The boss isn’t coming in, but her little stuck-up friend is still here. That’s always hard. With the boss gone Susan struts around the place pecking wherever she can. Well, she does it even when the boss is here, but far more so when she is gone.

It makes me wonder about personality types. Does she do that because she has that lifer personality & feels it is her job to pull rank & harass as often as possible or is she just the type to feel inferior & needs to act that way for her ego boost?

I wonder if she understands how counter-productive all of that is. Does pecking away at morale improve work? I doubt it, it certainly takes away all motivation to actually perform well. Still, you get serious nods from the brass when you do it, don’t you?

Demotivating the staff, that’s real leadership, way to go Susan.

You know, because if you go out of your way to make them miserable, they will work harder. It’s better to be feared than loved, right?

Only that doesn’t make you fear people, it just sort of makes you hate them. It sort of makes you produce things that make people like her work a little harder. Your mind is no longer on the job, your attention is focused on adding a little more stress to her day.

It’s not that you are vengeful. Certainly not. You aren’t that type of person. Vengeance? Never happen. You don’t hold grudges.

No, you’re not vengeful. It’s just, the alternative to adding stress to her life is to not add stress to it & still get pecked at. That just totally destroys your morale & you know that morale is essential in the workplace, well, in any place.

Vengeance? Never happen. You do it because then you get to watch her deal with her stress & whatever extra you can think to throw in to the mix. That’s not vengeance, that is entertainment. That improves morale. At least your morale.

It might be counter-productive…it might be extremely counter-productive, but you do what you can to keep the day from being completely miserable.

I’ve never really taken that approach to management.

I had a video that I had to make new hires watch. Well, I had a lot of videos. One of them was OSHA & safety & since we were dealing with chemicals, yeah, I made the new hires take notes. That video will keep them safe & it might possibly save someone’s life, or at least an eye, or, probably, just the vision in said eye.

Things like that I took deadly seriously. My staff knew that I would come down on them like a slighted Greek god if I ever caught them dealing with chemistry & not wearing safety goggles.

That was the sort of thing where I would chew them out loud enough for other people to hear & write them up. Threaten their job if I ever caught them changing chemistry without safety goggles again.

But there was another video. It was the history of the company. As a manager I was required to make them watch it. So I’d set them in the back room, turn on the video, press fast-forward, & tell them to fetch me when it was over so I can sign off on that part of the training.

Why not? They didn’t care, we had better things to do, & it was a nice introduction to how I was going to run things. It also made them laugh.

The laughter was key in retaining employees. Laughter & a relaxed atmosphere meant better pictures which meant more customers which gave them more money for a shit starting position.

My visits were hard enough as it was. At the best of times I was stopping by the store because there was a new hire to train. Most of the time, they had to suffer through my visits because something went wrong. The machine got broken, which meant that hourly people might be sent home if it’s too broken or the sales manager wanted me to discipline someone in my labs. Sometimes it was because of training updates & that meant that lots of people were going to be coming to the store to sit in the back room & not really want to be there. Sometimes it meant that they were getting new machines which meant that more hourly employees would be sent home for the week or so it took to build them. It meant that the sales team would lose some commissions.

Sometimes, it just meant that everything was OK & I just wanted to blow through a couple of lines of film, frown, & then make little adjustments because I had nothing else to do. Blow through some more lines, frown again, run a Trudy, make adjustments, blow more lines, frown some more, kill an eight hour shift.

In either case, I liked to keep the stress & dishevel as low on the employees as I could.

An eye roll & a “don’t do that again.” Was really all I did for most correctional activities. I’d even throw in a grin or a cuff upside the head if what they did wrong was amusing.

Don’t sweat it, kid, there are worse things up the pike. Take the manager’s side, but make sure the employee doesn’t feel disrespected or antagonized.

That kept them at ease & it kept them throwing out good work for me. But it also drove home the point when they did cross that line into what I considered serious.

If you are cool with them, they like you. If they like you, they kick themselves pretty hard when they do make you mad. If you are serious about things like safety, & let the little things slide, they are going to be serious about safety.

Sometimes it’s because they understand that you only need to get silver in your eye once to lose your vision. Most of the time it’s because they don’t want to disappoint you.

Odds are, with the way you changed chemistry in those machines, you had a one in a million chance of getting anything in your eye. I could see where they could get lax, but seriously chewing them out for not wearing safety goggles was better than that one in a million chance happening.

No one on my staff was going to lose their vision over an eleven-dollar-an-hour job. There were other things that I got serious about as well, but that was the one I would raise my voice over.

When the nice, calm district manage gets serious, you listen, because it doesn’t happen all that often & if he’s serious it has to be important. They knew I wouldn’t come down on them unless it was important.

With Susan, well, you know she’s going to come down on you for anything & everything that she wants to. You walk on egg shells in an atmosphere where you know you will have to change the font several times, to big fair & ridicule, for a document that will never leave the ER office.

When Susan comes down on people, they have to stop & think if it’s for something important or if she’s just showing them how big they are.

Wait, did I really screw up or is she just comparing the size of our testicles again? Oh, it’s the font on the labels, I can tune out for a little while & pretend that I’m listening.

Sometimes, when you tune out, you try to look as pleasant as possible because it’s harder to yell at people that look pleasant. Sometimes you try to look as humble as possible because maybe that will get her to shut up sooner. Sometimes you cross your arms & look defiant, because, yeah, you’re pissed.

My arms tend to always be crossed, so that doesn’t really work so well with me. Am I pissed or is it just the usual pose? When I was a little kid mom & dad were strict about not keeping my hands in my pockets because it might look like I was playing with myself, so the alternative was to cross the arms over my chest.

So, now instead of looking like I play pocket pool, I look constantly closed-off & grumpy.

There’s a great picture of me by my desk. I’m talking to kids about a book about bats I was reading them. They all have their 3D glasses on & look really entertained. My arms are folded across my chest & I’m looking down at them to make eye contact. So you know, they look amused & I look like I’m scolding at them.


Another thing is, what I like to call “shit work,” but Susan likes to call “Mexican work.”

It means almost the same thing. Susan isn’t lifting that, it’s “Mexican work.” Susan isn’t going to clean up that mess, it’s “Mexican work.” Susan isn’t low enough on the totem pool to do inventory in the dusty old archives. That is total “Mexican Work.” There is a lot of work that Susan will not do because it is beneath her status.

I liked to take a different approach.

Sundays were the maintenance days at my old job. You wore your safety goggles on Sunday or there was hell to pay. In fact, you wore your entire safety uniform during maintenance or there was hell to pay. There was serious hell to pay because no one was getting hurt in any of my labs.

Lab maintenance meant that you pulled the racks carefully out of the machines. You had to be extra careful because you did not want to cross contaminate, then you took a little tooth brush & you scrubbed all the disgusting black fungus off the racks, rinsed carefully. You checked the gears, & then you put the racks back inside.

Lab maintenance was seriously dirty work usually left for either the manager or the lowest man on the totem pole, depending on how that lab operated. More often than not it was the cherry that did it.

Susan would not hesitate to call that “Mexican Work.”

I liked to rotate through the labs, show up unexpectedly, & give whoever was stuck with maintenance a break.

Relax kid, I got this one, go take it easy.

Sometimes I would get a free coffee out of it. I would give the guy a break (almost always a guy given how heavy some of the racks were) make sure he saw me wearing every part of the safety uniform, & he would come back with a large black coffee for me.

Thanks for letting me off that hook, here’s a coffee.

It was a small price to pay. That guy would know I wasn’t above doing the nastiest work on that job, he’d be grateful that he didn’t have to do it, & the other people at the store would soon be well aware that I was willing to do the shit work.

I’d do the maintenance & leave & an hour of hard nasty work saves me hours of stress down the line.

I learned that from my grandfather, who spent his entire adult life as an NCO. “Never let someone else shine your boots.”

OK, that’s good advice, but I liked his “dig your own goddamned foxhole,” a lot more. Grandpa could be colorful. No, that’s an understatement. Grandpa could be Technicolor. Grandpa, when he wanted to, could be f-ing Kodachrome.

Foxhole?! He was a Navy man in WWII & an Air force man until forced retirement. When the hell did he ever have to dig a foxhole?

What does it matter? The advice paid off. Yeah, he was an NCO, he was an enlisted man all his life & I was the company equivalent of a captain, but it still paid off. It doesn’t hurt to let the men see a captain swing by & dig a foxhole or two by himself. It doesn’t hurt for the men to see an officer clean the latrines either.

You win more flies with honey? Yeah, you could say that. But you win all the flies if you give them the honey you harvested yourself, in front of them, so they didn’t have to.

You don’t win any flies by calling it “Mexican work” & insisting someone below you does it. That’s a pretty good way to lose the flies.

Occasionally you also win a free cup of coffee off a guy that’s happy he doesn’t have to do it.

Things like that, digging your own goddamned foxhole, cleaning black bacteria off the racks, it makes life a lot easier when you have to tell people to do crap work. There’s less grumbling when, yeah, they’ve seen you do it yourself. There’s even less when you’ve gone out of the way to relieve them of the crap detail in the past.

Conversely, that’s “‘Mexican work,’ make someone else do it.” All that does is make me complain that the boss isn’t doing it. Well, not the boss with the screwed up back & MS, but her evil second. All that does is create more hostility.

In the scheme of things, it’s just different leadership styles. Mine has always been more along the lines of wanting the staff rallied & willing. I always just wanted my staff to do their job with the least amount of work on my end. Motivate them to listen to me without having to really work for it. It’s easy enough when you save your pecking for the big things & you take an hour or two out of the occasional Sunday to do the seriously dirty work.

It takes a LOT more energy to search out any possible complaint & make a big deal out of the little things. It adds stress to my life & it’s exhausting. It’s easier all around if everyone understands that you’re going to be cool & only call them on the things that really matter. Whatever, they might treat you with less respect on the day-to-day, because they know you’ll let them get away with it, but they always listen to you & do what you say.

I guess my tactics are lazy. Get people to work with a minimum of stress all around, & you only do that from a particular type of respect. Whatever, I’m going to be the Sergeant that you follow because you know I look after you.

Susan, I think has more of the officer in her. She wants the attention that comes with the rank & she wants you to know you’re beneath her.

You can tell the difference. You walk into a lab with a manager like Susan & the employees jump as fast as they can & are always extra nice & respectful when I come in. It’s the retail middle finger, you’ve seen clerks bend over backwards for you when the guy in front of you was a dick, they aren’t doing it because they are really that hard working. They are doing it to give the other guy the middle finger.

Those were also the locations with the most problems. When the employees treated me like they worshipped the ground I walked on, that’s when I knew to start finding ways to get them new management. That was all the indication I needed. The employees were extra nice, it meant that the manager was like Susan, which I always took to mean that it was the managers fault I was fixing the machine.

Promote that manager up to Dave, who was just like they were & really loved that attitude, or find a reason to let them go. It wasn’t worth getting rid of the employee that cross-contaminated the machine or went a solid month without really doing the up-keep. It wasn’t worth it, getting rid of that employee wouldn’t stop the problem from happening & make my job easier.

That meant that I had to replace management with someone that was going to let enough slide to get the work done. At least it meant that I had to find someone that wouldn’t piss the employees off. Firm but fair worked. Jittery & hardworking worked too. What didn’t work was authoritarian, that just caused little rebellions & meant that I was constantly at the store.

Different tactics, but I think mine works better, or at least, it has always come with less open hostility & resentment. It’s lazy, it’s honestly lazy, but who wants to really work at management?

Lazy, all I wanted was to be shoulder deep in the machines. All I wanted to do was take them apart & put them back together again. Switch chemistry. Balance color & density. I really hated the management part of being a district lab tech. So, yeah, it was the lazy approach, but it kept everyone happy & productive to the point where there were stores that I only had to see when I stopped by on Sunday to do the crap work.


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