14 April 2012

Getting all riled up

After spending nine weeks at home recovering from surgery I decided (again) that I wouldn't get involved in some of the drama or political stuff at work. Every shutdown I think the same thing. Each time I return to work I find myself getting all up in everyone's business yet again.

I was good for a few days, really I was. I did my job and went home. When people vented to me about coworkers I was able to nod sympathetically and continue about my own business. Then I found out there is a new communication plan at work. Once a week meetings are held with Union Rep and bosses to discuss possible improvements to be made around the plant. I kept myself to only two suggestions: clearing the area around a door so people can actually exit if there is a fire, and a way to have two more racks available for the line when one tall cake is made. Both suggestions were received well. Yep. No problem. Kept doing my job and going home.

But at home I would vent to S about the politics of the plant. Since the bully boss left over a year ago the staff has been taking advantage of management. Going slower, putting lines off until the next day, refusing to work overtime, erasing the boss's notations of who is in which position and rewriting it to better suit themselves. Things like that. We have a Plant Leader who isn't around all the time (he started out as a Consultant) and he wants us all to work harder, work at peak efficiency, understand that the company is requiring more of us. So S and I came up with a bonus system.

This system would pay out a bonus to every employee if we reach a goal of however many cakes a month, after the thrift (mistakes) cakes are subtracted. It would replace the merit raises in the fall (simply increase that person's bonus instead of a raise). A system like this is self-managing. If slow people are being slow, then coworkers would put pressure on them to do better to meet the goal. Departments would put pressure on each other to be more aware. Burned 128 cakes? That comes out of my bonus, check the oven times more carefully please. Each person's bonus is dependent on the productivity of everyone and not just themselves. There are some problems with this system, sure, but it would motivate people.

I emailed three bosses to tell them of this plan. Each boss came to me with his and her own reasons why it wouldn't work. Ok, no problem. But now I want to see improvement. I want the bosses to crack down on people. Stop letting them decide to put off a line to the next day and instead compel them to work overtime (Union agreement says bosses can do this with reverse seniority). Stop lollygagging around, get them to work. I've started venting to coworkers about the laziness I see and how it can be corrected. I vent to Bakery Manager about how to get things done. And I find myself actually getting frustrated about all of it.

Then I remember: none of that is my job. My job is scaling. Measure stuff, clean up, go home. I don't run the plant. I don't manage the people. It's not up to me to get people to work harder. If the company is ok with people wandering around doing nothing and wasting time, that's not my concern. Now, I just need to remember that every day. Especially when the bosses come to me for more suggestions, ideas, and opinions. Oh and they do. I have apparently made myself known as the person who watches the employees and has a different but valuable perspective on things.

Ack! I think that's my problem! I am given external validation for my suggestions so I keep doing it to feel good. Sigh.

One last vent...the Plant Leader has a frustrating way of seeing things. Like I said, he wants us to work harder because he wants to significantly increase production. He is under the impression that if he just can make the employees see his point of view they will decide to work harder. Um. We are paid to be there. Right now people are getting eight hours a day by working at the pace we are working at. Why work harder/faster? PL also said he hired people so we could run more lines and increase productivity but we don't actually have the orders to make more cakes than we did six months ago. He says manpower costs are too high so we should work harder in the day and stop wasting time. Um...the people will simply say he needs to fire the two or three people with the least seniority to cut back on manpower costs, not have us all work less hours. He looked at me like I grew a second head when I told him that.

So far this man has made decisions that I don't understand. He bought two bread ovens instead of cake ovens (different kind of heat) and wondered why they didn't bake the cakes as well as he thought they would. He bought new pan grease and didn't test it - 256 cake layers had to be thrown out because we couldn't get them out of the pans. He 'streamlined' the purchasing by only buying from one supplier (a friend, I'm sure). This supplier has inferior products (we need to add oil to the chocolate to get it to melt nicely, the fondant doesn't come out of the pails without backbreaking work, the cream of tartar feels like powdered clay, the sodium bicarbonate is seriously lumpy). His friend at this supplier came up with recipes for 7" cakes. We didn't get to test them first, instead he promised them to be shown at conventions and whatnot so we had to rush production. You know what? These 7" cakes fall over after only two hours of being plated. Restaurants don't like that so there are no orders for these cakes that were supposed to take over the banquet market, especially during grad season. Now he's promised some new 6" cakes to be shown at a convention on 06May...without testing them first by doing batch ups (some recipes cannot be increased, going from 2 cakes to 128 cakes sometimes doesn't work and the recipe needs tweaking). Seriously? How is this man still employed with us? He has 50 years of baking experience...is that the only skill the Owner saw when he was hired?

*takes a deep breath* ok. That should do me for a while. When I go back to work on Monday I can remember to not get all riled up about stuff that's none of my damn business and just do my job...hopefully.

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