After being hospitalized for nearly two months following heart failure, I can say that I'm glad to be alive and able to blog again. Thanks to Abigail and all the staff at Jobschmob.com for keeping my spot open and working through some technical issues.
While in this process of being ill, which began nearly 1 1/2 years ago, I've had a chance to evaluate my employers in an interesting way.
One job involved a lot of moving around, so I had to get done. My broadcast job involved some stairclimbing, but was otherwise do-able.
My third job was as a transportation specialist with a local taxi company. I transported behaviorally challenged kids that could not take the bus. I was very good at this, and both the company and I made good money.
Unfortunately, the owner of the taxi company was about as disorganized as she could be. I think she actually enjoyed the chaos. Adding to this was the company's relationship with dispatch. The dispatch was actually a separately owned message service operating out of a private home that was a complete pigsty.
Both the owner and dispatch were notorious for passing the buck. Even routine questions about procedure were passed back and forth between the two. It was a little game they liked to play.
I was able to deal with most of this until my illness. Though I could still drive, I wanted to keep my traditional schoolkid responsibilities (which represented a 40+ hours per week). The owner now thought she could ask me to work additional shifts. I told her I was unable to do so because of health concerns. Plus D.O.T. regulations limited how long one could drive. She didn't like any of this.
She tried to reduce the number of kids I picked up. I pointed out that the drivers doing the pickups were not certified. She threw a fit. Why she didn't want me to continue in my successful role is beyond me. Then again her feeble attempts to pick up other women behind her girlfriend's back were unfathomable as well. Did I mention she used drugs?
Finally, she began to try and force me out. She would issue contradictary orders and then explode when I pointed out they were impossible to follow. Finally last May she fired me over the phone claiming I hadn't worked on a Saturday. Because I got up to do an AM radio show at 4:30, I had never been available to work on Saturday. All this in the wake of a life-threatening illness.
It was a relief not to deal with this loony-tune. About five months later, I suffered a serious relapse. I was found unconcious in my place and nearly. Thanks to the good lord and some dear friends, I survived. I now live in southern New England. I realized that I hadn't received my wage earnings statement from the taxi company so I could do my taxes. A former girlfriend had emailed me that she had seen the owner and she looked really uncomfortable when told I nearly died.
So I call dispatch looking to merely leave an address to send the 1099 form to. They of course try to pass the buck and get me to call the owners private cell phone. Great...like I want to talk to this bitch in the first place...
Here the call:
(phone rings a zillion times...it's an early weekday afternoon)
ME: Unable to write?? Maybe I'll let the IRS deal with this...
She then hangs up. I call dispatch and tell them to take my information or else. This time they comply.
All this crap illustrates that a jerk is a jerk no matter what or how bad they might look or be made to feel. I could have lowered myself and gone into a blistering indictment of them and their behaviors, but they would have probably liked that in some strange way. After all, all their actions had begged for that sort of reaction.
If you're in a job or personal situation where you're dealing with uncaring, unsupportive, obnoxious people, get out at any cost! After all, they can't help themselves!
In my last blog, I talked about the dilemma many businesses face when confronted will bullies or mobs from within their workplace. It really comes down recognizing that bullying and mobbing do exist, and setting standards and practices that do not allow them to become entrenched.
Gary and Ruth Namie, are consultants and managing co-partners of The Work Doctor. They recommend the following steps to prevent and eliminate bullying and mobbing in the workplace:
Launch an anti-harassment policy. Such a policy will encourage witnesses to step forward to substantiate or repudiate the target's claim;
Offer employees a dispute resolution process. The presence of such a program will encourage targets to step forward sooner;
Monitor turnover rates and stress-related workers compensation claims per department and manager. This helps HR locate problem areas and abusive managers, even if the abuse goes unreported;
Offer training to supervisors. Teach managers to criticize employees in inoffensive ways;
Take claims of bullying seriously. Failing to treat such claims seriously further isolates the affronted employee and breeds mistrust;
Confront the bully and, where possible, separate the alleged bully and target in the workplace; and
Prevent and monitor attempts to retaliate against the target.
It must be constantly stressed that bullying and mobbing cause talent flight, loss of productivity, increased sickdays, poor morale, all of which cost the company money and are grounds for immediate termination. Period.
Like your health, prevention of the bully or mob is crucial, for much like a severe illness, their presence will be felt long after they have been removed.
When it comes to a workplace bully or mob, the last place someone being targeted should go is to the human resources or HR department.
While there are some that believe that HR is there to protect the rights of workers, they in fact exist to protect the company.
Paradoxically, the workers that are targeted are often the best and the brightest the company has. Their attackers seek to destroy them to prevent their high standards of work and behavior from being made company policy if they are ever promoted.
It has been shown repeatedly that HR will often side with bullies because they are well entrenched, and may be the product of a manager. A meeting of the parties involved is called, and once again the target is at a disavantage. They often are alone, with HR citing rules and procedures, while the bully uses their skill at manipulation and fabrication to paint the victim as the aggressor.
Even if the target remains calm and repeatedly cites documentation of the bully's or mobs action, tactics such as bursting into tears may be employed, followed by angry countercharges. Please also see bullyonline.org for more on this.
Thus HR is cowed into acceding to the bullies demands. The target will leave the meeting with the uneasy feeling that the worst is yet to come, and often it does.
Thus the paradox: HR gives in to bullies or mobs in an effort to protect the company by maintaining the status quo. However, this means that the hard-working, fair-playing target is eventually eliminated, robbing the company of the valuable human resources that HR by definition is supposed to protect.
NEXT TIME: Some anti-bullying workplace policy recommendations.
One of the most annoying, and often illegal features of a toxic workplace is the illegitimate use of phone calls, voicemails, pages, emails, texts, you name it by passive aggressive jerks to attack others.
Obviously, calling someone at their home in any other circumstance than an emergency is completely off the hook, and a form of harassment. Yet at least three bad workplaces I've experienced had this going on. Some examples:
-the Sleazy Secretary at the Radio Station from Hell calling me at home saying that she'd heard a bunch of sirens and that I should get out and report on whatever breaking news might be happening. After hanging up on her, I called for a meeting. The spineless general manager, who was already playing footsie with her, asked if her actions weren't in the best interest of the station. I replied that I was a married man and didn't need someone with her reputation calling my house after hours. After that, I screened all calls.
-one assistant became angry at my boss in human services when I was picked to go to a media conference. Hey, I had only been in radio two decades at that point. He later told me that the day of the conference she paged him 53 times! I suggested that he find a new assistant. Of course, we later found out that the assistant that she knew of his various affairs....
-the same agency had a so-called "open door policy" for employee complaints. Unfortunately, this meant that junior employees and even part-timers were literally leaving multiple voicemails with vice presidents of the agency attacking one another in the pettiest ways possible. After being warned that these messages must stop, two employees decided to leave critical messages with the PRESIDENT of the agency. They were promptly removed, but still made a huge stink on the way out.
Interpersonal messages of employees need to be business only, and limited to only crucial and necessary purposes. Whether it's an email with an inappropriate subject or a harassing call or message, it needs to be addressed and dealt with from day one. If punching another employee means termination and prosecution, then it should be made clear that these behaviors are in the same class.
When encountering workplace jerks in public, one must be aware that they will attempt to get you to lose your temper. It comes from a strong desire to be seen as the victim, not the victimizer.
Sometimes using the Total Ignore, described by best-selling author Robert Ringer in such best-selling books as Winning Through Intimidation and Looking Out For #1, will work. At the same time, truly hyperaggressive workplace bullies (especially women) will use passive aggressive techniques like sneaking up on you in public and trying to make "innocent" small talk, even when you both know they or their mob never lost an opportunity to attack or malign you.
This is when you must use the Power Avoid. While I don't advocate running away from a bully or other personal problems, frustrating their efforts to get your goat will expose them to stalking and harassment charges, civil suits, and deny them the pleasure of giving you a hard time.
I've played hide and seek in grocery stores, jumped into a side alley they dared not go into, driven away in my vehicle and then observed their consternation from afar.
Believe me, it works. And it makes you feel sooooo good!
I'd like to hear any questions any comments you might have...
I'd like to hear your feedback regarding something I've witnessed a couple of times...
After successfully leaving an abusive workplace, it sometime happens that some of the jerks you left behind have this strange compulsion to try to come up and talk to you in public, even though it's clear that you left because of them. With big smiles they'll come out of nowhere, say, in the grocery store and make small talk just like nothing happened.
If you walk away, they'll call after you and may even follow. No doubt they wish for you to yell or swear at them, especially in a public place, because it shows that you are the aggressor, not them.
This usually occurs when you have escaped the clutches of a bully or workplace mob by resigning to take a better position elsewhere. If you've visited a site like bullyonline.org, you've kept lots of notes corroborating their abusive and conniving ways and have forwarded them to a much-higher-up. Keep in mind that HR is probably unable or unwilling to deal with these kind of problems in the first place, so just giving them a copy won't help.
Without being able to experience the joy that bullies have in destroying your career and getting you fired, some may foolishly try these kind of tactics to get your goat.
If you work in a building that has no security or in a store, they may come in. Usually they just glare at you, and will only come in if they think you're alone. Documentation and informing the powers that be what's going on may just be the start of a police investigation (stalking, harassment), or litigation.
Why do they take these risks? In effect, they see you as being just too good and important, and will try whatever to cause trouble. After all, they've felt inadequate and unloved their whole life! This is why these behaviors are so unacceptable: if someone is willing to attack a co-worker simply because they are knowledgeable, caring, and slow to anger, what will they do to others they encounter in life?
Well, it's your old buddy the Confessor once again bloggin' and feeling good! If you wonder where I've been the past few months, I became quite ill in early August when a cyst was found in my right lung (non-cancerous, thank God!) Many thanks to Abigail and all at Jobschmob for their support.
Thought I'd quickly share some holiday office survival tips:
Consider the office party as a truly "official" sort of gathering. Though the atmosphere maybe relaxed and liquor available, you are probably being watched by rival co-workers or boss quite carefully. Make an appearance, listen more than you talk, and save the real revelry for your family and close friends outside of the work setting. It amazes me that some folks show more awareness of the politics at play at a big family get-together than they do an office party.
When doing a Yankee Swap or Secret Santa, insert a gift certificate or lottery tickets into a toilet roll and wrap. It always brings smiles!
If you are an owner or manager and find that an office clique is doing their own secret santa thing that excludes others, shut it down. Ask in a staff meeting if everyone has been asked to participate. Point out that team unity, not disunity, promotes productivity.
Go to elfyourself.com and have some fun! (Though not necessarily during office hours...)
ENJOY THE HOLIDAY PARTY SEASON AND WILL BE BACK SOON!
One of the funniest and yet nastiest of types that I've run across in broadcast radio are those listeners and clients that just can't get enough of free stuff...the prize pigs!
These folks will fight over tubes of expired chapstick, nearly useless warped frisbees with old station logos, and t-shirts they will never, ever fit into.
Some become prize groupies, following the station to various events and begging for whatever scraps we have, despite the fact their home is probably full to the rafters with our stuff already.
Once a year, our stations participated in a bash that featured businesses in an out-of-the-way loop off the main business district. Everybody went all out, with lots of specials and giveaways, a free bbq and band, you name it.
This sent the area prize pigs into paroxyms of free-stuff ecstasy!
While attempting to do a live report from the event, a little girl kept tugging on my shirt. After wrapping things up, I asked her not to do that. "But mister", she said, "that lady just walked away with all your shirts!"
I turned to see one of the areas better known prize pig queens marching towards a rusty station wagon with $250 of our custom tees. I barked at her to stop, snatched the shirts from her and ordered her off property. She began to argue, but thought better of it as three burly employees of the diesel repair facility joined me. Seems she tried to rip them off earlier.
The next year the same lady showed up in the food line with a huge purse line with a plastic bag. When she got to the head of the line, she opened the purse with the instructions to "fill 'er up".
She was then banned from the property forever.
Have you any experience in your business with prize pigs or their ilk? Love to hear about 'em!
It should be noted that radio stations almost universally love to give away free stuff to DESERVING listeners. They love it, and it's great PR!!
Also, don't think that someone has to be a welfare case to be a prize pig. I know of one car dealer that shamelessly used to shake us down for free buckets of fried chicken.
I can't take credit for inventing the term Prize Pigs. That belongs to one of the contributors to krud.com. Incidentally, the costumed mascot for their station is a big pink Prize Pig! Most people don't seem to get tbe joke.
I've often felt like calling the old owner of the Radio Station from Hell and asking how much money he made off his affair with the Sleazy Secretary. After all, she enjoyed his protection no matter what for many years. And please don't tell me it's all about the sex...she wasn't THAT good-looking and quite frankly there were other women around he could have hooked up with.
The real answer lies in his desire to control, misinform, and spy on the people he himself had hired.
It's an interesting process. You apply for a job you think you'd like. The person hiring you is presumably pleasant and encouraging of your application during the interview, and then hires. Then, however, the process of degrading you and placing you in their thrall begins almost immediately. Since the owner could be sued or personally attacked, he brings in a toad general manager that enforces his will. Then uses his office whore to keep and eye on the GM and the targeted workers.
In some cases, I can say the company hired people they knew would be eventually fired.
Even the office affair itself is more about power and position than passion. Imagine being able to deride those around you with little or no immediate consequences. Of course, once the persecuted employees leave, any number will launch remote control attacks designed to expose the nature of what happened.
One day the bewildered owner wondered out loud who was "making these rumors up anyway". Hmmm...maybe it's one of the two dozen people who have left here in the past months....
Whether it's antisocial behavior disorder like narcissism or the person is simply a bully, it can never shown that a real profit for the business has been secured. The only factor on the uptick is the misery index for all involved.
Got a bad boss? Does he or she lie? Steal? Misappropriate company resources or funds for their own use? Fire people at the drop of a hat or worse, encourage others to drive them out?
Chances are, at some point they were a bad employee themselves. That's why hard-working, honest types drive them crazy.
One radio station owner I knew had worked for another broadcast group as a young man. I found out that he had been a total pain in the ass, insisting on a new office, personal secretary (whom he hand-picked and started screwing), etc. This was all at the company's expense. He also ruthlessly backstabbed any other co-worker that he thought might challenge him. The owners clearly were afraid of him...
The straw that broke the camel's back came when the owner's realized that he could not be reached outside of work. His increasing dominance of the workplace, plus the sudden departure of valuable employees and other issues demanded that he be available. Even someone like the President of the United States is ultimately on-call 24/7 if the situation becomes dire.
Turns out that the jerk didn't have a home phone, claming it was an unwarranted expense (this sadly predates his legendary cheapskates traits that showed up later in his own company).
The owners reluctantly agreed to pay to a phone at his home (this was back in the mid-1970's).
He did allow for the phone to be installed....in an attic closet on the third floor of his home. Plus he allegedly turned the ringer off, and used the phone to make long-distance personal calls that the business had to pay for.
He was subsequently let go.
However, the contacts he had made, plus his new ruthless reputation allowed him to eventually gain his own station. One former colleague of his was so bitter that he said that he hoped that his wife would divorce him and turn the kids against him...
By the time I eventually left his employ, he was doing his grocery shopping at 2 am in the middle of the week to avoid running into people that hated him in our small community.
He eventually had to do shop elsewhere because he tried to used mis-matched and outdated coupons at check-out, raging at the poor clerk that was unable to accept them.
One time I ran into him unexpectedly. He said, "thanks for all the rumors."
"The fact you're a lying a$$hole is no rumor" I shot back.
A number of recent posts have reminded me that truly toxic workplaces run by truly evil and manipulative managers will actually use bullies and cliques to eliminate or control other employees in ways that might be legally actionable if done directly by management itself.
At the Radio Station from Hell, active in-fighting was encouraged by the owner. He wanted the business to be a turnstile so that he wouldn't have to pay top wages or even benefits. When his once-beloved secretary/confidant/lover was finally forced out after new owners came in, we were shocked to find out that her base salary had been only around $18,000, with little paid vacation and no benefits. Yet she was responsible for the departure of dozens of staff.
Some large companies are known for hiring recent grads, burning them out, tossing them, and hiring another new grad as a replacement.
As long as both parties understand from the start that the job is strictly entry-level, it seems fair. If not, you end up with angry, frustrated folks battling each other for miniscule raises and petty titles.
One can be a hard-nosed businessman without being an evil jerk. If someone demands a raise that the company can't afford, mavbe they can come up with a plan to bring in new revenues of which they can get a commission on.
Sadly, too many companies have opted to misinform and mislead employees into working their butts off only to find that compensation or even credit for their work is not forthcoming.
The plight of former NY governor Spitzer has engendered a ton of discussion, not only on the news, but around the water cooler as well.
As one of my female co-workers noted, why didn't he just have some little bimbo on staff to take care of his "executive needs"?
It is apalling that a woman (or man) that directly asks for and receives reimbursement for sex is legally termed a prostitute and can be prosecuted as such.
Yet the same type of person using the same "favors" often gets away with it in an office setting.
I believe that folks like Spitzer eventually see no real difference in the two. In fact, unlike the paid-off call girl or escort, the office whore will stick around as long as possible to derive the greatest benefit from the affair.
Even the term "office affair" whitewashes the real nature of what's going on. The term "affair" conjures up visions of a nice, pleasant get-together, not of hurried illicit humping in a supply room, roadside hotel, or on top of a desk.
Just like "real" prostitutes, the office whore often comes from a difficult past, and may have abuse in their background. They also may have delusions of grandeur (the Sleazy Secretary claimed she wanted to be a movie actress; Spitzer's call girl has aspirations as a singer). Hooking up with a powerful John feeds those delusions.
If it can be shown that such a relationship is going on in the office place, similar charges should be levied against the parties involved. "Solicitation of Undue Reimbursement or Promotion by Sex" could be one name for it. If a co-worker has been fired or denied promotion or a raise because of the relationship, their damages should be covered as well as the company that provided unwarranted raises, perks, or promotions.
Years ago, I read a book by a CEO that was hired to turn a large car rental company around. In the course of reviewing payroll levels, he discovered that an executive VP had granted across-the-board $5,000 raises to all executive secretaries.
After some investigation, the CEO discovered that the VP was having a torrid affair with one of the secretaries. He wrote that if he told the VP about what he knew and the VP got mad, he might have come to the wrong conclusion. If the VP sheepishly asked who had told him that, he was right.
Sure enough, the cheating VP stared at the floor and said, "I need to know who said that..."
The VP was ordered to transfer or else. His secretary quit in a rage. When the $5,000 raises were withdrawn from the others, not a peep of protest was uttered.
The CEO noted that a senior accountant had quipped, "thank God he wasn't doing a keypunch operator"...