Maybe I should just give in and write that book people keep swearing is in me.
I actually put some notes together recently…y’know, after I quit my job. Then, in a karmic sign of – I dunno…something, my computer up ‘n died.
Well, the universe sure knows me! There’s blogging on my phone and then there’s writing on my phone. I can tap out 2,000 words on the old iPhone and WordPress app but 50-75k or more words is a bit more than I can really get my mind around, even using my now defunct laptop.
So, for now?
It’s looking like I better find a happy median between blogging and finding myself a new job. FYI, applying for jobs on my phone sucks. However, unlike whether or not I attempt a novel on my phone, finding a job is not optional, so the phone has to do.
Crapped out laptop aside, how did I end up here, you might be wondering.
Well, settle in and let me tell you a story.
I know that I’ve written somewhere in these past 300-ish entries about the lil kerfluffle I had with my now former peer at work, Capt Can’t. Short recap: he ended up standing over me yelling his suggestion that I should “do my fucking job”. The Boss walked in, Capt Can’t screamed a little more about me at him and stormed out.
The Boss, poor confused guy…couldn’t tell who was to blame.
Right before he started screaming expletives at me, Capt Can’t told me that he’d been spoken to about his work schedule and was being pushed to work more than his normal 8-4, Monday through Friday. I knew that conversation was a direct result of the staffing conversation I’d had with The Boss a couple of days prior, when I’d flat out told him that Capt Can’t wasn’t putting in the hours he needed to and certainly wasn’t working a schedule that supported the needs of our 4 am to midnight retail business.
I wasn’t at all surprised to find myself being the object of Capt Can’t’s ire. I was a little surprised The Boss was confused about who was at fault here, though.
I’d absolutely like to call this situation retaliatory.
Since The Boss couldn’t find his way to successfully enforcing either the minimum expectations of a salaried schedule or the company’s anti-harassment and zero tolerance policies, I went over his head.
Interestingly, his boss agreed with me after stating that The Boss had told him that I push him to enforce company policies with our staff and that he also told him my perspective was usually right. So, there’s that. Of course, then he did nothing about it.
It took me a while to get my mind around my new work environment. It wasn’t until two months later – so, August of last year – that I pulled my focus off of my peer’s ongoing hostility toward me and reminded myself that I was only responsible for my own performance, not his. His performance was The Boss’…problem. One his actions indicated he was either unwilling or unable to manage.
I committed to myself that I was just going to keep my head down and not make matters any worse.
Fake it until I make it, was my new work motto.
And it worked. I stopped caring – outwardly – that Capt Can’t barely put in a 40 hour week…and only then if you counted his lunches as worked time. Oh, and if you ignored the fact that he picked on people who didn’t “fit in” with the gang of bros that worked under Capt Can’t in the warehouse or meet their job expectations. Heaven forbid that someone who has been in the same job for ten years should learn how to performance manage his staff.
I mean, look at the example his own boss was setting for him! Avoiding conflict and accepting whatever performance his staff is willing to deliver.
So, I should say that it worked situationally. I did try and guide my peer in getting the desired results from his team. I had to tread lightly, though, and sometimes do a little back channel management for him.
And that’s how it went until Capt Can’t went rogue in February and decided to have a coaching conversation with one of his direct reports that wasn’t living up to his performance expectations. Interestingly enough, one of those expectations seemed to be, bitch louder about your co-workers than they do about you, otherwise you’re obviously to blame.
I knew where he’d learned that lil pearl of performance management wisdom.
So how do you suppose publicly coaching an employee while physically blocking them into a corner and aggressively waving his arms around went?
It went great, obviously. Just ask Capt Can’t. Anyone who says otherwise is just wrong and should mind their own business…like the gang of bros did while this was going on.
Sadly, this employee’s girlfriend didn’t get that memo. She worked for us, too, in a lateral position, reporting to me. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there when this was happening, so she went to The Boss to report what she’d witnessed.
“This isn’t management, it’s harassment“, was her quote, according to The Boss. Unfortunately, instead of soothing the situation until he could investigate, he tried to shut it down by telling her that it was none of her business.
That didn’t sit well with her, as you might imagine. From where she was sitting, something that was none of her business probably shouldn’t take place in public or basically right in her work area.
From where I was sitting – I was actually standing in my shower, getting ready for work – at the time…she had a pretty good point.
From where The Boss was sitting, her raising the harassment flag translated into her calling him a shitty manager. Y’know…gotta say, he may be a bad people manager – but The Boss can paraphrase like a fricking champ! Sadly, not taking her seriously when she stayed she had witnessed harassment was a big mistake on his part.
Which is why I had two missed phone calls and a very emotional voicemail waiting for me when I got out of the shower.
This all culminated in me getting statements from the two employees and attempting to get one from The Boss – who said he’d already written his notes out – and Capt Can’t and forwarding them on to The Boss’ boss as well as the HR manager for the western half of the US. For context, I also sent her the email thread between me and The Boss’ boss from last June, since the physical intimidation described was eerily similar to what I had experienced. This also included the still unresolved time theft by Capt Can’t, so she was getting a difficult to prove harassment complaint with a side order of easy to prove time theft.
Seriously, someone just pull his parking pass activity. Boom. Case closed.
Y’know, I keep forgetting…no one above my pay grade wants to close this case.
At the end of the day, the HR Manager and The Boss’ boss come to town…a week later and spend a day interviewing witnesses and co-workers.
The gang of bros has collective amnesia about that day and sure can’t recall Capt Can’t ever bullying anyone, which is surprising not one bit since if Capt Can’t gets in trouble for it they’ll probably have to stop picking on people they don’t like, too. Seriously, the way these bros talk about each other behind their backs…it’s like a bunch of miserable old biddies bitching about whoever isn’t there to defend themselves just for sport. I’m not going to say that they never bitched about a valid point or frustration…they did, just not as often as they seemed to bitch just for the sake of bitching.
Interestingly enough, on occasion I would ask them if they’d brought their complaint to their co-worker’s attention…just to see. The reply? Some variant of “That’s not my job, man!” I managed to disagree with them in the hopes of fostering a work place where co-workers hold each other accountable without pointing out that bitching to their co-workers wasn’t their job either…
Usually, I was the member of the senior team that would say something constructive to correct the behavior. Any of those conversations usually came with limited and short lived success. Regardless, outside of this one member of the team, performance shortcomings were always overlooked as long as you turned the attention to sports. Sadly, this one employee with the harassment complaint just didn’t follow sports.
Oh, bros…you so basic.
I didn’t give up on performance managing the issues on Capt Can’t’s warehouse team. However, while my performance management may have had limited success, I had an ace to play: the time and attendance policy.
Of the warehouse guys with performance issues, I was not surprised to observe that many of them – seriously, many meaning all but two in my 18 months on the job – had actionable black and White time and attendance issues, too. I made a lot of changes with that policy in my back pocket. Actually, every one of the perceived poor performers, save two, fell to the time and attendance policy. Directly via termination or indirectly by quitting prior to being terminated.
In that same timeframe, I ended up terminating three associates for violating our zero tolerance policy for – wait for it – bullying and/or cursing at co-workers.
Can you imagine how not fun my job was on days where I had to have termination conversations with The Boss while Capt Can’t was in the room because of time and attendance or zero tolerance violations?
Even when Capt Can’t wasn’t around, it was still unpleasant because we’re having this conversation while both ignoring the fact that my complaint about my co-worker on these same issues had gone absolutely under-addressed and unsurprisingly unresolved.
So, after a hard day of interviewing, what do you suppose the HR Manager and The Boss’ boss came up with?
Well, aside from letting me know that they dropped everything else they needed to be doing in order to address this urgent complaint – a week later – they determined that none of this would have been an issue if we three seniors had been a more cohesive team.
Ok, so everything will stay the same always. Got it. Glad you both dropped what you were doing to come out here and make a show of taking this so damn seriously.
The two complainants gave a soft two week notice and left at the end of May after finding new jobs. Well, one did, the other has since cinched his new job.
Interestingly enough, about three weeks after nothing happened, The Boss asked to see me outside the office. I figured it was to administer my review.
It was to administer a counseling document.
Me: You got the wrong guy, pal.
The Boss: We all got one.
Me: That doesn’t make me feel any better since you two earned yours. I just passed along witness statements and pertinent information.
The gist of it was that whole thing about not being a cohesive team. Three of the company’s core values were quoted: integrity, respect and trust.
Me: This feels retaliatory.
The Boss: We all need to learn to get along.
No. It wasn’t.
So, for the last nine months, my peer has basically stolen $5000 in shaved hours and now gotten away with bullying behaviors at least twice and I’m somehow at fault because I don’t respect or trust him?
The next week I “got” my review, only to find out my rating had been knocked down from a Highly Effective to an Effective. I learned this because raises went into effect before my effective boss had administered the review document.
Me: My raise was 2.5%?
The Boss: Yeah. That’s what we all got.
Me: You gotta learn to stop saying things like that. This feels like further retaliation. 2.5% isn’t enough to keep me here, you’re basically telling me that I’m barely an Effective performer with that rate.
The Boss: Well, why do you say that? It’s what we all got! It’s the most I’ve ever gotten.
Me: The merit increase guideline for an Effective rating is 2.5-3.5%, giving me a 2.5% increase makes it pretty obvious. I’ll have my two week notice to you before the end of the day.
The next week, after I sent The Boss the promised resignation email and copied his boss on it, his boss shows up in town. Ostensibly to catch up on the stuff he didn’t get done when he had to come to town to investigate the harassment complaint. He offers to buy me a donut, promising he’s not trying to talk me out of my resignation.
Him: So, you’re quitting because you weren’t happy with your raise?
Me: No. As I said in my letter, I feel like my review and the counseling I received were retaliatory.
Him: I see. Well, let me give you a little history on merit increases, so you understand. And – I’m probably telling you more than I should, but my merit increase was only 2%.
Then he goes on this 20 minute meandering whatever about how for several years starting five years ago no one got raises, a few years before that people were having their pay cut by ten percent and yada-yada-yada.
Y’know, completely ignoring the word retaliatory. When he finished, I said, “Look, I’d give you back my 2.5% increase and gladly take whatever your 2% increase amounts to. Heck, you can keep my raise and I’ll take the $6-7k Capt Can’t has stolen by working less than the expected minimum 45 hours a week over the last year. That’s not the issue.”
The issue is that nothing changed. Even though Capt Can’t, The Boss and I all sat in a room with our senior field managers at the end of their investigation and heard that 45 hours a week was the minimum for salaried managers each week, nothing changed. When I asked what the measurement was for success moving forward, I was given no specifics.
Knowing that, after that meeting I went back to work, did my job and just tried to not notice my peer’s arrival and departure times. I succeeded at that. One certainly couldn’t say that I wasn’t getting along…until my corrective action.
In the two weeks between that conversation and the donut conversation, yeah…I’d noticed that 40 was still an aspirational work week for my counterpart. The Boss’ boss didn’t bat an eye when I told him that.
So I followed it up with the advice that he just pull the parking record for Capt Can’t.
“If you’re at all curious. Because I guarantee you that I’m not special, so I’m definitely not the only one who knows this. People who start work at 2:00 pm – heck, even as early as 12:30 in the afternoon! – don’t even know what he looks like. That’s a problem.”
He wasn’t curious.
Interestingly enough, I expected that my former employer fighting my unemployment claim was a toss up. I know that the environment that I was working in was incredibly unfair to the individual, actually, I’ll offer that it was fair exclusively to an individual. I think my immediate supervisors knew that, too. I really didn’t expect them to put up more than a perfunctory fight against my unemployment benefit, if any.
What surprised me was the state outright denying my claim.
Then again, it’s a complex situation. The guy I spoke with didn’t understand how administering a counseling document and downgrading a review for a whistleblower was retaliatory behavior. The reason listed under Reason for Resignation was simply listed as “No Good Cause”, so now I have a hearing before I can get unemployment pay.
I submitted several supporting documents to prove I had raised the policy violations and to support my belief that I was – at best, carelessly – retaliated against.
Whether it was careless or intentional, it wasn’t an environment that I cared to remain in once I realized that either I had to accept my peer violating company policy without recourse or I was the one who was at fault.
It made no sense to me, so I hope the documentation I’ve provided demonstrates that to the judge.
Let’s just hope the judge is better than that lemon of a state employee from the Unemployment Office that interviewed me, because based on what I’ve experienced thus far in my first six weeks of job hunting…the current job market is no place for (situationally) grumpy old men. I’m gonna need that unemployment to supplement the cash I’d saved up over the last year in order to avoid complete financial disaster.
Who wants to save for a down payment on a condo anyway?
Wish me luck!