Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Your Opinion Please!

Now that I have enriched your lives with good advice, I turn to you for same.

How do you best answer the question ‘Have you applied to this company before’ when a previous attempt was unsuccessful?

Since the application process is basically one of elimination, your submission risks instant dismissal by answering ‘yes’. After all, an employer reasons, if they didn't hire you before, why would they hire you now?

Answer ‘no’ and thanks to computerized data bases, it’s only a matter of a few keystrokes to see if you’re lying. This of course also guarantees your efforts will be consigned to the cyber circular file.

Your opinion please!

Good Advice

If you have a job, buy it the best, most-expensive bottle of champagne you can afford. The biggest, freshest bouquet of flowers. Invite it to your home.

There, sip the champagne. Breathe deeply the bouquet. Take your job in a long, meaningful embrace. When appropriate, retire to your bedroom and make passionate love to it. Scale the summit of orgasm many times.

For you have no idea how fortunate you are.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Living Lucky

The phone rang. It was Lucky.

"How you doing?" he asked.

“No different than last time” I said. “How ‘bout you?”

“I’m so tired of this crap. I want to retire.”

I laughed in knowing acknowledgement.

“You want to get together? Have a few beers, shoot the breeze?"

“Can’t” I said. “So what’s up? You still have a job?”

“Barely” said Lucky.

“What do you mean?”

A long sigh. Then the sound of a bottle being emptied.

“Well, remember how I needed to make my numbers in June, or that was it?”

“Yeah."

“Well, I didn’t hit ‘em. Then I got called into Amber’s office, and I walk in and the district manager’s there. I figured it was the end.”

That Lucky figured it was the end meant, of course, that it wasn’t. What bullet had he dodged now?

“They give me this crap about how they’re going to go out on a limb for me, and how they’ve decided to give me one more chance since I’ve been with the company so long. And you know what I find out when I go back on the floor?”

“What?”

“Janie, our best salesperson, is leaving. And they finally fired this screw-up Jason, so they’re short. They’re not giving me another chance—they’re shorthanded. And with a big sale coming up. Assholes.”

I laughed. “So that’s a bad thing? You have a paycheck for another month, plus some commission. What’s the problem?”

“Those assholes acting like they’re doing me a favor. Piss on ‘em! They think I’m some kind of idiot. I sat there hat in hand and said ‘thank you’ and ‘I appreciate it’. God.”

“That’s why it's called work” I said. “That’s why we need to be paid to be there. Who the hell would put up with it for free?”

Lucky huffed in affirmation.

It being nearly ten PM, I didn't want to futher ignite his/mine/our considerable rage, so I nudged the conversation in another direction.

“You hear anything on that gig you took the personality inventory for?"

“Yeah. I interviewed Tuesday. The HR person is on vacation, but the manager said they’d like to move on it when she gets back.”

“Wait. So you have another job lined up?” I began to laugh. Lucky was great therapy.

“It looks that way.”

I collapsed into laugher. I couldn’t stop. I really needed to investigate the possibility of having Lucky purchase lottery tickets for me.

“I’m glad you’re in such a great mood!”

I was able to stop only long enough to ask a question.

“Can you do me a favor? Look out the window and tell me if there’s a truck parked outside that says Publisher’s Clearing House on it and a bunch of people approaching your front door with balloons.”

“Ha ha” said Lucky.

“I’m serious! I can’t believe you!” I said. “It’s incredible! Every time you come close to being fired, it's like a giant bird swoops down and saves your ass! You're fireproof!”

Delirium set in as I pondered my friend. Life will seemingly not allow him to lose a job, nor me to find one.

The contrast is remarkable.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Other End of the Line

A friend of mine recently posted a very funny blog about dealing with the phone company. It doesn’t seem to matter what continent you’re on, the phone company is always The Phone Company.

But the cluelessness isn't limited to one end of the line.

I should know. I spent many years working for one. The following is a faithful recollection of a call I received while working there. I doubt I’ll ever forget it. The names have been changed, etc.


Me: Thank you for calling Qwest Communications. My name is Danny. How can I help you?

Customer: Now listen up Danny. My name is Joe Strocek, and I’m a snowbird from Erie, Pennsylvania. I was told that a technician needs to come out to start up my service, but there’s just no way that needs to happen. There’s been service there before.

Me: Okay. Let me take a look at the address. Where did you want to set-up your service?

(Customer gives me the address of a popular RV park in Phoenix. I run a facility check and it comes up as ‘technician visit required’.)

Me: Okay Joe. I checked the address, and it’s coming up as one that requires a visit.

Customer: Now don’t tell me that Danny. That’s not what I want to hear.

Me: I know it’s frustrating. But at…

Customer: Look. I spent thirty-seven years working for a utility in Pennsylvania. I know when a technician needs to come out, and when they don’t. And a technician doesn’t need to come out here, Danny. Now what are you going to do about this?

Me: Let me double-check with Tech, and I’ll be back to you as soon as I can. Can you hold for a sec?

Customer: Sure.

(I call our facility technicians in Phoenix, and get a status report on the availability of lines at the RV park the customer is moving to. A technician does indeed need to go out and bring a line to the CO for this address.)

Me: Joe?

Customer: Yep.

Me: Thanks for holding. I called our office in Phoenix, and we definitely need to send a technician out to get your service up and running. I wish I could tell you differently, but we need to bring a line to your box. Are there any extenuating health conditions that would allow me to make this a priority install?

Customer: Now look here, Danny. I know you have a switch there by your desk. Will you please just flip the dang thing so my wife and I can have our phone service?

Me: Joe, we’re a for-profit company. Believe me, if we could start billing you now we would. But we can’t.

Customer: I know this game. Okay? Now will you PLEASE just flip the damn switch?

Me: Joe, this is what I have in my cubicle: a computer, a bunch of binders and manuals, some pens, a cup of coffee and a scratch pad of paper. That’s all. No switch—I promise.

Customer: JUST FLIP THE GODDAMN SWITCH!

(I'd already spent over ten minutes on this call, and it was going nowhere. It was obvious that only a technician visit and the subsequent sound of dial tone was going to convince Joe. Which is why I said...)

Me: Okay. It’s flipped.

Customer: Thank you! (click.)

I left extensive notes on the account explaining the conversation and what had (and had not) been confirmed, but never checked back to see when ol’ Joe got his telephone service.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Right Profile

I’m always grateful for the chance to laugh at corporate America. If reinventing the wheel and fixing what isn’t broken guaranteed success, America’s corporations would be world-beaters.

They would be the indomitable industry leaders their help wanted posts say they are—even without the corporate welfare, government subsidies and abundant tax loopholes.

The latest opportunity for mirth comes from a friend, referred to in an earlier post as Lucky.

Lucky is looking to make a lateral move within the company he has faithfully served for nearly a quarter-century. It is commonly agreed that Lucky is a fine person, and has done a wonderful job in whatever department he has landed.

But the new and improved version of his employer requires that Lucky submit to a personality profile, which guarantees a perfect match for the companies who use them.

This is likely the reason people no longer leave their jobs or are fired, because thanks to the personality profile, every hire is now a perfect hire.

Oh wait, they do. And they are.

But now I'm not being a team player. *sniff*

Long story short, Lucky failed his personality inventory.

After determining that he possessed an unacceptable number of undesirable personality traits, the computer e-mailed Lucky at his company e-mail address to inform him that no further action would be taken on his application.

Imagine the employment that could have been prevented had personality profiles been in use when Lucky first applied twenty-five years ago.

Think of the profitability, the market share so cavalierly and ignorantly thrown away. They coulda been contenders. Sigh.

The same corporate America that brought you the Chevrolet Vega and Coke II has decided the personality profile is its latest panacea. Could someone cue Public Enemy's Don't Believe the Hype?

To paraphrase H.L. Mencken, no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of corporate America.

Letter from LeBron?

This appeared in an advice column the day before twenty-five year-old basketball deity LeBron James announced he would be leaving his hometown of Cleveland for the sun and glitter of Miami:


Dear Abby,

Twenty-years ago, I was in love with “Connie”, a girl who was my best friend and soul mate. We had so much in common. Connie was chubby—not fat, just not a size 3.

Being 22 at the time, I became infatuated with “Lisa”, who was a size 3. Lisa was also jealous, insecure and still tied to her mother. I snapped one day and left her—the smartest thing I have ever done.

By then, of course, Connie had moved on, and I deeply regret my wandering eye, lack of sensitivity and misplaced values. My life would be so much happier had I done what was right instead of being stupid.

Connie, I am told, is happily married, and I would not wreck her marriage. I have remained single. I don’t know if you can offer me advice, but if my experience can help another young man to recognize the beauty within, he will be happier than I am.

--Wiser Now in Ohio


We’ll need a few years to determine its prescience, but it’s an interesting coincidence, no?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Awkward

It’s awkward, this unemployment thing.

I’m talking to my oldest friend on the phone. For the purpose of this blog, I’ll call him Lucky. He’s the only person I know who’s spent a decade—twenty-five years, actually—with one company.

Don’t get the wrong idea—this isn’t a tidy ascent up the corporate ladder to the corner office. Lucky has been laboring in a strata with a far-lower profile.

The thing is, Lucky has avoided screwing up, pissing anyone off or likewise calling unwanted attention to himself for nearly a quarter-century. It is a remarkable achievement. He has perfected the art of workplace camouflage.

He was smart-enough to pick a company that has never been the object of a hostile takeover, and a job that has never been determined by a financial analyst to be a profit-sucking hole.

He has successfully avoided the employment contractions that have become a fact of life for virtually every other person I know. In 2010, when fifty-something white males bear a disproportionate share of America’s job loss, Lucky has a job.

But judging by his phone calls of the past eight or nine months, he is convinced this will soon not be the case. Faced with sales goals for the first time in his work life, he is struggling.

Yet every time the guillotine is set to fall, there is a store-wide sale. Or a homeowner in need of a custom-made bedroom set. Only RNC Chairman Michael Steele has dodged more bullets.

If the twin pressures of a weak economy and working in the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately arena of sales aren’t enough, Lucky is also in the midst of a full-blown mid-life crisis. “What have I done with my life?” he asks.

I assure him there will be no statues of me in municipal parks, either.

As best I can, I caution him that 2010 isn’t the year to embark on a journey of self-discovery. I tell him 2010 is all about the survival. I can hear him straining against the newly-understood confines of his life.

The conversation then circles back to other things, like June’s unmet sales goals.

I confirm for Lucky that if his managers, coaches and supervisors really wanted him gone, he’d be gone. They would have waited by the door at the close of business June 30th and requested his name tag and work ID.

Lucky suddenly realizes he’s doing Chicken Little for someone for whom the sky has already fallen. “How are you doin’?”, he asks.

I give him the short answer and attempt to kid.

“There’s no way you’re going to be fired. I’m putting up a life-size cut-out of you and I’m going to rub its head every time I send out a resume. You’re Teflon Dude. Nothing sticks!”

My jealousy is showing. Friends aren’t supposed to be jealous of their friend’s lack of unemployment, are they? I have farted in an elevator.

I take a hard right and steer the conversation towards sports. “You think the Bulls are going to sign LeBron?” We then take the obligatory digs at each other’s favorite baseball team.

And so it goes until we simultaneously notice the time.

Like I said, awkward.