Showing posts with label corporation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label corporation. Show all posts

May 30, 2020

Big Business Neglecting the Human Element

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen
Edited June 2, 2020

On this anniversary of my first weblog (began in 2007), I wanted to do something very personal that also including material that applies to many people in the workforce. Readers from The Company may wonder, "Is he talking about me?" For the most part, "you" will be a combination of people. The big business shall remain unnamed.

Working for The Company has given me insight into how important factors affecting production are neglected. Also, we are people and we have personal tragedies that require our attention.
Background image: Unsplash / Rupixen
This article may get me fired or I could receive some other form of retaliation, but I am presenting the truth and the situation as I see it. Some people can't handle that.

The Hazard of Hiring Humans

It's a hazard of laissez-faire capitalism (see "Evolutionary Thinking and Human Capital") that they have to employ people. Not automatons, not (as Mr. Gordons says) meat machines, but people. We are not baunistic. Mayhaps some bigwigs would like to completely automate, but even androids need maintenance. (What was that old story about a world full of machines and one man's only job was to push the start button every day?) In fact, the OCR software is faulty (despite promises to improve it over the years), so people are necessary to compensate for its shortcomings. You hired people. It's a cost of doing business, and along with that comes the human element.

Don't be disunderstanding me, there are people in supervisory positions for The Company that have some compassion. They are in a tough place because they have to prompt the workers to meet production goals, and their supervisors seem to only know about figures on spreadsheets. (I can name supervisors who left The Company because of the draconian approaches of those in the high castle.) There are also some sidewinders among us who have no interest in actually working, slacking more often than not. They need to be motivated, trained, disciplined, or removed. When it's strictly by the numbers, things get complicated. I would never want a management position.

You hired people to do a job. We get that. There are standards and criteria to meet, even though some quantities were increased and took us by surprise. (I'll allow that some were lowered later because they were unrealistic, but not until after some people were made to go away because they weren't good enough.) A personal watchword for me is balance. There must be a balance between corporate interests and compassion for the people you depend on. Don't get me started on the abysmal morale or how I've been working for 5-1/2 years. There's something sinister behind the scenes.

"This is typical of big business!"

I know. My wife can tell you about the exceptionally crooked company she works for that violates county, state, and federal laws. Doesn't make it right there or here. Part of my problem is that I have a strong sense of right and wrong. I tend to agree with John Bernard Books, pilgrim.

Needing Proper Equipment

The Company does not equip us to succeed. Faulty software that is often tweaked for the worse and our recommendations that could increase productivity are ignored. (I started to ask one jasper a question, he finished it with what I was not asking, then rejected what I said!) Although some managers listen to the concerns of the people doing the work, these are seldom taken seriously or even implemented. In a college class on systems analysis, I kept insisting that those in power need to talk with and learn from the workers. Yes, I keep saying "workers" because that's how people like this view us.

It is an unfortunate fact that the IT department will make changes that have made the work more difficult, and are unwilling to do their IT jobs. (The attitude is, "Deal with it. Here's a workaround that slows your production even more.) What is more unfortunate is that The Company employs a variety of people with disparate education and life experience. I have education and experience in data processing and computer logic, but that's not important, is it?

Professional Difficulties

"Enough with the introduction, Cowboy Bob. What does this have to do with earlier in the week?"

Many of us work from home. Several others and I received emails from our superiors about low production. I was both hurt and outraged (more on that later), and my wife was worried again that I might have a heart attack. Yes, I have health concerns including diabetes and heart things such as high blood pressure. Here are a few salient facts:
  • The Company, unlike their biggest contractor, uses our own internet connections from many servers. These in turn connect to The Company's not-exactly-reliable servers. Plenty of opportunities for slowdowns and even disconnects; I've had to disconnect and reconnect a few times while working.
  • We are on partial layoff. In my case, three nine-hour says unless we are called in for more days.
  • My "week" was based on two days (Thursday was not a working day for me, and Friday was a bereavement day). Do we need to discuss insufficient data, a limited sampling? Not like I did forty hours, you know.
  • The queues I work on were run into the ground. Sorry, my production's down because I ran out of work that is due two days from now and I have to wait to be switched over for more — if available. This and the point above make it difficult to act as if we were in a crisis, such as when there was mandatory overtime for weeks — even through holidays.
  • As it was in the office, so it is at home: we can "push" a finished batch of data entry work and call for a new one. New batches are supposed to arrive quickly, but can take quite a while. Although there is a timer on it, the timer is not accurate. I checked. Thirty seconds of software time is actually much longer in reality. There are also periods that the system is slow between fields. Also, I have seen the meter actually report zero fields per hour. Not true. These things count against our production time. Waving it off as "we take that into account" is risible, and saying "the difference is negligible" conflicts with other things we were warned about that adversely affect our performance scores.
  • One of the things I discussed is that we have providers that waste space in fields on the form with unnecessary notes. OCR picks up that extraneous material and we have to remove it. We do not receive credit for fields entered, and the deletion time counts against us. It would be mighty helpful if providers knew how to fill out the forms.
  • When I see an error that a previous processor or I made while exiting the screen, I can go back using the "page up" key. However, it often skips back two screens. More time lost.
  • One mantra in The Company is that we are responsible for all fields, even those for which we are not prompted. That means we can receive and error for something we did not enter, so when we slow down, look it over, and activate fields, our production time goes down. Cue the song by Queen, "I want it all and I want it now".
  • Sometimes a field has been cleared and, in the process of filling it in correctly, the system jumps ahead several screens. Keystrokes are accepted as entries into subsequent fields. We must go back and find those, clear, and correct them. A tremendous amount of time can be wasted when this happens. I think from now on, I'll just let it go and damn the torpedoes. No more wasting time on backtracking. There are other quirks of the software that slow us down, but you get the idea.

Spying and Insufficient Information

Spying on employees' computer screens may not be reliable. Am I on Double Secret Probation?

"It's not spying, it's electronic surveillance!"

Sure, Comey, tell yourself that. But it's a mite dehumanizing, wouldn't you say? Although you admitted to being unable to see our faces, it is assumed that we are "staring at the work desk as if there is something magical there". Not helpful. As my readers know, I can give a prairie schooner-full of sarcasm right back — but I'm resisting that impulse. I've already told you about the appeal to motive fallacy, but when you add ridicule to that, it's counterproductive. By the way, has that spying software in which you put faith been calibrated? You may be looking at a screen that is not actively connected, or the software is acting up again.

You said you can't see our faces. Nor can you see our hands. There are times when I have been typing and nothing happens. It happened in the office but it happens at home as well, it seems a bit more. When you said, "I can only assume you're staring off into space or doing something not work related".

Listen up. In addition to established breaks, we're allotted half an hour each day for non-work things (unless management privilege was invoked and the rules were changed again). These items include restroom trips or grabbing a coffee; I have a container right here so I don't have to go to the kitchen to pour it. Or maybe the lack of activity is because someone is changing tracks on the MP3 player. In fact, some of us give back a few minutes by returning from our unpaid breaks earlyAlso, the restroom is ten feet away, making for a much shorter visit than at the workplace. The diuretic is annoying, but that's what I have to live with. When you cast aspersions on the people you work with and presume the worst about us, that worms the cockles of my heart and I'm sure it's great for morale.

I have much more to say about making conclusions from insufficient evidence (and it really gets me on the prod when people do that to impugn the intelligence and integrity of the people they depend on), but that will be in another article. We had a friendly working relationship, but I reckon you've changed, old son. That also grieves me.

Personal Tragedies

The past few weeks have been rough on me, and it was no secret. First, we learned that my sister-in-law had cancer and was moving away so she could get treatment. Second, Basement Cat was having serious problems. Third, The Company was having the sign-up for healthcare benefits and I have still not been informed as to the specifics of the coverage (I will probably have to take this to state or federal government officials). Oh, and there are the ubiquitous fears of COVID-19 that has lots of folks making chin music.

All three of these took my time and attention. Wednesday the 20th was the worst. Basement Cat's breathing was worsening, and I called the vet to say that my wife and I reached the extremely difficult decision to end her suffering (for details on this and why she was not "just a cat", see "Farewell to Basement Cat"). I sent the above video to the vet, and two of them agreed that the treatments could not work. It's mighty difficult to work with tears in my eyes and even having a couple drip onto the keyboard. Yeah, I cried. Do you care about my pain and my compassion for others? I was waiting for my wife to arrive home for that awful trip, and then she sent a message that her sister had just died. I was given permission to take the rest of the day off, but I soldiered on.

A Plan for Improvement was Demanded

I was told in the email to give a plan as to how to improve my production. Okay, I don't have any more crises or impending deaths on the horizon, so those distractions are gone. I can plow ahead even though there are software issues, working on items that are due a day or two in advance, and we were partly laid off for lack of work. Yes, I know there are things I do not see, but I can only respond to what I do see, see? Well, raising a fuss later about my benefits and legal things may take some time, but we'll deal with that later.

A Human with Priorities

My god is not money. Although money is helpful living in this world, I am a son of the Living God through the blood of Jesus Christ. Money did not die for my sins or bodily rise from the dead, and I'm rock solid in the Master's hand. Ain't nobody going to take that away. Fortunately for employers, followers of Jesus are instructed by the Bible to work for the glory of God and to try to do their best. If The Company equipped us to succeed and was insightful about what is actually happening, that would help me considerable-like to accomplish that goal. You savvy?

At the beginning, I said that this article was going to be highly personal. It was, but there are several practical, realistic things included that affect many people. But I'm not someone important in The Company, so I have nothing to say. A related article is here. Still love me?

"Whaddya mean, still?"

August 20, 2010

Work Harder, Not Smarter

Start with good people,
lay out the rules,
communicate with your employees, motivate them and reward them.
If you do all those things effectively,
you can't miss. 
— Lee Iacocca

Tweaked for clarity 3-26-2011.

Buona sera. I have an attitude with thunder and lightning heading your way.

You may have noticed that the title of this missive is the opposite of true intelligence. It constantly amazes me that so many companies seem to think that if their employees are not in a minor panic, sweating and frantic, that work is not getting done.

Brace yourselves, this is Bluntness Day: They are too cheap to supply their employees with the proper tools to get the job done. Remember my buddy Neil? He works for a cheapskate Fortune 100 company. They are certainly not in the "100 Best Places to Work" list, but they cannot determine the cause. Spurious surveys to make themselves feel good, with faked results and continually contemptuous workers are the result.

Neil still needs the job, so he won't let me name his workplace. If the details of their incompetence and cheapness got out, they would be bankrupt. Not that they don't deserve it, but there are good people in this huge company that have nowhere better that they can go.

"What's happening at El Cheapo Corp., Cowboy Bob?"

I'm glad you asked:
  • Instead of promoting people who know the job, they hire others. And then, the ones who wanted the promotion have to train their new supervisors.
  • Existing managers do not know the details of the jobs that they are managing. They make arbitrary demands ("More! More! More! Faster! Faster! Faster!") for quotas. Then, when the workload is exhausted with three hours left in the day, they look for volunteers to use vacation time to go home. Also, productivity reporting forms do not take into account things like software problems and system issues; since you didn't make your quota, so you suck.
  • Pretending to care about what the employees think, seeking their input, setting up a plan of operation — and then dropping it on the pavement like a wet turd.
  • Seeking credentialing with major agencies so they can say, "We're good. We're secure. Trust us with important information." Amazingly, they pass these audits. I suspect bribery. If the auditors knew what really went on, there would be disqualifications, fines and probably more multi-million-dollar lawsuits. That's OK, as long as they don't have to pay the workers that they rely on.
  • All kinds of talk and education about information security, and yet they still use Internet Explorer 6. Neil is embarrassed that some sites announce, "Your browser is too old and is unsupported. Please upgrade." Naturally, I'd like to see them use Firefox, but even IE8, the current model, is better than unsafe IE6. And yes, the Internet is very important to The Company.
  • Outdated, dinosaur patchwork software. Something I say say to my crew, give the employees the proper tools to do the job. And then I do it. These cafones do not properly equip their employees.
  • They do not know about people. Instead, people are a resource to be used up, or capital to be spent. Sure, there are rewards and benefits, but only to those who sell their souls to The Company. Personally, I work to live, I do not live to work. Neil's company demands the opposite.
  • After the Obama election, The Company promptly announced that there would be no raises due to "economic uncertainties". Then they rewarded a select few with raises anyway. Instead of token "cost of living" raises, they implemented "merit only" raises, and then would find every excuse in the book to avoid giving anything.
Listen up, people. I warned you back at the end of 2008 that companies have to be intelligent, and provide good customer service. Treat your employees well, and they'll give it back to you. Kick the ones in the keester that you depend on to make you get richer, and you'll be going down, capice?

February 18, 2009

More Cheapness and Incompetence

Today's thundering rant has some advice for business executives.

Uncle Bob has been hearing some unpleasant things from Neil and his friends. Too bad I can't get them to join my crew. It's dangerous and sometimes borderline legal, but my organization shows appreciation. Well, I do, anyway.

Neil's department at a huge Fortune 500 soulless company is run from ivory towers with incompetent stronzos. They have to process forms in a "timely manner", and the semi-sentient subhumanoids that run the show have made the situation worse by quadrupling the work load and not providing extra staff to cover the work. The amazing thing is that the upper managers have no concept of how the work is done! They just come up with schemes and make things worse. And yes, the people that actually do the work resent the meddling of the ivory tower managers.

Let me interject something that puzzles me here. How is it that his department resents having a manager that has no experience in the field, but is willing to vote someone into the highest office in the land who also has no experience in the field?

A friend of Neil is in a different department. She has worked for the company for thirteen years, and had a few years in her current position. A supervisory position opened up, and she applied for it. Her supervisor said that there was not anything else for her to learn about the position, yet he did not feel that she was ready for it! What a load of merda.

The fact is that this company is cheap and incompetent. They do not reward good work and do not promote from within. How stupid can you get? I sure don't want some college edjamakated clown with no practical experience telling me how to do my job. Does anyone? And how much sense does that make, anyway? Those situations always get worse.

Do you know why they do this? So they can pay less! If I was working there for $250,000 USD and wanted a promotion, but was turned down because some bright and shiny face got the job for half of what I'm worth, sure, they save money. But it's short-sighted. When you take the cheap way out, you pay more in the long run. There's training, mistakes from inexperience, more training, fines are paid, lawsuits happen (both of these apply to Neil and his pal's company) — if you take the cheapest way out, you often get bitten in the keester in the long run.

Do you know what a "resource" is? It's something that you take, use, bend, shape, squeeze dry, force fit, abuse and throw away when it's no good to you anymore. I hate the term "human resources", because it implies "using" people. The problem with having people working for you is that people have lives to lead, needs to be met, events in their lives. So, executives, deal with it. You can't change that fundamental fact of life.

And this is not the economy to get cheap in. Sure, be frugal when it's justified. But don't hurt the ones you depend on to get the job done. Work intelligently, instead. Or the job won't get done at all, and you'll really lose out. And get out of that ivory tower so you can see what the job entails. Then, maybe, you'll have a better idea of what you're demanding from people.

January 13, 2009

Cheapness Plus Incompetence Equals Disaster

Buona sera. I received some distressing news from Neil. (Yes, he's fine and the Bulletproof Bitch's influence is less pronounced in his life.) He works for a huge company that shall remain nameless for now. It's a "Fortune 500" company with international activities. They count their profits in the tens of millions of dollars each quarter of the year.

The distressing news? No raises this year. Neil's company sent out a memo announcing that not only would there be no raises ("economic uncertainties"), but employees should work harder and be happy. Stronzos! Who likes to work extra hard without appreciation? Everyone wonders how big the salaries are for the CEO and the Ivory Tower Management, and if those will be frozen as well. Not bloody likely.

Part of the problem is that this company has regulations to follow. So, they are in and out of court a great deal. If they are late or foul up somewhere, they have to pay fines. There seems to be a lawsuit of one kind or another happening constantly. The Attorney General is going after them again right now, too.

To me, their solutions are simple. First, hire enough people and trained them properly so they don't have so many grotzits going out the window. Second, stop being cheap by cutting corners. (This company wants the employees to build Rome with nothing more than two bricks and a turdball, and then wonders why it's in so much trouble.) With adequate staffing, adequate training and adequate provisions, they would be in far greater shape.

But add to this cheapness and incompetence the element of fear. After all, 2009 begins a new season in the White House with a nut case tax-n-spend Liberal. Democrats were so intent on punishing "the rich" for being "rich", that they did not care how it affected businesses. And businesses are expecting to pay higher taxes.

Yesterday, January 12, Rush Limbaugh said (my paraphrase) that things like this, including layoffs, are a pre-emptive strike. Although nothing has happened yet, B. Hussein Obama wil not be in power for a few days, companies are still hurting the people that they depend on for their financial success.

One of my contacts in the 00 Division has been laid off. Amazing! Nothing is sacred. I offered him my services and some words of wisdom that I hope will do him some good. But both of these situations are agonizing.

Sure, I guess we should all be happy that we have jobs at all. But for how long? Neil is polishing up his résumé and is ready to jump ship if an opportunity arises. He just has to be careful that he doesn't jump into something that will be sinking faster.

June 13, 2008

Life in Big Business

Buon giorno. I should have Neil write this because it's his story, but he's too busy trying to make money to pay the bills. As for me, I'm in a better mood because some money has come to me that I've been waiting a long time to receive.

Neil works for a major American corporation. It's very big, and has international holdings. They complained that in their last quarter, they did not make as many tens of millions of dollars as they expected. Poor darlings! Neil says that this company is too big and too impersonal. I agree. The problem is, that's the way most of them get.

His company does not care about its employees. They make a pretense at benefits because they could not get anyone to work there if they did not offer them (and their health benefits are laughable; many employees rely on their spouses for coverage). They cut out the overtime that many employees relied on to survive. Instead, they will have to learn the hard way that there is too much work, too little time to do it and it will lead to the company having to pay many large fines because they violated laws for being timely.

There are many irritations that show that this company does not care about the people that make it wealthy. An incident yesterday really set Neil off. One of his co-workers who had been there for over a decade was removed. (Well, they said "laid off". That's different from being terminated. Termination indicates that you are bad. A layoff is a nice way of saying, "Get lost, we don't need you anymore".) There were two others that were laid off, but they were in another office and he did not know them.

Now, this lady had been a good worker and learned many facets of the organization. So, she must have been making a halfway decent wage. When the company decided to do cutbacks, they not only eliminated the overtime, but eliminated jobs as well. She was caught in a "business decision".

Frankly, they've learned poorly from the Mafia (let's pretend that they really do exist). The half-assed ruthlessness of "nothing personal, it's only business" is coupled with incompetence. Organized crime does not accept incompetence. I've heard it said that the "business decision" and "nothing personal" line is crapola. When you lose your job, it's very personal. They're playing fast and loose with people's lives.

I detest the term, "Human Resources". What is a resource? Something that you use up, squeeze dry, throw away and find another. And now we have departments set up to officially drain you dry.

The bean counters in accounting don't care about the effects on people. They are only interested in making the fastest grotzits possible, and are unaware of long-term effects. Neil has already met people that are angry about the unjust removal of employees. They do not accept the "business decisions", and are less willing to work as hard because, frankly, hard work and loyalty are not rewarded. Well, sometimes they are, but it's just window dressing.

Businesses like this give Capitalism a bad name.

Let's end this comedy with an un-funny and actually somewhat touching moment from the end of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Mr. Shirley, the boss, suspended Christmas bonuses and did not tell anyone. Then he had to look the Griswolds in the eye. He said, "Sometimes things look good on paper, but lose their luster when you see how it affects real folks. I guess a healthy bottom line doesn't mean much, if to get it you have to hurt the ones you depend on. It's people that make the difference."

I'd like that carved into the concrete of every business.

There are successful businesses that are good to their employees, so it's not just a "business decision". These companies know the realities of having people work for them. Neil's company is a Fortune 500 business, but it's not in the top 100 "best companies to work for" lists.

I think I read (many years ago) in Lee Iacocca's autobiography, "If you give your employees your best, they'll give you their best." Whether he said it or not, it's something to seriously consider.

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