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Saturday, May 17, 2014

What You Say and What You Do: the Truth About My Workplace Leadership, Part VI

These little rants are written as to various elements of my workplace leadership. If you want to know more, seek ye out Part I.

Yes, it's been a little while since the last installment in this series.  Been busy.

Okay, I want to talk a little about that New Person's Class that you sent me to several weeks ago.  I had things to say at the time. Just haven't been able to get to them 'til now.

Now, it's undeniably true that I enjoyed being publicly praised and treated like an intelligent human being for a change, but there were,shall we say, some things I noticed.

First, there were the video clips and pictures. Most of them were snapped or shot a few years ago when some other company's workplace video went viral and your marketing people thought they could duplicate it.  As a result, they had lots and lots of footage of residents and employees dancing on the premises.

In ten years, these video clips, some brochures, and one other thing to be named shortly are the only things I have ever seen our marketing department produce.  The images on the sides of our vehicles, I guess.  Other than eat Convention dollars, I have no idea what marketing does.

And they certainly don't know what we here in our little subdivision of the company do.  I see not the slightest hint in any of their materials that they have the smallest clue what we do. Certainly they are never here.  I have been here for half of our 20-year existence and I recall seeing them here only to shoot the aforementioned video clips and that "one other thing."

That "one other thing"!  Words fail me.  As mentioned, we have grown to our present volume with no effective marketing support, so when we were told that the marketing team was FINALLY going to come spend a day with us, we were very excited.  We thought we would have a chance to help them understand our business.

It turned out they were here to make a half-day long pitch for us to contribute to the employee assistance fund!  And to beg us to "like" their Facebook page!

As far as I can tell, in common with most of our chain of command, marketing still has not the teensiest fraction of an idea what our subdivision does.

And, of course, I saw lots of people I've known over the years in those videos and photos. And all I kept thinking was, "I saw you screw THAT one, and THAT one, and THAT one..."

How about my co-worker who, despite universally-acknowledged superlative work, you let go without any pay raise at all for almost four years (me, too, by the way)?

How about the two key employees who had each been with you for 26 years, each in charge of her own unit, and who both retired on the same day?  They had been there for so long they remembered when you took paid holidays away--away from everyone except management, of course. They had been there for so long they remembered when you took real benefits away. And on the day they retired, you treated them so, so well!  They brought in their own cake and goodies. You miserable sods didn't throw them a retirement party.  You didn't give them a card.  You miserable CLOTS didn't even have the common decency to call or come by to wish them a happy retirement!

I know.  I was there.  I saw it.

How about the people you fired because news had reached you that they were looking for other work?  You didn't try to see what the problem was, did you?  You didn't try to "save" those employees, did you?  No, you just fired them.

You fired other people for taking second jobs.

There were a couple of other interesting things.  You kept bringing up the point that you wanted your residents to feel as much like they were at home as possible--a laudable goal, I admit.  But the interesting thing was something of a bone of contention became evident: you see, not too long ago, you started to discourage your personnel in these facilities from wearing the work clothes that people in their profession have always worn.  Instead, you wanted them to wear "business casual," because your residents needed to feel like they did when they were at home, instead of as though they were in a facility.  The workers accustomed to wearing their "traditional" garb have objected to being asked to wear business casual, on the perfectly reasonable grounds that the stuff's more expensive to maintain and clean, and they deal every day, as one of the ladies at that meeting said, with "blood, urine, feces, vomit, and filth."

Your response at the meeting?  Did you offer a clothing allowance to anyone who would abide by the new standards? Of course not!  You just reiterated that it was all so the residents could experience an atmosphere as much like home as possible.  Of course, it cost you not a cent to ask this of your employees, did it?

Oh--before I go on, let me note that I have seen how this works out in practice.  It's not enough to wear "business casual." It has to be YOUR idea of "business casual."  One of the senior employees at one of the facilities, a lady whom I know well, let me know she'd been "talked to" about her choice of attire (which was perfectly fine, I've seen it), and also ABOUT A SMALL PURPLE STREAK IN HER BLONDE HAIR.  Anything in the employee handbook about that?  No, of course not, but that never stops you people from making it up as you go.  It's pathetic.  That place can't run without that lady, and you're messing with her because your poor, shriveled-up soul can't handle an itsy-bitsy bit of purple in her hair.

Now, to go on.  Remember, the whole idea is to provide an experience as close to what the client had at home, right?

Of course, I have been in all the facilities many, many times.  I have seen it all.  Shoot, I may be the ONLY one who's seen it all.

The other day, I happened in on one of the senior employees in a facility--this is the same one who got "talked to" about her purple streak--on her knees in the storeroom, stocking diapers and the like.  Now, this is a lady of considerable experience and education.  I teased her a bit: "Say, that looks like something that in most places would be done by someone a lot further down the totem pole!" (This is true, by the way.)

She responded, "Oh no...they can't read." And she was serious!  The lower-level personnel in her facility cannot be counted on to read well enough to stock a freaking shelf.  Bear in mind they're helping to take care of the helpless.

Next: like I say, I get around.  It is very curious to me that your facilities are filled--just jammed, in a few instances--with foreigners.

Now, I must interject: don't get me wrong.  As a  rule, I like foreigners, and frankly, the ones at these facilities are generally doing pretty good jobs.  I am on "hugging terms" with some of them.

Nevertheless, you can easily go down the hallway and hear conversations in Spanish and various West African dialects, and a very large percentage of the employees have very thick accents--if they can speak English at all.

I'm serious about that last part.  I am on friendly terms with one Hispanic lady who, when we met at one of these facilities, could scarcely speak a word of English.  Yet she got hired, didn't she?

Now, here's my question: at what point did you conclude that your residents all had experiences at home that included thick foreign accents and hallway conversations in a variety of languages, none of which they spoke themselves?  I mean, you MUST have concluded that, since EVERYTHING is all about the client, and you want your clients to have an experience as close to what they had at home as possible, RIGHT?

Of course not.  You want them to have that kind of experience IF IT DOESN'T COST YOU.  If it costs your employees, FINE.  But if it's coming out of your pockets...well, it's not such a big issue, is it?  And  besides, you'll tell me, you can't GET anyone else.

That, of course, is utter rot.  The upscale facilities--yes, I've been in those, too--have people who grew up with English as their native language, and who can read.  Of course, they cost more money, but they are available.

Now, truthfully, I don't blame you for going with the lowest-cost personnel that can get the job done.  It is what I would do myself.  But I wouldn't then turn around and condescendingly lecture my employees that everything we do is for the sake of creating an atmosphere as much like clients' former homes as possible.

That just isn't true.  I wonder if it's ever occurred to you that it  actually borders on cruel to have a hallway full of dementia patients, surrounded  by staff speaking foreign languages?

Surely it at least occurred to you that it's not an experience those clients grew up with?


You people claim to pay "competitive wages."  I wonder if you realize what it is you are competing for.  Apparently, it's for semi-literate people and/or people who grew up speaking another tongue.

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