Sunday, August 7, 2016
THE GARGOYLES REDUX
Today is my friend Patty's birthday. Re-publishing this article from 2014 is my present to her. Patty, ENJOY!
After writing the article about a city official saying "the girls" when referring to the women who reported to him, I was reminded about "The Gargoyles".
Patty (who was the Secretary for the Production Department) and I disliked two women at work and we ungraciously referred to them as "The Gargoyles". When the Receptionist took her breaks, these two women (who worked in Human Resources) were supposed to take turns relieving the Receptionist, but for some unaccounted-for reason, the two women would sit together at the Receptionist's desk; Patty said they were perched like Gargoyles atop a building. I found it difficult to believe that it took two of them to replace the Receptionist for two fifteen minute breaks and 30-minute lunch breaks daily. I said to Patty, "They just waste an hour a day; I bet I could find something for one of them to do while the other was taking the Receptionist's place." What was totally infuriating was that they took their own breaks and lunch breaks together after relieving the Receptionist.
As we were a Deming-style company, the rules were supposed to be the same for everybody. One of my female workers had come to work wearing a tank top. I told her that it was against the Dress Code and she asked, "Then why is it OK for all those women up front who go around with their boobs showing? and it's air conditioned in there; it's hot out here!" Of course, she was right but I knew that confronting the issue would cause a lot of animosity toward Production. I am not usually passive aggressive, but instead of addressing the issue forthrightly, I put the complaint in the Suggestion Box, because I knew the Vice President held the key to the Suggestion Box and he took the entries from there very seriously. Soon afterward, the Vice President issued a memo which stated that all employees must adhere to the Dress Code and no "sleeveless" clothes would be allowed. I remember that his Secretary was wearing a "sundress" the same day she had to type the memo and she complained to Patty. Of course, all those women knew that the complaint had originated from Production.
Oftentimes, there would be some kind of kerfuffle when "the Gargoyles" were taking the Receptionist's place. When those kind of issues occurred, Patty and I would check the time, sigh, and exclaim, "The Gargoyles are there!" They were obviously incompetent and Patty and I could not help wondering how they retained their jobs. One of my Team Leaders said that I should put a Time Study on them.
Although Patty was not the Secretary to the Vice President and General Manager, he required Patty to take minutes at all the meetings where he presided. Although Patty wondered why, she had never asked him why she was selected to take minutes. Since it seemed logical that he would have his own Secretary take the minutes, I asked him why he'd asked "our" Patty to take the minutes. He said that his Secretary had taken the minutes in the past, but when she was absent one day, Patty was asked to "step in" and he said that his Secretary couldn't "do shorthand" and there were always errors "unless Patty did the minutes". I guess I would have probably replaced THAT Secretary but I wouldn't make that suggestion as we might have lost "our" Patty (oh, yes, I admit I was selfish). Patty had told me about a Director from another discipline who had asked her if she would like to join his department. I certainly did not want to lose Patty from Production.
Once, during a staff meeting, all of the direct reports of the Vice President were there. I was there to represent Production as our Director was absent and Patty was there, as usual, to take minutes. The Director Of Human Resources presented a report which he said had been prepared by the two women Patty and I referred to as "The Gargoyles". The HR Director passed out the reports for our perusal and he began praising what "the girls" had prepared. In the first paragraph I noticed two errors and I circled them. As the HR Director continued reading the report aloud, he again lavished more praise on the work by his "girls", I could not believe that he was presenting such an inferior product to the Vice-President who was HIS superior. When he finished, he asked if there were any questions. I asked, "Since this is a rough draft, when will we receive the final report?"
Of course, I knew it was NOT a rough draft because he had it bound in the usual blue covers with the name of the report printed (not typed) on the cover.
I saw the blood rushing from his neck to his face and I thought, "I bet he's thinking, "How DARE a lowly Manager question ME?" Instead, he asked, "WHAT is that supposed to mean?" While flipping through the report and pretending to count the errors I had circled, I answered, "Just from a cursory reading, I see at least thirty errors in the report; I assume you would want to have the mistakes corrected before distributing the report." [That is an accurate quote because Patty had it in the minutes and she relished showing it to me!] Of course, I knew from the binding that it was ready to be sent to "Corporate". Oh, how I wished that I'd had a RED pen with me that day for emphasis!
You could have heard a pin THUD to the floor.
The Vice-President didn't wait for the Director to respond, but asked, very quietly, "Sue, would you have time to help with this report?" I answered, "Yes, sir." He continued, "John, I'd like Sue to approve the final draft before you forward it to Corporate." That was the coup de grace: a Production person to overrule the lofty HR Director.
In the past, I'd had several "run-ins" with the HR Director and members of his staff. As I felt quite certain that "they" (the HR Director AND his "girls") did not want my help, I delivered my corrected copy to the HR Director with the numerous corrections. I said, "When THOSE WOMEN make these corrections, just give it to Patty; I'm sure she'll find more mistakes; obviously you see that the Vice President trusts Patty above all others."
He said tersely, "I'll do as I was ordered and return it to YOU; you can use YOUR Secretary any way you want!"
Oh, yeah, I'll admit that when the report was handed to me for the "Final Draft", Patty and I had the "fine tooth comb" out and, of course, we found more errors. There was even a mistake which I had corrected in the "rough draft". That took some chutzpah for "the Gargoyles" to re-insert an item which I had corrected. I had Patty add the "reason" it was corrected, explaining the difference between a transitive and intransitive verb.
My disagreements with the HR Director (and also with what I called the "Trickle Down Condescension" by the members of his Department) were over matters of policy and their overweening, cavalier behavior in dealing with members of Production.
It was good for the Company when he was replaced.