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Monday, September 22, 2014

My Own Co-Workers Don't Know What the Heck My Certification Does

I  frankly have  seldom been more aggravated.

Now, see, I have a certain certification, one that requires  a certain number of qualifications.  EVERYONE has to pass a test, a fairly demonic test that requires, frankly, a significant level of academic talent and a lot of self-study.  You must also have a four-year degree, or a two-year degree and a certain amount of on-the-job experience, or a high school diploma and six years of on-the-job experience.  I fall into the last category.

When we first thought we needed someone with this certification, I was willing and I was chosen because A) Snotty as it sounds, everyone knew perfectly darn well I was the only one sufficiently academically inclined to pull it off, and B) I had the years of experience necessary.

But as time has gone on, even though I am not often called on for anything seriously related to that certification (we were never seriously in the running for the business it was originally intended for and my possession of the certification is now mostly for bragging rights), occasionally I notice that to this minute, nobody really knows what the heck I am supposed to be able to do with it.

My boss's boss has asked me no less than three separate times what my certification is.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to travel to SmallTown to (as close as I can from memory) "assess item X for whether it is cost-effective to repair or replace."

I got out there and, knowing NOTHING about the patient, saw fairly quickly that the item was serviceable, though, after 17 years of use, it had flaws.  Two major parts were shot, despite overall good care having clearly been given to the item.  A couple of braces had suffered major wear, though in my opinion they were not likely to fail and presented no safety issues.  And the patient clearly DID NOT want to replace the item.  He liked it and wanted it repaired, if possible.

So I called the manufacturer.  They told me MOST parts were no longer available for that item, and that without the serial number (which was totally obliterated, nor was the original paperwork available) it would not be possible to look up the specs for the item--which was semi-custom--as originally ordered.  This last was important information, because as a semi-custom item, my options were LIMITED.

I could eyeball it (I didn't have a protractor, and it would have been of limited utility if I did) and try to guesstimate a certain angle, and take a couple of other critical measurements.  This would have been silly.  That information was 17 years old, and just because the patient liked it didn't mean that mindlessly repeating it was a hot idea.  He may have changed.  His pathology may have changed.  His pathology might have been likely to change. Remember: I had not been told a THING about the patient--and when you're talking about a patient's pathology, you sure as snail snot don't want the patient to be your only source of information.  They've been known to lie, or just not know what the heck's going on, or to indulge in wishful thinking.

I could have tried to measure the PATIENT, which in this case would have meant getting an accurate weight (With what? Did they think I kept a scale in the van?), height, hip width, distance from the floor to the popliteal crease, distance from the popliteal crease to the rearmost adipose tissue, distance from the seat to the armpit, and, most critically, RANGE OF MOTION, which is critical if PELVIC TILT might be an issue.  RANGE OF MOTION is typically determined by a physical therapist, on a raised mat (you have to be able to measure some things in a seated position, too, which means the patient needs to be able to sit with his feet flat on the floor), and involves, among other things, the use of a goniometer, which is a device for measuring the angle formed by joints.

I could have decided, all by myself, that the patient didn't actually need a semi-custom item and just gone with a lightweight item X with a few bells and whistles.  Yeah.  Right.  I'm the doctor. Not.

At NO POINT would I, by myself, have been able to make the determination whether or not a
new item x was even medically necessary!

Well, since (I THOUGHT!) I had been asked just to see if the item was worth fixing or needed to be replaced, and since I do not have a goniometer, and since I sure as **** didn't have a raised mat, and since I thought it was stupid to guess at measurements on 17-year-old equipment, and since the man wanted to remain with his current item x anyway, I just determined that the needed parts were available, had a quote faxed over, and noted that if the cost of the parts exceeded half the cost of a new item x, then and only then would I recommend replacing the item.

I never in a million years thought my task was supposed to extend to getting all the information necessary to getting the man a new item X.  I mean, ****, I didn't have all the equipment for a mat evaluation, and ordinarily a person with my certification is not expected to do them, though I suppose I could stumble through it.

MY FREAKIN' MISTAKE!  A couple of weeks later, the boss informed me and the warehouse guy that we were responsible for getting a quote on a new item X.

Turns out there are like fifteen bajillion options available on the thing.  Most were at no extra charge, but some--including some potentially critical ones--cost money.  And the manufacturer, understandably, needed some specifics before giving us a quote.  But dadgummit, I could only guess at those specifics!  Even measuring the old item X directly would have been an approximation of some things at best, and if it didn't turn out right, the patient might very well end up rejecting a potentially three-thousand-dollar item.  Still, I could have measured the old item if they wanted me to, if I'd known they were willing to do such a thing.  I certainly couldn't have gotten all the necessary measurements of the patient, unless I made certain assumptions (no pelvic tilt!  Full range of motion!) which isn't the hottest idea in the world when you're dealing with complex rehabilitative equipment.

And the place that was apparently using us as a subcontractor wanted us to provide a quote.

Today.

And so I was getting some fairly snotty things said to me about my failure to get the relevant information.  I protested that I'd been sent to see whether the item was worth fixing, not to measure the patient for a new one, only to be told, in a roundabout way, that if measuring the patient for a new item might have been necessary to making the decision, I should have done so.

Maybe I should have.  I know this: I'm asking for a goniometer.  I haven't needed one for the two-and-a-half years I've had this certification, and I may not need one for the next ten, and I sure as snail snot wonder what the heck people who didn't even know I'd need a goniometer to do the job are doing criticizing me for the way I did it, but I'm asking for one.  And the next time I'm asked to do ANYTHING resembling this, I will ask for a detailed list of information that I'm expected to bring back.  And if a mat evaluation is needed, they can by golly expect me to ask for an appropriate surface.

The capper: it occurred to me to look up the contractor that we were working for, and when I did, I found this:

All services are provided after a thorough patient evaluation by a qualified rehab technician.

Really?  I am a "qualified rehab technician"?  Well, that's pretty generic, and I suppose for some things, I am.

A "thorough patient evaluation"?  They sent me out there without any clue as to the patient's medical history and pathology, and without giving me a **** clue that I was supposed to come back with a detailed assessment of his physical capabilities.  I just thought I was looking at a **** item X.

Just remember that, the next time some company is bragging to you about how they do things.  What they mean and what you are hearing may be two different things.

In the meantime, like I say, if I wind up with such instructions again, you can bet your bottom dollar I will know IN DETAIL what they want before I go out there.  They think I'm supposed to do what in almost every circumstance imaginable the law requires a physical therapist to do (I'm serious: if you're dealing with Medicare or Medicaid, or most insurances following their practices, the law says you must have a physical therapist operating under a doctor's supervision--or the doctor himself--conduct that part of the process.  You ordinarily only escape if you're doing the private-pay thing.)

Not that I anticipate being there much longer anyway.  After a certain major issue in life is settled, I'm going to try to be ready to move on early next year anyway.

And lastly...AFTER the snotty comments, people found out that the manufacturer is in hot water with the feds and CANNOT SELL THE ITEM WITHOUT A PHYSICAL THERAPIST CONDUCTING AN EXAM.  PERIOD. Or so I understand the situation.

Wow.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Got 'Im! And He Doesn't Even Know It!

Yes, yes, I know: this blog has turned into little but a place to vent about my job.  However, it's FREE, and I do enjoy letting it out.  And I have some material on pipes and tobaccos in the works.  So live with it.

*****

You may remember that my boss has gotten completely weird about my pipe smoking--weird, that is, in that since I generally smoke no more than a bowl-and-a-quarter each day, with the quarter-bowl being smoked on the way to work, he never smells more than a quarter-bowl of smoke on me, if he smells anything at all.  I mean, face it: that's hardly anything.

The man's had me go spray Febreze on myself multiple times over that stupid quarter-bowl of smoke.  And to top matters off, NOBODY else I've asked in the place (and I am fairly sure I've asked everybody) says they can smell anything unusual!  It is JUST HIM.  Literally, JUST HIM.

I told him that recently when I got evaluated and he brought the stupid subject up again.

Well, this morning, a couple of us needed to get fitted for new respirators--just in case we get exposed to someone with, say, extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, imported via illegal immigrants.  Part of the process involved establishing a testing baseline, so when a scent was sprayed near us, we could tell if it was getting around the mask.

Either my boss was doing it wrong (wouldn't shock me) or I genuinely couldn't smell/taste a thing, and I will  have to do the whole thing over with a different scent another day.

Five minutes later, it occurred to me that I had just been smoking, and maybe that had messed up the test.  Subtle smells, you know.

AND MY BOSS SAID, "If I'd  known you were smoking, we'd have waited fifteen minutes."

It took about ten minutes, I'm ashamed to say, before I realized that the man had just admitted in front of me and two witnesses that when it came down to it, HE COULDN'T SMELL SMOKE ON ME.  The only time he "smells" smoke on me is when he has SEEN ME SMOKING THE PIPE.

Or so it seems to me.  Got 'im.  He's either lying again (and no, I wouldn't put it past him.  He'll do anything to take me down a peg.), or he's self-deluded.

Oh, by the way, remember how I mentioned the other day that he can't hire and retain people?

Well, apparently yesterday, we had a perfectly qualified applicant come in.  Right experience and everything.

Couldn't pay her.  Guess where she's NOT going to take a job?

Aaaaaaand two people have quit on us  within the last seven days.  Down to ONE full-time office person, and her with less than two years of experience...

Crap.  This could get ugly, and fast.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Attitude is Everything


Short post, just off the top o' me 'ead.

*****

Here in just a very few minutes, I am going to shave and go in to work.  The first thing that will happen is a weekly meeting.  This meeting will be led by a man who...

...is a former cokehead (fool enough not to understand that we know all about it) whom we seriously suspect of ducking out a few times a day for a quick hit on a joint.  Just suspect, mind you.

...has no serious ability to concentrate, possibly due to the aforementioned little personal quirk.

...does not understand certain elements of his own job and is now at the point of having to be corrected ON THE LAW by at least one of his employees.

...has proven himself completely unable to hire and retain employees as we steadily lose them due to the toxic environment he has created.

....hired his live-in girlfriend for a "temporary" position directly under his supervision, said "temporary" position only being terminated when our then-office manager went to him and threatened to quit over it.

...hired his now-ex-live-in girlfriend back for a "permanent" position when they broke up and she owed him money and that was the only job she could get that paid enough for her to pay him back.

...fired his now-ex-live-in girlfriend about a year later, after she had paid him back, because he had since hired an ex-meth head (actually, we're not sure about the "ex") who happened to be his best friend's wife, and the new employee and the old girlfriend mutually despised one another.  No cause.  Just "Your services are no longer needed."  This was in spite of the fact that she was actually doing a good job.

...ended up firing his best friend's wife when he finally, after more than two years, realized that she was never going to be able to do the job correctly and that she had actually physically shaken a 69-year-old co-worker in a fit of anger, and that no one had confronted him about her behavior because, well, she was the boss's personal friend.

...has completely failed to make the connection that the previous episode means that his employees are unwilling to be frank with him for fears of his personal reaction.

...is strongly suspected of stealing gasoline via company credit cards.

...has been known to falsify mileage logs so as to get paid for trips he didn't make.

...and more, but I'm running out of time.  In short, he is a singular mixture of incompetence, veniality, savagery, and selfishness, probably the worst and most unethical boss I have ever had.

This man has been known to lecture me on "attitude" and will almost certainly say something about "attitude" during the meeting this morning.

Welcome to my world.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Just Jaw-Dropping Boss Stuff

If you're interested in this stuff--and God only knows why you might be, I am just venting again--for more complete context, you might want to read the previous post, from which the quoted material has been quoted.

****

Ten days ago--September 2nd:

 ...we passed the inspection handily, with the only real actions to be taken being a couple of administrative actions that he needed to take.
One of these was making sure that we--the employees--had goals recorded.  Can't do anything without goals, you know.
So, today, the so-and-so e-mailed out a form for employee self-evaluation, which concluded with a section for setting goals.
Of course, he hadn't made up the form, and there were a couple of questions on it that frankly, given our situation, didn't make much sense.  For instance, it asked if I thought I had made good progress on the goals set during my last evaluation.
My last evaluation?  I objected to my boss that I couldn't be expected to remember what my last evaluation said, as to the best of my recollection, it was made in 2006!
That made him get huffy, and he averred quite snottily that he had much more recent documents in my file than that, with my signature, if I wanted to inspect them.  And you know, while I was out making a small delivery, I decided that I did want to see the last one, as whenever it was done, I certainly couldn't remember what was on it.He had it waiting for me when I got back.  It was dated--drum roll, please--June 18, 2010.  More than four years ago.  I allowed as how I had been four years off, and the organization was four years behind.
Now, think about this for a minute.  First, it is quite obvious that my boss was utterly without a clue.  The poor, useless spazz clearly thought he'd been evaluating me.  That was both why he snapped at me and why he dug out the last evaluation before I'd asked for it--he thought he was going to shove my comments down my throat!


Well, today, we went over the things.  I'll leave out most of the play-by-play, but, given the foregoing, something stood out to me.  You see, first I pointed out to him that it was clear that he had not done an evaluation on anyone in years.

He objected.  It wasn't true that he hadn't done an evaluation on anyone in years, he said; he'd evaluated everyone this Spring!  


Then he said if I had a problem I could talk to the management person one step up--a person to whom I refer as "Tigger."  And I replied that a fat lot of good that was, as Tigger had obviously allowed him to get away with total inaction for four years.

And then he told me that wasn't true, either--that it was Tigger that had drawn his attention to the fact that I needed to be evaluated!


Before God, I'm not sure whether the man really thinks I'm that stupid or whether his lying has just gotten to the point of being pathological.

First, it wasn't true that he'd evaluated everyone this Spring.  I asked.  Not when he was around, but, really, I mean, what did he think I was going to do?  Take his word for it?  Turns out that the warehouseman suddenly could recall being evaluated; so could our biller.  My other driver didn't recall it, but couldn't swear not to have been.  The only other person who's been there more than a year said she hadn't been.

Second, DID HE SERIOUSLY THINK THAT WAS A DEFENSE?  If he wasn't intentionally lying, it just means that he either deliberately ignored or simply forgot about his senior employee when he did evaluations for the rest of the staff!

Next, you'll see from the quoted material that it was clear that the impetus for these evaluations was the inspection and the actions required by the inspector!  He told us that at the meeting when he told us he was e-mailing out the forms!  But when I called him on that, pointing out that that obviously meant he would not otherwise have been evaluating me at this time,  and that Tigger had let him get away with it, all of a sudden, by the most remarkable stinking coincidence imaginable, it turns out that Tigger had told him to do it!

And THAT was supposed to be a defense?  That Tigger told him to do it instead of the inspector?  Either way, he had no intention of evaluating me until he was made to!  And why bother to defend Tigger?  Even if she had genuinely told him to evaluate me within the last ten days, she's still let him get away without it for years!

If it wasn't the dumbest cusswording thing I've ever heard, it was close.  All of his words and actions on September 2nd completely contradicted the story.   WHY THE SHALE MAKE SUCH A STUPID THING UP?

And to finish off...the man told me to keep a good attitude.

And if you were wondering, the reason I hadn't asked the man for an evaluation every year is because I had just taken it for granted for years he just didn't want to do it and it turns out he certainly didn't have to.  B
elieve it or not, there is no requirement in company policy that any employee be evaluated--EVER.  

As a matter of fact, if he'd just SAID that, I'd have more respect for him.  My objection to the whole thing was him getting huffy with me when I pointed out the truth and when he started all this stupid lying about it.


But I should expect it by  now.  The man lies like fish swim--all the time.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Truly Sorry Excuse for a Boss

Yes, I'm ranting and complaining again.  Terribly negative, I know.  Those disgusted with such--well, you have been warned and may leave now.  Those fascinated will be delighted to know that the previous several posts have dealt heavily with the useless son of a jackal I have for a boss.

*****

Well, Wednesday and Thursday of last week, we got checked out by our accrediting agency.  The inspector's visit came as a surprise--it always does, they give you a two-month window and the inspection can be any time within that time frame--but I had no fears.  As far as my role in accreditation goes, all I have to do is avoid doing anything dramatically stupid and I'm okay.

My boss freaks out and lies.  I sometimes wonder why, as some of the lies he is telling do no good whatsoever.  For example, we have a certain variety of equipment huddled--cleaned, bagged, and tagged--in one corner of our warehouse that is not fully up to snuff.  These units have been donated to us, or have almost reached the end of their useful lifespan, and we have deleted them from our official inventory.  They work, but not at peak efficiency, and we have set them aside to use for charity cases.  Everyone knows what they are for and I have even tagged them with that pertinent information.

But when our inspector saw them and asked what they were for, rather than just say what I just said, my boss lied and said that they were old units that were being kept for parts!

We don't even carry some of those brands.  What would this colossal, lying sack of squeeze have done if the inspector had actually looked at one of the tags and found my description?  Why take such a chance?  There was literally no advantage whatsoever to telling a lie and the son of a dog lied anyway.

That's how habitual it is with him.

Throughout the inspection, the boss took pains to avoid having the inspector alone with any one employee, so that he could dominate the conversation.  It was painfully clear to everyone of us that he was deathly afraid that one of us would blurt out the truth about something he'd lied about.  It is hard for me to believe that the inspector wasn't made suspicious by his behavior alone.

Still, we passed the inspection handily, with the only real actions to be taken being a couple of administrative actions that he needed to take.

One of these was making sure that we--the employees--had goals recorded.  Can't do anything without goals, you know.

So, today, the so-and-so e-mailed out a form for employee self-evaluation, which concluded with a section for setting goals.

Of course, he hadn't made up the form, and there were a couple of questions on it that frankly, given our situation, didn't make much sense.  For instance, it asked if I thought I had made good progress on the goals set during my last evaluation.

My last evaluation?  I objected to my boss that I couldn't be expected to remember what my last evaluation said, as to the best of my recollection, it was made in 2006!

That made him get huffy, and he averred quite snottily that he had much more recent documents in my file than that, with my signature, if I wanted to inspect them.  And you know, while I was out making a small delivery, I decided that I did want to see the last one, as whenever it was done, I certainly couldn't remember what was on it.

He had it waiting for me when I got back.  It was dated--drum roll, please--June 18, 2010.  More than four years ago.  I allowed as how I had been four years off, and the organization was four years behind.

Now, think about this for a minute.  First, it is quite obvious that my boss was utterly without a clue.  The poor, useless spazz clearly thought he'd been evaluating me.  That was both why he snapped at me and why he dug out the last evaluation before I'd asked for it--he thought he was going to shove my comments down my throat!

Instead, they died in his.  Turned out that my other driver hasn't been evaluated in years.  Our biller can't remember ever having been evaluated.  Nor our warehouseman.  Of "the girls" up front, the only one who's been there more than a year has never been evaluated.

I asked every single one of them save the warehouseman to go to the boss and ask for a copy of their last evaluation.  I hope they do it.  I hope he turns a bright, tomato-red.

Second, it's been four freaking years since I was evaluated!  Frankly, in managerial terms, this is gross neglect, bordering on outright misconduct.  Not that I didn't know it'd been a long time.  I did.  It just didn't matter to me because in this organization, your raises have nothing to do with your performance.  Instead, every once in a great while, you are given the exact same percentage raise the entire rest of the organization gets.  You can be mediocre or you can be great--makes no difference, with very rare exceptions.  How they don't understand that that is a recipe for resentment and mediocrity is beyond me.

Third, what kind of doorknob neglects such an area of his own job on such a massive scale and then has the nerve criticize any employee for anything?

Fourth, had our inspector not indirectly raised the issue, he wouldn't be looking at evaluating anyone now.  The neglect would still be going on!

Fifth, this destroys any claim he might make to giving a squat about any of our employees.

Sixth, apparently, his superiors have no way of tracking or knowing whether he is evaluating his employees!  What do you bet he gets evaluated annually?  But they apparently don't give a shinola about us.  Not that this is any great surprise. It is yet another reason leadership in the organization is despised throughout the system.

It is going to be with GREAT difficulty that I keep sarcasm out of my filled-out form.  I will, in the "appraisal period" space, note (and make a hard copy of, to prevent editing by others) that the appraisal period ran from June 18 of 2010 to the present.

But when I leave, I'm not going to have anyone calling this workplace and have anyone be able to honestly say that I was any kind of a jerk before I left.  So I'll leave it at that.

Friday, August 22, 2014

More Ranting About My Workplace

I know, gentle and most-likely non-existent reader, I know--you're sick of me griping about the shenanigans at my workplace.

Sorry.  Gotta vent somewhere.  This is a BIG part of what anonymous blogging is FOR.


*****


I almost didn't write this post.  I'd made up my mind within fifteen minutes of arriving at work to write a little something, but by mid-day, the thought'd dropped out of my mind.

It took "the girls" to remind me.

They pulled something that completely poisoned what was left of the relationships--well, some of the relationships--around here.  I will explain, to a limited degree.

We have gone from having a relatively deep bench, experience-wise, to having a very thin one, and all in just the last few months.  And all of it--all of it, as far as I am concerned!--directly traceable to the jackanapes in charge.  We have three ladies, Customer Service Reps, up front.  They are unsupervised the vast majority of the time.  Only one of them has more than a year of experience in this surprisingly complicated business.

I do not entirely blame them for what they do.  As I said, they are largely inexperienced and unsupervised and do not have nearly as much to do as the boss thinks they do.  I sometimes wonder if he really knows what they are often up to and is just scared to confront them for fear of not being able to replace them.  Such a fear would not be entirely unfounded.  We have found that, even in the Obamaconomy, it is next to impossible for us to hire people.  In such circumstances, people do things they might not do under closer scrutiny.

"The girls" are getting away with bloody blue murder.  They make mistakes that CLEARLY show that they are not paying attention, or--often!--not even attempting to execute the fundamentals of their jobs.  They lie about it, too, repeatedly claiming in meetings that they ARE TOO executing those fundamentals, even when evidence to the contrary is staring them in the face.  Most maddening of all is the fact that they spend enormous amounts of their day texting and Facebooking on their cell phones.  They KNOW they're not supposed to be doing that when they're supposed to be working.  You can tell by the startled reaction they have when the door opens.  They are wondering if they've finally been caught.

I swear, to walk in on them is to catch them goofing off.  It's maddening.  If you drive a hundred and fifty miles and find that you've been given the wrong, out-of-date-for-years address because someone didn't do what they claim to do, and call and check it, it's maddening. And this goofing off goes on most of the day!

My other driver and I are slowly being driven insane by this situation.  Our boss is completely ineffective.  It is certain that the only three people whom he holds accountable to any sort of standard are the two of us and the warehouseman, the only three people who keep showing up and more than getting the job done.  It's as though he knows we will take it and keep coming back, but as far as I can tell, he hasn't the nerve to confront "the girls" over anything they do wrong, no matter how outrageous.

Recently, one of them was caught--I won't say how--at the casino when she'd called in "sick."

How many places do you know where you could pull THAT stunt and remain employed?

Three guesses how long I'd last if I tried that?

Three guesses how grateful my boss is that neither I nor my other driver ever do such a thing (and for that matter, the warehouseman, who has greatly improved his attendance in the last couple of months)?

At any rate, today, "the girls" made it abundantly clear that my other driver, the warehouseman, and I cannot trust them.  They will stab us in the back without hesitation, and the three of us--well, at least my other driver and I, and I think the warehouseman, too--have made up our minds that, so help us,  the Devil will be eating snowcones before we say one unnecessary thing to anyone else there, especially "the girls," ever again.

All this could be avoided with real leadership on the scene, but that seems to be sorely lacking.

But, as I said, that situation isn't what I made up my mind to write about this morning; it just reminded me to write.

What got me goin' this morning was my boss telling me to Febreze myself.

You may recall that I am a light pipesmoker, not meaning that at around 200 pounds, I am light in weight, but that I do not smoke very much.  Right now, I typically smoke about a quarter-bowl on the way to work, and a bowl before I go to bed.  Hardly anything, really.

I don't know why, but for some reason, it seems to occasionally drive my boss clear 'round the bend.  It's not like it's any of his darned business, anyway, unless I'm breaking company policy on smoking, which I'm not.

All this week I've been smoking Stokkebye's Aroma Dutch Slices.

Smoked it Monday morning.  Not a word.  Smoked it Tuesday morning.  Not a word.  Smoked it Wednesday morning.  Not a word.  Smoked it Thursday morning.  Not a word.

But THIS morning, the boss told me to spray myself down with Febreze, as it was "really strong."

Whiskey Tango ARE-YOU-FREAKING-KIDDING-ME?

I asked my other driver if she smelled anything unusual.  She leaned over and sniffed and said no.

I put it down to this being, after all, MY BOSS,  a man who, when he drives my other driver's vehicle, rips off the window tinting that she very neatly put up at her own expense and just slaps it back on when he's done, with all the neatness of a drunken, two-bit hooker, on the grounds that he "can't see through it," the man who, back when I was using Bluetooth (you'd think he'd be GLAD I was using hands-free technology!), used to tell me that he couldn't hear me (all the little old ladies could!).  I put it down, in short, to him being both a little bit nuts and determined to aggravate me.

Well, my first stop was at our local facility and I decided to relay this little bit of insanity to the...well, the senior non-commissioned officer, let's put it that way...as I knew she would enjoy it.  She always has plenty of her own "Deranged Boss" stories to tell; this is the lady that got raked over the coals for having a purple streak in her hair--say, that reminds me...

...One of "the girls," at this point, has so many tattoos it is not possible for them to be covered up and she displays them proudly.  But if I come in, covered with dirt and sweat from actually having had to do something, I'm the one who gets told I look unprofessional.  But I digress...

Oh, by the way, I asked this lady if she smelled anything unusual, and she, too, said no.

At any rate, as soon as I got started, it was, "OMG!  So-and-So is ALWAYS telling me I smell like smoke!"

"But three-quarters of the staff here smoke, and you don't smell any different from them."

"I know!  Why does she keep picking on ME?"

"I think I know why.  It's because you're a leader, and the people in charge of this organization think that their leaders (and those in the public eye, like me) should look and act as though they just stepped out of the pages of BAPTIST LIFE.  They're not supposed to drink (even in moderation), smoke (even in moderation), have purple streaks in their hair, or wear knee-high boots."

"THAT'S IT!"

And you know, it IS it.  It's not enough for our leaders that we show up on time, or early, or stay late, get the job more than done, go above and beyond, live respectable lives, take care of our spouses and children, stay active in church, and so forth.  They  want us to look and act like THEY think Christians should look and act, and lately, they seem to have decided that it's a job requirement to which they can hold us accountable.

Saying that they can go pound sand is putting it mildly.

And "the girls" can go pound sand.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

They Got It All--Now What?

I think it likely that at this point, my anonymous comments on an unnamed church will not cause any trouble. Only a handful of souls read this blog anymore, anyway.

*****


I'll try to keep it brief.  No one likes long blogposts.

I belong to a church that is in decline.  It was declining when I joined, probably about six years ago now.  The ministry team then consisted of one semi-retired pastor with a background in sales and self-publishing who was serving on an  interim basis, the music minister, who'd apparently been there since the dawn of time, and the youth/education minister.

Within a month or two of me visiting, they'd called a youngish former missionary to the pastorate.  He did, in my opinion, well, but like any other man, he wasn't perfect, and the church continued to decline.  I think there was a definite turning point when he called a series of meetings for Sunday School teachers so that we could, once again, go over his self-authored booklet outlining what the church was all about and what was expected of the membership.  I distinctly recall looking at another Sunday School teacher and saying, "So, I guess the problem is that the membership and teachers haven't been through this booklet enough times?"

Not too long after that, he apparently felt called to go into politics.  I will say no more save to note that it may have been a mistake.

When he left, the church--or, rather, a handful of committee members--invited one preacher after another to preach in our pulpit.  One or two of them I thought might have a chance, particularly one young fellow who, it seemed to me, actually demonstrated an attitude toward outreach and evangelism that might stand a chance of success in our neighborhood, which has changed dramatically since the church's heyday.

And then, they decided that the best thing to do was call back the interim preacher who'd been there when I first started visiting, five years earlier.

I found out later that this man and the music minister had worked together at another church before this.

And then, REMARKABLY, the next step in the plan toward reversing the decline was to call back the youth/education minister who'd been there when I started visiting, even though the man had been let go, oh, three years earlier, as the church had already declined to the point where we couldn't afford to pay him.

And just like THAT, the ministry team that had been there when I started visiting was reconstituted.  Was it intentional?  Was it planned to be like that from the moment our pastor left?  I do not know.  Maybe.

But whether it was planned or not, I couldn't help but think, "Wasn't the church declining under these people?  Why is rehiring them now considered a solution?"

But I know how these things typically go in church life.  I didn't say much, for I knew I'd be accused of divisiveness simply for asking reasonable questions.

Within, I think, six or eight months of this staff's return, attendance dropped from about 150 or so to about 80.  We do have some new members, but we have lost enough "old" members (for lack of a better term) to keep attendance at about that level (or so they say.  I never see more than about sixty.)

That is not a sustainable level for us to keep paying the kind of staff we have, pay the bills on a building the size of ours, and keep running the kinds of programs we always have.  We are either going to go to a totally bivocational staff and shut off parts of the  building and quit doing some things, or we are going to go bankrupt.  Or we are going to grow.

Naturally, NO BAPTIST CHURCH will EVER admit that they are not going to try to grow, so our new/old interim--now permanent, if part-time--pastor announced that the plan to grow was to become a "metro" church, by which he meant that it was time to quit worrying so much about the local population and let people know that we were "worth the drive."  I found this so much hubris--after all, we have a huge number of churches in our city, and saying that OURS was worth the drive necessarily involved saying that OTHERS were worth only driving PAST--and, without naming names or naming churches, said something to that effect on Facebook.

I was shortly told by the preacher that this was a Matthew 18 situation and advised that part of the plan was to do things in a spirit of unity and harmony.

He wouldn't have even seen my comment had he not been looking over the shoulder of a Facebook friend who was helping out in the church office.  He wasn't on my "friends" list and I have long had all my settings to "friends only," so make what you will out of his statement that he was in the habit of reading all the things I say on Facebook.

I agreed to keep any further comments off Facebook whilst noting that I disagreed with his proposed approach and, while I hoped to be proven wrong, I thought it likely that the church would be closing its doors within three years.  He agreed that we certainly had a challenge ahead of us.

Since then--several months now--"the plan" has come together.  It consisted of:

1) Removing the pews from our largish sanctuary and spending thousands of dollars on new chairs, and taking up much less space, so as to create a more intimate worship atmosphere.  I spoke in favor of that, actually; anything to get the members to do something DIFFERENT.

2) Focusing mainly on the Sunday morning worship service, de-emphasizing, to a degree, Sunday School, Sunday evenings, and Wednesday evenings--even going to the point of not having Sunday nights at all during the Summer and not having Wednesday evenings consistently.

3) Making sure that all our friends knew that we were worth the drive.

4) Reaching out to the neighborhood businesses.  Exactly why the local businesses were worth reaching out to when the local people were (at least initially) NOT is as unclear to me as it likely is to you.  In practice, all this has meant is that the local Wendy's has given us coupons for free Frosties to use as prizes for a few of our events.

5) Creating a "Welcome Center" for our guests.  In practice that has meant putting two airpots full of coffee, some donuts, and cups into what used to be the foyer and is now the welcome center.

6) Doing everything in a spirit of unity and harmony.  Since, as far as I know--actually, to my certain knowledge, in some cases--the staff has routinely but politely dismissed input from church members, and those members are now FORMER members, having voted with their feet, and I agreed not to put comments on Facebook and to keep my thoughts on these policies out of the church arena (remember: I blog anonymously, and I am naming neither people nor church here, and the odds are very good that only one of my readers even knows where I go to church), the staff may well not really know what it is to experience disunity and unharmoniousness. It seems to me that the staff may not be able to distinguish the silence of the silenced, disinterested, and tired from a spirit of unity and harmony.  It may be that they think a lack of open criticism constitutes having approval.  It may be that they don't realize our near-halved attendance, despite leaving only the non-critical in place, is indicative of anything but harmony and unity.

And maybe there really is unity.  Certainly they've gotten everything they wanted.  They got their old team back.  They got the Welcome Center.  They got the changes in the sanctuary.  They got the focus on the morning worship service.  They got "unity and harmony," or at least an absence of criticism and a series of near-unanimous votes.

So, my question: what now, guys?  The decline hasn't been halted, at least as far as I can tell.  I see nothing--zero, zip, zilch, nada--being either pursued or proposed that is in the smallest iota different from exactly what has failed for a quarter-century now.  We pretty much run the same programs in the same way.  We do nothing different in terms of outreach.  I don't even think we HAVE outreach, unless you want to pretend that doing VBS is outreach (which most churches do; they say that VBS is the church's greatest outreach effort of the year, which, if true, is pathetic, because it is, judging by the numbers I've seen for the last decade, a failure, year after year after year).

You got everything you said you wanted.  What now?  I'll give you credit for wanting to get something done.  But to tell the truth, you three--four, if you count the former pastor--have been instrumental in convincing me of something I had suspected for a long time: most professional ministry staff go to seminary and come away with no more idea what to do, no more real knowledge, no greater grasp of the Word, than the average old lady in the pews.  I suspect that the three of you, and probably certain committee members, thought that if only you were in place as a team again, people who'd left would come roaring back. That the church was declining under you, too, when you were together before, was overlooked.

You all read the same books and the same magazines and go to the same conferences and you all think the same officially approved groupthink.  You just don't THINK.  You just parrot the same stuff everyone else parrots,  and I really do think that if the decline of the North American church in general, and the Southern Baptist Convention specifically, is ever halted, it will be in spite of ministers like you instead of because of ministers like you.