Thursday, May 1, 2014

In which Becky walks off the job

You guys, I have usually worked with professionals who take pride in what they do. Sure, we all complain about the boss and about the CEO and the CEO's wife, who has decided that a Fortune 100's main charity should be something completely unrelated to the company's business -

I won't give you the real company and the real stupid charity because that would be stupid of me, but let's say that the company made steel and the charity was Feed the Kitties in Finland. Not that I am against feeding the kitties - I am not - I love the kitties -  but what on earth does feeding kitties have to do with making steel? A company's charitable enterprises still should support the overall mission of the company. They are not supposed to be the whim of someone who does not even work at the company.

So yeah I have worked with people who do the normal griping about the things that normal people gripe about, but when it comes down to it, we have all done our jobs and done them well. We don't blow things off so our co-workers are stuck with them. We try to work together even when we don't like each other very much. We do what needs to be done because 1. we are not working as a hobby and 2. we take pride in doing good work.

One thing we do not do is say, "That's not my job." I hate hearing that. When I was a clerk at Macy's, I heard other clerks saying that. "That's not my job," even when it was a customer asking something reasonable. Your job is to help the customer and to do what it takes to increase sales, as long as it is moral, legal, and ethical. You might not like picking prom dresses up off the dressing room floor, but yes, that is your job.

I now work with an interesting bunch. A few super people and then a few with the "it's not my job" attitude.

How can it not be your job to think of better ways to do your job? How can it not be your job to help prepare documents for your replacement? How can it not be your job to share what is happening with your customers with the rest of the group?

My boss is the highest-ranking person in my office, but he is not the boss of anyone else but me. Still, he is doing what he can to improve office operations and morale. He has implemented a weekly meeting for the entire office. The first few times, half the people sat there with their arms folded. Didn't have anything to say when my boss asked them what was going on in their areas. Two of the people didn't even sit at the table - they sat against the wall.

My boss and I talked about it. I think he's doing the right thing - we have to do something to improve morale and operations - but it will take time. I told him half the office hated the meetings. He didn't believe me.

"When Sergio was here, he asked if people wanted to have a weekly meeting and they said yes!" he exclaimed.

I shook my head. "Nobody dares contradict Sergio to his face," I said. "Haven't you noticed how they sit there with their arms folded?"

Nope. He hadn't. Bless his heart my boss is really good at what he does, but he is not a reader of people and is just not interested. Primo is the same way. We were walking through the airport here once - plain midwestern city airport - and among the jeans and sweatshirted and mulleted I spied two Buddhist monks in saffron robes.

"Omigosh!" I said to Primo when I caught up to him. "Did you see the monks?"

"The what?" he asked.

"The monks! The two Buddhist monks!"

"Nope," he said.


He shrugged. "I don't pay attention to anything but my goal."

(Note that intense focus disappears when we are at home and he has the distractions of facebook and the cats and potato chips.)

My boss doesn't notice things like that. I suggested that he insist that everyone sit at the table. "You cannot have everyone at the table - you cannot have everyone agree - if some of the team literally is not at the table," I said.

Notice how I used "literally" in its literal sense. Do you like how I did that?

He agreed and the next meeting, everyone was at the table. And today, I asked one woman, one of the folded-arms group, to tell us about what she has been complaining about. She said it was nothing but I said that nope, it was a valid issue and we should all hear it.

So this is the climate - people who do not want to think.

Which leads to the bigger question: Why not? Are we hiring non-thinking it's not my job-ers?? Or do we hire thinkers and then convert them to non-thinking it's not my job-ers?

Last week, Becky resigned. Gave her two weeks' notice. Today, she had only a few days left. I thought we would probably have a lunch for her on her last day.

She was cranky, though. Her boss wanted her to put together a process manual for her replacement (who has yet to be hired, but a temp is coming in tomorrow to be trained). Becky was complaining that writing a process manual was not her job, it was her boss' job.

Of course, her boss probably does not know how to do Becky's job. A manager does not have to know how to do everything her subordinates do.

When I got back from lunch, I learned that Becky had walked out. Just quit. Left her badge. Did not serve out her notice period.

Just. Quit.

I have not been in that situation before - where someone just walked out.

One co-worker mused that maybe Becky was just like that. I asked if she had suspected it when they hired Becky. Nope, the co-worker said. She had interviewed Becky and liked her.

So the question is again: is my company hiring the wrong people, the people with the bad, unprofessional attitude? Or is it hiring good people and turning them bad?


  1. I work at a job with a union contract. Part of the language in the contract says that our employers have to assign us "meaningful" work. I worked for 14 years with an awful woman who rarely did any actual work, used to quote that clause all the time - she wasn't paid to do anything she wasn't assigned and certainly wasn't going to do anything she didn't deem meaningful. A couple years ago they paid her a lot of money to go away.
    To the relief of the whole office, everyone's productivity increased and general morale skyrocketed. I don't think the office itself had anything to do with her horribleness, I think she takes it wherever she goes. She constantly tried to foster an us against them negative work environment. In a small office it made the atmosphere tense and malevolent.
    As for Becky - who knows what is going on in her life that may have brought this all to a head for her. Maybe there is something going on in your office that is fostering tension - something you don't know about?
    My boss can be very oblivious to things going on in the office as well - I think all those years with that awful woman in the office made him put on shutters to not see what was going on. A few years ago he made me laugh out loud, saying what a great team we had. We have a great team now, back when he said that - we were all looking for other jobs to get away from her.

    1. My boss does not pick up on cues at all! And there is definitely tension at my office - comes from the very top.

  2. I did have a situation when a co-worker just walked out. We had high turnover in our office due to our direct management's managing style. Upper management couldn't be bothered to handle Manager Diva. We had had a staff meeting, after which I went to the restroom. When I came back, "Jenny" was gone. She had said it was nice working with me and others and was sorry she couldn't say good-bye personally. Just up and left after just a few weeks. Well, she emailed another manager there, one that we all trusted and told her that she couldn't take Manager Diva's lectures any longer. It was the protocol that new hires would meet with Manager Diva throughout the year-long probationary period, which didn't seem unreasonable except that Manager Diva's meetings could run into two hours or longer, and into people's lunches. "Jenny" couldn't stomach Manager Diva's training, which included how to use white-out, paper clips, and rulers. It was that bad into minutiae. Manager Diva ran off one person after another.

    1. I had a supervisor during a temp job who wanted to explain how to use a fax machine to me. I also worked at a job where there was 100% turnover in the one year I was there. HR knew what was going on - I was completely honest during my exit interview - but they had no power to change anything.

  3. My very first job after college, I was there a year, then Hubs got a job in another city and we had to move. My manager was aware for weeks before I gave notice that my husband was being recruited, she knew that we were looking for places to live, and she knew that I would definitely be leaving. In fact, she served as a reference for my next job.

    When the day came that I gave my notice, I gave two weeks, as per our HR department's guidelines. I had actually spoken with someone in HR in order to ascertain all the steps I needed to take in order to leave the company in good standing and I was doing my best to follow those steps carefully.

    When I gave notice to my manager -- notice that she expected -- I scheduled the meeting and told her in person, as well as gave her the official letter. We got a bit sniffly about my leaving and hugged it out. It was positive meeting... or so I thought.

    The next day, my manager was cold and rude to me. She took away several projects that I was in the process of finishing and would have easily finished before leaving. She would not give me any work in which to fill the 40 hours of that week and the 40 hours of the week following. She actually revoked access to materials and tools that I needed in order to work. She refused to speak with me and spoke badly about me to my colleagues. And there was more, but I'm not going to get into the rest here.

    Oh, and my manager insisted that I had to give a month's notice, not two weeks. When I explained that I had spoken with someone in HR, she cut me off and said that I was wrong.

    This went on for days. I could not work because I had none and was not allowed the tools I needed to finish the projects I had in progress. My manager was aggressively hostile. I tried speaking with my manager's manager, who sided with my manager and told me that I was being unprofessional by giving only two weeks of notice.

    After thinking it over, as well as consulting with two mentors outside of my company, I left without finishing the two weeks of notice I gave. I was the last person in the office one evening and had been crying over the situation and I just snapped. I packed up my office and loaded my car, then sent an email to my manager and colleagues explaining my decision.

    I was not happy to be pushed into this situation and even now, 20+ years later, I still feel stress about it. In fact, the situation in my office became so toxic overnight that (I had previously had a terrific relationship with my manager and colleagues) that I had recurring nightmares for years afterward about that office and some of those people.

    So, it could be that Becky was being unprofessional or it could be that there were circumstances that you are unaware of that pushed her into the decision.

    1. You know, Jen, now that I think about it, the scenario you present is completely possible. Yet another person has resigned since Becky quit (this guy stayed his entire two weeks), but man, the way things are done at the top at this company, I would not be surprised if there was something else going on that I didn't know about.

    2. Unless you have an employment contract that states differently, you don't have to give them any notice at all. You're an "at will" employee. They can fire you at will and you can quit at will. Two weeks notice is simply what's customary.