Sunday, June 22, 2008

Interesting Interviews

Firstly, I apologize to any regular readers (all .5 of you) for being so lax in getting material up every day. I certainly have plenty of material from the last few days, but things have been harried at work, with all of us having our interest interviews (are you interested in voluntarily leaving the company?). While I noticed no one wandering the aisles rending their garments and and wailing, there were lots of stress, lots of speculation (guilty, as charged - but I've a wager resting on all this) - low level upset conditions.

I had my interview, next to the last one for the group, on Friday. Since everyone else in the department had already heard what I was hearing, I received no caveats about repeating information, etc. I was informed that my job group was a high target group for these layoffs; but don't assume that my manager was threatening or pressuring me. This was a piece of information I'd been telling everyone else in my department all week. I actually feel really sorry for my manager lorenzo (not his real name); he is not the kind of man whose heart gladdens at the thought of layoffs. And like many others, he expects these layoffs to be much more severe and debilitating than previous years' layoffs. I know that I've been working in Corporate America for a long time - too long, perhaps - when I can pretty accurately guess what the company's strategy (or lack thereof) is.

For example, the above-mentioned bet was that I said that the Powers That Be (PTB) were probably aiming to have the 60 days notice period completed by the end of the third quarter so that when the stock analysts give their ratings, make their forecasts for the 4th quarter, the news would be good and the stock value would go up for the end of the year -- all important to justify those boni. Investors see headlines that read, "Company X Lays Off Millions of Employees" and they all jump up and down, yelling 'Woo hoo! More for us!' My coworker Mr T (T for Trouble, that is) speculated that the end of the year was the target date for layoffs, not the end of fiscal Q3. Well, Mr T, you owe me that coffee - in our department, at any rate, our 60 days are up well before the end of Q3. In your face!

Apologies, dear readers - my coffee lust has led me to digress a wee bit. Returning to the interview, I asked my manager a few questions to see if my guesses about how these layoffs were being performed were educated and probably accurate, and at least received some grim satisfaction that I was generally correct. I don't want to get into a great deal of detail about how my Company X is going about things - at least, not until I officially no longer have a job. Poor lorenzo - he looked every bit the unhappy rabbit that he is these days. But don't think to offer him carrots to make him feel better - he much prefers a good donut.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Why I Can't Work in the Restaurant Industry

Behind my apartment is a little coffee shop and restaurant - my neighborhood is rife with coffee shops. This is the nearest coffee source to me, and it's not uncommon for me to slip a coat over my jammies on my days off and grab breakfast to go from there, so I can return home and enjoy breakfast in bed without having to make it myself. Sweet, I say. This place makes great breakfast sandwiches, French toast with enough cinnamon to make me happy, but the killer breakfast food there are the pancakes, thick and fluffy, with tons of fruit options as well as grain options (no wheat? no problem.). My faves are the oat bran. However, I digress as usual.

I'm a regular, they see me on the weekends, and while I'm waiting for my to go order I get to watch consumers in action. On one occasion there was an older couple at one of the tables; my guess is they were retired although they didn't look old enough to be have been retired that long. But honestly, they acted like they've been retired for 25 years. As the Man of the House bused their dishes I noticed that they'd each ordered pancakes. The food left on their plates looked good to me, not burnt or crispy or runny. (I'm waiting for an order, I'm hungry, you bet I'm eyeing other people's food and no, I did not dig the food out of the trash.) As they left, the older man accosted the barista and complained that his pancakes were well-done, browner than usual. He's not making a friendly observation; he's obviously deeply disappointed that his pancakes were not the exactly replica of the last order of pancakes. I could feel my jaw clenching as I managed not to call him an asshole. When he and his partner leave the restaurant I snort in their general direction. (Yes, I snorted, not farted.)

Now I'm sure you're wondering why I'm so upset at this person for expressing his displeasure. I've got two verbose reasons, so grab your coffee before you continue reading.

Firstly, this is a little mom and pop place run by a very nice woman; her employees are great people. The decor is funky, signs are written in crayon, the help is tattooed and pierced. This isn't Denny's. This is not the place to come if you want the exact, same, identical food experience time after time. It's not fast food. I've never had a stack of oat bran cakes that I didn't enjoy - but they don't come out perfect circles. I've never had a breakfast sandwich I didn't really enjoy - but they look like something a human would make for another human. They make great cookies there - they look like the cookies I bake (and taste even better), not like the bag of Chips Ahoy, each cookie weighing the exact same amount. It's a home-style hipster place, and no one pretends otherwise.

Secondly, while I appreciate good customer service, that doesn't equate to being someone's slave. Cooks, wait staff, baristas, all deserve to be treated with the dignity on the job that you want to receive when you're on the job. Yes, they get paid - probably not nearly what you get paid. Not enough to be treated like servants in some repressed Victorian household. I tip generously, even though I can't afford to; I appreciate someone else doing my cooking, baking, espresso-making, and I don't believe they should do it for free or next to nothing.

So the other afternoon, after the Dysfunctional Team meeting, I went to this coffee shop to get some caffeine to compensate for the quantity of bourbon I consumed. One of the young girls I see there regularly was working behind the counter - I warned her that, since I was drunk, I might easily be scaring customers away. She said that she'd be fine with that, since they'd been super busy most of the day, and with the next day being graduation they'd be even more packed if it was like last year's. The conversation continued to a discussion of rude customers. I related my observation about the man whose pancakes were browned.

Full of bourbon, I said, "I'd never make it working in a restaurant. When someone makes a stupid complaint like that, all I can think is 'Is this the worst problem you've got? Fucking browned pancakes? Not even burned, just browned?' I'd kick the chap in the ankles and then I'd ask him, 'Eh, what's more important now, asshole? You're broken ankle? Or your browned pancakes? What hurts more, your ankle or your pancakes?' Which is why I could never work in a place like this."

Of course, if she ever breaks some guy's ankle over a complaint, I'll have to consider feeling a few moments of guilt. Maybe.

The Cross, Dysfunctional Team Meeting

Friday some of the malcontents (as Freud would have labeled us) from the workplace gathered at our official meeting site for a celebration of sorts - for those not in the know, the official meeting site includes libations alcoholic in nature. Woo hoo! The celebration was to mark the promotion of someone completely undeserving (whom I shall name Dink) to a position high enough that he will eventually be able to enact all his fascist soon as Ilsa of the SS responds to his voice mail messages.

Heh, the poster warns that some members of the public may find certain scenes in the film offensive and shocking. Shall we bet that some members under Dink's command found him offensive and shocking? If not, we can at least safely assume they found him uninformed and arrogant. Now a new bunch of underpaid corporate drones will learn to appreciate these most excellent qualities of his leadership. Thinking on it, I feel guilty that we did not make a toast to his new group of henchmen, er, underlings, er, subordinates.

We did make toasts to those who were unable to attend the meeting - and we had garlic cheese bread, which I think qualifies as toast. It occurs to me that tossing pieces of toasted garlic bread with hot, melted cheese on it at people you don't like would be a different method of toasting - but I digress, and the toasted garlic bread was too tasty to waste on someone I don't much like.

There was some small good news at yesterday's summit - one of Dink's former chair moisteners has landed another position. This chair moistener (I shall call him Lucky) is the only repository for a huge body of knowledge about our workplace. He's one of those people to whom you can go to either get an answer or to find out where to get one. It remains to be seen how fortunate Lucky's new placement truly is, but a reprieve is a reprieve and I'm pleased that he got one. I did try to convince him to take my job if I got laid off, but he's not nearly foolish enough to do that. I should have sweetened the deal by throwing in that shrunken head in my office. C'est la vie.

Back to the meeting minutes - there were toasts to those absent, a hailing of Fuhrer Dink, drinking and eating of pub grub, discussions about how many and how soon de big layoffs will be, and the joyous discovery that someone I know actually has the Ism lp with their cover of "I Think I Love You". I took incriminating photos of summit participants but you won't be seeing them here. No, those are my backup plan for when my unemployment insurance runs out ;-)

I have no idea when the meeting finally adjourned - four folks were still there when I left. Here's to hoping they're were not hung over!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Come the Big Layoffs

Greetings, dear reader - welcome to the my journal of employment. Or lack thereof. I'm an employee of corporate America, for the time being at least. In 9 years of employment I will soon be undergoing my third 'beg for your job' interview. These are always named "Interest Interviews", the idea being to assess your level of interest in keeping your job. But really and truly, it's all about begging for your job - convincing them that you think the company is great; that you'd rather have any job with Corporation X than be CEO of Google; that you think you've got an incredible future with an incredible company; that you are the hardest working drone in Sector 7G. The problem is how to produce these responses so that they are believable.

The company I work for is less than half the size it was when I was hired. There are many, many jobs within my company that I would not take if it could possibly be avoided. Hardly anyone thinks the company has a long-term future (certainly not long enough for me to retire from there), and most people in my division think that anything past 2 years would be sheer luck. And then, I'm not a good capitalist; I'm not good at throwing other people under the train to save myself. I hate having to beg for my job. I'm surprised I made it through the first two, as I'm not that good a liar.

Anyway, this blog is about layoffs. Regardless of whether I end up victim or guilt-ridden survivor, I'll be posting here about daily life. The chaos of a company desperate for a huge and quick headcount reduction, or the joys of submitting three job applications a week - either way, you can read about it here.