Thursday, August 31, 2006

Thursday - Ugh.

All right ... I've changed this stupid blog like five times tonight, and I'm sick of trying.

I wanted the black one; when I originally set the blog up, I didn't see it for some reason, or opted not to use it. I can't remember now. But then, I was going through Blogger's templates, and I found it, and really wanted to use it -- you know, the whole "Darcness" theme thing. My friend here is also using it though, and I didn't want to look like a butt-kisser trying to copy the cool kids; besides, my wife doesn't care for the white-on-black schema, and I couldn't find a font I liked, and I hated the editing ... meh. So I tried an all-gray one that looked okay, but didn't have a "Links" section, and I didn't want to figure out how to screw around with the sidebar that much, so screw it. Finally, I picked this one, but now it looks like a chick-blog. (JK ... it does strike me as feminine, though.)

Anyone have any thoughts? Anyone care? Anyone OUT THERE??

God bless,

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Saturday - Lord, please make my words tender and sweet ...

After I finished posting my journal yesterday, my wife read over what I’d written and she brought something to my attention that I didn’t think about until she did.

When people lose their jobs, it’s not funny.

I didn’t mean to poke fun at the people around me that lost their jobs. Certainly, there was an attempt at mirth and lightheartedness in my posting, but I didn’t mean it from a malicious or gleeful view point. I was just trying to show how funny things have been over the several months at work. The sad part is, I didn’t take in consideration that I’ve prayed for the women that lost their jobs since their release. I’ve been there – I’ve been blind-sided by termination that I never saw coming. It happened to me when the economy in the US was at it worst, and the devastation that was brought to us is chronicled in my writings on this and other pages on the Internet. I didn’t take any joy in the firing of those individuals, even though they’d been sources of angst and ire for me more than once. The reason was easy to identify: it was because it hit me too close to home.

I was cut too close to the bone, particularly when the second individual was released earlier this week. This is a similar transpiring of events to the way that I was released from the last permanent position I had, back in 2002. It came from out of the blue, unexpected and without warning of any kind from any front. It’s a sucker-punch to the gut; it makes you want to vomit, cry and scream all at the same time, but you can’t do any of those things. Shock steals any sound before you make it.

The terror that came on the heels of that blow is worse by far, though, and lasts much longer. It’s always there, waiting in the wings, lurking in the shadows just beyond your conscious efforts to push it aside and look at “the bright side.” It’s waiting for you when you sleep, and comes in nightmares and cold sweats. It steals upon you in the broad of day with anxiety attacks and sudden surges of realization that you’re out of work, there is no income, you’re not going to be able to pay your bills, etc. It begins to strike when the phone rings, or when the mail arrives. It sets in when any glimmer of hope in the form of a job interview or even email of inquiry is never responded to or even acknowledged. It’s there, waiting for you when you least expect it, or even when you are expecting it.

A young man working as a desktop support tech (for those of you that don’t know, that’s the person that shows up to fix your computer after you’ve contacted the help(less) desk and gotten nowhere) at the company where I’m now contracting spoke to me several months ago regarding his contract ending. He told me that his two-year-maximum term of employment would be up in August; I asked if he’d started looking (this was in April or May, I think). He said no, and that he wasn’t worried about it, really. He felt that, if the company didn’t offer him a full-time job, he wouldn’t have any trouble getting another one somewhere. The parent company from which this one spun off two years ago would probably take him if nothing else. He was completely confident, and very relaxed.

I spoke to him again in June, and he told me that he’d been informed his last day with us would be on August 25, 2006. I asked again if he’d started looking, and he said he’d been checking websites like Monster or Yahoo!, but nothing serious. He (still) wasn’t worried about it, he reiterated. I shook my head and told him how I admired his confidence; after 10 years in his field, I wasn’t getting ANY offers that met my salary requirements in the last 18 months. It’s the reason I’d taken the job I have; I didn’t really have any other choice, and it at least was in the pay-range I needed.

On Thursday, August 24, 2006, I saw him again. I asked him how the job search was going. He shook his head and grimaced a bit. He’d not been offered anything over $9 an hour LESS than he was being paid at this company. Oh yes, there were offers, but nothing that was equal to what he was being paid. I asked him about the potential for going to the parent company. He glanced up at me briefly and said that they were “trying” to get him in there. He hadn’t heard any more than that. I wished him well, and sincerely meant it, and walked away wondering how I could have communicated to him that I told him so without saying “I told you so.” I decided not to bring it up at all. I just resolved to pray for him, because I’ve been where he is and it’s a tough, tough row to hoe.

There are people in this company all around me being dropped like so much garbage into a waste bin. It’s true, there are a lot of changes taking place, now that the company has completely severed itself from the parent organization. It’s also true that they’ve re-evaluated the cost of running their IT department, and have decided that they need to cut costs and bring that expenditure under control. Other companies operating at this size and doing similar things have costs that are anywhere from half to three-quarters what this company is spending, and that’s a deep concern to the C-level management and, I’m sure, the stockholders. So things have to be done; salary and benefits is a quick and easy way to reduce budget, and it’s usually the first thing cut to get costs down. And so it’s going that way here.

Nevertheless, the circumstances and the pressures of those things didn’t really impact the people that were let go from our group the last couple of weeks. In fact, one of the people terminated was facing the two-year limit anyway. But she expedited her termination by being a problem employee and proving herself undependable and inconsistent with quality. Her position was sacrificed earlier than planned to the great and angry god “Budget,” but the truth is, it was going to happen anyway. My sorrow and concern for her was that she’d been offered nothing higher than $3 an hour less than what she was making in her position with this company, and she’d been turned down for more than one of those. I feel for her. I can empathize, but do not sympathize, because she didn’t take any effort to be anything more than a temp. She was, therefore, treated like one.

As for the second person, her circumstances amuse me if not the outcome. She brought all the havoc that befell her onto herself. She might have gotten away with what she was doing (see yesterday’s entry for more information) had she just remained quiet in terms of her pay. She was a chronic griper and complained about anything and everything. Her complaints about her pay is what triggered the events that led to her termination. She may as well have held up a sign indicating what she was doing; it may never have been found without her help. She offered nothing in the way of an explanation when given the chance to do so, and has yet to blame herself for what happened. The last communication some of my teammates had with her on Friday reflected only ire toward the manager of the department and expressed feeling that he favored men over women. They feel this is the reason they were released.

That’s terribly sad to me.

So, if I sound calloused about what happened, forgive me. I don’t mean to; it’s just that, while it’s not funny that two people have lost their jobs in under two weeks, it’s something of a bemusement to me. Someone losing their job isn’t something to poke fun at; the circumstances for these particular firings are a bit comical, though, especially the second person.

It’s not funny, but it is ironic.

I’m still praying for them, by the way, and I will continue to do so. I hope that any of you reading this will continue to pray for us, because the end of the year is coming.

God bless you all.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Friday - Here We Go Again

Well ... where to begin?

For the last 8+ months now, things have been pretty stable, I suppose. In the grand scheme of things, events in our lives have been interesting and sometimes fun. Most of the time we've had has been all right.

There were, however, bumps in the road. Of course there were; life wouldn't be living if there weren't, right? And there were times when things got more exciting than I'd liked, but that's life.

Let me give some examples:

  • In March, one of the women that I worked with threw what I can only describe as a "hissy fit," much like you'd find being thrown by a toddler. It involved shouting, swearing, crying, statements like "I'm going home!" and "I'm not coming back here anymore!", and expletives that I wouldn't want to repeat even if I could remember them. The entire ordeal centered around the fact that she was refusing to do specific work assigned to her, and I questioned my manager about it, curious about how to re-route the work. It was determined that she couldn't refuse work, and that led to a discussion the following morning with another person in our group. This third person then confronted me, stating that if I had a complaint about the person refusing work, I should go to her, because she was -- and I quote precisely here -- "my lead." (In truth, I kind of believe she intended to say "my leige," but got tongue-tied in her frustration.) In this second person's loud and obnoxious confrontation of me, the first person (I really should assign names here to make this less confusing) overheard, and absolutely went ballistic in her ... I dunno ... rage? That led to the first person yelling and shouting about how I needed to keep my own "backyard clean" (I'm not sure to this day what the conversation had to do with yard maintenance, but then, I'm not that clever) and that I was immature (!). Yes, the person that was screaming, crying and swearing was accusing me of being immature. I think I laughed aloud, but I can't remember clearly. This led to a friend of mine confronting the second person (my "lead") about her laziness and poor leadership-by-example skills. He said things that had been on his mind for a while about this person, and it reduced her to tears. So now, we have two team members crying and swearing, hugging each other and trying to calm one another down, and my friend fuming, all because someone refused to do work that would have taken seconds to do. Go figure. As a side note, my friend ended up fired about five weeks later.
  • The tantrum woman was scheduled to complete her 2-year-maximum contract (she's a temp -- there's a surprise for you; what, no one will hire her? Why not?) in October. Back in June, my manager went to her and told her to find a job; she needed to do that, because there was no way in hell he was going to offer her a full-time job. All the rest of us knew is that the person that claimed to be my "lead" was really pushing hard to have her brought on full-time, and had to be told flatly that it just wasn't going to happen. Two weeks ago today, my manager pulled tantrum-woman aside and told her that, due to budget cuts, her contract was going to be canceled early. Early, as in, next Friday's your last day, so see ya. She took it pretty well; there were no fits or tantrums, though we had a pool going. The following Monday, she came to work to find that the company had determined she was a "security risk" and had locked her account. She was sent home later that morning (before I got there unfortunately) and told not to come back. My understanding is that she received the full week's pay.
  • This past Wednesday, my "lead" was called into the HR office for a short-notice meeting with the HR rep for the IT group and my manager. She walked over to one of my team mates and joked, "Gee, a meeting with HR; do you think I'm being canned?" She never came back that day; at 9:05 a.m. on Thursday, our team was called into a conference room to be told that, for undisclosed reasons, my "lead" had been released, and we had to decide how to re-allocate the work she did. More on this later, maybe.
  • Back in July, we were told that there was no more overtime available. Our budget had been cut, so the team lead position (which evidently wasn't filled by my "lead" after all) had been eliminated along with overtime. Our manager apologized profusely, but reminded us all (as he oft does) that it was better than being fired. When my "lead" wasn't able to log "overtime" anymore, she went to the manager and complained about her pay. He, in response, called the HR office and had her payroll records pulled. After showing my "lead" that she had, in fact, made a good sum of money for the amount of things she actually does and contributes to the group, he noticed that she actually made a good sum of money for any work she may have done. He got curious. He wondered how she'd made that much money. He looked at her time cards. He found that, for as far as he could get records, she'd been stating on her timecards that she was coming in at 5 a.m. He then starting coming in at 5 a.m. to see for himself. We have someone on our team who's been coming in at about 5:15 a.m. every day for Lord knows how many years. He asked her about the "lead's" start time when he didn't come in at 5 a.m. You know what he found? That my "lead" hadn't ever come in at 5 a.m., but had been saying she'd been doing so for no less than the last three months, and perhaps much, much farther back than that. Manager calls HR; how can we investigate this? HR says by the card swipes that grant building access; a security card is used for building access, and the machine records the time of each swipe. At any time before 8:00 a.m., there really isn't a lot of foot traffic into and out of the building, so it's not like you can get through the doors with someone else's card swipe. HR calls the manager; we have the card swipe records for the last 90 days. My "lead" has logged no less than 17 hours of time she didn't work in one 30-day stretch. Manager says, how can we verify that she didn't make the time up on the end of her day (even though she hasn't left after 1:30 p.m. at any time since I've been with the company)? HR says, we can pull the logs from the servers that show when she logs out. Know what they found? Of course you do. On Wednesday, 23-Aug-2006, my "lead" is called into a short-notice meeting with HR, and see above for more information.
  • I found out that I have a "golden record" with my boss's boss. That's a good thing, but no permanent job offer has been made yet.
  • I have no pending job offers that I'm even remotely qualified for currently.
  • I have no idea what I'm going to do with my life after 31-Dec-2006, which is as far as I have "assurance" of going. As far as my manager can foresee, no more personnel cuts are going to be necessary. As far as he can see. He wants us (the temps, or "contractors," as they like to call us) to be "comfortable coming to work here," but adds (quickly) that he "can't promise anything."
Okay, that's all I can think of for the moment. Except for these overly-eventful items, things have been -- well, uneventful. That's good. The children are healthy, the parents are packing to move again at the end of Sept. (to a bigger -- and thus more expensive -- apt.), and things are generally good.

But the weather is cooling; the autumn is coming. After that, winter. And then year's end.

To be continued ...