Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Twice By Half

It's been said before within various contexts, but it's never been more apparent in my own life than in recent years: I've got to be twice as good as another associate just to get half the recognition... or none, as the case may be.
West can't put the wrong font on a page.
Others can produce reports with unbalanced data.

West is at-fault if someone asks for A, B, C but really wanted X, Y, Z.
Others who hear West say one thing are free to assume he means something else entirely.*

West is a problem because he must be reminded to do things he can't do until others do their part.
Others who fail to do their parts, due to their own faulty memory, are excused because... ummm. Well, just because.
I'm sure a lot of folks just think, "Why don't you quit?!" Well, there are a number of good answers to that question. One is that such inequity is not unique to any given employer or position. I've seen it at various companies, as a "worker bee" and as a manager.

Whenever this comes up, someone usually makes a ton of excuses for the employer. This is probably no exception (assuming anyone comments), but here's a more specific example:
I worked at a place where almost everyone had a pager so they could be contacted at any part of the facility. Not long after I started, I found out that I had a reputation for being unreachable.

Why? Well, it seems that someone messed up and put a pager number next to my name on the directory, but no pager had been issued to me, yet. So people thought I'd been consistently ignoring their pages - but they never said anything about it in-person.

Later, that pager number was eliminated from the directory.

Later still, I'm exiting the manufacturing area when my boss walks by. "There you are. I've been paging you all morning. I didn't think you were in."

"Uhh. J, I don't have a pager."

He looks at me sideways.

"No, really. You said you would, but you never gave me one."

We walk and talk, as I maintain that I've never received a pager from him. We stand by his cubicle for a while, then he seems to have an epiphany and tells me to follow him. We walk toward my cubicle as he says, "This is your and my fault."

I couldn't wait to find out how it was my fault.

We reached my "desk," slips his hand under it, and pulls out a black, plastic drawer I never even knew was there. The drawer was underneath the "desk" writing area and recessed so you had to feel for it to pull it out - which meant, of course, that you needed to know it was there in the first place. I didn't.

In that drawer he pulled out... a pager. He'd put it there some time before, but never told me, so it'd still been sitting there.

I got how that was his fault, but I never got how it was mine. Yet and still, my reputation endured... especially when it was discovered that the pager number they put in the directory was the wrong one. It wasn't even assigned to the pager I'd been given.

By the way, the reason I knew I had this reputation was because a Black guy, whom I hardly knew, took me aside one day and told me what people were saying. Apparently, they had a nickname or an in-joke associated with me. He said not to sweat it too much because the same kind of reputation was attached to him when he first arrived (although I didn't ask if he'd received the same kinda "your fault and mine" blame I had) and he eventually shook it.

He just wanted to let me know, (Black) man-to-(Black)man, what was going on behind my back.

Oh yeah, that boss of mine... he held that pager thing against me when evaluation time came around.
There's always a reason why these types of things couldn't POSSIBLY have anything to do with skin color, yet I can't help notice the similarities between those that have experienced this kind of thing... and those that usually haven't.

* - Example: "In the future, we should make sure x is done before y," means "I don't want to do my job."


beef mug said...

I just gotta do it: "Why don't you quit?"

I'm sure there's a tipping point where you can't take the disrepect anymore. There's gotta be something better out there.

By the way, now I'm curious about the nickname your friend got at work.

West said...

One would hope that there's something better out there, but I'm bothered by the idea of jumping from one sinking ship to another.

Sorry if I wasn't clear, but the nickname or whatever was one that I'd gotten.

Justin Kownacki said...

Not all ships are sinking -- at least not at the same rate.

Ironically, I've never EVER heard of a job where everyone loved it and every employee was universally respected. I have a feeling the root cause of this is that traditional management schemes are inherently flawed, regardless of who's involved. Black, white, male, female -- part of it is preconceived notions about others / ourselves, and part of it is, simply, there HAS to be a better way to do business than what 90% of companies follow...

but who has the time to figure out what that better approach IS? Not the full-time employees who need it most, I'm sure...

beef mug said...

Come'on West, where's your optimism??? You're too young to be this cynical.


chele said...

It's not cynicism -- it's realism. It's the same everywhere. Some places are just more bearable than others. Those reputations are hard to shake ... take it from the "Angry Black Woman".

Miz JJ said...

Damn. That is crazy. I would go insane in that type of environment. I may never become a millionaire with the work I do, but nobody could that pull bullshit where I work.

DJ Black Adam said...

I feel you, being a brother in a corporate workspace is hard, things that other (white) employees do are overlooked, if a Black and particularly Black Male even comes close to a similar thing, it is a problem. If we ask someone a direct question we are "agreesive", "argumentive", etc. I could list alot of fer instances....

Liz said...

Oh West, I feel you, I feel you doubly because I go through the same thing at my job. My sister goes through the same stuff. My black cousins all do. We are all black women with attitudes and yeah, it's not so easy to quit because it's the same everywhere.

Michael May said...

he held that pager thing against me when evaluation time came around

Un-freaking-believable. I'm not going to offer advice because I'm not close enough to the situation to know what to advise. But that really sucks and it pisses me off for you.

kim said...

Hey, Wes...

My husband suggests that you scour your emails for written proof that you requested the pager, or made notification to higher ups that you were not in receipt of it.

Not that you (probably) haven't been counseled to do such, if you decide to hang in there and fight it, but it is the first step of evidence gathering that would fully support you.