Tag Archives: rants

What Did You Like Least About Your Job?


This is what my former employer, Amazon, asked me. This was my response, and is solely my opinion on the events that have happened over the past 6 months. **WARNING** some strong language.

Over the past six years, the leadership approach has changed significantly. The company is currently in a state where in leadership, it’s acceptable to be an asshole to your employees, even when that means being demoralizing, demotivating and condescending. I’m worth more than that, and it’s not something that I will accept. The company doesn’t pay me nearly enough to put up with it. This all started back in June, right after Ms. X became my manager. During our first 1:1, she asked me about the length of the eLearning courses we developed, and when I said that our target was for none of them to be longer than 20 minutes, she had a full-body reaction on the scale of Kramer from Seinfeld. My interpretation of her body language was that I just received a full-body eye roll, which implied that the work I had done was sub-par. I withheld comment at that time so that I wouldn’t speak from emotion. I scheduled a follow-up meeting with her to discuss my concerns with her communication and that with her being new to the team, I wasn’t certain how everyone would react (I specifically mentioned X employee, who later left the company because of these issues). Ms. X advised that she had an agreement with her last team that when she did these things, they were to speak up and ask what she really meant. My first thought on that was that if her previous team had to have this agreement, and it’s still going on, what does that say about this leadership approach? Immediately after this meeting, I began having tingling sensation all over, tunnel vision and felt like I was going to lose consciousness. Through drinking water and deep breathing, I was able to make it over to urgent care who sent me to the ER because of the possibility of a heart attack. The ER doctor concluded that I had had a severe panic attack, but noted that my blood sugar was higher than it should be. In my follow up with my PCP, we learned that I’m diabetic. I struggled after the diagnosis to get my blood sugar under control. At the time, the other ID had left the company and I was fulfilling the job of two IDs. Not long, we got a request to develop training for another team. Ms. X wanted us to provide data, facts as to why we couldn’t take this work on right now. In my e-mail message to her, I stated what I was working on for two people (since the other ID left), how long it would take me to complete, and what it would take to complete this new work. I followed this up with the following: “Additionally, what these facts/data do not capture is the human factor. I have a few medical conditions that are negatively impacted by stress, including one condition that is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008. I cannot take on additional work stress without escalating the current negative impact on my health. I have an appointment with my doctor tomorrow (7/1/2014) to discuss next steps.”

Ms. X’s response to this shocked me: “I appreciate your note. Is there some other role that gives you a sense that it will be easier to maneuver.

The instructional design work will increase… it can be really fun work. The Sr. ID will be tasked with allocating the roadmap for both internal and external facing assets. From the company’s point of view the business comes first, as the idea is people/leaders look after themselves and manage change.” Emphasis added by me.

I was totally shocked that, one, a company people manager would respond in this way when someone identifies themselves as having a disability, and two, that the people manager would be ignorant enough to write it down in e-mail. Really, how would people react that speaking on the company’s behalf, a manager responded to a person with a disability with “From the company’s point of view, the business comes first.” I read this as “If you have a disability, manage it, deal with it and do your job or leave.”

It really felt like a betrayal by the company that I had come to love over the past 12 years. Even HR recognized how bad it was because the HR Business Partner apologized to me when discussing this issue. I actually only discussed the matter with HR because Ms. X went to them advising that I needed “special consideration” in my job. The days that followed that e-mail and the time Ms. X went to HR on me, it was a constant barrage of suggesting that I needed some kind of alternate arrangements (I never requested such), a different job, maybe work part time, etc. I was mentally beaten down with this to where I felt like I was no longer trusted to be able to do my job. I regularly cried at my desk (as witnessed by colleagues) and began having regular panic attacks (the severe kind where I almost lost consciousness – this happened one time when I was on I-5). I made an excuse at one point to work from home for a week because I could not drive toward the office without starting to panic and feeling like I was going to vomit. During this time I didn’t even leave my apartment for that week because I couldn’t even manage the thought of being around other people. I met with my PCP and discussed these things, to which she said she was shocked because she had never seen me like that. Because of my condition, she referred me to both a psychologist and a psychiatrist. I was put on anti-anxiety/anti-depression medication, including Xanax. I was able to come back into the office, but I would regularly have to take Xanax to be in meetings with my boss just so the way she communicated didn’t make me feel worse than I already did.

Even with all of this, things did not approve. I had one more face-to-face talk with Ms. X where I expressed concerns over what she thought about me, because her e-mail communication came off as so condescending, it made me think that she didn’t have a very high opinion of me. Again, she said that she wasn’t going to change, and she would write e-mails to me the same way she would to the new ID. I pointed out that her leadership training with adaptive coaching and adjusting your leadership style to your employees’ personalities – I told her that it seemed that she expected the rest of us to adjust when she’s not willing to do the same, although it’s what she teaches. She didn’t agree with me and pretty much ended the conversation.

It was okay for a while, then on October 17th I received another e-mail where Ms. X had jumped to conclusions and felt the need to e-mail me about the proper process, including our contractor on the e-mail, when if she would have sought to understand the situation, she would have known that I did everything that she had assumed that I hadn’t. It hit a brick wall – it was never going to end. I called my husband crying and begged him, “Can I quit today? Please say I can quit today?” After seeing how I had been, he agreed that continuing on with this company just wasn’t worth it. That day I met with HR and explained things. I had a box with me and advised that my intention was to pack up my desk then and leave. She asked me to give her the weekend and she would discuss the issue with my boss’s boss (she had documentation of all the issues I had with Ms. X). She said she would follow up with me on Monday, October 20th.

When I got the e-mail from HR on that Monday, she advised that after looking over everything, it was determined that Ms. X had not broken company policy. That was even more concern for me. I knew then, without a doubt, that the leadership style at the company had changed. We no longer cared about being customer centric for internal customers. As stated previously, the current leadership style is that it’s okay to be an asshole to your employees. I can’t accept that. Right after responding to that e-mail, I walked into Ms. X’s office and gave notice.

During this time (in June), I began getting insight from an investigator with the Seattle Human Relations Commission. When I told her about the work environment and the impact to my health, her initial response was, “J.B., this company has broken you.”

NOT ANYMORE

The Decision


Help message written in blood

When I put in my notice on October 20, 2014, it was actually something that was a few months in the planning…sorta.

The company I work for changed sometime within the past four to six years. I have some ideas on why it changed, and I’ll explore those in another post. For now, I’ll just say that I was growing increasingly uncomfortable with the direction we were headed, particularly in regards to the working atmosphere.

In May, my husband and I began discussing plans to relocate to Chicago. Being in Chicago would put us closer to my family and his sister’s family. We even set a timeline – once our daughter finished her first year of school in June 2015, we would move.

Then things at work got astronomically worse. The bad environment that I had observed in other parts of the company came to rest directly on my shoulders in the form of a new boss. It was not just an issue of having a bad boss, it was an issue of having the worst employee interactions I have ever had in my entire professional career, both with this company and other companies – and I used to work for Wal-Mart, which is known for treating employees badly.

Although we had planned for me to leave the company next year, my experiences over the past six months, my interactions with one person in particular, are what influenced me to make the decision to leave right now, at this point in time.

For those who know me personally, I have never left a job without having stable employment waiting for me at the end. This time it was different. After reading a particular e-mail, I walked into my boss’s office and gave notice. I couldn’t wait until I found other employment – it wasn’t about ending a job, it was about saving myself. My doctors have even documented improvement in my conditions since I gave notice, further proof that quitting without a “plan” is sometimes the healthiest way you can take care of yourself.

I don’t regret the decision one bit.

A Glimpse into My Hell


red+devil+crystal+ball

October 17, 2014 was the last straw. It was the last time I received a communication that was condescending, seeking to “remind me” or “educate” me on how to do my job. Something I’ve known very well for twelve years.

This was just the latest example of what I had been struggling with for almost six months. I ended up crying uncontrollably, from anger and defeat, talking to my husband on the phone, desperately saying, “Please, can I quit today? I want to quit today. Can I? I can’t take this anymore. I’m better than this.”

Great prices! What about the workers?


When a company grows, it’s usually a good thing. However, there is the real possibility of too much of a good thing being bad.

I’ve seen people run companies like a Wall Street portfolio. Diversification is key. When you diversify, you’re not investing all of your money in one thing…one thing that could ultimately fail. Creating different sides of the business, and even acquiring subsidiaries, not only ensures that you will strengthen your main business, but you will also have reach into many other businesses as well. You can do this by breaking off parts of the company under different names, and as long as you don’t focus too much on one side of the business, you don’t risk the hackles of anti-trust lawsuits.

Add to this an intense focus on retail growth by worshipping your customer base, and you have the recipe for building an empire.

But to what human cost?

When you live in a consumer culture, investing in customers is a no-brainer. It’s simple when the average individual has been socialized from birth that buying random products that in no way fit any real world need, all in the name of proclaiming a socially constructed status that says, “Hey! Look at me! I’m cool, and important, because I have all of this STUFF.” Well, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that loyal customers will continue to pay to buy their fictional happiness and the fat-cats at the top will continue to get fatter.

How are customers impacted? Well, they have it good for a while. With a focus on low prices, customers can buy even MORE of what they don’t really need. But think of this, as the company grows, becomes better at its various business interests, what will this do to the market in the long run? What a lot of people don’t realize is that the tendency of capitalism is toward monopoly. You may ask, how so? Think of completely free, open market competition – no holds barred. In any competition there are winners and there are losers. Our government has recognized this, and this is why we have anti-monopoly laws. But even when it doesn’t come down to just “one company,” the consumer choice will become fewer and fewer.

So what of the company that has diversified its business? Surely it couldn’t corner the market in every side of its business dealings. However, when one side of the business does well, that spendable income can be used to boost the competitiveness of other businesses. And when all of the businesses focus on having the lowest prices…well, we’ve already talked about the tendency of capitalism and competition. 

All of this culminates in one company being able to corner multiple markets. As a reasonable people, what do we think will happen when said company controls market share and the competition either folds or just cannot keep up anymore? Quite simply, once a business controls the market, they can then control the price of products with little regard to having the lowest price because they have the only price 

Even if prices do not go up because the business wants to maintain consumer loyalty, how can the business continue to remain relevant, particularly if new competitors come on the scene? There are multiple ways that companies cut costs, mainly by controlling overhead. What is one way to control said overhead? Workers. Either by outsourcing the work to cheaper labor or by underpaying the non-union workers that are currently employed. A very easy way to do this is if the workers actually BELIEVE in the cause, so much so that the idea of lower pay or perceived mistreatment does not even enter the collective mind. Corporate enculturation. Enslaving the masses is easy to do when they’re willing to be enslaved, or better yet they don’t even recognize they’re being exploited.

When thinking about big companies that do things such as this, one very simple thing to do is follow the money and ask who benefits. Do consumers benefit? Absolutely. Do the shareholders benefit? Sure. Upper echelons of the corporate structure? Without a doubt. What about the workers? All the way from the front line to upper management (below VP level). If long-time employees struggle to take care of their own families and are urged to be “happy” with minimal increases (if any), is it really worth it? Even more so, what about the conscientious consumer? When thinking customers learn how workers are expected to overwork themselves, put the company before family, manage any illnesses that come about because “customers” come first and be content with this mission when annual take-home income actually decreases…aren’t those the seeds for boycotts? You would think that someone in PR is thinking about these things…and of course directing the company to provide a few more crumbs so that the working masses do not revolt. 

When health care and mental health professionals speak of seeing trends with a particular company in that multiple employees are patients because of stress and anxiety-related illnesses, surely there is something more that needs to be investigated.

As consumers…as employees…as decent individuals, we need to start asking these questions. And for the love of all that is holy, if you find yourself in a situation like this, and there’s no union…start educating yourself quickly. Remember, if it’s bad in “good times,” just think of the outcome when times are rough. It won’t be the company’s elite that has to lower their living standards…it will be the workers.

Other posts by J.B.? Why yes, thank you!


If you’re interested in reading some of my opinion pieces – which cover more controversial topics – head on over the J.B. Stilwell HubPage!

My Hubs will feature such topics as race, gender, LGBT, crime and other social issues. So if you’re as passionate about these topics as I am, whichever side of the political spectrum you lean, head over to HubPages. Lots of great writers covering lots of great topics. And who knows, maybe YOU’LL catch the writing bug.

Fang on!

The Upside of US Airways


Now that I have cathartically cleansed myself of the main negativity of the experience (writing is good for cleansing), I want to talk about the positives. And I mean more than having some interesting character inspiration for future novels.

Just as my good friend Raymie White pointed out, “we should try to take time to send notes on really good customer service people too.” I actually did take the time to do this, but I admit that I could have done much better.

It’s all on me – I failed in the respect that I didn’t make the extra effort to get the names of the people who demonstrated just how good at their jobs they really are. I provided as much identifying information as I could to US Airways so they could be commended for their commitment to performance quality. Because of this entire experience, I’m going to commit myself in getting the names of those extraordinary people who not only take pride in their jobs, but who also interact with the public in such a way that they are the foundation for building brand loyalty.

Again, I apologize that I don’t have their names, but much heartfelt thanks go out to the following individuals:

The female flight attendant on the flight from Seattle to Charlotte, NC on September 4, 2013. She was not only gracious, but she made my daughter smile, which actually meant more to me than just about anything.

The younger male counter clerk at HTS on September 20, 2013. I know his job with interacting with me was made difficult by the interruptions, but he remained calmed and poised and never once said anything out of the way. Others could most certainly learn from his excellent behavior.

The flight attendant on the flight from HTS to CLT on September 20, 2013. She was not only efficient and polite with her normal duties, but she showed urgency layered with good manner when addressing a passenger she thought was smoking. He wasn’t – he attempted to puff on an electronic cigarette, which is also not allowed. Through the whole episode, she maintained a good, but firm demeanor. Even in the face of confrontation, she handled herself professionally. She is truly to be commended.

The female gate agent at gate B4 in Charlotte for the last US Airways direct flight to Seattle. After the debacle with the special assistance I was supposed to receive, I was in an extreme amount of back pain. She not only showed concern and sympathy, but she even checked on me after I boarded to make sure I was okay. I don’t know her name, but I will never forget her.

The male flight attendant on the CLT to SEA flight on September 20, 2013. He also made it a point to check on me to see if I needed anything and showed concern when he saw me crying. He didn’t have to, but showed the type of humanity and concern for others that is a step beyond the normal expectations for a service position.

Looking back on the experience, I’m saddened that I didn’t get these people’s names. They deserve that much, and I feel like I have disrespected them for not doing so. That was never my intention, and I genuinely hope that US Airways follows through on recognizing them for being the outstanding examples that they are.

Bravo to all of you. You all were truly a refreshing reminder that it’s the individuals that make the impact, not the company.

US Airways Saga Continued


Again, instead of writing about the situation more, I present you with the last e-mail I sent to US Airways customer relations.

Readers, I urge all of us to be more diligent with our interactions with companies. Don’t pay for bad service – if you’re going to spend your hard-earned money, demand the best…or at least demand to be treated with decency and respect.

Also, it’s a good idea to research companies before you give them your money – a lesson I have learned. If you look at customer satisfaction data such as that  from J.D. Power and Associates, you’ll learn that customer service is something that US Airways is not exactly known for in their business.

Text of e-mail:

We finally made it home on the flight the next day, September 20, 2013, but not without further aggravation. 

This Jimenez person – who identified himself as a so-called manager – was there to make matters worse. I know that his explanation will be that I was rude to him on the evening of the 19th. I admit, I did become indignant with him AFTER he was ill-mannered enough to interrupt me when I was talking. 
 
When my daughter and I arrived at the HTS airport on the 20th, I became concerned because I saw that the flight was delayed by 20 minutes again. I was especially concerned about this because it was the same situation as the day before and Jimenez had advised me that we would be better off staying in Huntington because we would likely get stuck in Charlotte because it was the last available flight to Seattle. I began talking to the counter agent that had checked us in, a young gentleman who was very polite and had assisted us with courtesy and grace. Jimenez was standing beside him. As I was expressing my concerns to the agent, Jimenez felt the need to interject himself into the conversation. I told him bluntly that he was rude to me the day before, therefore I wasn’t talking to him. All I wanted was assurance from the gate agent that although we were facing the same circumstances AGAIN, we wouldn’t have the same fate as before. The agent advised me that the computer screen showed that the flight would arrive just 2 minutes later than scheduled. I did not understand this on how a flight could be 20 minutes delayed, but still arrive pretty much on time. The only thing I could think was that maybe the weather pattern was different and the winds were more favorable in speeding up the trip. The agent couldn’t even get that far in any explanation because although I told Jimenez I was done talking with him, he continued to interrupt and force himself into the conversation only aggravating the situation even further. His display of contempt and rudeness was highlighted by a condescending attitude, and once I got fed up and started to walk away, he offered the solution of canceling the ticket and refunding my money. 
 
The nerve! This is really how your so-called managers treat people? How US Airways allows someone like this to interact with the public is an absolute marvel to me. For any of the other issues we’ve had to deal with on this trip, he was the absolute worst and made everything else look perfect in comparison. The fact that someone so callous and impolite is a manager at HTS indicates either a serious lack in training or a seriously low standard in hiring practices. He is not only an embarrassment in his inability to de-escalate upset customers, he’s a poor example to the employees who work for him. Instead of handling the situation and making it better, he actually escalated it and made it worse. I urge you for the sake of other customers who may have bad experiences to require him to go through remediation training to learn soft skills. When someone is upset, the last thing you should do is raise that emotion to anger. That is the basics of customer service. Not only that, it’s the foundation of decency when interacting with others, something that Jimenez showed that he is seriously lacking.
 
Lastly, the icing on the cake in this situation was the fact that on the 19th, Jimenez had tried to assure me that these delays don’t happen very often. THAT’S when I became indignant because my personal and professional travels through HTS have shown me differently. He just kept repeating that same phrase again and again although I had told him that what he was saying didn’t mean anything to me, and I didn’t want to hear it. Well, it’s obvious that he doesn’t listen because he just kept on aggravating the situation. Then what ultimately happened? The very next day the exact same delay happened with the exact same flight (US Airways 4236 from HTS to CLT). So much for it not happening very often.
 
My daughter and I were able to finally make it home on the 20th. We did arrive at CLT only 2 minutes later than scheduled, just like the counter agent said, but was unable to further elaborate on because of Jimenez’s interruptions. Unfortunately this outcome still makes me suspicious – we were able to make it when the known circumstances were the same as the day before, yet Jimenez had suggested that we stay another night in Huntington and rebook. Why did we get stuck another night? Was there another factor that no one could seem to explain, or does this alleged manager not really know what he’s talking about and only further inconvenienced us with no real reason? I will probably never know. At this point, I’m fine with never knowing. 
 
The totality of this experience has strengthened my resolve to never fly with US Airways again. If this is the service I pay for when traveling with US Airways, it’s totally not worth it. I can be treated badly for less money – actually, with Delta, I get cheaper rates and better service, making your offering completely superfluous. 
 
I will also continue to discuss this experience with friends, family and on social media. Further, given the grave indignity of this individual, a physical copy of this complaint is being mailed to US Airways corporate headquarters.