Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Managing Fires

Never have I been made more aware of what managers really do on a daily basis than I was today at work.  The next time some one asks me what I do for a living, I'm going to answer "I put out fires."  Some days I'm very overpaid to do very little and other days I'm very underpaid to be responsible for way too much.  Today, I was very underpaid.  Every week I make a production schedule of what pretzels we make on which day and how much.  Then I put people in place to bake and pack them.  Today, the item I needed wouldn't run right on the line, so we gave up and tried to move to another item.  There were several problems with this.  I only have a certain number of days this week to get everything done to ship on Friday.  My schedule is very tight.  No wiggle room or room for errors.  I can't lose the shift, so I suggested we switch something from later in the week on to today's schedule.  Then I'm told we don't have the ingredients to make that item until Friday which is when it is scheduled.  Wow we're running that close on shipments of ingredients??  Crazy!  Fine, I picked a different item that we did have ingredients for to make.  That item needed 5 hours to run it.  I only had 2 hours left on the shift. I asked some of them to stay late, and they agreed.  I have to run the rest of that item tomorrow before I change another item onto tomorrow's schedule and shorten that run.  Every day this week is changed around.  I'm making things together that are difficult to run together and running short to get exactly what I need with no extra for stock.  This is poor efficiency on the line, but when the fires crop up, I have to put them out.  I spend a lot of my time this way.
I know some of you will think that if I just plan better then this wouldn't happen.  You tell me how I can plan for an equipment breakdown or an employee call off or ingredients that ran fine yesterday that just won't do it today.  As I see it, this is the life of a manger.

Complaining Employees

I have an employee who seems to be unhappy no matter what accommodations I try to make for him.  He is on third shift most of the time.  He can't work second shift and gets first shift one week a month.  He was given his normal rotation and agreed to work under that schedule about a year ago.  Since that time, all the others who work that position on all other shifts also do a similar schedule.  They also have to switch out of their normal schedule occasionally to cover for another's vacation or a special product that we make.
He continuously complains that his is second most senior and should not be stuck on third shift but rather should get first shift.  He is also quick to ask for a raise or try to point out some way in which we are purposely trying to short change him.
I have been doing the scheduling for almost 2 years now, and none of my other guys give me even a quarter of the whining that this one does.  They don't complain about their pay either.
What do I do with this employee?  What he wants to be "happy" is not correct according to my statement of fair which is in writing.  Also, if he agreed to the terms of the job, do I have more of an obligation to try to make him happy or just hold him to his agreement?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Employee Interrelations

I have recently been faced with having to deal with a couple of employees who feel it is their responsibility to tattle on every other employee.  They seem to think that it is their job to watch over everyone and keep them in line.  They also seem to feel that they are accomplishing their jobs in a perfect fashion that is worthy of much higher status than they are receiving.  They expect that when they point out how others are not adequately accomplishing their jobs, we as managers should immediately leap on their suggestions.
I have become quite defensive of my team members.  I am the office manager.  My employees all have computers and access to the internet.  None of them take real breaks.  They tend to take their lunches at their desks while using that time to surf the web.  I have no problem with this.  I also jump on to look things up occasionally.  None of my employees abuse their access.  The complainers also have access to the internet.  They seem to have no problem spending large amounts of time checking their e-mail or facebook page, but are very quick to point out someone else doing the same thing.  Generally, I offer my office staff to help out in this other department if they need assistance.  My staff are more than happy to help out.  I really take offense to this other department complaining about my staff.  I also have a big problem with them complaining that they need extra help and can't keep up with their work, but don't want help from my staff since they aren't viewed as positive employees.
I've worked to make sure that my department is pleasant and willing to help wherever they are needed.  They have their own work to accomplish, but manage to have time to help towards the bigger picture.  It's difficult to see employees in another department being judgmental to the point of detriment to the company.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Employees and employers interpret their actions differently.  As a manager, I hire employees to accomplish certain jobs.  If they serve their purpose and are no longer necessary in the position they hold, then they can be let go at that point.  From the employees viewpoint, they are being used and then tossed aside.  My argument as a manager is that the employee was hired for a purpose and paid to do the job.  I don't feel that there is anything wrong with this circumstance.  As an employee, if this happened to me, then I move on to a new job.  I probably  would not view this job or employer in a positive light, but why is that?  I was paid to do the job that I was asked to do.  I don't view this as using an employee since they received payment for this.  Also, suppose that the employee was given a specific lay off date 2 months from now.  Is that inappropriate or a nice gesture to give them plenty of notice and time to possibly line up another job?  I understand that in this economy, no one wants to find out that their job is being eliminated, but I don't really understand why that employee might feel used or treated unfairly.
Along that same line of thinking, should a more senior employee have the right to bump another employee out of their job?  I will visit this more in the future as I put some more thought into it.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Glass Ceiling Abstract

The glass ceiling has been a subject of concern for women in the workforce.  Questions arise as to how to overcome or break through the glass ceiling in order to achieve the higher positions in management that women have not attained.  Over the last sixty years, there has been much attention given to different forms of discrimination including gender discrimination.  Because of this attention, corporations have worked to regulate some of the discrimination out of their businesses.  
There are aspects of discrimination that cannot be regulated away.  Instead of playing the victim, women need to approach their careers from a positive standpoint and make the changes they can make to further their careers.  Women need to see that some of the problems holding them back from achieving the higher level management positions are the decisions they make for themselves.  Women have traditionally held the care giver roll in their personal lives.  This care giver roll has affected how women make decisions about their work lives and how management view women in the workplace.  This is one of many aspects that women are in control of when thinking about their careers.  This paper attempts to show how many factors and decisions that women make on their own actually hold them back from achieving the highest management positions.  Women should no longer place the blame on others but should look to their own life decisions to affect their future.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Greatness of a small company

Working for a small company can be the best job you'll ever have!  I've worked for huge companies like Hershey and now I work for a small family owned company.  I loved both jobs for different reasons.  For now, I'll share why I love working for a small company.  I was hired as the office manager.  There were 2 other girls that worked for me in the office.  We accomplished all office tasks necessary for our company, hr, ar/ap, accounting functions, payroll, and customer service.  I was hired over the other top choice for my position because I had interest in getting out of the office and helping elsewhere in the plant.  I have learned how to run our store from cashier to shipping.  I have learned how to run the packing room (at least the basics of how we pack and how to manage the personnel that we have on any shift).  I have been given the basics of how to bake (could fill in for a few hours, but nothing like what the real bakers can do).  Most recently, I've really been working on my warehouse skills.  I've been picking orders for several months now, but officially on Friday drove a forklift onto a truck (a little scary to drop onto the back of a trailer).  Each day brings new challenges and new excitement.  I know personally each employee that works for our company.  I can stop and chat about their family or what happened over the weekend with any one of our people.  This is a huge advantage over a large corporation.  We all have to work together to get the job done.  In the end our team effort is to get the best pretzels out to our customers. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with working for a big company, but if you ever have the opportunity to work in a small company, take it and treat it like it's your own company.  You might really like it!

Demotion Dilemma

So here is my current dilemma, since I know you all want to hear about my every problem every week.  I work with a supervisor (let's call him Ed) who was an equal to me when I was hired.  About 2 years ago, he was demoted.  1/2 of his job was given to me and the other half was given to another supervisor who is also an equal with me.  This has gone on this way for about 2 years now.  Ed was very gracious and took his time to teach me how to do the part of his job that came to me.
Within the past 4 months, I have noticed that the problems Ed was having with his job (and why he was demoted) are happening to me as well.  As for the other supervisor who is doing the other half of Ed's job, same issues there.
Here's the dilemma.  How do I deal with the fact that Ed was demoted based on continued errors in his job, yet both the other supervisor and I have the same problems Ed had?  At this point, I only have myself to worry about in this situation; however, I know that the general manager will be on me soon about the other supervisor not doing his part of the job adequately.  In another year, this all becomes my problem.  I have no idea how to fix it.  This is my first problem.
The second part of the problem is dealing with the other employees who know and love Ed.  They (including me) saw his demotion process happen.  They know pieces of what really went on behind the scenes.  They know a little from Ed's point of view (although, Ed is a stellar employee and took the demotion as any of us would, yet really did no harm to the company through it all).  Now, I am being questioned by the other employees as to why Ed got demoted for these problems and nothing is happening to me or the other supervisor.
From an employee morale point of view, and a management point of view, do you all have any suggestions of how to deal with this appropriately?