Friday, January 6, 2006

Stories from the Workplace IV



I have the misfortune to work with a "she-bear".  Some colleagues want to shake hands with her hubby for being such a saint.  He used to wait for her patiently outside the factory gates at quitting time everyday.  If he came late, she'd go ballistic.  We know that because she told us.  She'd proudly proclaim she's the fiercest person around.  She can't be bullied.  Her technical know-how was zero, but she acts like she knows everything.  Handling such people gives you mental exhaustion.  But if there's anything I'd give her credit for, it's her thick skin.  If you prove her to be an idiot, she'd turn it into a joke and laugh at herself.  I dislike managing people, but that's one part of life that can't be avoided.  With some people, you either 'manage' (manipulate) them or they'll 'manage' you. 


One day I was told she was marked for transfer to handle another product line.  I told my colleague who was handling that line, "I got good news and bad news.  Good news for me, bad news for you".  He groaned.  A few weeks later, he came back to me with a grin on his face and the news that the transfer was cancelled.  That was good while it lasted.  We're already used to it, so the best thing was to have a good laugh about it.  Somehow her boss found a way to keep her in line.  He simply gives her more responsibilities.  That suits her pretty well, it seems.  She loves to be in charge.  Getting more responsibilities gives her the illusion of being in charge of more people.


I once worked with a very hard-working electrical technician.  He was also very playful.  One day, he got up a high ladder to hang up some balloons and a 'happy-new-year' poster next to some light fixtures.  That was not supposed to be done during production time, but since he didn't report to me I had no say to that.  I was standing next to a few other technicians watching the event and one of them made some negative comments.  I joined in with some remarks to amuse them.  A few minutes later the electrician came into my office and confronted me about my remarks.  I listened quietly while he told me I had no right to control whatever he did.  When he'd finished, I stood up and said, "No doubt what you did was none of my concern.  Even if you fell down, it's not my concern.  I was just joking with those guys, but if you feel offended, I apologize".  Then I offered my hand and we shook hands.  But I added I'd be more careful with the guy who told him what I said since we all knew that we were only joking. 


Later, we went through an organization re-shuffle and he ended up reporting to me.  He was somewhat resentful as he understood that I had very limited knowledge about electricity.  One morning, a supervisor came in and reported a sonic welder broke down and required to be fixed as the production line had stopped.  I asked him if he had alerted the technician.  He said, "Yes, but he said since you're his manager you should tell him what to do!"  Something didn't sound right here.  I sent for the technician.  When he came in, I asked, "What's wrong with the machine?"

He said, "I don't know.  You're my boss what, you tell me lah..."

I didn't get angry.  I just asked him, "Have you looked at the machine?"

He said, "No." 

I said, "Then let's take a look at it."


We both went to the line.  The conveyor was empty.  There was no work in progress.  I was suspicious that he and the supervisor had something in common.  But I said nothing.  He opened the machine cover and we both peered into it.  I asked, "Well?  What do you think?"

He said maybe I should call the machine supplier for help from their technicians.  That was when I took a deep breath and said, "Look, we are both responsible for our equipments here.  If we were to call in the experts for every little problem in this factory, you and I will soon be out of our jobs."  I looked at him and smiled.  I could have said that if he's not interested in solving the problem, I'd find someone who could, but I didn't.  He grinned and I knew he understood my meaning very well.  I went back to my office.  A few minutes later he came in and said he'd solved the problem.


We went on to solve more problems after that.  Years later, when we had both left the company, he went on to run his own injection molding factory.  The last time I heard from him, he invited me to visit his factory sometimes.  He said he was driving a Volvo 7-Series.   Seems like he's doing great.




  1. So obvious lah...One place in the world where anything goes. I heard some friends said it was amazing I could last more than 4 years there. Hahaha I survived somehow.

  2. wow, this is great. I guess tact is really one of the ways to go. Good Job :D

  3. I heard a story about a fierce wife who bullies and shout at her husband. One day 3 Indon robbers broke into the house, took whatever, and rape her. She was very quiet, cooperative and submissive ! "What happened ?" All the neighbours were asking.

  4. I can recommend that to the hubby, but I don't think the robbers would oblige. They'd probably just take the whatevers...