Category Archives: Work

Kudos For Donna

As part of my after-care, a Blue Cross case manager called me yesterday. We talked for an hour. You’re going to think I’m kidding, but it was like talking to a Grandmother and friend I never knew I had. She was engaging, personal, and we talked about a lot of things other than my health. I hope she’s rewarded for this kind of outreach. I would not have imagined that someone from such a large bureaucracy could be so personal. Because she’s a nurse, was on a ventilator in the hospital due to covid, and knows the medical system as well as anyone could, she also allowed me to openly discuss the mess we face when our health falters. She should be the face and soul of Blue Cross. As much fun as I have poking at organizations, she deserves recognition.

Love, X

Misadventure At Jason’s

Misadventure At Jason’s

Having a horrible experience at a restaurant is a first-world problem; that, I acknowledge. Covid doesn’t factor into my latest mess. Few people working or visiting the eatery in question wore masks yesterday. That’s okay by me. Having survived attempted strangulation by my bowels makes it hard for me to throw stones at external threats beyond my control.

Yes, Tammy, I should have opted for Sam’s rotisserie chicken. : ) Now that I’m out of the hospital, I wanted to enjoy a calorie and flavor-rich simple meal prepared by a restaurant that c-a-n make delicious food. It was to be my first post-surgery restaurant experience. It was late enough past the post-lunch crowd that the most significant impediment would be circumvented. Or so I thought. After realizing that Renzo’s was closed on Sunday, my friend and I immediately agreed on Jason’s Deli. We used the app to simplify the process and paid online. I took a large cash tip with me to reward the employees involved. Curbside pickup would make it easy for me to avoid unnecessary strain and bypass any covid issues. (Not that I’m worried, as so many vaccinated people are getting breath-through cases.) I wasn’t in a hurry, and I left to go pick up the order.

Calling the number on the Curbside pickup sign, I immediately knew that I might have a bad experience. The employee answering the phone lashed out. My response was both surprise and a little laughter. I tried to picture what Hell she’d already experienced by 1 p.m. to motivate her to practice that degree of insult. Avoiding any humorous snark, I answered her as best as I could. The details don’t matter. I called my friend, laughing, telling her what the Jason’s employee had said. Since I work in an environment where customer service often morphs into malicious compliance when an employee gets angry, I easily recognized that the employee in question would have gladly jumped off a building to get out of there. I lowered my expectations and waited.

After 30+ minutes past the initial “order-ready” time, I went inside to the to-go area. I wasn’t upset, just confused. At this point, I was still laughing a little at the unlikely outcome I’d got myself into by choosing Jason’s. I called my friend who was going to share the meal with me. I apologized for laughing. It was so ridiculous I didn’t know how else to respond. I sent a picture of the lop-sided layout; 99% of employees on the dine-in side and one lone guy attempting to keep up with the to-go/curbside/driver end that comprised at least 50% of the business.

People were waiting, frustrated. A lone male employee was manning the entire ‘out’ portion of the long prep bar. He was hustling against piles of half-prepared sandwiches, missing items, and dozens of order tickets thrown and stuck everywhere. A dozen employees were helping dine-in customers get their food quickly.

A couple of food delivery drivers expressed their frustration and walked out. One announced, “Okay. I don’t want any of these orders. I don’t care about the money or the food.” And he left.

Twenty minutes later, I finally got to the to-go register. “Can I speak to a manager?” She looked at me, angry. “No. She’s working the line for dine-in.” And she answered the phone, ignoring me. I stayed in my spot. The woman looked back up to see me and walked off, leaving her spot. Another employee came up a minute later, and I said, “I’d like a refund, no harm and no foul, and thank you.” She rolled her eyes. “We don’t have time to issue refunds. You get what you get.” I’m paraphrasing. “Wait, ma’am, I’m sorry it’s so busy, but I’m tired and stressed. I need a refund.” She walked off.

Customers and delivery drivers watched and listened. For the second time, I thought maybe I was on an episode of “What Would You Do.”

When the first woman came back to the register, she didn’t make eye contact. “Move. I can’t help you. The manager is working the line and can’t come up here.” Stunned, I stepped slightly to the side as the employee helped someone else. I’m omitting things that would make this encounter worse. You can imagine the other words said to me and around me. Each time the phone rang, the workers recoiled and had an epithet to utter.

I waited a few more minutes. Order tickets, half-prepared food, and boxes continued to pile up as the single male to-go person fought against a tide of orders. Another driver said, “Hey, you’re supposed to treat this like a drive-through and process us out. I’ve been here an hour and have orders sitting in my car getting cold/hot/old.” No one listened.

I was sorry for everyone, workers and customers alike.

All the energy and enthusiasm I’d had evaporated. My body just wanted to sit down, even if I had to eat slices of bread for a meal.

I cut through and walked around to the dine-in register, now empty. The lunch rush was well over by then. No one wanted to come to the register. An employee walked up, exasperated. “Can I take your order?” I said, “No, I’m sorry. Look, I need a refund. I’m sorry.” I’m editing this portion, too. The employee, a young female, didn’t quite know how to do it.The long to-go order person walked up, answered the phone, and said, “#$#@ I’m working on it!” before I said anything. He threw a piece of paper at me. It said “$0” on it. It wasn’t a canceled receipt. “Sir, I’m sorry, I need a receipt cancellation, something indicating my order was voided.” Angry stare, followed by angry words. He waved me off, telling me to leave and shut up. Incredulous, I repeated, “Sir, I apologize it’s so hard here, but I need just a second…” He said something bizarre to the caller, held the phone against his chest, and screamed down at the manager working on the prep line, “Come take care of this asshole! He won’t shut up.” He shook his fist in the air in front of me. It was not a polite gesture. I took a breath. I remained standing there, waiting to give it one more try.

The to-go order employee screamed at the manager again. I won’t cite words here, either. Whether you believe me or not, I felt sorry for him. Work shouldn’t push anyone to that point. I’m pretty sure a few people in my position would have thrown a punch.

The manager walked up and said, “It’s always this way.” I said, “The details don’t matter. I just want a refund. I know it’s busy, but your employees have been rude, cursed at me, and treated me and others like we’re not human. I wasn’t in a hurry. I feel bad for everyone. Is this a receipt?” She looked at it. She gave me another explanation.

And I tried to make a human connection: “You know how you never know what someone else is going through? I’ve been respectful, calm, and patient. I waited 30 minutes outside and well over an hour here inside. I apologize that everything is impossible in here, I truly do. Let me show you that we have our own issues.” I lifted my red t-shirt and showed her my long, jagged metal staple wound. “I don’t think I’ll follow-up about this visit, but if I do, please remember that I was polite, didn’t raise my voice, and my only crime was trying to get food and celebrate. I’m so sorry for all of us.” I meant it.

She apologized. I felt terrible for her, the workers, and everyone else who found themselves in an unexpected retail Hell.

I left, feeling like I’d been at Jason’s for the equivalent of an entire afternoon, even though it had been at most two hours. Another Uber driver spoke to me outside. I told him a ten-second recap and wished him well, knowing his afternoon had already crashed. “I’ve got orders in the car, ones I’ve had over an hour.” I smiled. “I’m so sorry. There’s no fix for this.” And there’s not. The corporation won’t staff adequately, and the employees don’t know how to go from incredible anger to communicate the mess effectively.

I drove back to the apartment.

Within a little over 30 minutes later, a local Chinese restaurant delivered a mountain of dishes. I ate like a king. But the mess and melee of Jason’s stayed in my head all afternoon. More than anything, the most significant realization is how a retail encounter put so many people in the position of being lesser than any of us should ever be with one another.

I treated everyone I came into contact with kindness and regard. It was supposed to be a simple meal, one to celebrate being out of the hospital.

Instead, it was a reminder that staffing is too low everywhere – and that it’s easy to use stress as a lever to be hateful.

I’m not sure I can indict Jason’s Deli too harshly. But it now holds the title of worst retail restaurant experience of my life – and that’s quite the feat at my age.

Did I go too far showing the manager my surgery incision? Maybe. But we always hear that we don’t know what’s going on in another person’s life. I put myself into the shoes of every Jason’s Deli employee during and after the mess of yesterday. Except for the manager, none of them imagined why the soft-spoken guy in the red shirt looked so forlorn about humans being unable to stop the madness and reset.

I haven’t processed some of these same lessons from being in the hospital last week. People are stressed, understaffed, and unmanaged. Many of us don’t have adequate coping mechanisms to respond to situations that force us to forget that we’re just momentary flashes of life and need to do better.

Love, X
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Leigh

You were there when I first started in 2005. A pretty, smiling face, a Southern lady who cleverly concealed her understanding of all our ribald and questionable words and actions. You understood where I came from, being from the same region and culture yourself. You sent me pictures of Brinkley, as you passed through. You were there when my wife died unexpectedly. You sat in the room across from me when we were certain we had lost the job lottery during a staff reduction. Despite my own shock, I was shocked and stunned on your behalf. These kinds of moments forge a connection. (Note: I miss Leroy, who didn’t survive the cut, much to our mutual surprise.)

I have no doubt that I exasperated you on a lot of levels.

Though I can’t remember any of them, I am certain I ate at your diner in Johnson many times while you tirelessly worked the tables, kitchen, and your poor husband Phil.

I love teasing you about your attention to detail and exasperating way of making sure I understand you. It was, for this reason, I nicknamed you the Chihuahua; tireless, small in stature, but impossible to ignore.

We all get caught up in the bureaucracy of living and work. In so doing, we glibly overlook how fascinating the people around us can be.

You are the rare combination of a hard worker and a compassionate listener.

You’ve dedicated thousands of hours that no one else in your position would.

Both of these qualities will dim our lives when you retire. Having worked in this environment for so many years, I can confess that we still share and tell stories of all the people we had the honor of knowing in common. It’s an infinite game of leapfrog, as people come and go and overlap. Your overlap is gargantuan and memorable.

I’ll steal the cliché and modify it: “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s almost gone.”

I don’t know what you’re going to do with the 30+ remaining years of your life.

I hope it’s epic. I hope it’s kind.

And I pray for Phil.

Love, X

TMI & Hey! Get To Know Me

I use horrible toilet paper. I don’t like Charmin or anything that feels like a paper washcloth. I am still using my first roll from since I moved to this apartment. Granted, I’m at work all morning. And I do take high-quality fiber supplements for multiple reasons. And vitamins. If you’re not taking good fiber, you’re missing out on several health benefits. If I’m ever the Surgeon General, I’ll mandate that we add fiber to beer and wine. I preferred cheap toilet paper before, too, in my other life. Just like I love horribly thin and small bath towels. And I shave using bar soap. And haven’t bought shampoo for myself in YEARS. Yes, I still use deodorant.

“If you find someone who takes the time to compliment you, take the time to let them do it.” – X

The buzz yesterday was that Mercy is raising all employee’s pay to at least $15 an hour. This isn’t a political observation. I was glad to see that some media outlets repeated a statistic that shocks a lot of people with great jobs: 47% of all jobs in Arkansas pay LESS than $15 an hour. Most people aren’t aware of this. And yes, this is the highest for the country. Though many people understandably disagree with me, I am a true socialist regarding pay: I believe that everyone doing the same job as me should earn the same rate of pay. I don’t feel irritated if those making less than me get a raise while I don’t. Of course, I’d welcome more money. During my tenure at my job, I declined a raise twice so that it could be distributed to newer employees. In one of those years, my employer also reduced pay to avoid a bigger layoff; this caused me to lose 8% of my pay. That’ll teach me, won’t it? 🙂

The/Fun Expert Rule: “Never invite a technical writer along for a moment of whimsy.”

I’d like to say I cut my hand in a surprising way yesterday while doing Karate. The truth is that I was crafting, making a solar light display using an unused blue glass hummingbird feeder. I managed to get blood in places that even Dexter wouldn’t be able to find. It wasn’t deep enough for stitches, though, especially since I’d already overreacted and amputated my hand. Just kidding. It was pure luck I didn’t cut a lot deeper. Negligence: 1. X: 0.

“Every “yes” is an envelope for “no.” And vice versa. Choices inherently exclude other options.”

Just because it’s fun to experiment, I managed to wake up and be at work in 8 minutes one morning. With the notable exception of one morning this week, I quite often jump from bed and into my day. Now that I have a despicable Echo a few feet away, I ask it, “Play me quotes by Demetri Martin.” Or Steve Martin, for that matter. Because I don’t have a pet, I try to say a few words to Mr. Snuffleupagus. (Whose first name is apparently Aloysius, something I didn’t know until this week.)

“If you’re saying yes to the wrong things, no becomes difficult, even for the easy choices. And vice versa.”

I’m trying to get people to call this apartment simplex “The Long.” It stands for L.On.G. or The L Building on Gregg. Anything would be preferable to the unimaginative and pejorative names by which it is known now.

After worrying about spending too much on a new phone, I bought a Moto G Power. For the price, it’s astonishing. Y’all have to remember that I’m accustomed to using hand-me-downs. I use AT&T pre-paid with unlimited to save about $40 a month. It’s a good thing I just bought a set of really nice cables for my old phone, as none of them fit my new one.

Also, my work finally decided to stop making me pay twice as much for my health benefits now that I’m divorced. I didn’t mind giving money to a nice multi-million dollar insurance company for no reason, though. I’m going to invest that extra money in a chinchilla venture. I’m just kidding. Everyone knows the money is in banana peels now.

“You’re under no obligation to make sense to anybody.” Someone sent that to me in response to my crazy Q & A post. “I like you better when you’re out there on the limb, extemporaneously whispering whatever is in your head. Unfiltered. You keep threatening to go to the next level, the place where people might get nervous. Go there. And stay there.”

Hummingbirds are visiting again. Someone gave me a hummingbird feeder and I hung it in the inside corner of my upper floor. I didn’t know that despite the chaos at this apartment before my arrival that hummingbirds once visited. I welcome them back. I just wish they’d learn the words. (Sorry for referencing an old, tired joke there.)

In conclusion, I’m saving a fortune on toilet paper.

And if you read my post, you’re probably going to spend at least a few seconds pondering the implications of that.

Go Home Covid, You’re Drunk

A quick note about our friend Covid, the one who keeps coming home late and drunk.

No matter what anyone tells you, at any given time, someone in your extended circle ‘has’ the virus, even if they are asymptomatic. There is no doubt about this, even if you think you’ve become a hermit. It’s comforting to know that most don’t develop worsening symptoms if they are vaccinated. But you need to know that up to 10% of those vaccinated will get the Delta variant – and a lot more of those unvaccinated will find themselves with it.

You can get inexpensive at-home test kits at your local pharmacy. They are a little less accurate – but that’s why most come in two-packs, so that you can re-test the next day.

I don’t talk about work directly. There’s a reason for that.

Among them: even in the medical field, we’re experiencing a high rate of infection. Not just with the unvaccinated, either. Two people in my inner circle tested positive very recently. I won’t characterize the impact on them personally or on our work circle. Vaccinated people appear to be infectious for a much shorter period than the unvaccinated. Regardless, this virus is akin to a strange version of Russian Roulette. The gun is going off all around me, among vaccinated and unvaccinated alike. Since we’re not testing random samples, we only test those whose symptoms draw attention to the possibility they have it; we’re using a threshold that is too high, in my opinion.

So much of this pandemic hinges on other people’s behavior. Much of it cannot be mitigated without destroying how we live.

IF you have a bout of allergies, or a cold, fatigue, or a prolonged headache, I’m going to say something most won’t: it’s likely as not you have the virus. I personally know a LOT of people who’ve initially shrugged it off as “the sniffles,” or a cold, etc.

Likewise, a lot of us won’t have any symptoms at all.

Welcome to our new reality.

Be safe, be kind, and remember that no matter what people say or write on social media, all of us are full of sh!t about being consistent in our beliefs and behavior. At our core, we want our loved ones to be healthy. We’ll avoid trans-fat or bacon and then smoke, or say no to caffeine and then drink moonshine like it’s lemonade. That’s what we do: we excel at contradiction, hypocrisy, and stupidity.

I of course wish everyone would be vaccinated. I do not envy the government or businesses these hard choices as they look toward the overall public health. One of my favorite people in the world is juggling whether to give up a job she’s had for 22 years. I’m not commenting logically – I’m commenting emotionally.

With this virus, though?

Even if you do everything perfectly, it will likely still affect you in the long run.
Vaccinated or not, we are all at each other’s mercy.

I ask each of you to dial back and try to see others as human – and yes, even if we’re looking at each other and mentally calling one another “dumbass.” I can live with that. I want you to live – and live with that, too.

We all wait.

Love, X

How Long Is A Piece Of String?

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A lot of thought and solutions are ridiculous. I sometimes get caught up in either the details or see the issue from too far away, so much so that complexity becomes obvious simplicity. In my case, though, I’m not in charge and not being paid to weigh the complexities of moving social issues.

It’s possible to give a completely accurate answer to a question – and sometimes such an answer follows a logical route. It might still avoid addressing the fundamental question, though.

During this pandemic, I encounter several such scenarios on a daily basis. When well-meaning people are involved, it isn’t difficult to point out that the objective and the solution aren’t compatible. With authoritarian or toxic people, we get bogged down into sublimely ridiculous situations, like a Seinfeld episode written by sociopaths.

This pandemic has consistently beaten into my head that adults are not in charge and the ones who make many of the decisions are winging it, often for personal gain.

Completely random and incompatible directives and rules are issued. We collectively scratch our heads, trying to figure out the objective to determine whether the rule is a 10mph speed limit sign on a 6-lane highway at noon on a summer day. Eventually, someone will insist on clarification. Inevitably, we regret it because we’ll get an inscrutable non-answer that helps no one. This leads many people to choose malicious compliance or to continue to do whatever they want to.

Years ago, someone hit me with the riddle of “How long is a rope?”

Given no more information, I surrendered and said insufficient information was provided.

I knew it was going to be a trick answer. The smug look of victory on the guy’s face asking me was evidence of it.

“It’s twice the length from the middle,” he replied. “Gotcha!” He proclaimed.

“Does a fart smell or stink?” I asked him, as I walked away. Because I gave him the same condescending and smug look as he gave me, the question tortured him for a day.

Which leads me to the look of confusion on an expert’s face today. He gave me a stupid non-answer. I immediately reverted to my tried-and-true, “Does a fart smell or does it stink?” I bowed and walked away.

The Be-Nice Social Media Meme Quandary

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I’m not a fan of a quick recap or drive-by. I want three shotgun blasts to the thorax, using words, just to be sure. I’m obligated to kill the “be nice, you don’t know…” meme – and bury it under an avalanche of words.

A popular meme and motivational cliché challenge us to be nice to people because we don’t know what invisible battles they’re fighting. (Maybe their anger, mistreatment, and lashing out is motivated by something else.)

Duh!

That’s true for literally everyone, each day – unless we’re surrounded by sociopaths and mean people. Most good people swallow reactions to misbehavior constantly, without comment or repayment. As an outsider, you don’t know how many times someone might have overlooked being treated rudely or mistreated. We only see the consequence and not the long hill of effort to be kind that preceded an outburst.

It’s reciprocal, though, that expectation of kindness or overlooking someone’s inexplicable mean behavior that affects you. You’re not logical if you extend the benefit of the doubt to one participant without also extending it to the other.

People secretly fighting invisible battles should stop blame-shifting honest reactions on the people who are unaware of the circumstances.

We are all jerks; luckily, we’re just jerks on differing schedules.

Reciprocate and assume that I might have a bad day, bad life, or a particular circumstance myself.

Be honest with me and I’ll probably tolerate you lighting my toes on fire.

Like all clichés and generalizations, it’s almost meaningless to ask people to assume that all misbehavior results from an unseen struggle. We’re all going to say and do stupid things, especially hurtful things that we might not have intended to be so harsh.

Most of us are around a few people who lack basic decency. They gaslight and lash out regularly, then use any of our honest reactions against us. They’re the worst. They prey and thrive on the drama.

I’m around two of the worst sociopaths I’ve ever met on a routine basis. They’re toxic, angry, and abusive. They are masters at manipulation. It’s exhausting and needless. They always have an excuse to pardon their horrendous behavior.

P.S. I know this post is potentially contradictory, accusatory, and perhaps upsetting. Maybe I’m having a bad day, though.

So do as the memes demand and give me a break.

You don’t know what’s going on in my life.

Whatever it is, though, it’s my responsibility to throttle my misbehavior, angry words, or discourteousness before asking you automatically to give me a pass. I expect the same from you. It works 99% of the time.

So, enough with the “Be nice, you never know” positivity memes. They’re vacuous and defy the complexity of human emotions and interaction.

Good people need not be told. Bad people don’t care. And sometimes, we can be both.

 

What Exactly Are They Sending You?

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I wrote the draft of this post years ago, precovid.

Years ago, I remember watching a “60 Minutes” segment and seeing a railroad car carry chemicals to one destination and then refill with apple juice, without being cleaned between fills. When I worked at a dairy, I was surprised to see that clumpy, black, clotted milk would be put in the holding tank to save money, because as long as the main tank passed inspection, it didn’t matter if someone shoveled manure into it. It’s true that pasteurization awaited the milk.

To frame it another way, though, you likely wouldn’t eat a bowl of ice cream if you knew it had 1% manure in it, no matter how safe it might be to eat.

I saw other things which were more troublesome while working in the poultry industry, which is plagued by food-borne illnesses and contaminants, even though they constantly assure us that every conceivable measure is being taken to ensure a safe food supply, even as they speed up processes, reduce costs and USDA inspectors, and reduce human intervention. If human beings are involved and profit is a primary consideration, it is no stretch to imagine all possible scenarios where corners might be cut. People inevitably cut corners, especially people who are pressured into working faster, with fewer people, and whose profit margin shrinks as they take the time to do their job more safely.

PSA: You’ve all seen the delivery drivers throw packages in and out of their trucks, across fences, or into swimming pools. If you haven’t witnessed it personally, the internet has probably shown you a few examples of packages being tossed like beanbags all through the delivery process. Even when they don’t throw or mishandle packages, they are constantly falling over, rolling, or upended during handling and transport.

I won’t mention any companies by name, of course, but some bring you clothes, electronics, food, and toys for your children. It’s convenient.

You don’t think twice about it, I’m sure.

Without being specific, a huge range of things is shipped by carriers. They can send diagnostic samples, clinical samples, blood, human tissue, and about a 1,000 other things you’ve never thought about. I’m surprised how many people assume that such things are segregated on other carriers or trucks. They are not. Also, it’s important that people know that the classification systems used to determine what can be shipped are a little dubious. Some items are recycled medical devices which are treated as highly infectious inside their point-of-use, yet are packaged and transported on the same trucks as your personal items.

The same drivers you see throwing packaged from across the yard are often the drivers transporting the things I’ve mentioned.

Whether they are hazardous or not is at times subject to opinion. Many times, no one knows what is inside the boxes. Even if they do know, speed demands that the packages be handled quickly, not carefully. The packaging is at the whim and mercy of anyone who took the time to ensure it was sealed properly or not. Anything in the distribution chain, however, is subject to the same treatment that you’ve watched on YouTube videos. You can Google the issue for yourself. You’ll be surprised at what can be sent on the same vehicles as your children’s toys, clothes, and food items.

It’s a small leap in logic to assume that these unmarked packages sometimes containing hazardous materials spill, going out onto your food packages, baby toys, or laptops. You then touch them without ever realizing that they have been exposed to waste products.

Many delivery and shipping companies use contractors. These contractors control their own processes, pay for their own vehicles, and so on while using the logos of the respective companies. Speed and efficiency are prized factors at every step of the delivery process. If you didn’t know, many drivers often resort to urinating in containers in their vehicles, no matter whose packages they are handling. Think about it the next time a driver hands you a scanner to sign your name.

Although I have not expressed my point very well, it can be summed up this way: if you receive anything shipped, you should assume that careless people handled the items and that anything you receive might have been contaminated accidentally or negligently at any point in the process. Further, reducing costs tends to drive what processes and training are in place to protect us.

Those videos of drivers throwing your packages are simply the visible consequence of our poorly-managed distribution system.

 

A Sign Your Boss or Job Sucks

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Do you want to know a sure sign you work somewhere where either the organization is terrible – or the boss is?

If they want to limit discussion to only your reaction, rather than the actions, words, or circumstances which triggered you, it’s a poor organization. Even people accused of murder have the opportunity to detail the timeline of events that preceded the alleged crime.

People are complex. Most people rarely flame out or over-react.

If your boss fails to listen, regardless of how ‘busy’ he or she is, it is likely the job or boss sucks. If it becomes a pattern, it is a certainty.

If your boss vocalizes the idea or emails any insinuation that your concerns are trivial, you work for a poor boss.

If someone uncharacteristically lashes out, you need to stop and examine what happened – as if human beings are involved. Forget the check-boxes and paint-by-the-numbers nonsense that HR insists that you use. Good HR representatives are compassionate, but it’s vital to remember that their primary responsibility is toward the company, which by definition is impersonal.

Good people don’t lash out or lose their sh#t unless they’ve been ignored.

In the last few years, most of us have witnessed the role of HR diminish from watchdog to whitewash. As organizations silo their areas, poor managers tend to become worse managers – and without anyone properly keeping an eye on them.

So many of us tolerate stress, mismanagement, misbehavior, or other cumulative craziness without a comment. Without warning, the valve blows and we react.

The boss rarely understands that we might be around a toxic employee or drama llama, or that employees are expected to do too much or tolerate behavior that would never be forgiven outside of work. Because businesses are running leaner or management is less well-trained than previously, the issues tend to flame out with greater consequence.

I see this becoming a worse problem as managers focus on metrics and impersonal considerations ahead of our humanity. As we emerge into a postcovid workforce, I predict that there’s going to be a great deal of backlash with this, even though many workers will continue to work from home.

When managers shift to priority management, especially during a crisis, people have fewer ways to vent their grievances. Despite the fact that most bosses grow to despise this part of their job, it’s actually more important than ever that they grin and bear it as they listen to their subordinates. Even if they don’t appreciate the alleged severity of the issues, failing to provide a release valve will hurt everyone. Pressure always leaks out of the organization. Whether it leaks out harmfully depends on the individual who is being ignored.

While it is simply my opinion, I think organizations need to stop leaning toward efficiency. Most people do their jobs well without micromanagement. The human component, the part needing attention, is suffering now more than ever. I see it in real-time.

I know the agony bosses suffer when they listen to a lot of complaining. It works precisely like a marriage, though. If you stop listening, you’re going to find your stuff piled in a flaming heap in the driveway.

Besides, in my experience, the terrible bosses who do this sort of thing are the worst when someone does the same to them. They will destroy the entire business if necessary if they are judged in a vacuum and without being afforded the opportunity to explain why they lost their sh#t.

 

Let’s Trade

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I see so many social media posts from people advocating that young people choose a trade over college. These types of posts seem to be multiplying. It’s rare to see such a post from a young person, however. The memes annoy me a little, though, if it’s okay for me to say so.

Because I watch with a keen eye when my instincts get stirred, I turn my attention to note how much of people’s enthusiasm for a trade translates to their children or grandchildren. Whether it is my jaundiced eye or a convenient conclusion, my observations tell me that college is almost always the preferred ideal over learning a trade. Likewise, most parents don’t enthusiastically endorse the option of the military, either, even though it often provides multiple benefits for the person willing to choose it.

Ideology in the abstract is a strange, contradictory thing.

Why not both? Educated minds are to everyone’s benefit. What’s wrong with a plumber, electrician, or mechanic with a college degree? The odds we’re going to change careers several times increases with each generation.

A shadowy truth embedded in this conversation is that most people want careers that do not tax their bodies – and they wish the same for their children. It’s not a revelation of laziness. For some, it is a belief rooted in class distinction. For most, it’s merely reasonable.

It’s not denigrating to tradespeople to say that you’d like a job using your mental ability rather than your hands and back. Most technical trades take a toll on one’s body. Combined with long hours, a competent tradesperson is much more likely to harm his or her ability to do such a job well for their entire career. No one disputes that many people make an outstanding salary by choosing a trade.

Imagine a society in which 17 years of education is ‘free,’ rather than 13. How many would choose a trade if their educational path were open and guaranteed? How many parents would encourage them to select a trade instead of college? How many would embrace the option of the military?

I get that you agree it is a worthy choice to learn a trade instead of college.

First, though, let’s give everyone a democratic chance for college by making it universal for everyone. Afterward, we’ll see how many parents jump with joy when their children or grandchildren choose a trade instead of college. Or, let’s encourage everyone to do both. Getting an education won’t make you unable to learn a trade. You’ll still have the education – but more options once you’re finished.

I realize that there is an inherent imperfection in my argument. I’m not proposing an airtight, elegant solution – just a request that you think about the issue logically.

Our path toward college and careers itself is flawed.

As well as our thinking regarding the issue.
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