist appointment to fix a shattered tooth, questioning their moral integrity and masculinity for having plans, and outright insinuating they have some ulterior motive if they just want to go home because they’re sick or hurt.

This is all in response to OVERTIME, by the way. Not even calling out sick, just “I can’t stay three hours past closing for a fourth night this week because I have an actual medical issue to take care of,” and getting talked to like they’re personally reaching into his wallet and stealing cash.

For me, it all comes to a head one day when the manager pulls me aside.

Manager: “Hey, I just wanted to talk to you about some of your behavior lately.”

Me: *Visibly confused* “My behavior?”

Manager: “Yeah, you’ve been getting better with the accuracy, and I do appreciate that. But, well, you just come across as lazy.”

Me: *Pauses* “Lazy.”

Manager: “Lazy. You know we operate here with a sense of urgency, but you just seem to take your time and move at your own pace.”

Me: “Nnnno, I go as quickly as I can without causing errors. Do you not want me counting the stuff I pick, or running around the warehouse with 800-pound pallets on hand jacks without looking?”

Manager: “Of course not, no! Just pick up the pace and try to walk better; you walk very lazy.”

Me: “I walk… l what? What does that even mean?!”

Manager: “It just looks like you walk lazy. Fix it.”

And then he walked off. I was completely baffled, and as this was the end of the day, I only got a quick chance to talk to the other guys, who were equally confused. I went home that night and did something I had only done once before due to work stuff: I cried. And the last time was from being let go. After a long talk with my husband that night, I finally broke out of my dad’s programming.

The next day, I went straight to Human Resources after punching in and put in my two-week notice, and even THAT was just because I respected the other warehouse guys. I laid down everything that had happened, including explicit descriptions of public bullying and harassment. The other guys in the warehouse actually congratulated me on going through with it; they all were looking for other jobs themselves. The next two weeks were interesting, especially since HR apparently interviewed everyone to get their opinions.

I don’t know what repercussions the manager ended up facing, if any; they were certainly after I left. But I thankfully still had about a month and a half of unemployment to fall back on, and I ended up finding another job — at an actual desk and WITHOUT a boss that has to make themselves feel better by tearing down the people below them. Woohoo!

You Just Permanently Ruined My Appetite

, , , , , , , , | Working | October 26, 2022

This takes place early on in the global health crisis, around mid- to late 2020, during a bathroom break on one of my shifts. My boss is using the urinal while my coworker is in the stall. My coworker finishes up and walks out of the stall, but my boss stops him.

Boss: “Flush that toilet, [Coworker], or you’re fired. And remember to wash your hands. We’re in a [health crisis], you know.”

My coworker grumbled, flushed the toilet, and then stormed over to the sink to wash his hands. I then went into the now-vacated stall and closed the door. My boss finished using the urinal at that moment and left the men’s room… without flushing or washing his hands.

I should probably mention at this point that we work in a food distribution warehouse, handling all manner of food products that later get distributed to grocery stores to be sold to consumers.

This Is Why “No One Wants To Work Anymore”

, , , , , , , | Working | October 21, 2022

About a year before the global health crisis hit, I lost my previous long-time job. The drama surrounding that could be several individual stories — maybe someday.

This story is about the first interview for a new job I got afterward. Having been working in a warehouse for years and repeatedly passed over for promotion or transfer, I was excited to answer an ad for a Warehouse Supervisor position. The pay wasn’t superb, but it was better than what I’d been making. It was explicitly listed as an “introductory” salary, and there were various decent benefits listed.

I’d already spoken to the operations manager on the phone, and he liked what he heard and saw on the resume, so a lot of the interview was getting-to-know-you-type stuff about me and about the company, general warehouse-related questions, etc. The manager was very gregarious and very personable but also very, very much a salesman. It put me a little on edge how much he was trying to sell “opportunity” and “futures” and sounding more like a multi-level marketing scheme than a restaurant-supply warehouse.

After the less-than-impressive tour and meeting the warehouse manager — red flag #2 was that this group of less than ten people was to have both a manager and a supervisor — we finally sat down to discuss specifics on the job. Considering how happily he had responded to some extremely basic and common-sense questions, he was really overplaying a position of superiority when I could tell he was desperate. Then, this occurred.

Manager: “So, the pay rate is going to be $13 an hour, and—”

Me: “Whoa, hold on! The ad stated that the starting salary was going to be $16 an hour, and that was an introductory rate!”

Manager: “Well, let me finish. We run a minimum of fifty-hour work weeks, so that’s the equivalent of $16 for a forty-hour week, plus extras.”

Me: “Hm, that’s the first time I’ve heard about that because, again, in the advertisement for this position, it stated forty-hour weeks. So, you’re saying I would be getting a minimum of ten hours of overtime a week?”

Manager: “Actually, we don’t pay overtime; part of the contract is that you waive the right to it.”

Me: “I see, I see… Should I also assume that the benefits listed don’t match what you actually offer?”

Manager: “Oh, no, no! Our insurance is actually very high-tier for the amount it costs, and you qualify after twelve months.”

Me: “So, you want a warehouse supervisor who waives their legally obligated rights in exchange for below-standard pay rates and no benefits for a year?”

Manager: “Well, technically, you wouldn’t be a supervisor. We’d have you as a standard warehouse employee for a four-to-six-month evaluation before we decide where you’re going.”

Me: “Mhm. I’ll definitely have to think about that, but thank you for your time.”

I spent most of the hour-long drive home ranting and raving with my husband over the phone. The astonishing part was that the manager actually called me back twice, trying to offer me the “great opportunity” to work there and saying that I was passing up a “sure thing.”

Oh, yeah. So sure.

For the record, the job I DID get was a desk job with better pay and benefits, and I’ve already gotten a promotion and a raise despite the tumult the world’s gone through.

It seems like that company eternally has a “warehouse supervisor” hiring ad open. It’s a real mystery how it never gets filled!

Keep On Trucking

, , , , , | Working | October 21, 2022

Warehouse work usually isn’t difficult — shipping/receiving, cleaning, pulling orders, using forklifts, and so on. The work itself isn’t hard, but sometimes those truck drivers you have to deal with can be a real pain in the back.

A truck driver sees that our dock is busy. He stops on the street, gets out of his cab, and walks inside. He asks how long the current truck will be in our dock, and we let him know it will maybe be another ten or fifteen minutes. He walks back out to his truck and waits for the current truck to finish and pull out.

About fifteen minutes go by, and the current driver takes her signed paperwork for her delivered shipment, gets back in her truck, pulls out, and drives away.

For the next forty-five minutes, I find other things to keep me occupied as the guy is struggling to back his trailer into the dock. Eventually, he gives up and comes back inside.

Truck Driver: “Your driveway is too short. I can’t get my sleeper cab and this fifty-three-footer backed into your dock. I’ll have to go back to our distribution center and someone else will have to try delivering this stuff another day.”

Me: “The last driver that was here also had a sleeper cab and fifty-three-footer on it. She backed it in without a problem. One shot.”

Truck Driver: “…”

Me: “Do you want me to call the company she worked for and see if she can come back to give you lessons on backing up your trailer?”

Truck Driver: *Pauses* “I’ll keep trying.”

He went back out, and after another fifteen minutes or so, he finally got his truck backed into the dock so we could unload him.

You Will Be Nice To Yourself And You Will LIKE IT!

, , , , , , , | Working | October 18, 2022

Let me tell you about what turned out to be one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. The job description was simple enough: working in a warehouse, packing up small orders for children’s toys to be shipped away. When I appeared for the interview, I knew this was going to be different; I noticed stickers on the walls of her office saying things like, “Positivity,” “Courage,” and, “Inner Strength,” as well as numerous motivational posters.

The owner hired me, and after she introduced me to her warehouse staff — all of them! — I quickly learned that she saw her staff more as family than as employees. For example, she didn’t like running operations in split shifts: we all started in the morning or we all started in the afternoon, and we all went on break at the same time. To be sure we all could make it to work, she actually bought a retired school bus that she would drive every weekday to pick us all up for work — which saved us a HECK of a lot of money on gas!

Each morning, we’d have a pep talk and review our progress as a whole; there were no separate departments. Occasionally, in the middle of the day, we would have to travel to another warehouse to pick up new shipments — and we all went as a group together.

Something I noticed throughout the warehouse was printed signs with “Self Bullying” in a red circle with a line going through it. I quickly found out what that was about when, one day, I was zoned out and realized I had screwed up an entire set of orders.

Me: “Oh, God, I’m an idiot! It’s right there, plain as day, and I screw it up like a moron!

Immediately, my coworkers gasped and began vigorously shaking their heads “no,” like I had just used a string of profanities in front of a kid.

Owner: “Excuse me. Who said that?”

Me: *Defensively* “No, I was referring to myself. I was saying I was the idiot because…”

I started to explain my blatant error.

Owner: “I don’t care if you boxed up your muddy work boots and it got mailed to a customer. Would you have liked for me to come and scream what you said right to your face for making an honest mistake?”

Me: “No, but it was a dumb mistake—”

Owner: “I didn’t ask about the mistake. I asked you plain and simple: would you have liked it if I came and yelled what you said to your face?”

Me: “No. I wouldn’t.”

Owner: “Then why give yourself the same disrespect? Over here. This way! “

She escorted me to her office and pointed to a mirror on the wall that had a printed sign on it saying, “You are incredible!”

Owner: “Apologize to yourself. I mean it. And don’t smirk.”

I felt myself turn red as I apologized to myself in the mirror.

Owner: “Now stand there and think of ten positive things about yourself. Don’t come back until you do.”

She started to walk away.

Me: Ten?!

Owner: “That’s what I said.”

Having survived an abusive childhood, along with high school bullying and dealing with a serious self-image issue, I could barely come up with three! [Owner] let me back to work after about thirty minutes, despite my coming up with only six positive things. She made it clear that she wanted me to present a written list of ten positive things about myself by the end of the week — and she was serious!

It was after a few weeks of working there that I realized how much I had been subconsciously bullying myself on a consistent basis, and I realized I had to implement the same “zero-tolerance” policy at home as was enforced at work every time I had the urge to mutter to myself, “You’re such an idiot!” for leaving my fridge open or dropping juice on the floor.

Working like that as a family rather than as a group of coworkers helped me get over my social anxiety and eventually helped repair my badly damaged self-esteem.

I later learned from a close friend of [Owner]’s why she had such a low tolerance for self-bullying and was constantly promoting uplifting words. As it turns out, she had been married for nineteen years to a raging narcissist who had completely destroyed her psyche to the point where she ultimately tried to commit suicide because he had her feeling completely worthless.

Whatever therapy she went to after she’d left him DEFINITELY worked — so much so that she successfully passes it along to everyone else!

That job ranks as the best job I’ve ever had — and probably ever will have.