Tag Archives: legal field

My Meeting With My Supervisor

Today was probably the worst day I’ve had at my “new” job since I’ve been working there. Then around mid-day my supervisor sent me an email that he wanted to meet with just me this afternoon. So, of course I’m thinking that even as bad as things had been up to that point they’re going to get worse. Meetings with bosses, managers, supervisors and the like are rarely called to tell you how well you’re doing, and it’s too soon for me to be getting a raise–not that I’ve earned one. Plus, I could kind of tell by the meeting topic that this meeting was going to be about a problem.

I told Lazy Tech about the meeting shortly after I learned about it because he’d have to take calls and respond to emails by himself while I was in the meeting. And I think originally he thought that the meeting would include both of us, but before he could look for the email in his inbox I told him the meeting was just for the supervisor and me.

Now, let me give a general description of what my day was like. I handled difficult after difficult time-consuming tech issue all morning while Lazy Tech sat on the other side of our cubicle being…well, lazy. To his credit, he knew I was busy on the phone with schitt that wasn’t going to be fixed any time soon, so he did take care of emails. There are certain things only I handle and certain things only he handles, though, and as I was on the phone there were some emails coming in for issues I handle. Those were left for me to deal with after I got off the phone. So, LT would respond to less-demanding emails and then play with his phone and surf the internet on his work computer (we’re no longer allowed to use our laptops at work, so LT has adjusted by visiting sites on his work computer, which is something I wouldn’t really do). It was going to be a busy day for me, and when my supervisor sent the email about an afternoon meeting I really felt that not only was it more bullschitt added to my day, but it was also another time-consuming thing that I didn’t have time for.

Anyway, meeting time arrived. Now, my job is similar to working as a lawyer in a law firm in terms of having to bill hours. Still, I get paid 40 hours a week regardless of how much “billable” work I do. It’s just a matter of whether or not the money comes from my department or other departments. When I don’t bill enough hours to other departments, my department takes the loss. That’s basically what the meeting was about–my supervisor feels they have been taking too much of a loss, and he was trying to figure out why.

Well…

I mean, there are several reasons. For starters, my supervisor knew when he hired me that there wasn’t going to be enough work for two people to bill a full work week outside of our department because he told me that he’d have me doing what I do now, as well as doing another position, so that I could bill enough time–and he told me this before I was hired, and then again several times afterwards. But over two months in, I’ve only been doing one position. So…this is partially his fault.

Second, LT works slightly different hours than I do, and his hours are more in line with the peak hours in terms of work volume.

Third, LT does leave a lot of work for me that isn’t billable.

Fourth, we’re just not that busy most days. Even LT doesn’t bill a full 40-hour work week, but it’s worse for me because of the hours I work and because of how LT will sometimes jump on work he knows is billable before I can get to it.

I mentioned reasons 2-4 to my supervisor.

So, my supervisor seems to be back on that two-position idea.

Of course, after the meeting, LT wanted to know what we talked about. So I told him.

Do you know what happened?

LT got pissed!

Why?

Because if I start doing the other position, apparently that will mean LT has to do more of the tech support. It seems that this was done before with the tech who worked with LT before I did. We have a phone queue at work, i.e. tech calls alternate between me and him. But if I move to another floor at work so I can do the other position, the phone queue won’t alternate–LT will get every phone call as long as he’s available. I will still have to do about half of the emails, and I will definitely still get phone calls. But the majority of phone calls will go to LT, according to him.

Schitt, that sounds really good to me! For one thing, he has way too much free time at work. Do you know how annoying it is to always be working on something while your co-workers just sit around and play with their computers, iPhones, iPads, etc? For another thing, I’m not going to complain about talking to less people. That’d be perfect, actually. And my job is too difficult right now. The less phone calls I take, the easier it will become. I don’t know all the details of what the other position is like, but it really just sounds like processing paperwork, handling software and shipping/receiving tech equipment (and doing whatever needs to be done with the arrivals)–just a lot less stressful and more process-oriented, which is up my alley (as opposed to being thrown into the middle of solving any and all tech issues with no set-forth process whatsoever). And my supervisor said I’d definitely have no trouble billing time this way. The only bad thing is, since I’d be on a different floor, it’d be harder to communicate with other people in the IT department and get help when I need it since most of them are on the floor I work on now, but I will still be working with someone in IT and can IM/email/call people in the IT department.

So, the meeting might not have been all that bad for me. LT isn’t happy, though, and he said that if they do move me to another floor so that I can be more hands-on with equipment and software that he was going to talk to our supervisor about it. LT is hysterical. He acts like he does so much work. It’s like he doesn’t realize that he spends a lot of time surfing the internet and playing with his phone and running around socializing.

And call me evil for this, but there was one other thing today about LT that entertained me.

I took a phone call from an employee who started asking me about LT, i.e. how long he has worked there and what his last name is. Then she told me something like, “Well, I don’t really want to talk to him again. I spoke to him earlier about [blah blah] and he was rude. Maybe you can help me.” And I could tell by the issue she described which call it was, and he was rude. He is rude with several people daily, and this is what my co-workers were talking to me about a few weeks ago. Anyway, her call was a lot like calls I used to get about him at the previous place we worked at together, and the fact that she asked for his last name sounds like she is going to report him. Of course I totally gave it to her. ūüėČ

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Employers Might Be Winning Now, But That Will Change

Since my job has so much down time, I realized I had to find ways to deal with it so that I won’t spend hours there torturing myself by looking at the time every 2 minutes. I really do not want to get accustomed to doing very little on the job, because I know I won’t be at this place for years and years. And I don’t want to get used to sitting at work, surfing the internet. But this is pretty much what is happening–I’m using the internet to pass the time in between calls.

I love sports–particularly football (American) and basketball–but there’s only so much sports news, articles and opinions I can take. So, I have started reading blogs. Today, I found this one post that instantly gave me a blog topic. I have read so many articles and blog posts online that show a vast difference between the way employers and the people who do their dirty work–managers, supervisors and the like–think and the way employees think. This is even more true when you get down to new-school workers, i.e. people who are recent graduates entering the workforce or only in the workforce full time for a few years at best.

The link above is yet another¬†ridiculous piece that seems to be coming from the point of view of the enemy. It is a more narrow version of things I’ve read, as the primary example is about some dumb kid who thought not having soy milk was a serious issue, leading to a post that many perceive to be about employees having issues with perks. I really don’t care about perks, for the most part. I certainly miss having water coolers at work, which I had at my last job but don’t have at my new job. My new job has sodas, but you have to pay for them. That would be fine (except the paying part) because I love soda, but I have gotten into the habit of not drinking soda unless I can also have water to kind of offset/balance out having soda and/or to wash the sugary taste away. It’s kind of ridiculous to me that they have soda and not soda and water, but, then again, this is the South and as a region we haven’t at all reached the point that the rest of the US seems to be getting to in terms of seeing anything wrong with sitting around drinking sugar all day. Obviously, I hadn’t planned to say anything to anybody about this.

I also don’t particularly care about benefits, either, but I also don’t have children. This is something that I see as perfectly reasonable to worry about and maybe even expect if you are married with kids. I know that all my life I had been led to believe that jobs pretty much were supposed to offer benefits, and my parents act as if a job not offering benefits should be a dealbreaker.

My issue with pieces like this is the section of the post in which the author goes into “more blunders by new employees.” This section reminded me of my last job. Do you know how I left my last job? I quit.¬†If it weren’t for my parents, I would have quit months before I did, and I would have quit without another job lined up. But I got fed up to the point where I stopped saying to myself and fellow co-workers who also hated working there that I need to get another job…and got another job. I got the call from my current employer on a Thursday afternoon as I was leaving work, and I walked into work the very next day, quit and didn’t return.

Here’s the rundown using that blog post:

Constant Overtime

I didn’t work constant overtime. We had peak seasons when we knew we’d have to work 12+ hours a day, maybe 10 hours on Friday if we were lucky. The job was advertised this way, so that was fine. The ad basically said we’d work 12 hours/day during peak times and then work around 8 hours/day otherwise. To me, if you’re told from the get-go that you will work a lot of overtime and you take the job, then you can’t complain. It looked good to me because, relatively speaking, my pay already was decent for where I live and overtime really was going to make it good.

What I came to have a problem with is the back and forth between overtime and barely getting 30 hours–peak time or not–plus never knowing what time I’d get off work and the start time changing sporadically. None of this was expected. The overtime was advertised as something similar to, “You’ll work from 5:45am to 5:45pm.” This is not what was going on. Except for one short-lived experiment, there was never a time through my entire employment there when I knew exactly when I’d get off work. Plus, we’d start work at 5:30am for a while and then they’d inform us on Friday, “From now on, your start time will be 6:30.” And then maybe a couple of months later, “From now on, your start time will be 6am.”

Exceptionally Late/Weekend Overtime

Long story short, the answer was no. They didn’t require us to do these things, but we could and they would ask. Uh…no. Especially during football season. Whasamattawitu? Ubettagonesumwhere!

Understanding Your Job (or Not)

Your job is what you are asked to do by your boss. This could include learning new software or assuming duties that not part of your original job description. While this can be frustrating, it is not uncommon.  What can be frustrating is that you are now evaluated on new skills which you may not be your strength. If you realize that you are not able to handle the new demands of the company including new skill sets but also perhaps mandatory overtime or required business travel, update your resume and seek employment elsewhere. 

What’s the point of job ads describing positions and duties, then, especially since most employers don’t say up front that the description might change or isn’t all-inclusive? Does it make sense that employers can lure you in by telling you that you’ll be doing ABC and then you end up either having to do XYZ or quit? Why, then, can’t we send in resumes with a degree from Harvard and CEO experience at a fortune 500, then show up at work and inform the employer, “Oh, I actually didn’t finish college, and I’ve only worked in fast food joints until now–deal with it”? Why does the fit have to be right for the employer but not for the employee?

When I had my job completely changed at my last place of employment, I tolerated that job for my parents before I exploded two months later and told my manager and supervisor that I would quit if I wasn’t going to be doing what I accepted a job with them to do. Although I got my way and my supervisor all but begged me not to quit, I was just completely done with that place (for more reasons than just what’s mentioned here) and nothing could have changed that. I had an entire week off before I started my new job, and that was the happiest I’d been in a long time.

Why Employers With This Mindset Will Lose

For one thing, as I said, there’s a difference between someone coming into a situation knowing what’s up and then whining, and coming into a situation having been told one thing and then everything’s changing. Telling someone, “If you don’t like it, get another job”–that’s not the answer, especially if you’re misleading everyone or thinking you have the right to change things whenever you want. An employer might think most people are going to deal with it, but, whether the economy gets better or not, this is going to cause quite a bit of turnover. Who does turnover hurt? On top of that, the employees who stay who thought they were getting certain hours and that turns out to not be true…well, they’re going to be unhappy employees. Unhappy employees make crappy employees more often than not. So, what this employer has is employees leaving and employees staying but unhappy and unmotivated. Again, who is really hurt?

This is exactly what my last job was like. I didn’t know anyone who liked working there, and when I quit it had reached the point where a lot of people were either leaving or applying for other jobs. And the majority of people leaving were the really good employees. But the enemy was always either whining about us, whining about the work production and standards, or trying to figure out how to motivate us. They couldn’t figure out the relationship. Also, the two things the majority of us wanted–better work-life balance and more money–were, according to them, the two things they couldn’t give us. They felt there was no way they could give us a more normal work schedule or even the 5:45-5:45 many of us were told when we were first hired–we had to stay until the work was done. I mainly wanted to be able to know what time I’d get off work on a regular basis. I’ve got that at my new job.

Young workers nowadays don’t put up with crap, either. Personality-wise, I’m a little more of a cross between old-school workers and new-school workers. But I know that new-school workers not wanting to deal with overtime, changing job duties, jobs that don’t make them happy and many other issues is not always about a sense of entitlement. New schoolers just don’t have as much of a reason to stick with a job they don’t care for, unlike old schoolers. A lot of young people today are not getting married and having kids in their 20s, like me. And many of us can live with our parents, like me. The only reason I need a job is because of student loans–and, frankly, my parents would pay those, too. Although I owe a ridiculous amount in student loans, the fact that this is my only concern allows me the flexibility to look at jobs that pay a lot of money but carry a lot of stress or would make me miserable and take a pass. I did that with practicing law, although that was also at least somewhat about not being able to get a job in that field. I think had I gotten a job in that back in 2008, I would not be practicing today anyway because I would have hated it and would have seen no reason to keep putting up with something I hate.

My parents always take my tax information to their preparer and have my taxes done for me. They told me that the preparer looked at the amount of money I made from my last job and commented that I make good money (which is only good money relative to the kinds of people who live in my area). But I took a job making less money than I made there in order to get away from the stressful, maddening environment. And the money I make is enough. Each month, I can basically take one paycheck and pay student loans, then take the other one and buy a geek gadget with plenty of money left over. Being happy matters more to new schoolers than money or anything else does.

I also didn’t even make it to a full year at my last job. In fact, I’ve only stayed at one full-time job for more than a year–a year and two months.

This is the new normal, which is another reason why employers are only hurting themselves if they approach employees with an “if you don’t like it, quit” attitude. ¬†New schoolers will quit. They’ll work two months and quit. In fact, they’ll work one day and quit. If I were more like a new schooler, I’d have quit this new job by now because it’s boring, some of the clients are jackasses, I don’t like feeling like a receptionist when I am supposed to be a tech geek, it’s not exactly what I expected and I’d rather work part time–oooh, five whole reasons to quit. And this is becoming so normal that many employers are fine if you’ve only worked somewhere for a year or two before interviewing with them. That would look bad back in the day, but not so much anymore.

The thing is we’re going to get to the point where new schoolers outnumber every other type of employee. This culture of leaving jobs if they don’t like a good bit of what’s going on there will continue to take over. That’s going to mean that if employers want more retention–especially of the best employees, whom I recently read are the most likely to leave jobs when unhappy–better long-term workers and to spend less money on hiring/training newbies, they’re going to have to get down from that power-trip throne they’ve been on since this latest recession officially began.

Employers are going to have to start caring that employees want a life away from their jobs and want to be happy at their jobs when they’re at work…or else their precious bottom lines will suffer.

 

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Stuff You Probably Don’t Understand About Hotels

The week just started and I already need to get away from my job. Today was one of those “anything that can go wrong” days.

So, I’ll take you back to my first full-time job upon my last graduation. This is the kind of post that makes me wish I had a lot of readers, because this is must-read material here.

See, my first job after law school was working the front desk at a hotel. Like a bunch of other law school grads nowadays, I couldn’t get a job practicing law or even being a paralegal. Student loans were either deferred or close to coming off deferral/forbearance, so I no longer had time to play. I¬†needed a job. This was kind of before I figured out that I wanted a career in information technology.

I wanted to do something easy and incorrectly figured that working in a hotel would be it, especially at night. I wanted to work night audit, which involves some accounting-type of stuff and is also basically like being a night manager, and I was told when I was hired that I could work 40 hours doing night audit. Er…found out in training, though, that the manager had told almost everyone they hired (this was a new hotel that hadn’t even opened yet) that they, too, could work night audit and get 40 hours. Apparently, I was the only one who noticed this and realized that there was no way this could be true, and I brought it up to the assistant manager.

Long story short–ended up with about 30 hours working pretty much every shift, which basically made me a regular front desk worker who checks guests in and checks guests out except on the weekends when I worked night audit. My schedule was all over the place, except for the weekends (until I eventually got on night audit full time).

That’s when I started to see that front desk workers don’t just check guests in, check guests out, deal with payment and book reservations.

See, prior to having to work full time, I used to travel quite a bit. I still go a couple of places a year and often end up staying in a hotel. When I go to Michigan, I stay on the¬†University of Michigan¬†campus at the law quad most of the time, which is like staying at a hotel that doesn’t have everything a normal hotel has. The reason I thought working front desk at a hotel was easy is because my hotel stays have always included minimal contact with front desk staff. I would speak to them to check in and check out–that’s it. My parents were basically the same way whenever we traveled when I was a kid. I had no idea that this wasn’t how other people operated.

I was so blown away by stuff hotel guests do and say and expect until I sat down one night and started coming up with a list of things hotel guests need to get through their heads. I came up with over 10 things, but this was years ago and several laptops ago. When I saved the most important files off my other laptops, I guess I forgot the list existed and failed to save it. But for you…I still remember some of these things that I must pass along to you travelers, plus probably some additional ones.

1) Don’t leave home without knowing where you’re going. I am not sure I can really think of a good enough excuse to have to call the hotel and get help with finding them. There’s GPS on phones and in cars. There’s google and mapquest both on phones and on computers/laptops. There are even–my father’s favorite–old school maps! But, most of all, why would you go to a completely different city–especially if you’ve never been there before–and not have mapped out ¬†exactly how to get from point A to point B? You’re asking for bad things to happen to you.

2) If the hotel has working computers, for crying out loud, use them. What is the sense of coming to the front desk and asking them to look up stuff for you if the hotel has a “business center” or computers available for your use? Better yet, don’t the majority of you bring cell phones with internet access and/or laptops? It seems as if some of you just don’t think front desk workers have enough to do, so you take it upon yourself to give them busy work. Cut it out.

3) By the same token, if you’re not staying at a luxury hotel, don’t ask them to call anybody for you. I don’t get this staying at a Choice Hotel and asking front desk workers to call cabs, restaurants, pizza places or even the police for you. You have a phone in your room. Hell, you probably have a phone in your pocket. I think most hotels will act like this is the front desk’s job even if it has not been explicitly addressed. But I just don’t see how, in a cheap city like where I live now, treating you as if you should not have to lift a finger at all is included in a $59 or $69/night room…or how in, say, downtown Chicago, a $119/night Choice Hotel room means you should not have to lift a finger. Make your own damn restaurant reservations.

4) No, the front desk cannot control your next door neighbor.¬†Oh, it’s 2am and somebody down the hall is being noisy? Tough schitt. Especially if you don’t want to move rooms. If you don’t want to move rooms, what are you calling the front desk for? Did you really think the front desk worker was going to leave his/her actual job behind–manning the front desk–to come up to your floor and tie some kid up or put tape over the mouths of some ghetto adults? No can do. Beyond calling up to the noisy person’s room and asking him/her to quiet down, there’s not much the front desk can do. And even that or going up to that person’s room usually doesn’t amount to anything. And, please…if you’re going to whine about someone being noisy and seriously expect an effort to be made to shut somebody up, know the noisy room number. Finally, threatening to call the police on noisy people…um, unless they are fighting, banging on your door, shooting and such…you’re just being a little bit dramatic.

5) Please learn this about every type of customer service worker, including but not limited to hotel front desk workers–if you can easily access the person, he/she is probably not that important.¬†This means that this person makes very few decisions and has very little power. Hotel front desk workers often can’t do anything about your complaints, especially if you’re looking for stuff like free or reduced-price rooms because your stay was allegedly so awful, upgrades to suites and so on. And they usually are not at fault for the hotel being garbage in terms of the internet service, the breakfast served, the rooms or bathrooms not being clean enough for you, or anything else you can think of that’s wrong with your hotel stay.

6) In light of #5,¬†save your damn tantrums–they won’t get you anywhere. And it’s not simply because the person with whom you’re throwing a tantrum is a scrub. Just because someone works front desk at a hotel does not mean you’re better or smarter than they are, and it doesn’t mean you get to take out however you feel for whatever reason on this person just because he/she can’t really say anything back to you. So, if a worker feels mistreated for these reasons, the worker is going to have an eff-you attitude when it comes to assisting you. There are people who serve people in some capacity every day who don’t seem to understand this. One of the guys at my job complains all the time about our tech support callers, and, yet, he was being an ass on the phone with a customer service worker who, I guess, screwed up some order of his. Personally, the way I respond to a customer or client depends on how pleasant and reasonable the client’s demeanor is. Some people think being an ass gets results. More often than not, though, workers avoid you and leave you on hold longer when you call or pass the call off to someone else, and the people who are in charge start to not care if they lose your business (while you’re threatening to take your business elsewhere, a lot of people are silently hoping you will so they won’t have to deal with you ever again, i.e. that’s not an effective threat). But I will jump through hoops for nice people.

7)¬†Front desk workers are not babysitters.¬†This means that they’re not just sitting at the front desk keeping an eye on your car. They are working. So, if something bad happens to your car, unless the front desk worker did it, it’s not the hotel’s fault (yes, my hotel was blamed for someone breaking into someone’s car). If a stalker boyfriend might come to the hotel and find you, no, the front desk can’t keep an eye out for him (yes, I’ve had requests similar to this one once or twice). If you’re just checking into the hotel and want to leave your car right in front of the hotel entrance (blocking traffic), no, the front desk can’t make sure nothing happens to it or to your belongings.

8)¬†Don’t pay with a debit card.¬†Don’t even book with one, if you can help it. Weird stuff sometimes happen with debit cards, which leads to bewildered or angry hotel guests and silly confrontations with hotel front desk staff in which the guest doesn’t believe anything the front desk worker says (and, of course, it’s all the front desk’s fault). Long story short–if you don’t want to get charged before you check out, especially if you don’t have enough money on your card, just pay cash or use a credit card (or switch to a debit card when you’re checking out and get your cash back if you paid cash…CCs will not have been charged). You might not have issues every time or at every hotel with debit cards, but save yourself the hassle that one time at that one hotel by just never using them. And while you’re at it, learn how to read your card statements correctly (i.e. there’s a difference between “pending charge” and an actual one, and just because there’s a pending charge doesn’t mean it will go through).

9) Maybe the most important thing I can teach you about hotels–hotel front desk workers are usually poorly hired and poorly trained.¬†There’s a lot of turnover in hotels, and, though it seems that most jobs suck at training new employees, hotels particularly seem to not believe in training. They love to just throw a brand new person right on out there, and if the newbie is lucky he/she has been shown how to check people in, how to check them out, how to book reservations in the system and how to process payment. If the newbie is lucky. But considering that there’s an entire hotel layout–complete with a breakfast area and ice/drink machines–paid parking in the most major cities, specials and promotions, hotel booking websites like Hotwire that fax over reservations, different amenities in different bedrooms, guests who think the front desk staff is supposed to know any and everything about the hotel as well as the city, ways to handle certain situations and so on…newbies need way more than they get.

I don’t know what’s crazier–the fact that guests assume front desk workers know the local area like the backs of their hands or the fact that I’ve never known a hotel to include the local area in their training. The funny thing is managers will hire people who don’t know the area and this might be barely discussed in the interview, and then later on they’re kind of like, “Oh…XYZ doesn’t really know the area as well as she should…” And that’s not the only thing hotels screw up in hiring people. Hotels hire more bad fits for every single position they have–including manager–than probably any other industry. Because of the turnover and the fact that hotels are cheap–which leads to their not hiring enough workers, as well as their not doing everything they should to make their hotel meet customer expectations–they conduct quick interviews that don’t focus on the right things, such as customer service skills, the ability to calculate monetary change/prices/tax, and other areas that a particular manager might care a lot about (such as knowing the area well, if that’s important to that manager)…and then they are shocked when a front desk worker sucks or they can’t keep front desk workers for more than a few months. A lot of the time, it just seems as if they need someone and they grab the first person off the street. That’s not quite how it goes, but they do hire and put a new person at the front desk with the quickness.

—–

So, after learning all of this and doing night audit, I was basically handed the keys to that first hotel in which I worked. It would have been my business, except I wouldn’t have been the owner. But I would have been running it by myself. All nine of the things I just listed probably had something to do with the reason why I didn’t accept the keys, but none was bigger than #9. For one thing, I knew I had no business running a hotel. I learned from working there that the manager/owner had no idea how to make the right hires, and I had not been trained at all on how to run a hotel and would have received very little guidance on that. So, instead of looking at “I’m getting a promotion” or “I’m getting more money,” I looked at my lack of knowledge of the hospitality industry, my lack of knowledge of management and of my lacking the type of personality to “run” anything. I also looked at how everyone who had that position before me failed, and that eventually ended up including the main manager/owner.

But I got great references from that job, though. And plenty of crazy stories. I will never look at hotel stays the same way again, though.

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Fitting In At Work…NOT

I used to have huge issues with how some employers focus on “fit” or “cultural fit” in the hiring process. And last year, I learned the hard way that how you “fit” plays a role in how you’re treated at work, not only by fellow co-workers but also by managers. Work environments seem to have shifted from focusing on how well someone can do his/her job to how likable they are. While I still have a problem with this, there is also more acceptance that this is how it is. That doesn’t mean I play that game, because I don’t really know how to play that game. One of the reasons why I attended law school and then ended up not practicing law is because I realized I’d have to spend my entire legal career pretending to be someone I’m not just to 1) get a job in the first place, 2) be treated fairly at my job and 3) keep my job. I don’t really know how to do that and don’t want to.

Unfortunately, I’m the type of person who has a personality that makes it hard to fit in culturally at most modern workplaces. I probably would have been fine 20+ years ago. I am the type of employee who comes to work early, works hard, tries my best to be the best, doesn’t like down time (detest it, actually), will accept extra work and will do very little complaining to higher-ups. I don’t spend time talking or dilly-dallying, and I won’t treat or talk to supervisors and managers as if we’re on the same level or try to be friends with them (except one time when it was invited). At work, I am focused on two things–doing my job and doing it well. I am very serious and very no-nonsense. Because of this, my ideal work environment is a very formal work environment.

I am finding that formal work environments are disappearing, though, especially in careers that aren’t super professional. I have worked one post-graduate job where my personality type was valued, and that place was run by non-Americans. I think Americans now believe that having less formal work environments is more employee-friendly, and that’s probably true for most Americans. But I also think it places an undue amount of importance on cultural fit, sometimes to the point of sacrificing having employees who are either really good or really want to be good vs having ones that just…well, fit in.

That’s one issue. There’s another one, two or five, really, though. Let me explain.

My last job and my new job are very nearly night-and-day different from each other, culturally. My last job’s work environment almost entirely consisted of black people. There was good and bad in this, to me, as someone who is black. Think of Detroit, Michigan. Think of the negative stereotypes people have about Detroit and people from Detroit. Okay, where I live is very much like those stereotypes and consists of a lot of people who fit those stereotypes. These are the people with whom I worked. I’m black, but if I had to pick which “type” of black person I more so resembled in personality/behavior–the Detroit stereotype or the Obamas–I’d unhappily have to go with the Obamas (because I think the Obamas are out-of-touch dorks). So, no, I didn’t fit in at work. It wasn’t just personality, but also education and socioeconomic class.

I also couldn’t help but notice that, though almost everyone was black at work and the city my job was in is majority black, almost everyone who had an important position at this place was white and male. I encountered a few people who, upon my telling them that the people who run that place have no idea what they’re doing, automatically assumed these were black people (because, you know, only black people have no idea what they’re doing when they run businesses…sarcasm, for those of you who are slow). No, dears–this business was being run into the ground by white men.

So, I escape to this new job. Everyone is white. Everyone.¬†Aside from the training provided, the business is run very well. People know their jobs in and out, and they do their jobs well. They are not rude. Most of them are very friendly. I was kind of surprised they hired me due to the more shallow side of “cultural fit,” i.e. race and sex. But now that I work there, I am¬†really¬†surprised they hired me and almost actually think maybe they shouldn’t have. At the very least, I wonder what they were thinking about when they discussed my candidacy.

In the previous two posts, I have mentioned a little bit about socializing at my job. One key thing I mentioned is about how my boss appears to me to have some concern over the fact that I am not speaking to others and they are not speaking to me when she is in our area. The guys and I do talk to each other several times throughout the day. We do not communicate as much as they talk to each other. As I wrote, I am fine with this. I also indicated in my last post that I am especially quiet on Fridays, when my boss always wanders into our area several times, because I really don’t want to be at work and can’t wait for the weekend.

But let me be blatantly honest about the main reason why my co-workers and I don’t communicate as much as they do with each other.

I am a black female. They are, for the most part, a bunch of white guys. What are we going to talk about?

I realize that a lot of people out there like to act as if they believe people are people and we’re all the same. But I have predominantly grown up in white environments and…no, no, not really the same. Sorry. There are, for lack of a more accurate word, cultural differences between whites and blacks…especially depending on the race/sex mix of the people involved. I think the guys are great as human beings, and I am grateful that they have been so helpful to me so far and friendly.¬†But–and they have said this about themselves directly to methey…are…DORKS.¬†And I do not know how to say this without being offensive, but…most white guys I’ve encountered just are. Ultimately, it’s a matter of different strokes, different folks. Most white guys just like things most black women don’t, most white guys just like to discuss things most black women don’t, and most white guys think things are funny that most black women don’t. There will definitely be some things in common–I can speak with some of the guys there about football until the cows come home–but there will likely be even more things that aren’t in common between most white men and most black women. Sorry if you don’t agree or understand how this can be.

The funny thing is I think the guys with whom I work get this on some level–particularly as far as my being a woman and their being men. Because even white men and white women differ in terms of what’s funny and types of discussions and such, which is probably why the white female tech geek in my area hardly speaks, too. My boss maybe doesn’t get it, and she’s a white female. But the guys and I have an understanding, basically, that when they start talking about dumb stuff I will just ignore them and tune them out. I told them that I do this. They think that’s a great idea. They talk about dumb stuff, in my opinion, 90% of the time. That means 90% of the time, we’re not going to communicate with each other. I’m new–I’m not going to come in and demand that people who have been working there act differently, especially when I’m pretty fine with everything anyway. But I’m not going to pretend they are interesting or funny to me, either.

People at my new job talk an excessive amount about drinking and getting drunk. I went to predominantly white universities, and white students did this, as well. I can count on one hand the number of blacks I’ve met my entire life who have talked about drinking the way white people seem to. And all of them were black guys, and I think pretty much all of them were black guys who mainly hung around non-blacks. I’m not saying there aren’t “regular” black people who love to drink, just that I don’t know any (except my screwed-up brother-in-law, whom I’d really rather not know). I will drink beer every now and then, and I know blacks who drink every now and then. But good grief, we do not sit and talk every…single…day about drinking. So, I cannot contribute to–or, really, even tolerate too much–these incessant conversations. And I’m not saying all white people talk excessively and incessantly about alcohol–that’s not my point.

So, this brings me back to the issue of whether or not I should have been hired due to a lack of cultural fit. Well, all I have to say about that is, to me, the legal field–and probably usually the information technology field, as well–treats women and minorities as if THEY are the problem by not hiring them as much as they hire white men based on “fit.” As long as cultural fit is a factor, it’s pretty much always going to be used against minorities and oftentimes will also be used against even white women. To me, it should not be a matter of “fit” but a matter of who can do the job the best–every time.

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