Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves. . .

OK, sometimes, I draw a post from comments I leave on other blogs.  And sometimes, (at least this once, anyway), I'll leave a responsive comment to someone else's comment on one of my own posts, that really deserves to be a post in its own right.  A while back, I posted about a bizarre incident with my previous employer, in which an obscure (and irrelevant) corporate policy ended up trumping an opportunity to hire the single, ideal candidate for a position.  My friend Suldog left a comment, which poked my perfervid brain for three more stories under the loose heading of 'Personnel Follies' (it seems that, just lately, I'm calling up a lot of old 'Work Stories', of which I haven't had many over the years; whatever).  I hesitate to bid you 'enjoy', as all three of them are more like 'frustrating', or 'maddening', than 'enjoyable', but, you know. . .


When I hired in to my first real engineering job, fresh out of college, I came into an engineering department that was a little unique, in that we had a clear and stark demographic split.  The company was in the midst of a hiring boom, with several of us young engineers who had just gotten our degrees in the previous 2-3 years, and a group of older guys around my dad's age (in fact, one of the guys, who quickly became a good friend, was the father of a girl I'd known in college).  For the most part, it was a very happy combination, and I was happy to learn from the practical experience of engineers who had been working for years, and had that practical sense of what works, and what doesn't, and what you need to pay particular attention to, even if they weren't up-to-speed on the latest-and-greatest hot methods and techniques that I'd seen in school.  They were smart, solid, competent guys, and I learned a lot from them.

A few of the older guys didn't actually have engineering degrees, but had worked as engineers for years. They weren't doing anything that particularly required a degree - mainly just pushing papers (though I hasten to say that I do not mean that in the least to denigrate any of them). At a certain point, the company adopted a policy that they would only hire degreed engineers, which is understandable enough, and the older guys who'd been doing the job for years got grandfathered.  It was understood that there were some things, involving more-than-thumbnail calculations, that the older, non-degreed guys weren't going to do, and nobody cared.

Then, some (no doubt very zealous) HR guy decided that we were no longer gonna have ANY non-degreed engineers (which, I understand, was probably more about PR to our customers than anything else), and anyone without a degree had two years to get one, or be 'reassigned'. So you had two or three guys who'd done their jobs, and done them capably, for many years, suddenly scrambling to get a diploma from Aunt Zelda's Mail-Order Engineering Night School, just so they could keep their jobs.  When they should have been planning for their retirement, and time with their grandchildren, suddenly all their free time was diverted into going back to school, with all the attendant anxiety that their livelihood might be yanked away from them.



In the same previous post, I mentioned our whiz-bang new CAD system, of which we were justly proud.  When it was first installed, there was the matter of getting everyone trained, so we could start getting the bang for all the bucks we'd spent on it. When the training plan was assembled, among the very first group of trainees was a 62-year-old draftsman, who had already announced that he was retiring in six months.  He was one of our best draftsmen, and his skill shone through every drawing he crafted.  His lines were crisp, and his lettering beautiful, and he never missed a dimension.  But he was 62, and retiring in six months.  Old dogs and new tricks, and all that (which, I hasten to be clear, is not to denigrate him in the least)

There was absolutely NO need to train this poor guy at all.  He could have gone his last six months at his drafting board, doing exactly what he'd done, and done well, for the previous 40 years, and the company would still have benefitted from his talent and skill.  But, no. . . EVERYBODY was gonna get trained in the new CAD system, so he had to go to the front of the line, so he could get trained before he got away (no doubt, someone had made promises to top management about how many people they would train, so they couldn't have people retiring on them without getting trained, if they were gonna meet that headcount).  So the poor guy got to spend his final months with the company in stress and anxiety, struggling with the new-fangled computer thingy that only barely made sense to him, and which he couldn't hope to master in the time he had left.  And the hell of it was, the training schedule went more than six months out; it would have cost nothing to just let him skip it.

(I won't even mention how pissed my boss was that I had the nerve to schedule my wedding and honeymoon - six months before the fact, mind you, while the CAD system was still very much in its planning stages, and no-one was thinking about training schedules yet - in conflict with my own slot in the training schedule, causing my training to be delayed by two whole weeks; 'cuz, you know, if I were a really dedicated employee, I'd have gladly put off my honeymoon for the opportunity to get trained right away, right? . . .)

(BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA (*snort, cough*). . . I'm sorry. . . HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. . . OK, better now. . . (*snicker, chortle*). . . heehee. . . )


The third (and, for purposes of this post, final) story is about the guy who came to us a couple months past his 60th birthday, when the company across town that he'd worked for all his life went under, and the owner absconded to the Cayman Islands with the pension fund. So he came to work for us.

Now, in those days, we had to work for ten years in order to get our pension vested, so his goal was to work for ten years, in order to get such meager pension as he could from our company, since the one he'd planned on was gone.  But six months before he was due to retire, someone instituted a policy establishing 70 as the mandatory retirement age, period, end of story, no exceptions. And the new policy affected exactly one person in the entire company.  This guy - this ONE GUY - was forced to retire a couple months before he could get his pension vested. It was like they put in the new policy to save one single bare-minimum pension.  Or, put another way, to screw this one particular guy, who had already worked for 9.8 years, right up to his 70th birthday, just to try to get that pittance of a pension.

Some things just cry out for justice. . .


As I read this over again, I am struck by the fact that all three stories relate to people at or near retirement age, and the end of their careers.  And then I think that I am less than a decade from my own 65th birthday, with my own anxieties as to whether or not I'll be allowed to actually, you know, retire (at least, on my own terms), and what my finances will look like when I do. . .

In the immortal words of Alfred E. Newman: What, Me Worry?