The River's Badge

Friday, June 1, 2012

My "Career" ~ Part 6 ~ "Who Do You Think You Are?"


The IKFI unit was an outcast.

We weren't "Claims", after all.  But we shared the same floor as Claims, albeit with our own entrance that no one from the Claims Department deigned to use, because, after all, that would taint them.

There is an inherent snobbery that exists in any office.  A pecking order.  "We're better than....(insert department name here)."

We weren't "smart" like Claims.  We did data entry.  Some of the Claims supervisors even stopped by from time to time to let me know what my division was doing wrong, since they, naturally, were the end users.  I didn't have a problem with that; I did have a problem with the way the feedback was conveyed.  The condescension.

So, even though I had been a top Claims supervisor before my promotion, I was no longer part of the clique.

So, IKFI just went its own way.

We kept growing, and growing rapidly.  We had to take over more office footage, because we were running out of room to seat everyone.  We still had that mix of permanent employees and temps, but by this point, it was understood that a temp position was an audition, really, for permanent placement.  A top performer was guaranteed the opportunity to be hired by the company, and that word had gotten around.

Our first Halloween rolled around, and we, naturally, were delighted to participate in the festivities.

You see, at our office, a tradition had been born back in the first year of our existence.  I don't know exactly how it started, but I do know that I was part of its inception.

We dressed up, as a unit, generally, in some type of theme.  That sounds innocuous enough, but what began as a simple dress-up contest with silly prizes, quickly snowballed into an all-out competition.  Quickly, after that, it was not good enough to simply dress up.  A group had to put on a "skit" of some sort; really wow the crowd...and especially the judges.

Oh, it became cutthroat.  

It started like this:

And progressed to this:



And on and on.

Since the IKFI people were considered morons and imbeciles, we decided to do a "Hee Haw" theme.  It was wonderful.  We had a lady dressed up as Minnie Pearl, with the price tag hanging from her flowered hat.  We had all manner of rubes, especially me; we had a woman in her flannel nightgown and nightcap, ironing at her ironing board.  We even had a cow.

 That's me in my "cap".

My mentor, Carlene, and me (I looked lovely!)

Oh, we were all lovely hayseeds. 

Unfortunately, we were encroaching, it seems, upon a time-honored tradition; and when we won grand prize, well, that just capped it.

It was not our fault that the Claims units were lame.  They were timid.  We were not.  We had no reputation to uphold.  We didn't care.

As time passed, and things started to snowball, I was given the green light to hire additional supervisors.  We split into three units!  And then we hired a second shift!  Two more supervisors!  All total, by the end, we had over 150 people in IKFI.....from three to one hundred and fifty.  In about a year and a half.

The girl who was to become my "main supervisor", Laurel, had started out as an examiner in one of my Claims units.  We found that we shared the same birthday, so that became a natural bond, a starting point for our relationship.  When the opportunity arose to hire another supervisor, Laurel applied, and I took her immediately.  Laurel was one of those people whom you feel like you've known all your life, even if you've only known her for a minute.  She had that special touch. 

Laurel became situated in a glass-walled supervisor cubicle halfway across the room from me.  We could look out and wave to each other, but other communication required direct face-to-face interaction, or a phone call.

By this time, Phil had been "uploaded" to a more responsible position in Fresno, California, proving that it's not what you know; it's who you know.  His replacement was Brenda, who'd been moved upstairs from the Customer Service Department.  Brenda, in essence, shared manager responsibilities with the lovely (to herself) blonde-haired Linda, who was persnickety and decorum-obsessed.  Both Linda and Brenda elevated their secretary, Lisa, to the highest level on the office pedestal.  Lisa was, for all intents and purposes, third in line of ascension to the Acme throne; well above us mere supervisors. 

Some supervisors dealt with that insult by cultivating Lisa's friendship.  Laurel and I, on the other hand, dealt with it by being snarky at every turn.

One day, Brenda sent out a loving email to all the supervisors, informing us that Lisa had been blessed with additional responsibilities.  The email told of how indespensable Lisa was; what a vital wheel of the organization she had proven to be.

TIP:  If you are going to make snarky remarks about an email sent by, ostensibly your boss, be sure to hit "forward", and not "reply".

I don't remember exactly what I said, but it wasn't nice.  My intention was to forward my comments to Laurel, across the way; but I, as you have gathered by now, hit "reply" instead.

You know that moment?  When you realize you just made a giant faux pas?  And it's already been done, and now what the hell are you going to do?  Well, I did that.  One second after I "replied" with my remarks, it hit me that I had screwed up, badly.

Damn.  Here I go again.  Another apology, and I knew I had to give it in person.  Downtrodden, I willed my legs to propel themselves forward, onward to Brenda's office.  I blindly, instinctively, found a chair to plop my ass in, and proceeded to praise Lisa to the heavens.  I mumbled something about how I was "just kidding around", and how I was profusely sorry for my indescretion, and that, trust me, it would never happen again.

Brenda was, to her credit, pretty nice about it.  She kind of waved me off; said, don't worry about it.  She was most likely as uncomfortable, there, in her office, having this conversation, as I was. 

But, as my luck would go, this didn't end there.  Just a few short months later, my number one supervisor, Laurel, committed the exact same sin as I had.  Another glowing email; another snarky comment; another "reply", rather than "forward". 

Laurel was cool about it, though.  She blithely trudged into Brenda's office (I bet Brenda was getting weary of this drill by now), spilled out her requistite apology, and, as icing on the cake, said, "I guess I pulled a 'Shelly'". 

Thanks, pal!  Now I was famous infamous.  Any stupid, assinine mistake would henceforth be referred to as, "pulling a 'Shelly'". 

Even though Laurel blatantly threw me under the bus, I couldn't not stay friends with her.

Plus, I guess, one way to look at it was, we were in this thing together.  We made the same mistakes, we made the same right decisions.  We were a natural team.

And thus, IKFI continued to do things that annoyed the heck out of everyone.

Overtime was a way of life at our company.  If there was ever a stretch when overtime was not mandatory, people began to quake.  They started wondering what was wrong.  Thankfully, for most, those periods only ever happened for a week or two, and then things returned to "normal".  Frankly, the staff had begun to depend on their overtime pay, and they were adrift without it.

On Saturdays, we, like everyone else, had OT.  But we did things a bit differently in our department.  We had a (remote!) manager who gave us a budget to buy prizes, so the supes would go out shopping and buy as many nice things as we could with the dollars we were given.

Then, on Saturday, every half hour or so, we would draw a name out of the hat (literally, a hat), and blow some god-awful sounding horn, and bestow a prize upon some lucky individual, and of course, have our picture taken with the winner; all of us supes wearing our very special hats.........Yes, it was "hat day".


 Tracy on "Hat Day"

I can say without hesitation that we had fun.  And yet, we never shirked our work.  We posted great stats; both quality and production.  I believe it was because our people liked their jobs.

Who else had Elvis show up for my supe, Peg's, birthday?  Nobody, of course.  And, if anyone had even thought of it, would they think to corral an actual employee to play Elvis?  No.  They would have hired one of those impersonators.  And that would have stripped the occasion of all the fun (thanks, Rob!)



 Elvis (Rob) and Peg

And on Peg's next birthday, who would have thought to have President Clinton stop by?  Nobody.  And who would have written a very special speech for the President to deliver to Peg?  Nobody.  (Thanks, Rob, again, for portraying the President!)

 President Clinton (Rob) and Secret Service Agent, Laurel

Shortly after the "hat days", the baton was passed, back there in Philly, to a new manager; a new overseer of the IKFI Department.

A new, young up-and-comer.  Out to prove himself, with our division as the catalyst.

His name was Peter.


To be continued.......... 

My "Career" ~ Part 7 ~ Another New Boss?

My "Career" ~ Part  8 ~ "Everything's Great!"

My "Career" ~ Part 9 ~ A Cold Wind

My "Career" ~ Part 10 ~  Thank You ~ Goodbye

My "Career" ~ Part 11 ~ Breaking the News 

My "Career" ~ Part 12 ~ Loose Ends 

My "Career" ~ Epilogue


Previous Chapters:

My "Career" ~ Part 5 ~ Welcome to the I-Land

My "Career" ~ Part 4 ~ Phil

My "Career" ~ Part 3 ~ Karma

My "Career" ~ Part 2 ~ Evil Bosses

My "Career" ~ Chapter 1









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