workinghereislikeworkinginnorthkorea

Some jobs are bad. And some jobs are BAD.

Month: September, 2011

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).

Concerning customer satisfaction.

Typically, an agent (our customer) is already agitated when they phone call finally makes it to us.  This is usually because our actual “customer service” department is pretty incompetent.  I don’t blame them, necessarily.  The main problem stems from the lack of communication between different departments; no one knows how any other departments work.  That means agents are constantly being told one thing by one department, and another by the next department.  Understandably, they become frustrated, and want to speak to the manager…

Which is why I thought it was really ironic that our manager, who really doesn’t seem to know what exactly goes on in our department (even though his office is, literally, 10 feet away, sent the following memo to us:

“Somebody wiser than me, obviously, defined customer service fairly concisely.  “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises.  He is not dependent on us.  He is not an interruption of our work.  He is the purpose of it.  He is not an outsider in our business.  He is a part of it.  We are not doing him a favor by serving him.  He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”

Some of you really get it.  Agents and others in the office come to you for help.  Some of you are avoided like the black plague.  Do not give me BS about “I am who I am” because you act exactly the way want.  It just seems like some of you do not like people – this comes through loud and clear but you think it does not.  You are exactly the way you are to your family, friends and agents because that is how you want it.  I cannot pound sense into you to be better with your family and friends but I can when it comes to work.

We can only be successful if agents continue to give us opportunities.  Great success can only happen if agents want to work with us and not just because they need to.  Today I need to check myself, “Am I encouraging agents to want to work with us and not just because?”  Take it one phone call or email at a time but make it happen.”

I’m amused at the fact that this guy thinks he knows a single thing about ANY of the his employees outside of work, and how we may or may not treat our friends and family.  He barely gives us the time of day AT work.  He couldn’t possibly know what we “get” or “don’t get,” because he doesn’t KNOW how his floor operates.  You can’t know the dynamics and inner workings of a company if all you’re looking at is a sheet with numbers and projections on it.  Secondly, if he had any idea, whatsoever, about how this office operates, and how inter-office operations work, he would probably think twice about sending out his condescending emails.

Speaking of condescending, this guy calls me “son” constantly.  Two things:  1) I have a name, and 2) you are  not my father.

My father works 10 times as hard as you do for 1/3 the money.

Assistants

As mentioned before, it can be tricky to get a bonus anymore, with all of the restrictions they’ve systematically put in place.  To add insult to injury, they’ve implemented a new system as well:  assistants.

Several underwriters were handpicked and given assistants to help them quote.  Now, mind you, even though they’re doing twice the work with this assistant, they’re still subject to the same quotas as those of us who are without assistants.  What does this mean?  Simple.

For the past 4 months, the numbers for underwriters with assistants has steadily increased, to an exponential amount.

Simultaneously, the numbers for underwriters without assistants has steadily decreased.

In other words, you have assisted underwriters who are quoting upwards of 300 to 400 quotes (when the quota is met at 175), and working 5 to 7o0 quotes a month (when the quota is met at 300), at the expense of other underwriters who are scraping by with, optimisticaly, 90 to 100 quotes a month, working (both quoting and declining) 150-200 quotes a month.

Essentially, those without assistants have been screwed out of their work.  I haven’t received a bonus in 5 months, because I don’t get the work required to qualify for a bonus.  Instead, half (3/4, even) of the work I USED to get, is going to the underwriters with assistants.

It reminds me of a meeting I had with the manager, where I suggested a revision to the bonus system that was “self-adjusting”.  An underwriter’s quota was determined by how many quotes they got out in the previous month, plus 10%.  This essentially meant that the underwriter determined what their quota was, based on how much they were able to output (which essentially, is based on how much work they’re given by management).  The manager mentioned that the underwriter would eventually push their quota beyond what they could do to achieve a bonus (at least for one month, at which time it would adjust back down),

“And I don’t really like the idea of an underwriter not being able to get their bonus,” he said to me…

Ha!