Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I am not making this up

Click to enlarge.
This Dilbert strip hits home in a weird way. I actually used to work at a place where you were not permitted to visit the vending machines during working hours. This place was off the scale when it came to unbelievable rules and regulations. It was back in the early 1990s but could have been the 1890s the way it was run.

--The workday was from 9 to 5. There was a half-hour for lunch and no other breaks allowed (it made for a 7.5 hour day, but you worked every minute of it). We were supposed to be on salary, but if anyone was even one minute late in the morning or back from lunch, there would be a minute subtracted from your paycheck. Yet, a certain amount of overtime (including traveling) was expected for no extra pay.

--Starting times and lunch times were not flexible. You had to finish your lunch during that time as you were not permitted to eat at your desk. You could bring a thermos for your coffee or tea but could not go to the vending machines (as mentioned) or kitchen unless it was during lunch. They had a potluck Christmas luncheon, and people got in a long line at the food table. My supervisor was working feverishly to finish something up and ended up near the end of the line. Because the half-hour lunch was nearly over by then, the office manager came up and said to him "it's too bad you won't have time to eat much of that".

-- Personal phone calls were not permitted, phones were installed so that the office manager and others could listen in to anyone's phone at any time. Also, phone numbers called and received were tracked, and it was determined if any of them were personal. If they were (such as a phone call made to a doctor to make an appointment), those minutes would be subtracted from your check.

-- Personal conversations were not permitted. There were "secret spies" who would report such activity to the bosses. No more than two people were permitted to "gather" even for work-related conversations (they were terrified of people trying to form a Union. There was a manufacturing facility as well as the office headquarters, but that rule of "no more than two" applied to both). Many rooms were bugged with listening devices. They also had people making sure that you didn't spend too long in the bathroom. Office personnel were not permitted to speak to factory workers, and we in the art department were not permitted to speak to anyone in engineering or sales - not even on the phone. Of course, fraternizing with other employees after hours was strictly forbidden, and they did check. People were watched, even followed. The owner made an exception for himself by having an affair with the wife of one of his salesmen, who also worked for the company.

--For the first (I believe it was) 5-10 years of service you got one week of vacation per year, and the maximum would end up being two weeks per year. "Sick" time was uncompensated. One of the top salesmen there asked to be excused from attending a sales meeting in another city because his wife was having difficulty with the delivery of their child. He was told by the owner of the company that his wife had her doctors, and he had his job, and he needed to make a choice. He kept his job.

--The owner of the business (it was a family business, his two sons were the Vice-Presidents) was a racist and refused to hire any people of color. Also, he refused to do any business with Japan (an old leftover WWII hatred, although Germany was A-OK with him). Someone purchased some computers for the office which had a Japanese name on the box -- he ordered them returned (they were switched with some identical units with an American-sounding label on them, same box, different emblem, and those were OK because he didn't know the difference). His salespeople were not to allow Japanese people to enter their areas at trade shows -- to the point of firing salespeople over it.

--Once they sent around a questionaire asking people to account for their day, what tasks did they do, how much time on each one, etc. Pretty standard. A woman wrote on her sheet that she spent the last 5 minutes of the day tidying up her desk. She was disciplined. Her department was watched extra closely after that, and it was made clear to the whole office that you would be straightening up your desk on your own time, not theirs.

This place got you by paying more than other places, and after you were there it really wasn't that easy to find something else. People would feel trapped. They were so used to being publically and privately humiliated by the tyrants who ran things, and being convinced that they wouldn't make it or be good enough to make a living working for someone else that many of them developed a syndrome. Kind of a paranoid loyalty. They truely believed they had to stay there and take it, or they had too many bills to pay to work somewhere for less money. Not terribly unlike people in domestic abuse situations, but less severe. (I've been in that situation too)

Noooo, I am not going to mention the names of the company and people, but I will say that the business owner and his family (including his brother and their family business) were (and still are although the old man is dead now) some of the biggest Bush $upporters in that area.

Think "Montgomery Burns". Now imagine that he is a real person.

I actually worked there for 2 years. I found out about another job just through networking connections and I escaped. Even though the next place of employment was going through ugly corporate mergers which eventually shut down the facility and made me unemployed, I am very glad I got out. Excellent!


Peacechick Mary said...

Good Gawd that place was run by Simon Legree, the evil employer. What a nightmare existence.

Nava said...

I didn't know slavery still exists...

Neil Shakespeare said...

I got fired from a place like that once, a long time ago now. Truth be told, after working their six months I tried to get fired so I could collect unemployment. They had these employee evaluations every few months and I was required to keep a log accounting for what I did every minute of the day. I ended up writing "wrote in this stupid log for five minutes" or "took a pee" and then "correction: gave a pee but I didn't give a shit". And it worked!

Blueberry said...

Good for you, Neil! I always wished I had the guts to do stuff like that... but then I'd probably have a gut telling me to do stuff, like Bush and Chertoff have.

Lynn@ZelleBlog said...

What a horrible place!

Its hard to imagine people enduring that, but of course many do because they need to work and so it is accepted.

I have worked at some obnoxious places, but nothing like that! Glad you left.

Nvisiblewmn said...

I'm going to stop laughing at Neil's comment and get back to my original reason for commenting now....

Yeah, I bet the creeps WERE scared witless of UNIONS.

You don't have to mention the names of the company or it's peops. Just link.

Soooo, they never got it that they probably spent more time, money, other resources keeping the salary slaves in line than was really worth it? And they're still in business? Wow.

Glad you didn't develop that paranoid syndrome. How sad when the emps wake up and realize life it too short for that.

Blueberry said...

After all these years I still feel afraid of those people even though they can't hurt me (and couldn't then!)

I have cleverly hidden the name of the company in a misspelled word in the post. The company makes refrigeration equipment for restaurants and stores, they are located in the state of MO.

See! I still have a touch of paranoia.

People either didn't take action against them or they tried and lost. I guess what they were doing was legal, or mostly so. I don't really know.

Mando Mama said...

That's really unbelievable, yet, I know places like that do exist. But it's just hard to imagine. And harder to imagine you working someplace like that.

Glad you were liberated.


Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

I would have been forced to burn the joint down if I was there.

muffinmidi said...

I thought some of the places I worked in were bad, but that palce trumps them all. I' glad you escaped.