How Much Do You Have to Hate Someone Not to Proselytize?

Francis Schaeffer on the Origins of Relativism in the Church

One of My Favorite Songs

An Inspiring Song


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Attitude is Everything, or the Truth About My Workplace Leadership, Part V

These little rants are written as though to various elements of my workplace leadership.  If you want to know more, look up part I.


By now, you've figured out that when you pulled me over for a half-hour talk about my "negative attitude," it made me mad. I admit it: it made me really mad.  When you, first, told me that I had a negative attitude, and then that it made me come across as condescending and even mean, there was so much more going on in my mental background than you could have possibly been aware of, even had you cared--which I am convinced you never would have.

You see, I have occasionally heard something of the sort ever since I was a kid. And over the years, I have become painfully, bitterly aware of some things that tend to lead to the accusations.  And I struggle to deal with them--far more than you know.

Some of what I am about to say is going to come across as awfully self-congratulatory.  I am truly sorry.  If I could explain this without doing so, I would.

Let me say also that over the last few posts, I feel almost as though I have been swimming in a cesspool.  I do not like complaining about this stuff. A very large part of me is fully aware that hardly anyone listens to complaints.  And it's not like you'll ever see or hear this. I'm posting this anonymously in the blogosphere partly to vent, so that I can express what I think without erupting all over you and any innocent bystanders.

I am tired of keeping silent about it all.  You people drive me nuts.

Okay, let's start:

I became aware when I was very, very young that many people around me reacted very negatively to my vocabulary.  It wasn't that I said bad things; it was, simple as it sounds, that I routinely used words they simply weren't familiar with.  Every kid gets called names, of course. I claim no unusual experiences in that regard. The kinds of names I was called were those intended to make me feel freakish and to take me down a peg. Naturally, I often responded in kind, calling people things intended to make them feel stupid.  And it worked, much of the time.

By the time I was in junior high, it wasn't all that unusual for someone to either pick on me or threaten to do so.  And when I got the chance, I took up Taekwon-do.  It didn't take too many reverse punches to people's solar plexi before people stopped picking on me.

I wasn't mature enough to realize that people don't like feeling stupid and a much easier way to solve the problem would have been just to go to some trouble not to intellectually intimidate people, to make them understand at the outset that I valued them as human beings regardless of their intelligence. I just got a reputation for sarcasm and rudeness--probably well-deserved.

But in my defense, much of the time I wasn't trying to make people feel stupid.  They just had the misfortune to be in the same class with the kid with the huge vocabulary and who made easy As.  And by the time I was in my early 20s, I had begun to appreciate people who didn't have the same set of gifts I had--I had been in the Marine Corps Reserves, I had worked in industrial environments, I had worked in the fast-food business.  As a matter of fact, in probably the one really positive experience I had in fast-food management, I went to a seminar and the guy leading asked what, in retrospect, was a really obvious question: "Are you getting the results you want using the methods you're using?"

Well, no.  And I began to make a conscious effort to change the way I interacted with people. And it was about that time that I began to realize what a "bad attitude" was.

I had a district manager at the time that occasionally used the term, and one day, after he said, "Well, so-and-so just has a bad attitude," I asked him, "Rick, I hear you use that term from time to time, and I'm never sure just what you mean.  Could you tell me what you mean by 'bad attitude'?"

And he said, "Anything that's not good for the company."

By that time, I had learned not to respond with the obvious: "By that definition, a gas explosion under company headquarters is a 'bad attitude.'"  I just took it to mean that "bad attitude" means whatever management wants it to mean.  It is a universal label that doesn't really mean anything except they don't like something about that guy. He may not be doing anything wrong.  The only way to guard against being labeled as having a "bad attitude" is to pretend enthusiasm for everything management says, no matter how insane or stupid. Kind of like how I behave around you, my company's leadership.

"Negative" attitude is a little different.  It wasn't until I had spent some time in sales, and, yes, some time in this job before I began to understand that one--or those two, I should say, for there are at least two kinds of "negative" attitude.  You see, salespeople spend most of their time hearing, "No!"  If they let it sink in, they're sunk, so to speak. They won't be able to work up the nerve to pick up the phone one more time.  So they--and many managers, too--have a certain psychological investment in pretending that everything is okay, and if anyone around them punctures the illusion, they therefore discount that person's opinion as "negative."

And then there's the kind of "negative" attitude that I occasionally get tarred as having.  It's a little different.  You see, as I mentioned earlier, I began to realize in my early twenties that people don't like feeling stupid, and to go to some trouble not to make them feel that way.

But by my mid-forties, the problem had grown, in some respects, rather more difficult to handle.

Have you ever heard the term "personal presence?"  You could say that it is the amount of psychological space a person takes up in the room.  And by my mid-forties, my personal presence had grown enough to be a problem for some people. It mystified me in one way; I had made so many mistakes and errors of judgment in my life that I certainly didn't occupy an exalted position in life, certainly didn't have an outsized income or lifestyle.  But what I did find was that I had read and retained so much, had seen so much of life, had interacted with so many people, and--yes, acquired a fair amount of physical self-confidence, that is, I had pretty much lost any fear that someone might be able to beat me up if they didn't like what I said, that some people just couldn't handle it. My presence in the room could be overwhelming for some people.  Some people liked it--those are the people that automatically assumed that I was the leader.  Others...not so much.

One time, a church member of whom I was actually quite fond actually stepped backwards from me and turned her head away.  "What's wrong?" I asked.

"Oh, I don't know. You just intimidate me so much."

Really. I thought I was being gentle as a lamb.

As this kind of thing has become unintentionally easier and easier for me, often unconsciously easier, I have really worked hard to be gentle and unthreatening.  It doesn't always work, of course, but it usually does.  Pretty much the only time I ever have a problem is when there is something else at work, something about which I can do nothing.

That is usually when I have to say no.

I have to say that more and more often.  It is not my fault.  We have been getting more and more clients who are utterly dependent on government for every aspect of their existence.  You will say that my saying this is more evidence of my negative attitude, but the reality is that for every person who is on the dole through no fault of his own, there are three who are on it for pretty obvious reasons and a lot of these people have what is popularly known as an "entitlement attitude" and know how to play the system to get their way.  And oh, they will do it.  They won't hesitate.

So when you send me to these people to "assess" (as an aside: you do not know how to spell "assess."  You keep spelling it "access.") their equipment and situations, often knowing full well, in advance, that they are full of squeeze, that you are sending me solely so you can say that you sent the expert, and I have to tell them, "No, that won't work," "No, that's totally inappropriate for your needs," "No, no insurance or government program in the world will pay for that," "No, your equipment is in a perfectly usable state," well...they don't like it.  And sometimes they will call up and swear that I was mean to them.  And you will say, "Well, what did he say to you?"  And they--like clockwork!--reply that it wasn't what I said, it was how I said it. Short of lying through their teeth, what else are they going to say?  As I keep saying, I go to extraordinary lengths to keep from being rude!

Then you take into account the comments from the dementia-ridden, the drug-addled, the hard-of-hearing, and the stir-crazy, couple it all with the fact that you are yourself intimidated by me and constantly feel the need to take me down a peg, and--bam!--there you go. I have a "negative attitude."

I can't begin to express how galling it was to be accused of having a "negative attitude" by a man who's been known to slam down and break keyboards in a fit of rage, who's been known to holler at little old ladies, who will go beet-red in the face at the slightest provocation.

But--almost three weeks ago now!--after that little talk, I made up my mind how I am going to handle clients--and you--in the future.  I am going to make you say no.  I am going to go into these situations and make it clear that I want to help and get them what they want, but there are some things only my boss can approve--and I'm going to call you up right on the spot and humbly ask you, with the client listening, whether you will approve it or not.  If you say no, the client's reaction is your problem. If you say yes, it likely means more time on the clock for me.

So far, it's been working like a charm and you haven't even picked up on what's going on.  You're such a control freak you've been taking it as confirmation that you are the boss.

Playing you like a fiddle, m'man, playing you like a fiddle.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Awful Truth About My Workplace Leadership, Part IV

These little rants are written as though addressed to elements of my company's leadership.  If you want to know more, look for the introduction to part I.


I swear, I am going to get to some more interesting stuff, stuff about how you treat your people, the way you hire people, the "Muskogee Mafia," a certain kind of monitor that cost us about--oh, I think it was about half a million over ten years, even though it was utterly USELESS, most of them literally sitting in boxes for years and years, and was a huge waste of the money that little old people leave our organization in their wills.  I am going to get to all of that.  But you keep doing things on a day to day basis that make me say, "I can't leave that out. It's so bizarre.  Too 'good,' in a way, or 'bad,' in another way, not to mention."
Sooooooooo...let's talk about payroll.  Just for today.

I get paid by direct deposit.  For years, my "check" has hit the bank about five in the morning.  So I was a little surprised to see my balance basically unchanged by six a.m., but I didn't panic.  Maybe they just ran a little bit late this time, I thought.  But when I checked again about ten and didn't see it, I went to the boss.

Turned out you hadn't managed to get OVER NINETY HOURS OF MY TIME on that check!  All you had put on it was the pittance you pay for me being "on call" (and it is not industry standard, by the way, not by a long shot, hasn't changed in years and years and years)!  You didn't know what happened, you said, and you got right on it, and sure enough, by late afternoon, I was able to drive across town, pick up a check, and go deposit it. 

Good thing I didn't have anything on auto-draft, wasn't it?  Good thing neither the payroll place nor the bank had shut down early for Good Friday, wasn't it? But one of the reasons I don't have anything on auto-draft is that I've seen you characters in action for more than ten years.
How often you've screwed up my paychecks depends on how you count incidents.  Was the time where you forgot to put my raise on my checks for four solid months one incident, or eight (two-week pay periods)? (And by the way, you can see what a pittance the raise was--I hadn't noticed its absence from my checks!)  Was the time where you screwed up putting another raise on my checks for three successive pay periods (each time you said, "It'll  be on the next check!") one incident, or three?  And then there are the times where you just made it clear that you can't be counted on to add or subtract.  All of this has made me watch my checks very closely, believe you me!

Nor am I the only one.  I am not dealing with pay, per se, here, not in the sense of how much you pay.  I'll get to that in another post.  But you can take it to the bank: if you go to your long-term people, your key people, the people who have been around for a while, and ask them, "Have they ever screwed up your pay?" you will be astonished at the number of people that roll their eyes and say, "Yeah!  Duh!" I am not making this up.  Sometimes I think you people think I don't talk to anybody because I spend so little time talking to you.  But that's not the case.  I don't talk to you any more than I have to because I'm afraid what I really think will slip out.  I do talk to just about everyone else I meet across the system, and I hear a lot that you people think everyone's forgotten, or maybe never noticed in the first place.  I hear the outrageous stories.  I know what a deep-seated loathing there is for our leadership team throughout our system.  So, yeah, I've heard people talk about your payroll screwups.

You're infamous for it.  Everyone in the organization knows that getting people's paychecks right simply isn't a priority for you.  And that stinks on ice.  If there is one obligation pretty much everyone acknowledges bosses to have, it's getting people's checks to them right and on time.  I'm an old guy, see, and I have worked for a number of different companies.  And you know what?  None of them ever screwed up my pay.  Not once.  I worked for one firm for fourteen years and they never screwed up my pay.  I worked for another for four and they never screwed up my pay.  But you guys?  I think if I said you'd screwed up my pay ten times in ten years, I'd be giving you too much credit.

You outsourced your payroll recently.  I wonder if it was as the result of complaints?  If so, it took too long.  And furthermore, you're still not getting it right.  And lastly, think this kind of thing might contribute to people's "negative attitudes"?

Naaaaaaahh...couldn't be.  It's never the bosses' fault, is it?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

MMMMBBWWWWAAAHHHAAAHAAA!! Or The Continuing Misadventures of My Workplace Leadership, Part III

Mercy.  I have so much more to tell you about my workplace leadership.  There are still hairs on your head that need curling and, I promise you, some of what I have to say will curl hair on the baldest head.  But today I must gloat.  The following is written as though to my immediate superior.


You know, boss, I really could not have set this day up any better if I had scripted it.  Two weeks ago--three, as of Monday--you pulled me aside to lecture me on my attitude.  You told me I came across as condescending and mean, as uncaring.

And, after an appropriate show of faux contrition on my part (for I didn't believe a word of it), you told me that, after ten years with the company, and five years after the New Person's Class was started, you were sending me to the next one.  I'll pass over the content of the class for now (but I will cover it in a future post!  I promise!), but I'll say that to this second, I do not know if you scheduled me for that class for punishment, or if you did it because you thought it might straighten out my alleged negative attitude, or if you'd been told to do it by your superiors.

What I do know is that you did not expect me to be lionized in front of the audience as the "Shining Star" honoree.  I do know that you did not expect the president and vice-president of the company to spend about ten solid minutes publicly praising me for my intelligence, quick wit, and--most satisfying of all--my LEGENDARY AND CONTAGIOUS POSITIVE ATTITUDE.  You did not expect that my contributions to the class would be repeatedly singled out for praise by them.  You did not expect the president of the company  to declare, basically, that he thought I was one of the smartest and best-informed men he had ever met.  You did not expect that every company official in attendance would come away tremendously impressed with my knowledge, bearing, and attitude.

I know, because when you asked me how the class went, your face went from its usual artificial smile to absolutely blank within one second flat--and then you left the area.  I could not have been more satisfied if I'd been Mordecai being paraded around by Haman.

Let's see you top that.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Awful Truth About My Workplace Leadership, Part II

These little rants are written as though addressed to elements of my company's leadership. If you want to know more, look for the introduction to part I.


 Well, I was going to talk a bit about how you accused me a couple of weeks ago of having (first) a "negative" attitude, then of sounding "condescending" and "mean." And I may do that yet, if I get time. But this morning, at our weekly meeting, you made my jaw drop. Metaphorically speaking, that is. You didn't see anything but me smiling and you didn't hear anything but me agreeing.

 What did you do? You lectured your entire crew, first, on being present and on time. Now, I am not knocking those things. They are important in the workplace. No denying it. But considering, Sir, that it's you that hired the recovering--well, not so recovering--pill-popper and boozer who keeps missing--oh, I'd say three or more days a month, and is late other times, and you've kept him on for well over a year now in spite of this, exactly what are you going to say to the office ladies who are sometimes twenty minutes late because of something involving their kids? Are you going to discipline them and let the other guy get off scot-free? I don't think that's going to fly, and no one believes you're going to discipline the other guy, because the reality is that attendance issues aside, he is so good at his job that nothing ever suffers when he's absent! He's always ahead! Besides that, you hired him to replace that ex-live-in girlfriend you'd hired, and then unjustly fired. Won't look good if it turns out you would have been better off keeping your ex-girlfriend, will it?

 Amazingly, you were apparently so ticked off at him being absent Monday that you spent time going over almost two years of old time sheets, just so you could tell us all how long it'd been since the entire crew was present and on time for a whole week.

 Productive use of your time, wasn't it? Oh, I know you thought it made your point, and in a way, it did. It also made you look a petulant horse's rear and, I promise you, made every single person in the place who's ever been late because of a child, because of car trouble, because they were stuck behind a train, because there was a wreck on the turnpike between here and the small town where they live, madder than an old wet hen. It made you look ineffectual, because, after all, it's you that has put up with it. And nobody believes you'll do anything about it, either. Why should they?

 Having accomplished the by no means small feat of ticking off your entire staff with your first words of the meeting, you then lectured your entire crew on having good attitudes! It was nothing short of amazing. Either you think nobody on your staff has a good attitude, or you are unwilling to confront the women on your staff about their bad attitudes one by one (You have, of course, already lectured me and the other guy about our alleged bad attitudes). You don't come out looking good no matter how you slice this. You either have a talent for serially hiring people with bad attitudes, or you make people with good attitudes into people with bad attitudes (this would be my bet), or you see bad attitudes where none exist (also very likely), or you haven't the anatomical features necessary to confront women with bad attitudes.

 Really. Did it not even occur to you to ask yourself how likely it was that everyone else in the building had bad attitudes, whilst you did not? Doesn't the answer reveal itself as soon as the question is asked?

 Couple of more things, small things, but this is my rant: First thing this morning, you asked me to spray Febreze all over myself. I had--God forbid--smoked a quarter-pipeful of tobacco on my morning drive. Now, the fact that you think my tobacco reeks wouldn't bother me, except for two things: (1) It doesn't, or at least not as bad as cigarettes. I've asked the others. (2) You never ask the cigarette smokers to Febreze themselves, and those nasty cigarettes leave a worse smell than my pipe does, any day of the week. Not to mention the butts they leave outside the doors. You are just being ridiculous. It is just one more of your efforts to take me down a peg. You want to take me down a peg because...well, I may touch on that in another post.

 Second: you made sure to tell me to wash the van and go to special effort to make sure all bug guts were off my windshield, because I am driving the van to New Person's Class tomorrow. What the shale? It's not that I mind doing it--takes me five minutes to run the van through the wash and a few more with some Windex for the windshield, after all--it's that it was bizarre. The van wasn't dirty. Nobody would look at it and say it was dirty. I asked people. And what do you think is going to happen when I show up for class? Do you think that everyone in attendance is going to pile out and come look at my work van? Do you think the campus administrator is going to come out and inspect it? Even if they did, nobody would say it was dirty. Even the interior is clean. I keep it empty of debris and wipe the thing down about once a week. Again, not that I mind the washing. Not that I don't want the van clean, too. It's that utterly weird connection you made between getting the van cleaned and going to that class. Weird because they have not the slightest thing to do with each other. It's like telling me,"You've got class tomorrow. Make sure you do the dishes."

 You know, I initially just told our other driver that story. Then later, when the office ladies looked out the front doors and saw me cleaning my windshield, they asked her about it, and she told them what you had said. According to her, the universal reaction was, "He said what?" So it's not just me. It really was weird. But that's part for the course for you these days, isn't it? Most of us came to the conclusion some little time back that there's something wrong with you. It's gone way beyond just being a jerk. You keep doing and saying bizarre crap that nobody understands. But of course, as far as you're concerned, you are just fine. It's everyone else that needs an attitude adjustment.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Awful Truth About My Workplace Leadership, Part I

Well, for the longest time, I have been steamed at my place of employment.  I am hardly the only one.  All across our system, people are steamed.  I am in a position to know.

But I can't do much about it.  I don't want to quit right now; I have a few small personal matters I want to tend to and keeping this job for a little while longer will suit me.  Also, the job market stinks on ice, as everyone knows.  So there's that.

But I do want to vent a bit, and--lucky you!--for various reasons, I have kept notes of some of the more outrageous things over the years.  I think I am going to make a series of posts about them.  I will alter names, dates, places, and subject matter enough to disguise who I am and where I work.  The very small number of people who already know who I am and where I work will not give me away. Many will find it immature and boring, but I will enjoy writing the rants.

These little rants will be written as though addressed to my company leadership.  Today's is short.  I hope you enjoy it.

Why don't I just quit, you ask?  Like I  say, I have my reasons. Plus, I like the job. It's the leadership that has me ready to pull out my hair.


Well, you've finally seen fit to send me to New Person's Class.  It's kind of funny.  I'm sure you would deny that sending me now, five years after they started giving these classes, and more than ten years after I started with the company, is related to the alleged attitude problem that you've given me you've recently accused me of having, and the lecture about which I've already meekly absorbed.  I'm sure you would remind me that when they started having these classes, I was told then that everyone would eventually have to take it, no matter whether they'd been with the Company five weeks or five years.

And they did say that.  I remember.  I think the unique demands of my weirdo schedule--and let's not forget that you set my schedule--made it practically impossible for me to attend, and everyone just kind of forgot about it.  But now that you've scheduled me to take the class in a few days, a few memories come to mind.

For instance, I remember why they started these classes in the first place.  We had high turnover throughout the system (Though the administrators, if you asked them directly, would deny this. "Oh, MOTW, we have a wonderful turnover rate," even though it was a running joke throughout the system at the time.) and it was hoped that the New Person's Class would slow turnover, give everyone a sense of being on the same team, a sense of our "mission."  This did no good, of course, because you have no idea what you're doing half the time and that kind of thing makes it hard for anyone to have a real sense of "mission."  Plus, your repeated habit (to be detailed in other posts) of royally screwing your employees makes it hard for them to feel like part of a team, class or no class.

At any rate, turnover is still high.

Another thing I remember: you have facilities in multiple places throughout the state, but for the first two or three years, the classes were offered only in the City!  Yes, you made your poor low-level staffers, people making just 8.50 an hour, drive a hundred and fifty miles in some cases, just so they could listen to you characters congratulate yourselves and tell them how well you treat your people.  Really.  It took you two or three years to start offering the classes in another part of the state, and even now, some people from some facilities still have to drive more than 90 minutes so they can partake of the wondrous rapture that was prepared, if I recall correctly and I think I do, by one of your little office drones that has never actually been in the field and done the kind of work that we do.

You thought you were building team spirit with that?  No, what you were building--adding on to, really, you've been building it for years and years--was a sense of resentment and a deep-seated conviction that you were a collection of clueless horse's rears.  I know.  I've been all over the system and talked to people.

You know,speaking of that negative attitude you accused me of having, it'll be interesting to see how they handle that. You see, I also know that people used to see me in the class material. It seems I am a legend in customer service. It seems, according to some (including some of you), that I am "the most beloved employee in the system." So I wonder if my smiling face is still in the class material. It would be rich if it is.

Oh, don't worry.  I'll go, and I guarantee you'll be told later, if you ask, that I was tremendously enthusiastic and a positive element in the class.

Or didn't you know?  Acting runs in the family.