Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Workplace Trials and Tribulations

Well I really don't know how much time I have allotted to me. I hit the beginning and the end, so where do I go now? I have a similar story currently in the works for one that occurred in the middle. You don't know what the denouement of a story will be until it becomes a fait accompli, so I have to leave the current story alone until it runs its course. But, I'll share the story in the middle that is fait accompli with a denoumement.

"Doing wickedness is like sport to a fool,
And so is wisdom to a man of understanding."
Proverbs 10:23

I shared the first Christian album I ever bought on my last post. Here is my favorite song off of that album: "the Narrow Way" by Kelly Willard

Now to the current story...

Workplace Trials and Tribulations

I moved to North Central Arkansas in the Fall of 1988 in an old 1969 GMC School Bus converted to a mobile home with plans of starting a business making and selling hammocks. During that process I found hammocks already made cheaper than my material costs.
So, I figured I needed a better game plan.
I noticed the ICS(International Correspondence Schools) advertisement in Reader's Digest and began looking through their choices for a possible solution. The Survey and Mapping Course bumped me with interest. It could be a job where I got to wonder the great outdoors and get exercise while working at the same time.

Before I sent my down payment in I wanted to make sure I was reasonably assured of being able to get a job, so I stopped in at the most visible Civil Engineering and Surveying Company in the closest large town to where I was living to chat.

I visited with the big boss's right hand man. He told me they didn't need anyone at the moment, but they were expecting to get the Corp of Engineers contract that spring and would need lots of people then.

It sounded promising, so I sent my money off and started the ICS Survey and Mapping Course.

I enjoyed the course work and was progressing well when springtime finally arrived and I gave a call to the company I had visited to check on the job status.

The big boss man answered the phone. I told him who I was and that I had talked to his right hand man during the previous winter. The big boss told me that he had just hired someone with more experience.

I told him I had been taking the ICS Survey and Mapping Course and was doing well and that his right hand man told me there would be work.

He said, "It's always good to improve your education, but like I said I just hired someone with more experience".

I told him thank you for his time, and hung up.

I would have never called the man again except the next land surveyor I spoke to in a different town with about the same driving distance told me that if I was taking the ICS course and I really wanted to learn I should try to get on with the company I had spoken to first.

My landlord was using me as his handyman's assistant for Monday through Thursday and he gave me Fridays off to work on getting my hammock business up to speed. So, I called the Big Boss that had rejected me back and said, "I don't have anything to do on Fridays and I'm really interested in learning Land Surveying and Mapping, so can I show up on Fridays just to observe your work?"

He said, "Come on in and let me talk to you".

Alright! I thought.

What I didn't know was that his junior man just quit to go get a job on a fishing boat in Alaska.

The Big Boss Man gave me the grand tour of his office and all that they do. He never asked me any questions about what I was learning. Then he ran this line by me, "Instead of just coming in to observe our work, let me put you on the payroll as a trainee. That way if we need you in the field we can use you. Plus you can make a little money instead of just watching."

The deal sounded okay to me, so I agreed. A trainee back then started at $3.68 an hour. After I agreed he told me, "By the way, the junior man on the totem pole cuts the grass. Why should I have to hire someone to cut the grass?"

So I ended up cutting that old codger's grass for less money than I would have made in junior high.

I progressed fairly rapidly and went from trainee to "Rod Man" and junior draftsman. Those two positions paid $6.40 an hour.

Then the Corp of Engineers contract finally came through. The Corp had a new requirement for this year where all output had to be produced by computer and the finished product had to be plotted with Intergraph.

The company purchased a Surveying and Mapping software package and borrowed a demo copy of Intergraph from the Corp to produce the final plot. The demo copy only ran for 15 minutes before requiring the user to login again, but once a routine was started it ran until complete. So, you could have a plot that would take a couple of hours to produce on a pen plotter and the demo copy did the job.

The Big Boss Man talked about having to hire someone outside the company to run the new Land Surveying Software they had purchased. I asked him if I could take the manual home in the evenings and study it on my own time. He said, "Okay".

I then asked if I could come in on the weekends on my own time and practice using the software on their company computer. He said, "Okay".

I worked myself into a new position, "Computer Operator". The Corp of Engineers specified the pay which was $11.20 an hour. So I had done fairly well moving from $3.68 and hour to $11.20 an hour in a short amount of time. It also got me out of cutting the grass. But, there was a fly in the ointment...

There was Corp work to do and then there was regular company work to do. Your hourly wage depended on the job you were preforming. My new position, "Computer Operator" was listed as $5.80 an hour. Less money than I made as a rodman and as a junior draftsman. In the past when I had worked hard I had been taken care of by my bosses. They would have said, "That's not right, you need this here.", but not the Big Boss. He smiled all the way to the bank for the longest time. I didn't worry about it too much since I had plenty of Corp work to do.

One Tuesday morning the Big Boss showed up at his usual 9am time. He got a cup of coffee and then commenced to stand behind me looking over my shoulder at what I was working on. One of our jobs was the design and drafting of a handicap access park for fishing at the local Fish Hatchery. Unknown to me the Big Boss had a sit-down luncheon meeting the next day where he needed finished blueprints. The job was nowhere near finished.
He asked, "Dave, why aren't you working on the Fish Hatchery park?"

I said, "Ed told me to work on this." Ed was his right hand man and I pointed to the job I had up on the computer.

The Big Boss went into Ed's office. In short order Ed came out and pulled up a chair at the desk next to me with another computer. We both started working on the Fish Hatchery Access Park drawings.

Ed and I ate pizza for supper at the keyboards and worked through the night. Just before lunch on Wednesday we printed out the final set of blueprints and handed them to the Big Boss to take to his sit-down luncheon meeting.

I hung around until about 3pm that afternoon and then took off early. I had just completed 32 straight hours of work having come to work on Tuesday morning and going home Wednesday afternoon. I got a good night's sleep and made it to work at the normal time on Thursday morning.

The Big Boss showed up at his normal 9am time with a big smile on his face. He said, "Dave and Ed I'm real happy with you two. You both did a real good job for me." He continued, "In fact to reward you two, I want to give you Friday off."

Then he looked at Ed and said, "Ed, I know you're really busy. If you rather come in and work on Friday, that will be alright. But if you rather take Friday off, you can can do so."

Then he looked me directly in the eyes and said, "Dave, I just assume you take Friday off. That way I won't have to pay you any overtime."

I sat there looking up at the Big Boss thinking, "Did a real good job for him... Wants to reward us... Doesn't want to pay me any overtime..." I said, "Okay".

I took my Friday off. I also took home a stack of payroll time sheets. Along with the payroll time sheets I took home a copy of the company policy manual. Time sheets were turned in the last thing on Friday or the first thing on Monday morning.

I spent my Friday going through the company policy manual with a fine tooth comb. The first thing I found was that the previous Monday was Martin Luther King's birthday holiday. I had thought it was a company holiday, but nobody said anything, so I showed up for work on Monday. Everybody else did too. But there it was in black and white that it was a company holiday, so I took a payroll time sheet and said, "Okay Big Boss Man, don't want to pay me overtime. Here is 8 hours for the 8 hours I worked on Monday and here is 8 more hours for the holiday. I put the extra 8 hours down as overtime.

Next I got to thinking about my pay. I had been getting $5.80 for jobs like the fish hatchery for a mighty long time. If I was doing the drafting by hand instead of by computer I would be getting $6.40, so I reasoned I should at least put all my time down as $6.40 an hour. If the Big Boss Man didn't like that, I could tell him that I'd just draft everything by hand from now on.

The company policy manual said that if you wanted a raise you had to verbally approach your immediate supervisor and request it first. When the Big Boss Man put me on the computer it was no longer clear who my immediate supervisor was. For all I knew it could have been him. Also, if anyone ever put anything on their payroll time sheet that he didn't like, he just changed it. So, I reasoned that there was no need to verbally ask anyone. I should just put down what I wanted. If he didn't like it, we could discuss it then.

I also didn't like the $6.40 an hour. I had been getting paid $5.80 for a mighty long time and nobody said anything. I looked at the senior draftsman rate which was $9.20 and decided that might be a little stiff. The intermediate draftsman rate at $7.60 looked appealing, so I put all my hours down at $7.60 an hour.

I told my wife what I was doing when she got home and she had a major cow...

She said, "You're going to lose your job!"

I said, "Baby, if I lose this job because of this, I need to lose this job."

Monday morning I showed up at work bright and early. I was the first one there. I also had a small problem. I was the only one with the previous Monday marked as a holiday on their payroll time sheet. The next person through the door was my old supervisor, the Instrument Man. He is of Italian descent and anytime he got a thorn in his side, you heard about it with his pretty fiery personality.

As soon as he came through the door I said, "Hey, last Monday was a holiday." We had all worked it.

He said, "I don't think so."

I said, "Yea, Martin Luther King."

He said, "Ah, we don't get paid for that."

I said, "We don't? Well it is in the company policy manual that we do."

He said, "It is?"

Then he went and dug out a company policy manual and looked up the holiday policies for himself. Then he went into the Big Boss Man's office and retrieved his payroll time sheet that he had turned in last thing on Friday and made sure he put his extra 8 hours down for the holiday.

I didn't have to tell another person. Everyone through the door after that he said, "Last Monday was a holiday. Martin Luther King. It's in the company policy manual that we get paid for it. Make sure you get it on your time sheet."

Small problem fixed, but the firework show was set up.

The Big Boss Man drug in at his typical 9am. He got himself a cup of coffee and said hi to everyone. Then he went into his office to look over time sheets as was his habit for Monday mornings. He wasn't in there 5 minutes before he came out pinging off the walls...

"Ugh, ugh, this ain't right! Y'all can't do this to me! But, but, it is in the company policy manual, so I'll let you do it this time." said the Big Boss Man.

Then he looked at me and said, "Dave, since that was a holiday I don't have to pay you overtime for those hours". I looked at him and said, "Okay", conceding that point.

When his secretary arrived he had her cut an addendum to the company policy manual that said, "If you are not on a government job the day before and the day after Martin Luther King's birthday, then you cannot claim it as a holiday." I told myself that I would just have to see if I was there for the next one.

So all the excitement from the holiday pay settled down. I still expected fireworks for the raise I had given myself.

The Big Boss Man returned to his office and everyone else returned to their jobs. After a short while the Big Boss Man shouted, "Ed! You wanna come in here." Ed was his right hand man. I figured the Big Boss Man wouldn't do anything without consulting with Ed first. Ed may also have been considered my immediate supervisor by the Big Boss Man since I got most of my instructions from him after being hogtied to the computer and never getting to see the sunshine again turning as white as a white boy can get.

Ed wasn't in the Big Boss Man's office long when the Big Boss Man shouted, "Dave, you wanna come in here!" I said, "Okay" as I shut down my current job and rose from my desk.

I stood in the Big Boss Man's office doorway and looked him straight in the eye like the day he told me he didn't wanna pay me any overtime and said, "Yes sir!"

Ed was sitting in a chair just inside the door looking up at me with a silly little grin on his face. The Big Boss Man then asked me... a technical question pertaining to the computer. I gave him my answer. Then he and Ed mulled over my answer a bit. Then the Big Boss Man looked at Ed and said, "Okay Ed you can go."

I took Ed's seat and waited. The Big Boss Man sat in his chair looking across his desk at me with sad puppy dog eyes as if to say, "How could you do this to me?"

He could care less that I had a wife and kids at home I was trying to feed. I was ready and fully loaded. Bring it on Boss Man! Lets talk about it!

He never said a thing. I made the $7.60 an hour until the next time he made me mad. Then I put the senior draftsman rate down. He never said a thing about that either. He had talked about having to pay high dollar to whomever he had to hire outside the company to run the new software, so I reckon he got a bargain with me.
Helicopter Wooded LZ
I decided the next time he made me mad I'd really make him squeak. But then reading my morning paper over breakfast one day I noticed Air Evac had an ad for flight nurses. I told my wife to give them a call and see if they needed any pilots. Air Evac called me at the office before lunch asking when I could come in to talk to them.

So I ended my surveying career before the next Martin Luther King holiday and took up flying again.

The Big Boss Man called me in once after leaving trying to hire me back. I told him what I needed to make to return. He said, "Umh, for that kind of money I can hire such and such." I said, "Well, maybe that's what you need to do."

I still consider the Big Boss Man a friend. He is a good chess player too. I had been more or less conflict adverse prior to this experience, but I guess he just pushed me far enough. I also think the Lord really loves the Big Boss Man because of the Martin Luther King holiday gift timing that just happened to workout perfectly. This one is a little hard to explain if you don't get it, but...

"All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness." Hebrews 12:11

"For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights." Proverbs 3:12

Hope you enjoyed the tale...ciao

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