I know the thread title comes across as a bit dramatic, but this is the rant section and my reason at the moment is being top fueled by passion. This
has been building up and building up in me for over two years now, if that is any indication of the length of my fuse.
If you are in a management position in any capacity at a major U.S. corporation, and ANY ONE of the following applies to you, then you are a perfect
example in support of my argument.
(1) DO NOT ACT LIKE A CRUISE DIRECTOR, CAMP COUNSELOR, OR KINDERGARTEN TEACHER UNLESS YOUR JOB TITLE IS CRUISE DIRECTOR, CAMP COUNSELOR, OR
Before you dismiss me as some fun-hating killjoy, allow me to put this into proper context:
This is what you are competing against. I know it's tragic and unfair, however the solution is NOT to go so far to the other extreme that your
employees treat their time on the clock as if they were at Club Med. Any reasonable
person would agree that lording over your employees and riding them so hard that OSHA requires you to install hand rails on their backs is a bad
HOWEVER, constantly blaming every problem, such as declines in production and increases in error rates, on "poor morale" is a cop-out to avoid the
real issue(s) and is the wrong way to go.
Things like "casual Friday" can go a long way to help make your employees feel more comfortable and in most cases it's a great policy to improve
morale. Going a leap further and implementing "fun food Friday" or other equally retarded gimmicks are a big mistake, especially when you have hard
evidence slapping you in the face that tells you production has suffered and error rates are getting way out of control AFTER implementing said
retarded gimmick. You are not in kindergarten and the time for milk and cookies only works on children. Unless you employ children, it's a bad idea
no matter how you try to rationalize it.
(2) STOP TRYING TO BE A FRIEND TO YOUR EMPLOYEES, PUT YOUR BIG BOY (OR GIRL) PANTIES ON, AND MAKE THE TOUGH DECISIONS. IT'S WHAT YOU GET PAID THE BIG
I'll tell you why - it compromises your ability to be objective when it really counts, and only opens yourself up to manipulation by those very
employees you are trying to befriend. If you are totally incapable of treating your employees as just that - employees - without some incessant anal
craving to impress them or gain their acceptance and approval as a swell person, you should either consider another line of work or put in place an
additional layer of management (who can handle breaking bad news) to insulate you from acting on this impulsive behavior.
(3) "FIGURES DON'T LIE ... BUT LIARS FIGURE."
I'd be willing to bet that this one is the most common of them all, and I have the data to prove it!
Ok, I really don't. According to the interwebs, this quote is attributed to Mark Twain. Similar aphorisms have been noted by the likes of Benjamin
Disraeli and Albert Einstein. One would think that the lessons would have been learned by now, and that this behavior should have worked its way out
of the human genome around the time we lost our tails and learned to walk upright. Yet, it persists. While we're making reference to aphorisms:
"You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time." -
Being from America, this should be common knowledge. Lincoln is perhaps one of our most revered Presidents in the history of our country. Still, even
after all these years, some of us have failed to get the memo. The remedy can be found in a succinct aphorism by another, much more vilified
"Trust but verify."
(4) PRAISE, LIKE A GOOD JOKE, BECOMES MEANINGLESS WHEN YOU SAY IT TOO OFTEN, AT INAPPROPRIATE TIMES, OR NEVER AT ALL.
Yeah... so, I'm going to attribute this relatively recent and annoying trend on the whole "everyone gets a trophy" and "grade/rate yourself"
phenomenon that needs to crawl back from whence it came.
(Protip: The only useful thing that has come out of the "grade/rate yourself" movement is that it is now much easier to spot the potential
narcissists/sociopaths from the rest of polite society because they feel everything they do is art and will ALWAYS rate themselves accordingly. It
takes bravery and honesty to perform an accurate assessment of one's own performance, and I am much more receptive to those who approach themselves
with criticism in an effort to improve themselves. Until you waltz into my office and plunk down an Olympic gold medal or a chunk of moon rock you
personally collected, I'd say there is much room for improvement, and yes I apply this same standard to myself.)
Anywho, I believe the relation to the telling of a good joke fits pretty well here. Nobody likes that douche/wind bag that runs around the office
telling the same story over and over again in perpetually increasing frequency, volume, and obnoxiousness. It's distracting, annoying, and has the
exact opposite effect you are trying to produce. The same can be said for a manager who has yet to apply this lesson when administering praise.
If you have a good reason to say something good, it is not only beneficial but socially expected to give props. Way to go, you exceeded that sales
quota this month, you knocked out that problem on the line that was churning expensive material into Alpo ... NOW a "fun food Friday" (just the one,
not recurring like it's a national holiday) is not only warranted but also appropriate and will be an extremely effective tool in maintaining good
It shows that:
(a) You are paying attention to what your employees are doing,
(b) You are not a complete toolbag out to steal everyone else's thunder/credit,
and (c) Other employees, regardless of whether they contributed or not, will observe what happens when you get an ace in the hole and it will be
highly motivating for them.
(5) IF ONE EMPLOYEE MAKES A MISTAKE, AND THEY ARE THE ONLY ONE GUILTY OF MAKING SAID MISTAKE IN A HABITUAL MANNER, DEAL WITH IT ONE-ON-ONE AND REFRAIN
FROM ISSUING ANONYMOUS/BLANKET BITCH-FEST MEMOS.
We've all had our experiences with this one. After all, it's how our government works. So, while this tendency is at least understandable, it still
does not make it "the right thing to do".
The rationalization behind it is: "Well, if this ONE employee made this mistake, then ALL THE OTHERS are going to start making it too!"
Here is how it works in the real world: "Hey Bob, did you get that memo about XYZ? Was it you? It wasn't me either! Let's proceed to waste as much
time as possible speculating and performing our own investigation on who has been here this long and STILL does not know how to read/follow the
If it's something that EVERYONE needs to know about, such as an undocumented systemic issue that is tripping people up through no fault of their own,
then a blanket memo is the way to go. If, on the other hand, the problem seems to stem from the actions of only one or two employees a direct approach
is the most effective. It spares all the gossip and drama, and also avoids embarrassment on the part of the offending employee(s).
Public embarrassment and shame may be appropriate for egregious societal sins but they have no place whatsoever in the workplace. If you are wondering
why the morale of your employees is abysmal and are a perpetrator of this nonsense, you may want to consider knocking it off.
Everybody makes mistakes. We are all human (I think). Broadcasting minor policy violations in such a manner has the same effect of falsely accusing
someone of being guilty. The actual infraction is completely lost and forgotten, and it only puts everyone on the defensive. You can't un-ring that
bell so avoid doing it!
(6) IF YOU MAKE A MISTAKE, NO MATTER HOW BIG OR SMALL, DO *NOT* EVER, EVER, EVER, EVER (DID I SAY EVER? NO? OK EVER, EVER ASK YOUR CUSTOMER TO
SHOULDER RESPONSIBILITY/EAT THE COST OF IT.
This one sounds so obvious to many of you that you're thinking I must be joking. Unfortunately, I am being gravely serious - it happens ALL THE TIME
and it NEEDS TO STOP.
As a hobby on the side, I dabble a bit in retail sales on some hard to source items. It fills me with great joy whenever a customer tells me that I
had just what they've been searching for at next to nothing and it is awesome. Should any of these customers lodge a complaint or show
dissatisfaction in any way, no matter the reason, the onus is on ME to make it right. Here's a perfect example of what NOT TO DO when handling your
customers - please note that after a few pages in it gets a bit heated and around page 10 was when my head lost all cabin pressure:
At this point, it does not matter if you are right or wrong - you are now echoing in eternity as a callous, shady individual and will forever be
associated with one of your customers commiting suicide. I don't know about any of you, but my gut reaction is to say, "F that - I'm shopping at
Best Buy instead." I'm not trying to make light of this tragedy (and it IS a tragedy) in any way, but it serves as a great example when you don't
keep your head in the game and let things go too far.
A more tame example would be a recent anecdote about how an order had been packed incorrectly and sent out with expedited shipping. It would seem that
if I intended to maintain the ruse that I knew what I was doing in the eyes of my customers, a simple phone call to the courier asking them to hold
the shipment wherever it happened to be followed by an immediate shipment of the CORRECTLY PACKED order would have been second nature, I mean, I would
not even have to think about it I would just do it.
I most certainly WOULD NOT call the customer and ask them if they would be willing to not only accept product that they did not order (and now must
pay for it), to a location they did not ask it to be sent to, and on top of that not even OFFER to pay whatever freight it will now cost them to send
it to the correct plant (because, you know, if a company is above a certain size then all that stuff just happens for free by virtue of logistics
fairies) which will now sit collecting dust as a constant reminder to how awesome I can fulfill a simple purchase order.
All because someone was too indignant to own up to the mistake, make a simple call to the courier, and service the customer properly. Sounds like a
valid reason to me, I think I'll start using it - it's a good thing the payment of my bills isn't hinging on running my business in such a way or
As this rant is winding down, I will close with lucky number...
(7) THE DECISIONS MADE ABOUT THE PEOPLE YOU HIRE AND PROMOTE IN YOUR ORGANIZATION ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT ONES YOU WILL EVER MAKE SO TRY NOT TO BE SO
#ING LAZY/INDIFFERENT WHEN MAKING THEM.
Today it seems like forming up any successful organization takes a certain "je ne sais quoi". It really isn't that complicated, though. My approach
is similar to if I were forming a band. From the beginning, everyone has to be sincerely interested. I know the economy today is rough with people
taking whatever they can get, but that excuse only holds water when there is a labor deficit, not a surplus. When I first graduated from college, one
of the first jobs I applied for was at a company that serviced and repaired office equipment. They held well over 300 interviews, and I'd bet good
money that the one of 300+ that was hired was outstanding (I failed miserably I suppose - forgive meh!).
Once you've determined that their hearts are in it, the next step is to make sure their head is too. People can sometimes be nervous when conducting
interviews and may let something slip out. Don't obssess over it, but as was outlined in #3 you should really perform your due diligence in checking
it out. Once you have narrowed down your candidates to a few great prospects, take the little bit of time to call their references and verify their
educational background. Don't blow it off because you stayed up late last night getting tanked at the ball game, or are trying to sneak out early to
get a few extra holes in.
When it looks like you're about to settle on "the one", call them in for an interview and introduce them to the other members of the band. Watch
how they interact and if their personalities mesh or clash. This step will save you from so much grief down the road, yet it seems far too many places
just want a warm body in a seat and completely blow this off.
If the person does indeed appear to be a good fit, you must still watch them like a hawk once the "honeymoon period" is over since that is when the
person's true colors and idiosyncracies will rear their heads. Don't make excuses for bad behavior - nip it in the bud. This is the time where it
will be the easiest and most cost effective to root out a potential bad apple since you've invested so little thus far. Constantly turning the other
cheek and waiting until the person knows enough about your operations to be dangerous is both damaging to your department and, well, pretty stupid.
When evaluating employees for promotion, don't take the laissez-faire approach of just picking whoever has the most seniority. If an employee has
been at the company for a long time and still has not moved up in the ranks, there may be a good reason for it which a quick glance in their personnel
file will explain. You want the people who are on center stage to be your frontmen, not your roadies.
IF YOU MADE IT THIS FAR, THANK YOU FOR READING IT.
I've had a lot on my mind, you can tell. Please share your ideas and experiences if you'd like, whether for or against, and rant away.
Bosses like to chat up how tough it is as if they are the central figure to some sophomoric and pretentious doom porn written by Ayn Rand, but clearly
it is not all that complicated.
It does however require some careful planning, determination, and honesty with oneself. If you are in charge and discover that you possess none of
these traits, I'd watch your back.
Great thread, K.E. and I hope this thread gets traction! Too bad I
have only one bump each for the acco. Nice analogy with the backup
band... I'm thinking John Mayall's management style, check the fruit.
For the up/down on an employee's performance, Lee I. had a great
R.o.Thumb: "If you praise someone, do it publicly. If you need to
chew him out, do it on the phone." It's amazing that we still enlist
public flogging in isolated areas of manufacturing.
It's where I came from, and was blessed to have a craft with a little
diversity and elbow room for creativity. "D _ _ _, you're taking too long."
I sometimes wanted to give Dick a button to my USB chip and pillow
speaker so he could just hit my MOVE button from the office once
in a great while... instead of EASY lol.
My contention has always been to repair the damned thing to
the quality I would die before it again did. In a perfectly timed world...
Three toed sloth once a month, but still all ten fingers LOL.
Next item, I'm interviewing tomorrow with a Plant Manager for what
could become my end of the rainbow position... and for all chrono
purposes could by stress and sleep deprivation be the last thing I
ever do. While we know bass players can explode too.. bring it on John.
My take from your rant (eloquent multiple cautionaries) is to lowball
my resume: because what I'm bringing him tomorrow morning isn't my
past-- it's what I fully intend to do in a mutual future. And it being my
last effort, anything less than my best and most ardent effort won't
get it. He was screening for an engineer with dirty fingernails, and
is promised from day none an inventor after hours if circumstances dictate.
My position has increased in duties and responsibilities without external
or personal influences; into what will be engineering management from
a quarter century of positively impacting the work of my fellows.
Not in the least trying to polish my old horse apple, just alongside watching
the individual responsibility for quality and speed of service slip into a banana
boat bottom. Didn't ask for this, maybe I was meant to do the extra work
because I can. I just appreciate hearing a few obvious and a lot of crucial points
from somebody else pushing the big round stone up the hill. NO RIDERS.
"And at the end the mediocre sleep soundly, knowing they had done that day
all that was expected of them." I applaud your OP and work ethic: it's getting rare.
ps Beside the busting into paragraphs, that Belgian might be a humble but
eager beaver in a trick suit. You could be pleasantly surprised.
edit on 8-5-2013 by derfreebie because: (no reason given)
Here is the original link referenced above,
apparently there had been some moderating done in the meantime but the bulk of it still remains for those who care to read it. (Heads-up: NOT for the
faint of heart.)
During my time as a sustaining engineer, which was the first our company ever had at the time, I had the pleasure of interacting first-hand with the
assemblers on the line and provide a direct platform for them to air their grievances.
My first assignment was to improve assembly times for an electrical box. There was a wire that needed to be bolted down to the case, and the complaint
was that it was too difficult to get to. Looking at the drawing, I was at a loss on how this could be.
So, I got up off of my fat behind, and actually went down to the line so I could see exactly what it was they were on about. The looks on their faces
when I showed up was classic to say the least. Everyone just folded their arms, with lips puckered tighter than a snare drum, as if they were waiting
for another Mr. Wizard to swoop down and rescue them from their ignorance. This must have been the treatment they were accustomed to.
I asked them to show me how to do it. No, I've read all the work instructions and I've seen the drawing. I want you to SHOW ME as if I am a new
trainee on the line. It's go time - show me how it's done. And you know what? They had a very valid point. The order in which parts were being
attached to the box was suboptimal to say the least and when it finally came time to attach that darn wire you felt as if even Houdini would find it a
So I changed the work instructions - the ECO went out that afternoon, highest priority, stop the line and fix it. The way they were being asked to do
it was unreasonable and stupid and I agreed. I was amazed that they were able to get as many made thus far, since this problem had been sitting for
... quite a bit, before I was hired.
It had been a couple weeks before I made my next trip out to the line to unravel a mystery behind some packing inserts so complicated that you'd
swear it was origami, and THIS time my reception was not nearly as cold. People felt comfortable with me, said I was approachable, and that I was able
to listen and understand their problems without taking potshots at their intellectual capacities. Some of the managers there were not so thrilled
whenever I came by, but if they were so pro then they would have fixed these problems already without needing my intervention. Problems do not go away
by fiat, they require action.
I do miss those days of getting right into the thick of things and getting my hands dirty, since that is where my passion lies. I am a "hands on"
person. As fate would have it, I am apparently destined for other things. It does make me feel good inside though that I was able to set the tone for
the engineers who followed me. Being able to do it yourself will indeed earn lots of street cred (provided you don't come across as a know-it-all or
show-off) and having excellent listening skills will earn you even more.
You have much more faith than I do - gain traction? Not a chance. Those who really need to read this rant and can benefit from it the most never will
and even if they were forced to they would simply roll their eyes and dismiss it out of hand. Which is another problem - listening skills.
From one engineer to another, I would certainly welcome your approach warmly. It seems like there are two schools of thought when it comes to new
(1) You are looking for a drop-in, hits-the-ground-running, perfect solution who from day one will solve all of your problems, turn your department
into a utopia, and by extension, the rest of the company (world?) or,
(2) You are looking for someone who can play nice with others, can demonstrate that although they may not be intimately familiar with "your way"
they at least have the aptitude/capacity to get there quickly, and will not back down when faced with a challenge.
Of the two choices above, which one would you think is more likely to happen - regardless of how much money you are offering to bring them on board?
Some managers out there need to get a grip and be more realistic.
I wish you the best of luck, though from what I've read it sounds like you are capable of making your own.
Thanks for the feedback and insights, K.E. ... abbreviated for sake of space, but all noted
Having a slightly more technically based than scholastic background I can bear witness to much
more eye-rolling from the pure cloistered/cloisterettes (is it possible to be gender-nonspecific
when attempting to politely address academic elitism?). I metaphorically liken college to armor
of extreme hardness, yet to be properly tempered until less brittle.
Really not an issue of Hatfields v McCoys... I screw up equally well from adhering to either S.o.T.
The truth bears out in almost all disciplines: where the subject matter or project criteria extend
outside the box... especially when the school attended hasn't effectively tackled innovation.
This phenomenon is quite glaring in Keynsian economics; the money troglodytes just don't
have a full hand of cards to play with, and do only what they know-- print money until the
owie goes away. Good luck with that one, Ben... although frequently evil IS stupid too.
Sometimes, and I can't stress enough in only some cases, a pure academic will hit a wall
where the concept in question is empirically indescribable and therefore a non-issue.
Your cautionary of being a great listener is a giant bell ringer simply because of this elitist-
ingrained cocoon. Within it and while being instructionated, allegedly all we will have to
know will be taught 'here". Gee, think of what we could have saved on those seminars...
but conversely I'll put a lot of stock in the gab of a lecturer who literally saved a few
corporations-- instead of toed the line to get tenure. No sour grapes, just an old tool maker
with 50 buttons on his calc'er and can still hold up ten stumps... at least for tonight
By the time I was 35 it was becoming almost evident in the cultures I experienced that the
slide ruler's job was to make everyone else's but his own easier. After a somewhat unre-
lated life changer, my perspective of sacrifice became measurably more pragmatic and
less self-destructive... but we know where 100% thrust is on the throttle levers now.
Your #2 makes all the sense in the world; and the rare individual with attributes of humility,
aptitude and tenacity is worth three walking ASME databases. The latter are finite thinkers--
and usually not 3 or 4D as in "What's going to happen to this tool suite and the machine
parameters when the whole shebang's exactly this worn out?" Even working relationships
can begin perfectly and experience strain, growth, burnout-- you name the wear factor,
but I and many others staying honest can't predict future performance. I just take into
account what reality is going to do to THIS tool, God help him.
Enough of this blacksmith pseudochology.
In near-dotage, it's second nature with my somewhat masochistic attitude toward
manufacturing processes to assume an imperfect world is going to spit imperfect candidates
in my direction as well. But that candidate with a history of preparing for opportunity will get
one from me: he's the predomately lucky one of the litter.
May your packets never collide,
the sun not chalk your Ferrari... or whatever.
Should HR afford you a dolt, be aware
they've screened to OUR job descriptions
If it's too good to be true you haven't
collected nearly enough data-- and should
soon expect that loony on the pendulum.
Keep the blowgun handy when he shows,
for ours like all is a mad house.
When any caution seemed a waste, and
in that magic pocket of continuum we
coin "...can do no wrong" Murphy got
the metaphysical memo cc. He will be
arriving promptly at noon for your lunch.
I have to duck out of this BS of mine now and with some finality before some of it digs
any further into my static RAM. Also must rise early to call that Plant Manager John back--
to thank him for a peek at the plate full. and how much I'd love to start five years ago.
My midnight tolls... and may your days be as easy as the weekends.
I possess a mere BSEE, so in the eyes of whom you refer, it must make me a highly functioning retard or at best an idiot savant. However, the ten
years prior to my academic foray was spent in law enforcement which was an excellent study in human nature. So, I'm not so inclined to place blame on
the academic institutions themselves, though I would agree that they tend to attract the personality type you are referring to like a porch light to
HA! Whenever someone even alludes to the idea that economics is an exact science I immediately tune out. I liken it to the medical industry -
the exact mechanism on how
half of it works is currently unknown - most of us have had one or two prescription inserts with that little gem printed on there, it is so
reassuring. At least the medical industry acknowledges this fact, albeit in very, very fine print.
See, you've got it all wrong regarding evil:
You are indeed correct - there are far too many reptilians in the system being housed and fed on the backs of our fellow mammals. There may come a
time when we once again sharpen our sticks and drive them out. I am perhaps a bit jaded so I have my doubts, but sometimes surprises do happen and
when they do they are bittersweet.
Soldier on along the one less traveled by, and thank you for sharing with me.
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