Monday, January 17, 2005

The Boss Stole My Work

This is not some disgruntled screed against my former employer, but hopefully be read as constructive criticism and controlled angst towards the business world. Call it an epiphany into who I am and who I want to become.

Amidst corporate doublespeak I’ve struggled with a crisis of conscience. Can I survive and succeed in the rough and tumble business world of (empty) suits? Do I even want to?

It started with the simple public schmoozing of a newly hired supervisor to a company executive. Maybe you had to be there. Maybe the fact that this executive was blowing smoke up our ass to which nobody dared to respond. It was out of this atmosphere that the newbie chose to so finely illustrate the new company; the back-stabbing, ass-kissing, selfish prick.

This seemingly harmless and obscure scene has stay with me since. So much so, that I sat down with my manager and discussed, off the record, my coworkers’ banter with the executive. I remember saying, “Do I need to kiss ass to get ahead in the real world? Is it wise to expect that a boss in my future will respond to my honest and frank speak?”

From Day One, we have been fed a continuous stream of lies. First, that we all had a job at the new company on the condition that we worked harder. What we have since found is that our buyers strive to create cookie cutter banks--that is--place the same formula over every institution that is sucked into its orbit. We also found from other companies acquired by our buyers have an alarmingly high turnover rate. How does that happen? For one, the oldest trick in politics; frame the question before your opponent does and then answer it for them negatively.

They tell us to work harder and strive to achieve higher goals all the while, the create a false stigma that the employees are old, unmotivated, uneducated, lazy, complacent and surf the internet all day. The stereotype is pervasive and is the reason why no current employee of the “old regime” will ever seriously have any chance at all of the supposed great opportunities the bank has to offer.

In hiring, there is a concerted effort to offer positions only to college graduates whether or not they have any real experience on the job. As my manager postulates, the former owners chose to hire from within to save money subsequently left the company with a deficit of education within its ranks

Never mind that the former owners were a thrifty bunch, but they also faithfully treated their employees with respect. The treachery towards some of the executives from the old company is appalling.

When the former owners signed their checks they described them longingly as an anachronism in the fast-paced world of banking. Like a old, quaint building still standing amongst much larger and sleek skyscrapers. When they left, the company line was to tarnish everything that was created. Why didn’t they grow this bank? To listen some executives nowadays you would think that the former owners left the bank vault open and the keys under the mat.

When I came on board in 2000, I was skeptical about the former owners. Were they really so down-to-earth? Here was this scruffy guy in a faded leather bomber jacket eating miniature powder donuts in the lunchroom. He was truly the accidental banker. It wasn’t until his farewell dinner did I come to understand him and why the bank operated in such an old-style business manner.

He sat at the head table and completely fawned over his daughter who was sitting next to him. To this day, I have rarely seen so much apparent love for their offspring than I witnessed that night.

It is for this reason and solely this, that I react so angrily to the new description of my fellow coworkers. The executive from down south that I earlier mentioned dares to wonder, out loud, how we could never want to advance in our jobs and strive to achieve greater success and responsibility. He says, “Doesn’t it make you feel good to do a good job?” My response: I do not believe that this executive has any children of his own and if he does he should spend a little more time with them. What he reads as complacency other see as an honorable choice to allow stability to child rearing.

Employees didn’t go home to their children stressed out. Quitting time was 4:15, which allowed plenty of time to pickup their children from daycare. The people that I work with are hardworking, honorable people who have simply made the choice to give more of themselves to their families than to spreadsheets and mortgage loans. Instead of trashing our lifestyles, look at your own hollow existence.

It was in this atmosphere that I took it upon myself to ask for more work. I specifically requested an expansion of my duties on six occasion starting last May. I was given small, sometimes dubious work and completed it quickly and wallowed until I ask for more. My intention was merely to keep my mind active and not solely to gain notoriety, although, I expected it to come hand in hand.

Last month, I was given an assignment along with another person to create from existing sources a specific company procedure. I was given this assignment directly from my manager’s boss.

Once a draft of the procedure was created, it was effectively stolen from me by my boss. He conjured up a “corrected” copy of my draft in the form of a Word file. Instead of correcting the errors, he sought to visually inflate the number of errors by using the strikethrough function along with the correction in red. This apparent show of work on his part was undermined by the fact that nearly all of them came from existing procedures that surely was copy edited by our affiliated company down south.

Afterwards, I was completely shutout of any meeting pertaining to this project, in fact, my newly-hired supervisor, less than a week on the job, was jettisoned to one of these meetings instead of me. I obtained a copy of my manager’s creation and found it nearly identical to my draft.

When I confronted him on any of these facts he sheepishly ran from me without any answers to my queries. Why would he knowingly steal my work for his own? Many have told me that this happens all the time, “That’s what bosses do.” True, but in this instance, the assignment was given directly to me and my coworker not to him and no credit was due to him.

This is a selfish, conniving and morally bankrupt person. With the presupposition that to survive at this new bank, we needed to work harder; this manager has sought to undercut my ability to succeed for his own hide. He would rather reach his much sought after retirement age on the backs of people barely surviving on wages over the poverty line than by his own merits.

My disdain for his business acumen is pervasive throughout the company. Although, an acknowledgment of some sort of guile on his part should be recognized. His complete lack of any banking knowledge or leadership has defied logic for a long time. He cannot competently perform the duties of any of his subordinates. Has squandered three opportunities to learn the companies computer system in three years. He once famously mentioning that he didn’t need to learn it.

He pays lip-service to customer service when in fact speaking to a customer amounts to the pulling of one’s teeth. He shows very little empathy towards his employees to the point where he has made comments amounting to dismay that someone would need so many days to grieve or go so far as to rush an employee off the phone when she simply called him with an update of the status of her ailing spouse.

He also displays a shocking inability to make the simplest decisions. One notorious story included asking the former CFO how to solve an argument over a new leather jacket that was supposedly commingling with another's jacket in a closet. He favors leaning on his more knowledgeable employees to such a degree that they readily feel burned out or leave the company all together.

I apologize for this analogy, but he fits the basic plot of the children’s cartoon, “Inspector Gadget”. The bumbling, robotic super agent despite his buffoonery, always solves the crime not by his own good work but unknowingly by his young niece and her dog. My manager is Inspector Gadget and his underlings are the niece and dog. His boss can cite his ability to keep delinquencies low during staff meetings, but it clearly incites animosity and anger to the highest level. It further creates a divide between the higher ups and the regular employees.

When will executives at this company realize that the teamwork that they urge and describe to their workers comes across as deeply hollow. This type of camaraderie will only occur if the workers truly trust their bosses. When they have that sense; only then will this type of teamwork begin to coalesce. I attended a staff meeting two weeks ago where the same stock rhetoric of teamwork was pushed again. If this was a football team’s locker room an outside observer would surely conclude that the coach had lost the hearts and minds of the team. There was disinterest, anger and virtual daggers being shot towards her. Might this hostile attitude be warranted? Of course.

They hear an executive continually tell them they should be scared.

“Are you scared? I’m scared. You should be scared.”

They hear that they bosses are compiling ratings on their abilities and that they are also keeping track of all their transgressions large or small. It sounds very much like an atmosphere where goodwill is no where evident. Where the future makeup of the new company has already been decided. Instead of noting an employees positives, their negatives are gathered to support their conclusion for termination. Maybe the new CEO could take some time out and briefly visit with his new employees. Few have actually met this person. Is he afraid to look into the eyes of the mother of two or the employee of 40 years knowing that their future hardship will emanate from his decisions?

Over the weekend, 5,000 employees from PeopleSoft were let go. From news accounts, it sounded like they were well informed of Oracle’s decision to make cuts. Here, any rumors are treated as dirty family secrets and swept under the rug. Are they using certain employees to bridge the gap until their vision of the new company is realized? Do they have any actual plan at all?

I quit, partly because I see a dark period in the near future. Not only would I resent a company that will let so many go in favor of feeding a leadership so inept, but I would also loathe working with a new cast of characters that would surely exhibit the type of audaciously self-serving type of personality that I so dislike.

3 comments:

MrYosemite said...

You seem awfully upset. I'm wondering if maybe your boss also stole your virginity.

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