While working in a book bindery as a summer job, I came across a manager who broke one of the 101 Biggest Mistakes Managers Make. The rule broken was: showing favoritism not based on performance.
This bindery, worked in a factory like setting, and hired most people for minimum wage. The salary offered attracted a range of people from students, to housewives, and foreign speaking Americans. I accepted the position for minimum wage, and was happy to be busy for the summer months. What I was not happy with was the favoritism that ran rampant throughout the bindery.
My manager began showing signs of favoritism in very small ways, but as the summer wore on, the signs of favoritism began growing and growing. It seemed that this particular bindery hired relatives, friends and anyone who knew anyone. Obviously, this can be an asset as well as a negative. In my case, it was a definite negative. My manager had several relatives and friends working there that were her obvious favorites. Since I was not related and had known her previously, I began to notice a pattern of more difficult jobs going to me, and the easier jobs going to those that she knew or liked better than me.
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When I brought this to her attention I was told that there was no favoritism going on and was making something out of nothing. As this pattern continued, other workers began to take notice and become irritated. They were reluctant to confront her due to the fact that they knew I had, and not only received no satisfaction, it seemed that I was no even more unpopular.
The jobs that came my way now were ugly. The books were extremely heavy to pack, messy to inspect and often scattered throughout the bindery so I had to go find them. I noticed my workload and noticed the workload of the favorite ones was much, much different. Theirs consisted of paperback books, that needed little to no inspecting and were light to pack and always on the same cart in the same place.
I finally was able to convince a few people to come forward so that the issue could be resolved. Unfortunately they did not receive satisfaction either. In fact, they were labeled troublemakers and their workload drastically changed for the worse very quickly.
At this point, I felt personally responsible for their unhappiness and difficulty at work so I decided to take the next step. As professionally as I could be, I spoke to Human Resources about the situation. I was assured that it would be addressed with the person immediately and I would not find any further unfairness. I was sure that this was the end. Work would return to normal and the workload would be evenly distributed again soon.
What I did not expect was further unfairness. This manager now truly detested me and her actions were completely obvious. Now my jobs were piling up and all nightmare jobs. My coworkers that had come forward now seemed to be getting a break. All their bad jobs were coming my way instead. I knew that this had gone from a professional disagreement to a personal one. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to stand up for myself but feared future retaliation.
This was just supposed to be an easy summer job. I wasn’t sure if it was worth all the headaches. Still, I knew what I had to do. I made an appointment with the Vice President to discuss the matter. He boasted of an open door policy and this time I was positive that it would be handled once and for all. My coworkers were nervous for me and still upset about what had transpired between them and her. They were not interested in coming forward with me, and I didn’t blame them. This was supposed to fun.
Nevertheless to support me, they began taking frequent breaks, working slower, coming in late and caring less and less about the condition of the books that were being sent out. I have to admit, although not intentional, my attitude had gotten worse which directly resulted in less care with the books. Work in this part of the bindery was grinding to a slow halt. Our division was getting further and further behind but nothing was done. We were just instructed to work harder and faster.
My meeting with the Vice President went well and the days after that went along much smoother. Unfortunately by the time this meeting took place, the summer was almost over and we were still weeks behind in production.
I left that summer wondering how this had happened at all. It was a simple issue I had thought. I had expected maturity and professionalism. I didn’t know that people like this, with this type of mentality existed in upper management. I learned that this type of person exists on all levels and what was a simple issue that could have been resolved in five minutes, dragged on for almost three months and resulted in hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars being lost or wasted.
During my meeting with the Vice President I explained how simple this issue really was and the only reason it had gotten to him was because it had not been handled in the first place. I let him know that employees need a person they can go to when issues arise.
I suggested a non-bias person that could listen and act appropriately. Having to go through the chain of command is a good way to start but when the problem isn’t resolved there has to be someone available, without the busy schedule of the Vice President. The whole situation was an eye opener and taught me not only how to stand up for myself professionally but how to make suggestions that may help a company avoid these mistakes in the future.
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