Big Error, Manager Said “Wa Wa Wa”!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about errors due to lack of training.

I work in a warehouse filling customer orders. It is a very fast pace job and there is a deadline for getting the days orders out the door that evening. There is a high turnover rate of temporary workers. It is a simple job and new temps are given only a few minutes of training before they are turned loose to pick products to fill orders. The problem is that the managers who do the training have only been on the job for a short time themselves. They skip over important details that make the operation run smoothly. For instance; they don’t tell new people that they are required to pack the orders neatly instead of just “dumping” products haphazardly into the boxes.

Someone else, usually me, has to waste time repacking the boxes when it could have been done right in the first place. Products also get damaged. Safe guards to prevent errors are also grazed over and treated as unimportant by the trainers. The numerous errors cause additional work and tension as we approach the deadline and it falls to the few longer-term employees to correct them. The temp workers disregard our attempts to educate them on the correct way to do things and a few have become down right nasty at being “told what to do” by someone whose not the boss.Recently, when the one manager overheard me politely showing a new worker a simple way we use avoid a common but potentially overwhelming error, the manager said “wa wa wa”, to me right in front of him.

That worker has since refused to follow any of the protocols that make the job easier on everyone.I got along great with the new managers at first and they seemed to have a lot of respect for my work ethic, but now this lack of concern for the way employees are trained has put a strain on how I feel about them. I feel used because of the additional work I have to do because they refuse to properly train new employees and require them to follow the established procedures. The higher up boss has been too busy to make an appearance lately, but I know he wouldn’t be happy to see the chaos that has been happening lately.

Signed, Overwhelmed By Errors

Dear Overwhelmed By Errors:

How frustrating the situation must be for you and others! This is a time when several of you need to band together to correct problems–and you need to get those at the higher levels involved as well. Consider some of the following:

1. List the most frequent errors and the negative impact they have on work. List what should be done instead. Perhaps this list could be a compilation of ideas from several of the senior employees. You will need that at some point anyway–and it will be good for you to have a mental picture of your major concerns. The list should be easily understood by those without your expertise and perspective, but should show clearly what needs corrected.

2. Who in your organization would be most likely to care about the issues you mention? Your managers should–but it appears they don’t. Do any of them seem to realize the need for better training? Is there an organizational training function, apart from your job? Is it possible they might like to be involved in some way? Perhaps someone from training or HR would help you and others prepare an easy-to-read fact sheet of basic training tips to give to temps. You say the higher manager would care–as well he should. Is it possible to send him your list–going through the organizational chain–and ask for some additional training for temps? This request would not have to include anything negative about the managers, simply a request for training that could help the company maximize resources. Is there any other group that would have a feeling of interest in how packages are shipped and if there is sometimes damage due to poor packing? Is there a way to let those people know of your concerns? You can bet there are many who want packing and shipping to work more smoothly–and who want products to be sent out without damage.

3. Have there been times when the current situation has cost the company money or time? That should be in your list–but should also be included in a letter about why the matter is important. Or, if you have a chance to talk to someone, it should be among the first things you mention. The financial bottom-line often gets more attention than anything else. If you can show the current situation is not in the best interests of the company, someone will want to know. Are there any issues about this that would have a potential impact on legal issues or lawsuits of any kind? That would also be something to mention.

4. Do you have an employee association or union? If so, they could perhaps represent you in getting your concerns known about and acted on. They also could address the issue of the manager who made fun of you in front of a temp employee. That was very rude, wasn’t it? Hopefully that was a one-time, unusually bad decision on his part. If it happens often, it would be something additionally to speak to HR about. Human resources–and that’s what all employees are–are not easy to replace if they are good employees. Being an experienced worker gives you some status–even though you may not think of it in that way. If you are someone who contributes to work in a positive way, you can bet that is known and your concerns wouldn’t be ignored. If you can get others to work with you about this, it will have even more impact.

5. When you see a problem with packing, could you call a manager over to show him what you mean? This would especially be useful if the error was something that the employee had no way of knowing better about. It seems the managers aren’t aware of how much of a problem there is–and they need to be shown.

6. When you express your concerns, have some ideas in mind for improving things. The fact sheet would be one way to make it easier for managers to provide the needed information. Or, perhaps you and others could volunteer to provide the training, since you know what needs to be taught. Apparently it isn’t terribly time consuming and might be a welcome break. One thing is for sure–you’re spending valuable time re-doing things anyway! So, the first action is to let managers know how serious the problems are–and that it’s not just a personal preference on your part. Let someone higher up become aware of concerns as well. Look for resources in your organization that would care about how things are packed. Volunteer to help make things better—either by helping to produce a fact sheet or to be a trainer. I realize that it is not easy–especially as a line employee-to try to get things up the chain of responsibility. But, seriously, don’t overlook the influence a senior employee has. I hope these thoughts trigger some thinking of your own and that you’re able to find a way to make things better. If you have the time and care to do so, let us know what develops. Thinking and acting as you would if you owned the place is what we call WEGO.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.