Goldi's Locks of Yarn

My place to discuss my raging obsession with yarn and crochet along with happenings in my life and the world at large

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Singing the Working-gal Blues (first of a series)

So, last weekend I whined about how busy I was at work the previous week... Here it is, a week later, and I'm here to tell ya - that week was a picnic at the park compared to this just-completed one! It never ceases to amaze me, I think "it can't possibly get any worse than this" and then I'm proven wrong! Sheesh!

I've whined and complained so often about my work conditions, but I've never really given much in the way of details. I suspect it makes it hard to even imagine what I'm talking about, so I've decided to give you a peek into my worklife. Besides that, there are many issues I am having with my job that I need to work out, and maybe the telling of my saga will help me to resolve them, somewhat. At the very least, it might give me a list to start from in trying to discuss some of these issues with my boss, who has a hard time understanding the point of view of us, her employees. I try hard not to expend much energy in my off-work times on anything dealing with the job, but things have been getting so bad there that in spite of my "rule", I find myself thinking and talking about it far too much! So maybe if I write it out, I can then shut it out so my other interests and obligations will get their fair share of my time and energy! Because it has been known that people have actually lost their jobs because of things they've written in personal blogs, I will remain deliberately vague about certain details, for my own protection. But I don't think those parts I must remain vague about will make it hard to follow this saga with understanding of what I'm talking about - I've found that the conditions I am about to discuss are spreading to workplaces across America, it seems to be "the way things are" nowadays. Many of you who have jobs may even find that you can relate to this, so sorry for you, if that is the case!

Because this is a lengthy story to tell, I am definitely going to have to break it up into "chapters", so the posts won't be too long. I will also break things up a bit and slip in some crochet-related posts, since after all, that's what this blog is supposed to be about! Just writing this story up will probably take me the better part of the weekend, with breaks for other things of course, but I intend to get it all done before it's back to work on Monday.

First, a bit of history and information, to set the stage:

I have been at my present job for over 9 years now, a length of time that I still find amazing. Prior to that, I seldom stayed at any job more than, at most, 2 years. I guess it shows that I have finally "matured" into a bit more of a stable personality instead of the usual flake that I have always been. I have always been a model employee, though, except for one area - I have a great deal of trouble arriving to work on time. I have often said that I must have been late to my own birth, it just seems to be a fixed part of my personality. I have "issues" with time, and after having spent nearly 35 years trying to improve this, I have met with an extremely limited amount of success. There doesn't seem to be a job in the world that doesn't consider this "being on time" issue of major importance! Many jobs, I know, rely heavily on it, and for that reason I would never go seeking one of them. You could have a sterling reputation as a model employee, but this one factor will ruin all of it, is what I have found.

One of the reasons I have stuck with this company is that, despite the constant carping about it, they have continued to be somewhat lenient about my tardy issues. Most of the time I manage to arrive within the 7 1/2 minute "grace period" of my starting time, which I managed to set with them as 9:30 (I am sooo NOT a "morning" person!), but occasionally I will slip over that and be marked with a tardy as a result, usually once or twice a week. Lately I've managed to shrink that to once or twice a pay period, and I'm still working on trying to eliminate it completely. I am rarely late more than 15 minutes, and even more rarely will I make it in before 9:30. Most of my tardies are due to traffic issues, as I usually manage to leave the house within the specific 10 minute window of time I've allotted for myself, but from their point of view, the reason for the tardiness is not considered. Their response is that I should have just left earlier, as if I had a crystal ball to tell me that traffic was going to be particularly horrid that day! But, no matter... If I could, I would leave earlier, but like I said, I'm not a morning person, needing up to an hour from when I wake up to become fully functional and "safe" for the one hour drive to work. Starting a half hour later than everybody else means I miss most of the worst of the morning hour rush traffic (I know it's been said many times, but who decided to call it "rush hour" anyway?), otherwise it would take up to an hour and a half, and on some days even longer, to make the 40 mile trek.

I work for a convention travel company. Our company handles the hotel reservations for many conventions both big and small, and for some of our clients, the collection of fees for their registrations and events. I am the accounts payable "department" (a lean, mean, check-writing machine!). The only checks I don't write are the payroll, phew (wiping sweat from brow)! Until a couple of years ago, as part of my responsibilities, I single-handedly processed ALL the refunds that were generated from people cancelling and changing reservations for these conventions. I used to keep track of my volume back then, and on average, I processed 5000 credit card refunds and 1000 checks (of all types) per month! In the months following 9/11, those figures doubled, not slipping back down to "normal" levels until about 6 months later. I practically lived at work those months.

I whined, I cried, I complained, and I started fading away, energy-wise, before they finally figured out they were destroying me with the workload (which continued to grow as the company grew) and removed some of my burden. Two years ago, they assigned the processing of refunds to someone else, right after they also set up a program to process most of the credit card refunds automatically, thus reducing the work volume by 75%. Granted, the person who was assigned to handle the refunds only works part time, but he is constantly behind with them even now! And he has little else that he is responsible for! But the process has also become much more complicated for that remaining 25% that has to be done by hand.

Besides the refunds, I also handle the check writing for all of that deposit money to the hotels, we call them "rooming lists" and they can be anywhere from a couple of checks up to 80, depending on the size of the meeting. These have a very fast turnaround time, the checks are needed the same day they are requested as we are on a contract deadline with the hotels. I am supposed to be notified of the request schedule at least a month in advance for these, so that I can make sure I have all the hotel information loaded in my system in order to produce these checks quickly. Nothing wrecks my daily schedule worse than receiving a big rooming list request that I was not previously informed would be coming! The folks who are responsible for these have finally improved in that area, much to my relief.

I am also responsible for processing and paying all of the bills related to the day to day operation of the company, processing advances to employees who travel to the meetings to work onsite, and then processing their expense reports and reimbursements afterwards, plus checks to the clients we are collecting registration and event money for, and a myriad of other miscellaneous requests for money. In the over nine years I've been working there, I think I can recall only one or two very short instances where I wasn't constantly scrambling to produce checks! Needless to say, even without the issues I plan to address in these posts, my job always has been very high-stress.

When I first started with this company, it was considered "small", we had about 150 employees in total, and we had 3 owners, one primary (he owned 72%) and two "small-time" (with the remaining 28% split between them). All 3 were present at work every day, with the 2 "lesser" owners also working - one was a Sales rep, drawing in new business and the other responsible for overseeing all the details of the day-to-day operations. These two were always pretty popular with the employees as they treated us pretty well and were friendly to us, but our primary owner mostly stayed in his "ivory tower" of an office and developed a reputation for being a bit of a skin-flint (my private name for him was "Mr. Scrooge", says everything!). Then one day, Scrooge -er, our primary owner, decided it was time to sell the company and retire. Our two lesser owners would have been happy to buy him out, but he was asking more money than they could come up with, and for some reason, he didn't want to sell out to them anyway. And so it came to be that we were bought up by a venture capital firm, along with a "sister" company in the business, from another state, and the two companies were "merged" into one larger company with "branches". One of the goals of venture capital companies is to buy up companies like ours, grow them at a very fast rate, and then sell them after about 6 or 7 years. Which is what our new owners proceeded to do, more than doubling the number of meetings we handled within two years of taking over. As employees, we were not prepared for the explosion of work that resulted from it! We began to have problems hanging on to employees due to the high burnout rate, and developed a bit of a "revolving door" for awhile. They slowed it down some by raising salaries to match the rest of the industry (I did mention that we worked for Scrooge, right?), which gave more people the incentive to hang in there when things got busy, and the overtime sure helped as well, even if it meant we had little in the way of a "life" outside of work.

Then along came 9/11, which delivered a serious body-blow to our industry. The employees in the rest of the company saw an immediate easing of their work burden, thanks to that event, which I did not get to see since I primarily dealt with the fallout from it as convention attendees cancelled their reservations in droves and demanded immediate and full refunds! Fortunately for us, our company was a very stable one, having been in this business for over 50 years, and we somehow weathered that storm, but things began to change in ways both major and minor from that point forward, no doubt leading us to the point we now find ourselves at.

I am going to take a break now, I have a major project I am working on and I'd like to make some progress on it. I also have some necessary shopping to do this afternoon (reaching critical mass on the need to restock that all-important t-paper, yikes!). I'll be back with the next installment of this series later, along with some crochet-related messages...


  • At 5:07 PM, Blogger Deneen said…

    Learn this one thing:

    Whenever I say "things cannot get any worse" they always do! It's a jinx.

    Sorry work has been stressing you out. Sometimes I miss being in the working world and then other times, NOT! It's just that I'm not crazy about people.

    I have time issues too, I have a pet peeve for people always late! I am almost neurotic with being a few minutes early all the time, okay I am neurotic!

  • At 8:08 PM, Blogger goldi said…

    LOL - you would have a real tough time with me, then! I've improved over the years, but my "time issues" are of the type that I continually misgauge how long something will take me. I always expect it to be less than it turns out to be - and STILL have a problem with it even when I pad that estimate. It's so bad that my daughter KNOWS to tell me a time (say like for when to show up for dinner) that is up to an hour before she really wants me to be there. That way when I show up a half hour late, I'm actually a half hour early.

    I'm pretty neurotic about it too - I drive myself wacky TRYING to be on time. You wouldn't want to hear the internal dialog that goes on when I realize - yet again - that I've miscalculated things!

    I was just plain born with a messed-up internal clock, and after spending most of my life trying unsuccessfully to fix it, I realize that I should have been spending that time instead seeking the kind of job that doesn't require it - like writing or something.

    The last 5 years it's been compounded with a touch of agoraphobia. It's a major battle for me to have to leave my house for any reason - to go to work, or to go shopping for necessities, for instance. That part, I KNOW has been brought on by the years of unrelenting stress. Home is safe...


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