Saturday, November 22, 2008

"Blast From The Past"

When we moved into a new lab and saw this old XYZ ad from an ancient technical magazine, we did not know whether to laugh or cry. Laugh, because XYZ is not even close to being the company that it used to be as described in this ad...cry, for the same reason. Character does not matter there anymore, at least not at the plant where I worked, which is close to the addresses mentioned in this ad. So it must have mattered there at one time, but it seems to have dissipated somewhere in between when the Old Man and Junior left, and when the Cookie Monster took over, and continues to evaporate daily still. Just when you think that it can't get any always does. This ad was posted in the center of the lab for those moments when someone might have a need to remember the past to carry on, which is most of the time.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

"Sometimes Other People Say It Better"


Klyde Morris is a comic strip where an ant talks a lot about the aerospace industries, but you could insert just about any large US corporation like XYZ into the strip's topics and still be right on target. Check out Klyde's adventures at:

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"The Fruits Of Oppression"

I was told some very sad news the other day. The lab coworker who I spoke of in a previous post, who recently got fired right before she reached her 25th anniversary, immediately became gravely ill since getting fired this year, with numerous dire maladies (I don't want to list them here, to keep her anonymity just in case). She became ill due to the emotional state that the bastards at XYZ Corp put her in, when they cheated her out of her deserved 25-year pension rights, without any warning whatsoever. She is a divorced single mom, taking care of an elderly close relative, and was living on one paycheck from one job. Unfortunately, she isn't really the kind of person emotionally who can start all over again from scratch in middle-age, so this is what happened to her -- and her future health doesn't look good, even more so because she has no health benefits now. But who would be able to start over just like that with no advanced notice?! Not all of us. I'm sorry for swearing but this really upset me when I found out the news.

Dear Ms. C., we are strenuously praying for you, and for your health and sanity to return, God bless you, and be strong. And you managers who fired her instead of the gold-brickers who lap at your ankles...I pray for you too, your comeuppances in life will not be pleasant.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

"And Here's To Us"

This morning while I was watching an old Roy Rogers serial on PBS I heard a song that I used to listen to at work. Along with my little toolbox of trusty lab accouterments that I took into the scanning electron microscope room with me, I used to lug around a little CD player to keep me company during the long hours spent alone in the dark staring at the SEM screen, while trying to crank out my million unruly samples per day. So the song that Roy was singing was an old hobo song, "Big Rock Candy Mountain." Some of the lyrics go like so:

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains, there's a land that's fair and bright,
The handouts grow on bushes and you sleep out every night
Where the boxcars all are empty and the sun shines every day
On the birds and the bees and the cigarette trees,
The lemonade springs where the bluebird sings
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains, you never change your socks
And little streams of alcohol come a-trickling down the rocks
The brakemen have to tip their hats and the railroad bulls are blind
There's a lake of stew and of whiskey too
And you can paddle all around 'em in a big canoe
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains, all the cops have wooden legs
The bulldogs all have rubber teeth and the hens lay soft-boiled eggs
The farmer's trees are full of fruit and the barns are full of hay
I'm a-goin' to stay where you sleep all day

Where they hung the jerk that invented work
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

I guess that we can all learn something from the old hobos. If hobos can have a sense of humor about their lot in life, so can us working slobs, at least we have a job. But it might be nice to try riding the rails, to sleep under the stars, eat beans out of a tin can, and get chased by rail-yard dogs with rubber teeth...just once maybe.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"Here's To You"

I'm not a fan of Bob Dylan, but his poetry often hits the mark dead on. Today I heard an oldie that reminded me of work. It's dedicated to the gutless managers, their lackey goons, and the evil coworkers they support at Backstabbers Inc. To all of those who have to cut us down to make themselves feel more important, and who make their day brighter by making ours more miserable.

Positively 4Th Street

You got a lotta nerve to say you are my friend
When I was down you just stood there grinning
You got a lotta nerve to say you got a helping hand to lend
You just want to be on the side that's winning
You say I let you down you know it's not like that
If you're so hurt why then don't you show it
You say you lost your faith but that's not where it's at
You had no faith to lose and you know it
I know the reason that you talk behind my back
I used to be among the crowd you're in with
Do you take me for such a fool to think I'd make contact
With the one who tries to hide what he don't know to begin with
You see me on the street you always act surprised
You say, "How are you?" "Good luck" but you don't mean it
When you know as well as me you'd rather see me paralyzed
Why don't you just come out once and scream it
No, I do not feel that good when I see the heartbreaks you embrace
If I was a master thief perhaps I'd rob them
And now I know you're dissatisfied with your position and your place
Don't you understand it's not my problem
I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes
And just for that one moment I could be you
Yes, I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes
You'd know what a drag it is to see you

I pray that God would bless you, and heal you, and save you from yourselves and your wicked ways.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

"The Ranks Of Denial"

When you approach upper management of XYZ Corp with complaints, or facts, that someone in management could be doing a bad job -- or perish the thought acting unethically -- they put on the facade of being highly insulted and in complete utter denial that any of their ranks could not be perfect upright specimens of mankind (in which case they are also more highly evolved than you as well). They cannot fathom admitting that any of the human beings that have been entrusted with the power in the company to edify or destroy people's lives, could ever actually be fallible in any way. Oh no. So I've decided that this must be "Step One In Destroying The Complainer's Grounds For Argument" in the management manual.

In all fairness, every institution from religious organizations to the local sanitation department tries first to deny wrong-doing before ever opening their eyes to seeing and fixing a problem. It all depends on the ethics of the individuals in charge, and how much they might be willing to take accountability. If no accountability or ethics are to be found there, the person who has been wronged and damaged hits the first brick wall in the "open door" policy. If the victim manages to blast through this wall, rest assured, there are many more set up to block further advancement. But this first block is the one management bets on working the best. If they can nip the problem in the bud at this first pass, the complainer is defeated and no action needs to be taken that would upset the heavenly daily life of upper management. Because we all know that if you hear no evil, and see no evil, then you don't have to say or do anything to fix the evil.

The problem is of course, that no human being is infallible. Everyone has the potential to make a mistake. It's inscribed in our very existence and an unavoidable risk that we each live with every day. And herein lies the deepest-seated disease at the core of XYZ's current culture: the attitude that management can never make mistakes. Now, if XYZ recruits its managers from some far off planet where human beings are perfect, and ships them off to work in the XYZ plants on Earth, then this might be an arguable point. In that case, they would indeed be able to say that no problems or breaches of ethics are ever enacted by XYZ managers and therefore no action is needed to be taken to correct the problem that does not exist. Also, that the complainant is indeed lying about their grievance. But we know that's not possible, and in trying to pretend that they believe in this fairy tale, management makes itself look like total buffoons. But what do they care, all they know is that they got rid of you and the rest of their day is hopefully not upset by your rude interruption in questioning their ethics.

"There may be individuals...who did not live up to your highest standards - no institution and no social system can guarantee that automatic perfection of all its members; this depends on an individual's free will" -- Ayn Rand ("Who Needs Philosophy", speech given to West Point graduating Class of 1964)

Thursday, March 13, 2008


One has to wonder why our dear Uncle Sam who used to watch out for us so well, has let down the middle class American worker so egregiously in the past decade or so. What is going to happen when the backbone of America, the working middle class, cannot any longer support the consumerism that made America prosperous? We already have seen in the past few months what happens to the economy when consumers become reticent to spend their money, due to the uncertainty of their next paycheck. Some of this recent fear of spending is due to the broken promises of the companies that Americans trusted in for decades. The explanation given to us then of our present and future pay (that was put in written yearly reports mailed to our homes) as our "Total Compensation Package", has been stripped down to the barely legal limits, and is not what we signed up for or planned our lives around in trust. Now we, the cheated workers with our useless breached company contracts, are in deep trouble and America's economy is feeling the crunch because of it.

The mistakes that those companies made by making bad choices such as continually protecting the fat-cat bad employees who drained company resources, and all the other greedy spineless management politics that knocked out the company's foundations, were not the fault of the average hard working employee at the bottom of the ladder. These lowly nose-to-the-grindstone employees who often got undeservedly demoralized and demeaned at evaluation time, only stayed on in their jobs because of the promises guaranteed to them as the eventual light at the end of a sometimes very dark vocational tunnel. But they are the only people now paying for these greedy management actions, while the prosperous Nero types at the top with their golden parachutes, fiddle away as Rome burns. It's almost enough to make you turn communist, if you didn't know any better.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"Sorry, You Are Out!"

A few months before I left the company, someone who we thought was totally protected, ended up getting the boot and being forced out into "retirement". This guy paved his career with favors (plied and owed) to the upper levels, and knew where tons of old secret skeletons were buried. If anyone was safe, it was this guy. To most of his peers, he was not a very likeable or trustable co-worker. But to management, he was golden and could do no wrong. It must also be said that there are thousands of protected employees just like him, so he was by no means an anomaly.

Apparently, this King of Brown-Nosers lost his ticket to eternal employment when his main link to safety got pushed out himself. That one is a long story in itself, but suffice it to say that it was an Act of God the likes of which could only be described as heavenly poetic justice -- someone that he tried to fire became a bigshot in our project, and this manager had to slink away into retirement with his tail between his legs before getting his burning comeuppances poured out onto his head. And this man had destroyed many peoples' lives with his callous disregard toward anyone who was not one of his favorite stallions. But, I digress.

One would think that this Mr. Brown-Noser would have deserved to get caught by an honest system and be put out to pasture like all old horses past their prime. He most certainly did (but XYZ does not work under an honest system). He put on a great and powerful show, but when the rubber hit the road he did not have an original thought in his head, and would mostly hold you back to make himself look good if you ever had to work with him. But when it came down to how he was pushed out, we were shocked and appalled, and felt that he was really given the shaft. We really don't know what happened in the span of time that led up to his "retirement/firing". All we know is that one evening, after first shift had gone home, we received a cowardly after-hours stealth-email from our boss saying that Mr.B-N had decided on short notice to retire and pursue some avenues of employment that he had been working on recently.

Huh? That information was pure tripe, designed to protect management. Everyone knew that this guy was in the game at the company for as long as he could stay on. He had no intention of leaving in the near future. And why were there none of the usual things like the official retirement party, the last lap around the lab to say good-bye, the cards and goodwill collection? Very odd. All that we found out was that he and the new manager did not get along since the other manager left, and Mr. B-N was destined to leave under that boss. It could have been him, or me, or anyone -- since the new manager didn't get along with him, he was history. That's how XYZ Corp fires people now: based on emotional preference, under the radar, with stealth torpedoes that blast you out of the water, often with no warning what-so-ever. Like the way that a hard working female employee in our lab was just let go with no warning, a few months before she reached her 25-year milestone (so XYZ could save some money on her lost benefits, no doubt). Now they work to cut you down and kick you out before they have to fork out the benefits that they promised you for decades. How DO they sleep at night?!

Friday, January 18, 2008

"Angels Among The Monsters"

It's been said that misery loves company. And that is certainly true when you work under amoral and desperate conditions. But when you find people that hold you up when times get tough, and you them, it is so much more that that. For every hundred adversaries who are trying to bring you down, you hope to find at least a few comrades who you can walk through the fire with together. So, it's more like the saying that there is strength in numbers, than the misery quip.

I owe my sanity and survival in XYZ Corp. to the good people there. To the coworkers who were a part of the small group of honest folks who always had each others' backs covered and protected. You need people like that, like Mulder and Scully were to each other in the X-Files against the weavers of deceit in the FBI. People in the fray who you know you can trust to keep you from going crazy. When management tries to make you feel as if you are the problem (when they actually are), your buddies are there to confirm that what you thought was the right thing to do, really was. During the times when you feel like you are living in Alice's Looking Glass -- where good is bad, bad is good, right is wrong, and wrong is right -- you need them there to keep you from losing your mind, and they need you for the same.

In every area that I worked in XYZ, there were only a few people like that whom you could trust. Really trust. And we protected each other as much as was humanly possible, against what we were fighting for in the good fight for our lives and livelihood. We worked so hard to help each other. I owe these people so much. Whatever good times existed that can be looked back on now as "the good old days" on the job, it was all because of our camaraderie in the midst of the lunacy. We did our best to make good times out of bad ones. And the comfort in knowing that someone believed in us, someone knew that we were honest and doing our best, kept us all alive in the trenches and able to get through yet another day on the battlefield.

Monday, January 14, 2008

"Give Them Bread And Circuses"

Almost like clockwork, whenever the most people in the project are the most unhappy (that evil "morale" word), the distant first line managers and the invisible upper management types crawl out of the woodwork each year to perform the obligatory morale-boosting festival. That would be either pizza raining down from heaven onto the break area, or flaccid picnics with parlor games. Never decent raises and promotions across the board for all who deserve them and not just for the favorites (who usually don't, for many unsavory reasons). Oh no. Just magical, all-healing, pizza pies, picnics, games and intellectual orgies. Damn those Romans for setting the standard!

And if you don't appreciate the effort on your knees, you will never see that promotion that you've been busting your butt to achieve for the past 10 years. Oh hell no. If you don't pound down the potato salad salted with the tears of love in your eyes, and mix your sweat with your bosses' on the ball field, fuggettaboutitt. Don't even bother to show up. Stay back at the lab and keep working hard. You're invisible either way. If that is not satisfactory to you, you'd better play ball and drink the "kool-aid", brothuh. And when the party is over, don't deem yourself important enough to bother your Friendly Neighborhood Management for another year, thank you very much.

"Some Things That I Learned"

Lessons hard-learned, or learned too late, over the course of 30-odd years at this particular XYZ plant, not necessarily in this order:

1) This is no place for honesty; if you can't lie, cheat, steal, and backstab, you don't fit in.
2) Most people (including your boss) will never, ever, assume the best about you.
3) If you don't defend yourself immediately when necessary, you will be assumed guilty.
4) If you complain about a dishonest coworker, it will only hurt you.
5) If a dishonest coworker complains about you, it will only hurt you.
6) Women technicians without a degree are useless.
7) Women technicians with a degree are useless.
8) Non-Caucasian women without a degree are highly valuable employees.
9) If you don't work for an engineer who will often do your work for you, your work is invisible.
10) If a company protocol or rule is being broken, it will be promptly changed, and then denied that it ever existed. A problem will never be actually addressed and fixed.
11) Plausible deniability will always be practiced by management--Hear no truth, Speak no truth, See no truth. You know, like on the X-Files.
12) Managers are constantly hiding in their offices, terrified that they might have to solve a real problem. Don't ever go to them for help.
13) If They can't control you by bullying you, you will be filed in the dead zone forever and rarely see a raise or a promotion.
14) If you can somehow figure out how to bully Them, you've got it made for life.
15) An honest employee will always fall behind the openly dishonest employees in favor with the bosses for some reason.
16) Management would rather sell their soul by persecuting a good and decent employee, than to correct or punish a bad employee.
17) Morale is a four letter word. Don't ever say it or even think about saying it.
18) First line managers are too busy trying to get promoted to run their departments.
19) Second line managers are too busy trying to make third line, to run their projects.
20) "Deceive, inveigle, and obfuscate", is the only way to get ahead.


On my first glorious day of employment at XYZ, my new manager gave me a pretty extensive tour of the main building at the plant, and the area that I was to begin working in. The only thing that I can really remember almost verbatim that he said was, "This XYZ plant is a city unto itself! Almost everything that we need we can practically make here ourselves. If we need a 'thingamjig', we can build it. If we can't build it, we can at least design it...", etc., and he proceeded to show me all the places where they could do such things. He was very excited, and proud. Back in those days, it was still a company to be proud of for its accomplishments. I tried hard to look impressed. I was also debilitatingly shy way back then, so I didn't say much anyway, I just nodded like a good future drone.

I wasn't really interested in macho industrialism at the time (I learned to appreciate it later). I just wanted a decent wage job that would last long enough to get me out of that town for good. Industry is fascinating of course and the workings of manufacturing plants, very much so. But I'm ahead of myself. That day was my first day (of many, many, more unbeknown to me) as a tiny insignificant cog in the workings of a giant megalomaniacal machine. A machine that would chew me up and spit me out without blinking, like many of my coworkers. And like everyone else who didn't take "Butt Kissing 101" in college, I never knew that I was supposed to supply my own knee pads for any job that I was to hold, for every person of any authoritarian persuasion that I would have to deal with -- be it coworker or supervisor. I did not know that I was supposed to leave my integrity, morals, and honor at home either. If not for the grace of God, I would have been completely destroyed on more than one occasion, but I'll tell those stories later. Oh yes...there are stories.