Toxic Environment for Vet

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a supervisor who shows up half the time he clocks in and management that allows that.

I have worked for this company for just over a year now and I have been through two Managers. My immediate supervisor and I are the only two in the maintenance crew and he takes full advantage of my work ethic.

Last year roughly 1500 work orders were put into the system, of which I completed 1100. My supervisor consistently comes into work one hour late, takes a two hour lunch and leaves an hour early. He gets paid hourly and clocks out online from his home computer.

The last manager was the same way he was and the new one is still getting his feet wet and didn’t notice. My supervisor lives on site which makes it quite easy for him to stroll down when called upon.

After nine months I became fed up and logged in a schedule when he came and went. He was present for 48 of 80 hours in a two week pay period that I annotated.

It may sound like I’m making this stuff up, but also this man actually had a dealer drop marijuana off to him at our workshop, where he promptly said, “I’m outta here, call me if you need me.”

I have brought this all up to my manager and regional manager. There was no drug test, there was no staff meeting, and he continues to act as he did in the past. His work performance dropped dramatically and the answer to that per the manager, was for me to inspect his work when he is finished…..yet he is my supervisor!

I recently started audio recording my entire days when he is present. Aside from his poor work ethic the only thing he is passionate about is workplace politics, where he pits office staff against one another to keep eyes off of him.

I can’t just pick up and leave, I have applied to many jobs without success and I have to take care of my family.

I’m mentally drained and physically wore out. What I have explained to you, my manager and regional manager have heard in better detail and documentation and audio recordings as well. I don’t know what to do anymore and unemployment is looking better every day.

I’m a 6 year Marine Corps vet and I never thought the civilian sector would be this bad.

Signed: Vet Disappointed in the Civilian Sector


Dear Vet Disappointed in the Civilian Sector:

You have good reason to be disappointed in your present job. I can’t tell from your question if you have recently left the military, but I’m sure whatever unit you were in, it couldn’t have been managed as poorly. From what you say, you have documented and reported the gross irresponsibility of your immediate supervisor and have been told to monitor him. This has resulted in no improvement. You have seen little to no effort by management to correct him.You label your work environment as toxic. What you describe, however, is failure of a supervisor to be on the job. You don’t say he is verbally abusive; rather you describe him as evading responsibility and cheating on his time. Might the fact that he “lives on site” mean he is on call for maintenance work and therefore has been allowed to clock in as he pleases? Did management explain that when you reported “He was present for 48 of 80 hours in a two week pay period”?

Did you confront this supervisor about the load of maintenance being left to you? Did you tell him you were going to those above to discuss his failure to split the maintenance responsibility? Surely if you did not and even if you did your boss-bossed relationship must have gotten worse. Does he know management told you to “to inspect his work when he is finished”? Do you guys talk? How are assignments made? What do you say to each other or do orders come down from above or from various others and you each work solo? What is the culture of your workplace? Is it one of blame and absent of pleas and thank you? Are you and others cussing each other about jobs not yet done and there is no joshing or schmoozing? Although you have painted a sorry picture of your supervisor and failure of management to correct him, from here it is impossible to know from what you have said what it’s like to walk in your shoes not knowing what kind of interaction you have day to day.

What is clear to me is that you feel mentally and physically burned out and would change jobs if you could find something elsewhere. I would like to say, “You came to the right place. We have a quick fix. We know how to change a toxic work environment.” The truth, you intuitively know, is that after all you have assertively done to confront your superiors about what is far from right, there is little that anyone can do from a distance to detox your workplace.

Admitting this, not knowing the nature and size of your workplace, here are several overlapping suggestions for your consideration:

1.     Suppose you were the owner of this workplace, spell out what you think should be done to make it productive—spell it out in writing. Be specific about what cutting waste: wasted or stolen supplies, wasted time (you’ve already started with that), wasted energy due to duplication and the system, wasted ordered due to defects, etc.

2.     Log what you have accomplished and what you are assigned. Put it in writing too. Be up front about the load you have been carrying and how it is beyond reason because your two-man maintenance team is not a team—when one of you doesn’t carry his load. Be frank about how you have reported this and little has been corrected. Don’t be shy about stating you feel worn out and discouraged.

3.     Again speak with your manager and formally in writing request an investigation. Ask that it be done soon and that what you have reported if found to be correct, will be brought to the proper authority upward in your workplace chain of command. The squeaky wheel gets the grease is not my favorite maxim, but talk coupled with written data when firmly delivered can grease the skids. Talk about talk can correct what is not right if there is enough of it. Apparently more than an oral channel that you supplemented with your recording is good, but more is needed. A formal investigation will entail interviews, documentation, and written plus oral review of findings at a higher level. Straight talk might result in hiring additional workers to           maintenance, replacing your supervisor and/or transferring you. Requesting a transfer for one in a plant-wide maintenance is difficult, but possibly there are non-maintenance jobs that you can do. Since you don’t have another job in the wings, don’t resign before you have an offer in writing.

4. Call cheating what it is. Why it is allowed is more of a problem. By that I mean medicine for a toxic work environment is not just firing someone and hiring a replacement in a poorly managed operation. If someone were stealing money, rules would be put in place to have money kept under lock that like a bank safety box cannot be opened with just one key and   person present and checks signed by more than one. When a supervisor cheats on time with no check on it, he is stealing money and management is to blame. A new policy is called for to prevent that. Acquaint yourself with what is going on in healthy workplaces—There are some employee-friendly workplaces. Have you read about Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle? Or Zappos’ culture is spelled out in; the first four of the
“ten core values that we live by:

1.     Deliver WOW Through Service

2.     Embrace and Drive Change

3.     Create Fun and A Little Weirdness

4.     Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded

5.     Work is work, but work can be made lighter if you can join with at least one coworker in creating ways to make it both more fun and meaningful. You mention the hundreds of orders you completed, but no where do you describe anything about the value of what your organization does.

6.     Get a healthy life outside of this toxic environment while still working in it. I don’t know what makes you feel rested and refreshed, but you need that now. Rather than take the hassles of your day home, find ways to make your family-life joyful. It so easy to play and replay like a broken record all that is wrong. Can you find things you want to do once you are outside that workplace that are important to you and others? You may feel so physically drained that all you want to do is shower and go to sleep watching television, but there is more to life than that. It might not be dancing with the stars, but it could be tutoring a youngster after school or someone learning English or play chess. Or visiting a shut in. Or playing or coaching a basketball team. Or hiking with your companion or kids. You might find additional advice and inspiration by reading some of our Q&As of Associate Workplace Doctor Tina Lewis Rowe. Also in visiting her own site.

How Tina Can Assist You and Your Organization – Tina Lewis Rowe

*How Tina Can Assist You and Your … and presentations for your organization,  …

Does any of this make sense? I hope you can understand how my signature sentence applies to your toxic environment: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. In complex situations, usually more is going on than an outsider can know, but if you can make the time to update us on what you do, we will appreciate that even if nothing works until you vote with your feet.

William Gorden