Thursday, September 09, 2004

Sorry I've Been Gone So Long - Getting Your "Mean" On

Sorry I've been gone for so long. I was busy trying to get some things straigtened out. Work is going ok. I started to quit. The traveling was insane. I didn't have a personal life. Posting on the internet on my own blog and others was my little outlet as I sat in a hotel room and tried to relax after a 10-12 hour day working at a branch and then going to dinner with the big dogs and then trying to get some of my personal work done for a few hours, answer emails (work related
), etc.

I really just couldn't take it anymore. I was starting to have bad performance. Ignore some requests because I couldn't get it done or because, as I told my boss, I had lost some drive and a lot of my creativity. I couldn't plan anymore or think about what the next step was because I was just running around finding the next problem. No down time to think it through, come up with a solution and write a plan much less implement it.

So, I told him, in the interest of keeping my reputation, I thought I should leave on a high note with the company before I went the way of many fine employees and totally blew it. I knew for the last three months, I hadn't been performing up to my usual 150%. Hell, I might have even been down to 75%. I knew, if I knew that, it was coming across to the rest of the world.

A funny thing happened. I had my speech all worked out. Stayed up all night (I mean ALL night) Monday, even though I had to catch a plane to San Diego Tuesday morning, and went through my words, over and over. I wrote my resignation. Right in the middle of me giving my little speech, all of a sudden, I just broke down and started crying. Shocked me and shocked my boss. I guess you'd have to know something about me to understand the shockingness of this little episode.

In my company, I have a certain reputation. No, I've never been called a "bitch" at least not within my hearing or repeated to me, but I am definitely considered "tough", "no-nonsense", "decisive", "bad cop" to somebody's "good cop". Once or twice, I've even been referred to as "mean" or "unsympathetic". Those are just the few descriptors I can think of off the top of my head.

I have even expressed some serious disenchantment of folks that break down and cry on the job. For the love of Pete, it's just a job, right? Besides, I said before, I'm not a cryer (I think).

Well, as I tried to explain to one of my friends, after seven years with the same company, it's more like getting a divorce. The slow realization that, this thing that you've committed a major portion of your life to is not working out. It's really bad because, just six months ago, I was talking about wanting the next challenge. Getting promoted. Taking over a division of my own.

Things can change, though. After my Gramms passed on, I realized that I had been missing some really important things. Like family. A personal life. I had messed up on a few things and didn't have a clue how to get them back on line. I wasn't even home long enough to try and figure out how to fix it. That was working on my mind, too. Also, last year, I had looked into going back to college and getting my degree in business management, but things were so crazy, I couldn't even try to do it online at night. This year, I hadn't done anything to my house. No improvements. I was barely keeping up with the dusting. I hadn't even mowed my own yard this entire year. I was paying someone to do it. And, strange as it might seem, I really enjoy mowing my lawn with my riding lawn more. Kind of like meditation. I think men can relate to this pretty well. Maybe women, too, when you think of certain mundane household tasks.

Well, after I got it back together, I went on to say that I just couldn't travel this much anymore and thought it was best that I leave so they could fill my position with someone who could fulfill the company's needs.

The boss, he knew something was wrong. He had asked me twice before if I was looking for another job. I hadn't been. I was too chicken. Couldn't make a decision what I wanted so I hadn't gone out of my way to make something happen. Now I was getting serious.

What was the catalyst? Monday evening, right before I wrote my letter of resignation, I was packing for this trip and I was dreading it. I didn't want to go. I wanted to call it off. Not go to the airport. This was the third time I had those thoughts, so, I knew it was seriously time to evaluate what I wanted. The minute I decided to quit, I had a great weight lifted off my shoulders. I felt like I was free. I realized that this lack of decision on my part was one of the things that was dragging me down.

So, there I was, Tuesday afternoon, trying to hand my boss my resignation. Guess what? He refused to take it. He said there was no way the company could do without me. As a corporate level manager, you know that people aren't indispensible. There is always some way to get by, figure out how to handle things. Maybe he was bulshitting me because he didn't have a clue what he'd do to replace me, until he could figure out what to do. But, it was certainly nice to hear that I'm worth something and he seemed really sincere. Wishful thinking on my part? I don't know, but he went on to offer me to stay home and work out of our local branch for the next three months, at least, and only fly maybe once a month if they really needed me. He said he knew I had a list of ideas that could help move the company and I hadn't been able to move on them because of our work schedule.

Well, I still wasn't totally convinced. I mean, I know there are people in this world that just go to work and get a paycheck, but I felt like I needed satisfaction. I needed to "love" my job in order to give it what was needed. I wasn't loving it anymore. Further, I expressed my concern to him that I was not fulfilling the company's needs and that maybe they needed somebody to do this? I can look at what we're doing, I said, and we need somebody's eyes in the branches to see what they were doing, make sure we were getting what we needed.

He told me he agreed, but maybe we didn't need to descend like locusts like we'd been doing for the last year and, if we could look at some of these things from a distance, we would have more success at figuring a resolution and more time to come up with a thorough plan. Then, it would take less time to implement it because we would have something in black and white to present. Bullet points for the steps.

I then told him I was worried that, by insisting on backing away, that I couldn't handle this pressure right now, that I was knocking myself out of the future promotions I was looking for and thought I should just go somewhere else where I hadn't blown their expectations. He was insistant that this was a none issue. He didn't think any less of me. He just wanted me to be happy and to keep my knowledge with the company. Probably stingy on his part to some extent. One thing I know for sure, nobody but nobody knows the system like I do. Knows our business off the top of their heads. Every month end, I do the predictions for revenue, cash and profit. Am I bragging when I say I can predict it within a couple thousand dollars of the actual? When you're doing 1.5 mil a month, a couple thousand dollars is less than 1% error ratio. Nobody, but nobody, has been close to that accuracy in our company.

So, I guess I have my uses.

I thought about his offer for a day and he asked me again Wednesday what was my plan. Honestly, I couldn't turn it down. It was giving me what I wanted. I'm still worried that I presented a bad moment and wouldn't live it down, but, if they are willing to work with me, I am willing to try it out. I don't have anything to lose and it's hard to give up seven years. It feels like getting a relationship back on line.

You know how people end up divorced (besides abusive relations, etc)? People don't talk. They keep their feelings inside. They think it's just them and that they should deal with it. Or, they think if they bring it up, the other person is going to get really mad and would end up in a worse situation and they don't want to deal with it. Finally, they hold it in so long, they internalize it and the next thing you know, it's blown way out of proportion. That's what I feel like here. I feel like I almost threw away a good relationship (I've been promoted 3 times in the last seven years and gotten over 30k in raises) because I was too afraid to ask for something. Thought I couldn't get it. Now, I feel so much better that I don't have to lose this thing and can still be in the game.

Today, we had a number of issues come up at the branch. I felt really good and solved at three of them pretty quickly and had a bunch of ideas on how we could fix some of our other problems. I even had a suggestion on how to deal with an employee problem. One that's been going on for some time and no one could seem to get it fixed. Frankly, I thought the empoyee was a bum and needed to go, just nobody at the facility was following the right process to get him moved out. So, in typical fashion, I came up with a plan that could be easily implemented and quickly finish the persons tenure (1 year) with us. Everyone seemed really pleased.

You know, I know that sounds bad. I hate to layoff people or fire them. It is NOT something any manager looks forward to. But, when a guy is this bad, he brings down your other employees. He makes it hard for the people around him to get their jobs done. Makes them work harder (and they all work hard already). They start looking at this guy as a screw up and managers as worse screw ups because they just keep letting this guy shit on them. So, when it comes down to it, I'm not the kind to let somebody bring down the organization, just because I hate this part of the job. So, recommendation? If HR didn't like the documentation we had (the previous manager sucked at this) to get him out, it's time for RIF (hell, they need it some more anyway, still not making 10% profit margin, much less the 15% required). He is a high paid position and he doesn't perform and we changed business strategies this month to eliminate the need for these high paid positions. Time for reduction in technicians. Sound tough? This is one time, believe me, when it doesn't hurt too much to say it.

After dinner this evening (late) with my boss and the managers, we came back to the hotel room. I was here about 5 minutes when the phone rang. My boss said, "You know, you were really on tonight. I mean, you were back. You had your "mean" on." What could I say? It was true. As a compliment, some might think that's really kind of back handed. But, I knew what he meant.

Sometimes, what's bad for one employee is good for the company and is good for the rest of his team mates, too. These poor guys were working 10-12 hours a week picking up his slack. Customer service was getting too many complaints. We were having to re-visit too many of our customers because of his poor performance. I'm not letting this go down because the last manager couldn't do their job. This guy is out of there.

And you know what, I feel good. The Kat is back.

Sometimes it feels good to get your "mean" on.


Frater Bovious said...

That was really an interesting post for a lot of reasons, mostly because I can relate on a lot of points.

I'll just add this regarding the removal of a non-performing person. It's not any fun at all. In my job I've had to let go a few people, two for performance. I realized I had been screwing up when, after the first was let go, I received comments like "It's about time," and "Finally." I realized I had been so focused on being "fair" to that employee that I had been unfair to the other employees that were doing a good job. And while that person sat around and took up space, the others were losing morale, and wondering why they were working so hard, since "evidently you can do as you please, around here."

After that I stayed focused on the whole department, and responded to performance issues early. I just kept telling myself that I needed to take care of the people that are doing a good job. Focus more on them. Turn around or get rid of the people that aren't performing. Interstingly, morale shot up, and I only had to term one more bad employee over a 5 year period. fb

Tammi said...

Holy Cow Kat - I know EXACTLY what you're saying. I'm going through the same thing right now. Only I can say I hate what I do. I hate working alone in the field, I hate having to push products on people when they are having a tough time (hurricanes are NOT good for business).

Your comment on a good relationship and communication is right on. When our latest VP started he said he wanted open and honest communication. I'm all about that. He said he wanted to know when we had questions or issues, as well as successes. But...when I call with a question or issue he bites my head off. I'm fairly new to this position and never received any training on our systems. I can sell. I can manage, I just need to understand how our company does things. No one explains. Everything is via email or voicemail, and often times people are left off the list, so information is very iffy. I hate to work like that.

I can't leave right now. The company just moved me so if I leave before the year is up I owe them for the move. I signed an 18 month lease and unless I find something in Orlando, I can't buy out the lease.

So......I'm glad you and your boss are working this out so that both sides win. I'm glad for you! It's a very cool gift, not many companies (or bosses) would do that.

Kat said...

received comments like "It's about time," and "Finally." I realized I had been so focused on being "fair" to that employee that I had been unfair to the other employees that were doing a good job. And while that person sat around and took up space, the others were losing morale, and wondering why they were working so hard, since "evidently you can do as you please, around here."

Frater...that is it EXACTLY! Most of my work has been with front end operations. I hadn't spent a lot of time in the back with our delivery and set up personnel. I knew we had some issues and that the manager needed "beefing up". My ex counter part, who was recently laid off due to rif (not poor performance) was supposed to over see that part. Frankly, as much as I liked the guy and thought he had good people skills, I am finding he was a little too trusting. his follow up didn't consist of "show me the money", just "tell him it's done". In his defense, we'd been running around like one legged men in a butt kicking contest, so, following up was probably tough.

On the other hand, when I got to that part of this particular facility, it didn't even take me a day to realize it was "screwed up". I just walked back there, asked a couple questions, next thing I knew, I had opened up Pandora's box. We were bleeding money and personnel out of the department. We'd been through 2 managers in about 6 months.

I had heard rumors about this particular employee for a few months, but it was sporadic and I couldn't tell if they were "incidents" or "general behavior". Got a new branch manager, too. First thing she said to me was "this guy has got to go and HR is playing hardball". OUr HR is all about employee retention. It's almost like dealing with a union. You've got to have your ducks in a row.

his personnel chart was full of crap about issues, but it was crap. Not documented or formatted appropriately.

We got a new manager for that department, too. When he came on, the facility manager and I decided to give him a week or two to get acquainted with his personnel and not try to sway him about their performance. While the new guy was going through orientation, I covered the back end for a couple weeks. Tried to give the guy the benefit of the doubt.

once or twice he showed an inkling of the good employee he used to be, but pretty quick I realized he was milking it like nobody's business. He didn't have near as many runs and he had OT out the ass. I had dispatch coming in and telling me they were trying to raise the guy and couldn't get him for two hours and he was making late deliveries, etc. Then, I overheard the drivers talking one day about how it was a bunch of bullshit that this guy was kept on and they were killing themselves. Talking amongst themselves about going somewhere with a little less bullshit.

They didn't know I was around the corner in an office, looking for some paperwork.

I had the BM pull the guy in and give him a talking to. He acted all confused and said he was being persecuted by these other guys because they "didn't like him". Well, no shit! He went back to work and the new dept. manager started.

Gave the guy sometime. Within the first week, the dept manager was talking about this poor guy in the department that he had caught the other employees dogging on him and just talking down right mean. I asked him if he thought the guy or the other employees were the problem. He pretty much said he felt the guy was being persecuted unfairly. I didn't say much, but I immediately started wondering if the new manager had felt like a bashed under dog before and worried what his real performance record might be.

But, it was his dept, so I decided he had to make the decisions and, sooner or later, he'd get burned. Sure enough, I come back this week and the manager is livid and pissed because HR won't let him do anything. Seems the guy lied to the manager about what he'd been doing and how long it hadn't taken him to do it. But, it was a "first incident" according to HR since all his other shit was not inline.

Further, he injured himself and is now on light duty. "sprained ankle". While I was gone, the facility decided to find him a job doing "light duty". I was a little pissed. Told them they should have sent him home and let him collect workers comp. We don't have "light duty" for drivers. It was a perfect opportunity to RIF his ass while he was gone. Change all the tecks to simple "field service reps", eliminate his position (we're looking at the change anyway) and make sure the lower positions are filled already.

Then, I had a couple drivers walk up to me and tell me things were changing around there and it was good. Later, I heard that the guy who got in trouble went back and complained about it. He got little or no sympathy.

So, what you say is true and I've believed it for sometime. My boss kind of laughs, but I told him the story of "Roman decimato". You know, when troops failed or became undisciplined, they would line them up and take one out of every ten and stone them before the entire division. Made some people happy and others definitely shape up. It sad but true, the technique works in the business world, too. LOL

Kat said...


you ever notice how ALL management talks about "open door policy" and most of them don't have a clue what the hell they are talking about?

Gees...people think I'm mean, but when I walk back and ask a question or two, people open up to me. I mean, spill their guts. And it's good, because you can find out all sorts of stuff that way. Sometimes, those upper management types don't know what iota about how to do that. Maybe it just gets hard the further up the food chain you go?

I'm sorry you hate your job. I thought I didn't "love it" anymore, but I hadn't got to the "hate" stage. If it really sucks, you could just do it. You know, cut ties and suck it up. I'm in a tight financial spot to, can't afford to be without work, but I was ready to toss it if I had too.

On the other hand, as an outsider, let me make a suggestion or two:

1) Talk to him again, but have what you are going to say written in a few bullet points and rehearse it.
2) Make sure you talk about how you know he's good and you are think he could really help you.
3) Throw in some shit about how the company's been good to you and you are only wanting the best for them.
4) Have a few suggestions about what could be done by you, with just a little help from them. Don't go whole hog because you'll lose the audience (hey! treat him like a recalcitrant customer). Just stick to a few pertinent parts, like maybe you'd like to go through the factory or shipping department again or training on the product so you can sale better and have a really good grasp of the services and how the product gets delivered to the customer. etc. Just a few points though. Makes it seem like it is all for "them".

Might give you a chance to network within the company and see what else could be done.

5) Did I say treat him like a customer you really really want to buy your product? I mean, if the guy is an asshole, maybe you can't fix it, but you can give it a chance. ( did have an asshole boss once. made it 8 months before I couldn't take him anymore. He was the epitome of a chauvanist. I don't make that charge lightly, but the guy said things like "nice legs"; "are you cold?" while staring at your breasts; I mean ASSHOLE. Of course, I was really young back then and hadn't quite figured out how to "get my mean on". Now adays, the last guy to make that comment to me in a work place, I shut the door to his office and explained to him that he had a short life with the company if he so much as glanced at my breasts again or slapped another female employee on the ass.

he's still with the company and he hasn't slapped anyone's ass for about 5 years. I probably could have had him thrown out right then, but, it worked out for the best.

But...I digress. Try it again hon. You know there is always a way to approach a pain in the ass customer.

One suggestion about how hard it is to get people to buy shit when the whole area is a federal disaster area. maybe what you need to concentrate on is just keeping your company's name out there. Putting on the "good company" face. Have you thought about getting your company to make small donations to some of the relief funds with your company name and your customers' names on the check? Make a big deal about presenting it with their managers or something at the relief fund and make sure you get some media (even if it's just written) out to cover the event? Or even have your company pay for a photographer to take pictures and you can send it to the co-sponsors with a note? it's a write off, right? Doesn't hurt too much. Maybe though, it should be small, individual checks with only one customer's name at a time to amke them feel like they are the important one.

You know, it doesn't take a lot of money, but it takes it some some times to get it going on.

Just a few suggestions from an old hack.

Robert said...

I think it was when the troops fled after their encounter with Hannibal. They collected all the soldiers, and began with the 'decimation', one in ten soliders were executed.

To be sure, you weren't running from battle the next time you were in a situation like that.

"The Kat is back."
Lol! Hehe. But good, good for you.

You're refocused, feeling good, and doing well. What a great outcome, hey?

I think you are absolutely right with your assessment that you got caught up in what you were feeling, and it slowly got blown out of proportion. Sometimes we get so caught up with one or two alternatives, that we fail to see the big picture.

I also think you got a little sucked into the typical Marxist line that workers are worth *nothing* to their employers and are easily replacable. Workers with little skill, maybe, but you had (and have) alot of worth to your company.

And realizing that you *are* worth something is a nice thing.

Don't get cocky now. ;)

Kat said...

ahahahaaha...Robert, I'm never cocky. At least, I don't think so! LOL

But yeah, if feels good to actually do something that had a good impact. Reminded me I knew what I was doing.

I don't know about the whole "marsixt" worker thingy. Maybe some folks are like that, but I think I get my thoughts on the "dispensable" idea because, at a certain level, you can always find someone who knows something that can do the job. you know, the show must go on.

Lord knows I've been through plenty of changes at the company and it's still there.

But, yeah, it's nice to be reminded that you have some worth. yearly reviews are good, but their impact can get lost in the melee.

Now, if I can only convince them that my next title should be "VP" of something. LOL

Kat said...

Oh yeah, Robert, on the Hannibal thing, I think you're right. But, I kind of had the impression that it was a little more of a common practice over the years.

I read somewhere that, if a unit was supposed to be on watch and some of them fell asleep or something, they would pick out one out of every ten, make them stone the guy(s) to death and then, the rest of the group had to stone them to death.

Either way, I think you're right. you sure the hell wouldn't want to screw up after witnessing/participating in that kind of activity.

Another funny, you know, they have Six Sigma and LEAN that is supposed to teach people how to make their company efficient, get good productivity, etc. They have classes and seminars and such. I think we could start our own business: Decimato For Dummies. LOL

You think we'd have any students?

tim mccolgan said...

Kat...Glad you're back. The tone seems much more positive. Good for you. Owning my own business, I don't have to deal with all the HR & bureacratic BS, although sometime the business owns me. I can relate to the not getting the things done that need to be done around the house , or simply personal things. The one thing that I NEVER let get away is going riding....maybe you will find some time for yourself soon. One of my best friends also works for a large company administrating workmans comp. insurance accounts. In a similar situation, he had to go to Hawaii to "fix" some issues with some employees. Basically going in to rectify the problem, and get the branch operating smoothly, without a certain employee dragging the others down. And this guy is RUTHLESS. It's not personal, just business. His attitude is this; If you can't get the job done, you OBVIOUSLY don't value your employment here. Because we will find someone who will. If it comes down to MY job performance, is affected by YOUR job performance, Then you're gonna' lose...every time. Anyway, He wanted my to go with him, and rent harleys and see the island. Previously scheduled plans didn't allow that, combined with the short notice. oh well.
so as I said...Glad you're back. I'm looking forward to some more of your posts. Get out in the wind.....when you can!

Robert said...

Oh yes, Roman soldiers got severe penalties for falling asleep while on watch. I am pretty sure the penalty was death.

I'm not sure if it was much of a practice [decimation] before that incident, but I think they did practice it after that. I don't really think it matters for our discussion....

~Jen~ said...

Kat and Frater - I wish you guys could give my higher ups a seminar on management. Oi vey.