workinghereislikeworkinginnorthkorea

Some jobs are bad. And some jobs are BAD.

Interview

I have an interview, next week. It’s one of those “I have nothing to lose” type scenarios. My current boss is a pretty reasonable person, and he’s very “open door” about these types of things. I discussed it with him, who was surprisingly encouraging about it. It was one of those “I’d hate to lose you, but you have to snag an opportunity if it presents itself to you. I’d probably do the same thing were I in your shoes,” kind of talks.

At my last job, interviewing was in no way a “nothing to lose” scenario. There was always the threat of being called into the boss’ office if word got out that you had entertained the idea of a job elsewhere.

A call to management from a potential new employer could possibly be an inadvertent call for your termination.

One or two people even made the mistake of TELLING the boss they had an interview elsewhere, for which they were reprimanded.

In North Korea, you’re also reprimanded if you entertain the notion of defecting to another place. And, like North Korea, they put measures in place to discourage your moving from their company (see my post on non-compete contracts).

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 27,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 10 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Still going!

I’m still getting an overwhelmingly positive response to this blog!  Thousands of hits a day.  MANY of you brought to my attention patient zero for stupidity’s photo being taken down from my prior employer’s site.  This isn’t the first time they’ve done this, as I’m sure this isn’t the first time he has embarrassed the company.  Once this blows over (which, I suppose, depends, to an extent, whether you, the readers, allow it to), he will likely be placed back on the site.  I also got several hearty laughs out of the photoshopped pictures you all have sent me, using his photo.  For legal reasons, I cannot post these to the blog.  And to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I would lower myself in that respect.  After all, isn’t posting a doctored photo of someone in questionable situations just as bad as insinuating that I engage in bestiality (that’s street slang for “animal sex”)?

Without naming names, I cannot count, on my fingers and toes (and I have all 20), the number of employees (in varying departments and positions) who are still working at this establishment, who have expressed their gratitude in my writing of this blog.  I am glad I could serve as a voice for you, as I know you do not have one in your position.  Please be careful, though;  I do not want this blog to compromise your career in any way.  That’s definitely not its intention.

I don’t know how long I can stretch this blog out, as I really don’t feel like kicking a dead horse, but there are a few things I would like to say, both to employees of my former employer who may be reading this, and to the many others who may stumble upon this blog:

1) If you are unsatisfied with your job, and don’t have the means to express it, I invite you to share your story, or stories, on this blog.  You can leave your submission in the form of a comment on any of the posts on this blog, and I will gladly post them as blog entries on your behalf.  As I did with my own posts, I will ensure that no personal information, or real names are used (as long as you don’t use them yourself).  I want this to be a safe place where people are allowed to express their grievances.  THE SAME GOES FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE STILL WORKING FOR MY PRIOR EMPLOYER.

2) Another powerful means of communicating to the outside world your work plights is through anonymous employer review sites.  Two that come to mind, for me, are http://www.jobbite.com and http://www.glassdoor.com .  These can be incredibly useful in raising awareness about companies that misbehave.

3) I would like to clarify that, while this blog was primarily reserved for grievances, I am a humble person and have never been ungrateful for having a job, ESPECIALLY in this economy.

 

I have at least one more entry planned.  I’m just sleepy this evening, so it will have to wait.  :-)

Next steps.

If you’ve read my blog, you know that the saga is complete for me. I did my part, and I paid my dues. While my mother now fears for my life, given the potential for retaliation against me byy former employer, I must say that thus far, the aftermath of it all has been nothing short of poetic. Given the recent popularity of this blog, however, I feel it needs to continue.

Unfortunately, for me, I have managed to land a job that I actually enjoy; I enjoy the atmosphere, the people, and the executives (who, in a near-unfathomable display of humanity, actually know the names of, associate with, and accept feedback from their employees).

Given the response and feedback I’ve received from this little endeavor, I would like to extend an invitation.

Do you find yourself in a similar situation? Are you working a job that is destroying your soul? Do your superiors treat you like you’re sub-human? Have you no voice to express your frustrations or dilemmas? Is expressing a grievance grounds for unjust termination by your employer?

LET THIS BLOG BE YOUR OUTLET.

I will do everything in my power to maintain your anonymity. I will share neither your personal information, nor the email address from which you submit your story.

On the flip side, I am not omniscient; only you can ensure that no information is provided in your story which may tie your post to you.

So send me your horror stories. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. OTHER PEOPLE SHARE YOUR PLIGHT. IT’S TIME TO SPEAK UP.

Send your stories to the following email address:

boydoesmyjobsuckATgmailDOTcom

ALSO: If you REALLY want to get this out to the people, feel free to take the smart code attached in this post, and post it about your neighborhood, in public bathrooms, downtown, under parked cars’ windshield wipers (please obey your city’s laws with respect to this), on bulletin boards, etc. Anyone who scans it with their smartphone will be magically transported to the front door of this very blog, welcomed with open arms. IT’S MAGIC!

And be sure to “like” this blog via the Facebook widget.

20111119-125932.jpg

So…

So I didn’t receive the bonus I was hoping to get.  But on the flipside, as many of you are well aware, the comment left by the VP of my company on the prior post was bonus enough for me.  Not to mention the fact that it has, to an extent, catapulted this blog into the public eye.  I’m getting over a thousand views a day on this blog, and am now actually making money because of it.  I received SO MANY phone calls yesterday, both from prior and current employees, thanking me for this blog, saying that I have been a voice for so many people who were unable to speak up or express their grievances in the workplace (more specifically, my prior workplace).  So I guess in the end, I still win!

Still debating whether or not I want to return the phone calls of the media outlets who want the whole story on this mess.

It must be an unsettling feeling, knowing that the people who keep your wallet fat despise you with such a passion.  Or maybe that’s how they like it.  Who knows?  It would certainly make me nervous.

“You should never be so mad at someone that you’re not willing to make a buck off of them.” –Mr X.

C’est La Vie.

Today marks the first day of my separation from the greediest, most vile company of which I’ve ever (shamefully) been a part. The shit-canning followed the following itinerary:

9am – Clock in to work.

9am-11:29am – Work dilligently and enthusiastically. As prior posts had mentioned, I hadn’t received a bonus in quite some time, and I was slated for a pretty decent one, given my hard work, in October. “Alright, now I can buy Christmas presents for my family!” I thought to myself.

11:30am – Manager arrives at my desk. “You got a second?” he says. I follow him into the meeting room, where the resident HR lady (which I believe is largely a ceremonial position, given the lack of any real accountability within the company), waits.

Everything was carried out by HR lady, who “had some bad news.” She laid it out on the table, weaving a story about how business volume was down, and how they’re having to consolidate and eliminate some positions to stay profitable. I look at my manager, who refuses to make eye contact with me. He doesn’t say a word. Not a single word…

…coward.

So I’m asked to turn my key in. I slide it across the table. I glance back at my manager. Still looking at his feet.

Coward.

In an almost unfathomable act of kindness, they allow me to stay until my lunchbreak, as to avoid the awkward ‘walk of shame’ back to my desk to collect my things, of which there were few; You don’t want to make hell look like home, after all.

But then, they realized that was probably a bad idea, and they made me leave at noon. My manager, I guess, was pretty eager to send the memo out.

This is bittersweet. As the sole provider for my family, we are now officially a ‘no-income’ family. On the flip side, I no longer have to drive home every day contemplating whether or not I truly have a conscience if I’m willing getting up each morning to work in such a crooked, evil industry.

What frustrates me the most is the likelihood that I won’t be getting the bonus I busted my ass for (as described in the past several posts), which means that I will no longer be able to buy Christmas presents for friends and family. It was slated to be a pretty decent bonus.

I’m not so naive as to actually believe that my being laid off was simply due to a lack of business coming in. As demonstrated in previous posts, there was plenty of business coming in….I just wasn’t receiving any of it. I have documentation that very strongly suggests this as well. Could I take it to an attorney and have a case against my prior employer? Probably. Are they worth the time and stress it would take to do that? I doubt it. I’m sure this decision was at least partially based on the incident that evolved regarding unassigned, short-fuse submissions, and my working them after hours.

So what’s next for me? It’s hard to say. Unless I land a job that is equally as soul-destroying as this one, I don’t imagine I’ll have a reason for keeping this blog going. That, of course, is assuming I’m able to find a job, being the proverbial ’99%’ and all.

My employer-paid health, dental, and vision insurance run out as of midnight tonight. That means I have 8 hours to get a flu shot, and my eyes checked. Might as well stick them with a couple more claims on the company insurance policy before I’m out of their lives for good.

What have I learned from these past 3 and a half years? I guess primarily, it’s easy to become a slave to money. It’s easy to do the bidding of someone if they’re paying you a competitive amount for it. It’s when they use that as a means to exploit you, though, is when things go south. I don’t think anyone with a soul could truly enjoy this line of work, any more than a single mother could truly enjoy stripping to put diapers on her kid.

I don’t anticipate making as much money at my next job (whatever that may be), but I think this time around, I’m going to aim for something that is a little more balanced on the pay vs happiness scale.

Coincidentally, my wife and I both have interviews tomorrow.

Maybe we’ll just leave the country.

C’est la vie, for now.

 

 

Assistants Pt 3

After pondering long and hard the advice [assistant manager] gave me, I decided that if we truly are operating on darwinian principles (see: survival of the fittest), I would have to adapt. I formulated a plan to help increase the quantity of my work (because no one else was), as well as the quantity of business I bring in for the company. The plan was simple:

Most underwriters leave at 5 o’ clock. I am one of the unlucky 3 who leaves at 6 (this was not my choice, mind you). So, I went into the system to look at submissions that had not yet been assigned, and noticed that there were many that were sent on a specific day, to be effective that day, but were never assigned to an underwriter until several days, weeks even, after the effective date has passed. What does this mean? Simple. Underwriters are wasting their time quoting and working business that has NO chance of binding.

I guess, if nothing else, quoting crap accounts is a way to reach your quota (as mentioned in its own post), but I digress.

So I thought to myself, “I’m here an hour longer than everyone else. No one else is here to work these submissions, and they will have spoiled by tomorrow. I’LL WORK THEM!

So I did just that. I would assign these orphaned submissions to myself, and the benefits were two-fold: I have an increased shot at binding enough business to obtain my bonus, and the orphan quotes are more likely to bind, because they’re being sent to the agent before their customers’ prior coverage expires.

One of the bi-products of this little plan was that it put more current work in my bucket, which meant I wasn’t working as far into the future as usual. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as you don’t let any quotes slip through the cracks. But it DOES mean that future work does accumulate in your work list (or your “bucket” as well it). Per [assistant manager]‘s suggestion, during his “survival of the fittest” cop out pep talk, he suggested that I take these future-dated submissions, and reschedule the tasks to show up on a future date. That way, they won’t clutter my bucket, and will make room for more current submissions when they’re actually assigned to me (which, if you’ve read the previous posts, wasn’t really happening for me).

So a month passes since mine and [assistant manager]‘s discussion, and since I put my plan into action. And lo and behold, my numbers are starting to crawl up and match everyone else’s numbers! Weeks pass, and what’s this?! I’ve retained enough to achieve a bonus! This hasn’t happened in 5 months! I feel a new wave of motivation rush through my spirit. I’m back on track, and things are looking good. Nothing can stop me now.

Or can it?

Today, I received the following email, from [assistant manager]. He also decided to copy the manager on it (100% petty workplace taddle-tail bullshit move). Before you read this, perhaps it’s best that you go back and read the previous 2 chapters in this saga. Then come back to this email:

[your name here],

You [have 231 submissions] in your bucket. Out of the 231, it looks like you have routed 200 of the tasks to yourself.

What’s going on? We have underwriters that have no submissions for October and just a few for November and you are sitting on 139 October & November accounts?

Now mind you, the scenario he’s setting up with “underwriters that have no submissions for [the current month]” is EXACTLY what I’ve experienced for the last 5 months. It’s the EXACT same scenario I approached him with a month ago, when he told me it was “survival of the fittest.” After office-meditating my rage back to a functional level, I respond. I copy the manager, the HR director, and the president of the company as well. I’m not pulling punches, this time. If you want to beat me up, I’m going to start swinging back. My response:

Last month, [asst manager], I approached you about having so little work (see attached emails), while other people in the office were being assigned 500-700 submissions a month (You told me, “..It’s survival of the fittest,” remember?) You suggested that, if nothing else, I take anything that was out more than a few weeks, [reschedule] it (You showed me that [UW with no assistant A] did this as well), and drop the task, to keep my bucket available for fresh, more recent submissions. That’s exactly what I’ve done.

Additionally, every day, if I finish the quotes in my bucket that are effective that day and the next, then at the end of the day, if there is anything in the unassigned bucket that is also effective today (in other words, something that will be expiring tomorrow anyway), I’ll assign it to myself and work it that evening. And sometimes, I’ll stay late to get them out, as well.

We have a better shot at writing the short fuse accounts that way, as opposed to the alternative: old submissions sitting there, in the unassigned bucket, for days past the effective date, then getting assigned to an underwriter to waste their time on, when the agency has placed coverage elsewhere. Personally, I think that’s a decent system, and didn’t know I was stepping out of bounds in doing that. If you have someone who can work the short fuse quotes after hours, when all the other UWs are gone, why not do that instead of passing them out after they’ve already spoiled? Frankly, it’s the only reason my numbers have been significantly better than they have for the last 4 or 5 months.

I’d prefer if you didn’t, but redistribute them if you want. In any case I think this is a good opportunity to segway into another issue of concern. Me doing this isliterally the only way I’ve managed to get put up on the board this month, and it’s the only reason I’m on the board at all. Simply put, I don’t receive submissions to quote, otherwise. For the last 4 or 5 months, I would empty my bucket at the end of each day. If I was lucky, I would receive some tasks for submissions that are several days past the effective date. If you’re skeptical of that, look at the reports for the last 6 months. Look at the reports for the last two months, even. I’m consistently at the bottom of the board, and it’s not from a lack of trying; it’s because I’m getting fed the scraps. I don’t know if that’s automated, or if someone is dealing them out that way, and I’m not inclined to point fingers. Simultaneously, though, there are other underwriters (namely those who had assistants) getting between 500 and 700 submissions to work every month.

I guess I just don’t understand why it’s okay for certain underwriters to receive a ton of submissions (I can’t imagine those are all ‘hand delivers’), but not me (or anyone else lower on the food chain, for that matter). It seems like for the last several months, and again, the numbers suggest this, those underwriters are getting submission at the expense of other people’s.

How am I supposed to have a shot at a production bonus (which, incidentally, hasn’t happened since April, which, coincidentally, is about the same time several underwriters received assistants to help quote), if I’m not even given the opportunity to get anything close to a shot at meeting the “300 submissions handled” quota, the “175 submissions quoted” quota, and my “retained premium” quota? In other words, if I’m not given enough to produce??

You said survival of the fittest. If we’re really going to take some kind of darwinistic approach to it (which I really feel isn’t the most appropriate), then I would say that I’m adapting to my surroundings. In any case, the bottom of the list is not a place I want to be. I’m better than that; I just don’t get the opportunity to prove it. From what I can tell though, I haven’t done anything this past month that others haven’t done the last 6 months, while I was the one starving for submissions. See the attached email about [asshole co-worker] sniffing around in other people’s buckets (namely, mine). It’s not like I’m sneaking into other people’s work and taking things that are already assigned to others. And also, it’s not like I’m assigning unassigned stuff to myself, then never working it. It still gets to agents at least 24 hours prior to the effective date, which is better than the alternative. If that’s not a perk to keeping a few of us here after 5pm, it should be.

But alas, if I have broken the rules, I will humbly take my hand slapping, and stop immediately.

There is a VERY good chance that, given the fact that I CC’d the COMPANY’S OWNER on the email, that I’m going to get put on a few shit lists. Maybe even fired. This company doesn’t exactly have a reputation for making informed, logical, decisions based on reason and not emotion, and I’m aware of this. Truthfully, our main manager was currently in the hospital, and I didn’t feel like [asst manager] was the only person that needed to be dealing with this situation (although I’m sure it gave him a raging authority hard-on). So I went to the next rung on the ladder. Sue me.

Anyway, later that day, [asst manager] called me into a conference room (along with a third party, but not HR) to go over the email I had sent. He was cordial, and I was cordial, but we more or less agreed to disagree. I told him I was willing to hand out some of my submissions to other underwriters. Truthfully, I probably DID have more than I needed to bonus. But if a starving child stumbled upon a truck full of little debbie cakes, do you think he would only take one pack? Of course not.

Oh yeah, and another thing: I recorded my ‘behind closed doors’ conversation with [assistant manager].

I’m sure I’m going to be pulled into an office to discuss this with the manager, once he gets out of the hospital. And I’d say there’s a chance he might give me a pink slip. I guess we’ll cross that bridge if/when we come to it.

As an epilogue to this story, when I returned to my desk, I noticed that IT had installed some new software on my machine. I googled the name of the software, and as it turns out, they must REALLY think I’m being shady, because the software logs ALL of my keystrokes, and monitors my screen in real time.

If there is such a thing as “quantum management,” this company should get the Nobel prize for its discovery. Micromanagement is simply an understatement.

Assistants Pt 2

So the assistants test ran for approximately 5 months.  As this occurred, I slowly saw my numbers decline, as the assisted underwriters’ numbers slowly increased.  In an act of desperation, I approach the assistant manager (that’s not his actual title, but for all intents and purposes).  As I prefer to put anything important in writing, I sent him an email:

Hey,

Thought maybe I would get your candid POV on this before I discuss it with [manager].

My numbers were atrocious this month, and they’ve been less-than-stellar the last few before that, and it concerns me.  Looking at the reports, it looks like, after today, I will likely have plowed through around 250 submissions (those being both quotes, and declines).

The underwriters with assistants are going through almost 3 times as many submissions.  And I can’t help but ask myself whether or not this a coincidence.  Obviously, I’m not so naïve to think that it’s something intentionally against me; that would be ridiculous of me.  BUT, I do kind of feel like, as far as work volume goes, the number of submissions they’re receiving is gradually choking me out.  In other words, maybe I’m getting a lot less because they’re getting a lot more?  And given their retained premium this month, it’s obviously stuff to be effective this month as well.  Most of what I get are “NO MARKET” or “INVALID CLASS CODE,” submissions which end up being a decline, and lots of times, it’s stuff that’s already passed the effective date!

Apparently, numbers are low for everyone, but the numbers just don’t really speak to that.  I haven’t noticed any significant drop in hand delivers that I receive, and surely to goodness [UW with an assistant A] and [UW with an assistant B] wouldn’t get so many hand delivers (I know [B] does the VCAP stuff which maybe accounts for her larger number) as to push their numbers that high.  If numbers were low across the board, it just seems like theirs would be going down as well, y’know?

Almost every day this month, I’ve been able to reduce my bucket, at the end of the day, to maybe a few November submissions that I couldn’t quote yet, anyway….so I know my lower numbers aren’t from a lack of trying.  I know [UW with an assistant A] more or less lives here, but if nothing else, that has to mean he’s actually GETTING something to quote, know what I mean?

really don’t want to risk getting demoted to a lowly assistant for my numbers being low, especially if it’s something that’s ultimately out of my control, and it’s really starting to stress me out.

What am I supposed to do, here?”

So several hours later, I’m called over to assistant manager’s desk (as mentioned in a previous post, they NEVER put anything in writing.  There’s less deniability that way).  He discusses the way in which the submissions are distributed by our automated system, but then goes on to explain that the automated system is broken, and that, in spite of what the numbers suggest (apparently, at this job, the numbers DO lie), submissions are being distributed fairly.  What he said after that blows my mind, to this day:  “I mean, I guess, really, it’s survival of the fittest.”

TO BE CONTINUED.

Read the rest of this entry »

Meet “The Family”.

To understand why a tree bears poor fruit, perhaps it is best to look at the roots.

Our company is family owned and operated by a family of four, whom I will refer to, simply, as The “X” family. The following is an account (and perhaps a character analysis) of each family member.

The Dad – Better known as “Mr. X” (no, seriously, this is how he prefers to be addressed). Not much is known about Mr X, and everything said about him is usually through word-of-mouth stories passed down like a bizarre folklore. He is a man in his mid-to-late 70s, bald on top with gray hair on the sides. He is a portly man, and walks with a stinted stride, presumably due to some sort of knee injury or handicap. Mr X owns several vehicles, which he seems to change out seasonally, as weather permits. There is a white lexus with red leather interior. A red lexus convertible with tan leather interior. And a black BMW convertable with flashy chrome wheels. He always parks directly beside the building. Not in a parking space, but up onto the curb, on the walkway, which is approximately 10 feet from the entrance. Mind you, from a previous post, we are required to park off premises in a public lot (which is often littered with empty airplane liquor bottles, syringes, used contraceptives, etc. We are routinely instructed not to speak to Mr X, and not to address him directly. Seems like he will speak to employees who attend his church. Otherwise, he will not acknowledge you, or so much as make eye contact with you, even if you give a friendly “Hello” in the hallways. On one occasion, I stepped onto the elevator with him (which few others will do). As I was closest to the buttons, I asked him if he was going to floor 10 (the floor on which is office was). Without looking at me, without giving me an answer, he cut across me, and pushed the button himself. I no longer attempt conversation with the man. Mr X has no official title, on paper, within the company. What is known is that the company started out as a small insurance agency, and later grew into the large wholesale broker where I work. At some point, during this time (and review of public records confirms this), Mr X allegedly spent some time in a correctional facility for something related to insurance fraud, tax evasion, or something. It’s all public record on google. This may be why he is not officially listed as being an active officer within the company. It is well known, however, throughout the company, that he runs the show, and calls the shots. The official title of principals are deferred to his two sons.

Son #1 – 1 seems to be, by and large, the brains of the organization. He is clean-cut, mid 40s (I assume), and seems fairly humble, from the times we have spoken. He is friendly with employees, will not hesitate to strike up a conversation on the elevator, and is confident in spite of a very subtle stammer/impediment in his speech. A very personable individual, he is the poster boy of the company.

Son #2 – I’m not sure if Son 2, the ‘other son,’ is older or younger than 1. Although he is listed as vice president on paper, his actual function within the company is questionable, and ambiguous. Allegedly, he runs the retail agency out of which my company originated, although I have also been told that he has lost his insurance license, and is not allowed to practice in the state of TN. 2 drives a Porsche convertible, which, for a very long time, he would park in the “no parking section” between two handicap spaces, at the front of the building; the section that is supposed to be left empty so handicap vans with auto lifts can remove wheelchair bound individuals. While his brother, 1, always appears clean cut and professional, 2 is usually patrolling the hallways wearing cut up or acid washed designer jeans, his ever-popular red leather jacket, with a polyester dress shirt buttoned halfway down (no undershirt). He does his best to display a very “bad boy” persona, and his speech is often intentionally loud, juvenile, and peppered with expletives. I get the feeling his participation in the company is more ceremonial than purposeful, as he seems like the type who Mr X has probably bailed out of jail on more than one occasion. He is crude, and his social skills seem questionable at best. As with the other members of his family, he seems to have a degree of disdain for those of lower class.

Mom – I don’t know what “mama’s” specific position is, within the company, but I know what she does. She, too, carries herself with a cold smugness, refusing to speak to any subordinates, or even make eye contact (this is no exagerration). Any time I’ve ever encountered the mom, is when she’s patrolling the office, looking for stains on the carpet, or dents in the drywall. On more than one occasion, she has gone through the rows of cubicles, commanding employees to open their drinking cups, to ensure that they’re following the “coffee and water only” rule, as mentioned previously.

It is assumed that she also governs the (in my humble opinion) overly strict dress code of the company. Beards are not allowed, as “a person with facial hair cannot be trusted” (<–direct quote, no joke). However, mustaches are allowed. What logic is used in this decision?! Is it because lots of poor people have beards, and the company doesn't want to look like it associates with those sub-human vagabonds?

Correspondence

One thing I notice about all of my “superiors” is that they will put NOTHING in writing, especially if their response is of a questionable nature.  I will email a question to them (usually something important that pertains to keeping our agents satisfied), and instead of giving me a written response back, they will simply come to my desk and give me the answer verbally…That, to me, is questionable.  It puts me in a position where if the answer they gave me gets the company in trouble, they can only pin it on me, as they can deny having told me to do something (or not to do something, as the case may be).

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.