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Excerpts from the Diary of an Operator Featured

Narratives have often been put to good use in order to illustrate potentially complex situations, and interpersonal tensions, but they have been used in only sparingly within the business environment. There is somehow the belief that stories cannot be used to drive home points with the same effectiveness that a well-referenced article can. In the above, without any claim for pretentiousness, one can see a review of concepts such as the psychological contract, individual perceptions in the selection and appraisal context, as well as dynamics relating to ingratiation, team work and collaboration. A single mis-step (perceived unfairness in a promotion situation), leads to a plethora of tensions, and eventually a productive and ambitious employee transitions out into a black sheep who has to be terminated from his role. This can be possibly compared to loose snow on a mountain, which is triggered into an avalanche through small mechanical action. Very often, the challenge in the business world is to recognise the initial attrition, and have the ability to address this, rather than having to manage all the complex consequences of the aftermath.

My job search continues unabated. I have now been called in for an interview at Vector Manufacturing, for a position of operator. I am not too keen on the job as I do not want to work evening shifts, but, if I do get the job, at least it will allow me to earn some money while I look for something better. The person calling in from the company sounded nice, so I will wait and see what comes out of this.

Three job interviews to get the operator role. At least I was selected and made it through. In the interviewing process I got to meet the Human Resources Manager and two Operations Managers; I assume that the first Operations Manager did not like me as HR said that they had selected someone else for that role. I was thinking of not going to the third meeting as it was getting long winded but after all I am happy that I did, as I got the job.

The HR Manager had nice words to pass on at the end of the meeting when offering the job. He mentioned that if I put my mind to it, I can go in for a career and not just for a job and he rambled on about someone who had started off working as an operator, but had then managed to become Vice President for Training within the group, and was now working in Switzerland. Not something that I would want to do (work from Switzerland) but the idea of getting promoted sounds nice to me, especially if it means moving on from the minimum wage salary that I was offered.

My first month of work has been interesting. On the first day I was joined by another person, Joe, and we are receiving training on the machines and systems together. He comes across as a lazy chump, and he always seems to be thinking about ways to get more by doing less. Despite this, an approach which I do not condone, he is agreeable, and I enjoy spending time in break with him as he has a peculiar sense of humour.

Today he did not show up at work and reported sick - he told me that he would do this yesterday as he had received the newest version of Call of Duty and wanted to spend time playing online. I wonder whether the company doctor will actually certify him sick ...

Christmas shutdown is coming up, and the break from the routine work is something that I am definitely looking forward to. I am happy as the manager gave me and Joe praise for having reached the production targets for two weeks in a row and he says that this augurs well for our progress within the company. Maybe there is a light at the end of it all, and something to look forward to and aim for.

The more experienced workers have also managed to get me excited about a special Christmas bonus - they mentioned that company tradition involves having employees receive a special bonus alongside a hamper with goodies. I am also looking forward to our company’s gala party.

So the Christmas bonus was a fluke, and a trick played on new employees each year. I did fall for it myself, but now will be looking forward to start playing the trick myself on the newcomers.
Joe at times makes me feel angry as he seems to work and try to impress only when the manager is around. Yesterday, he decided to spend a full 30 minutes in the bathroom playing around with a mobile app - he also got to brag about his highscore with the others in the team. However, when the manager came along he was quick to show how he had managed to repair a machine which had broken down, without the need to call the technician. What he failed to do, was actually point out that I had shown him how to go about doing it.

Work falling into a tedious routine - I feel that I can do so much more if only given the opportunity to do so.

17TH MARCH 2013
At last a breakthrough. One of the machine setters, Philip, has decided to move on from the company and this means that there will be an open position as soon as he moves on. We have been forwarded an internal call for applications and I feel that this position would be perfect for me. I have the right qualifications, experience and I have shown the right attitude in work - if I do land the role it will mean that I will no longer be expected to work evening shifts.

I have compiled the application with a lot of care, going into some detail on my studies and presenting my ambitions. As per application policy, I will be having an interview with the manager and with HR so fingers crossed about this!

17TH APRIL 2013
Saying that I am disappointed is an understatement.
As expected, I was called in for the interview, and I was able to answer all the technical questions well enough. At the end, they started asking me about my ambitions, my hobbies (the HR Manager supports Liverpool while I support Manchester United) and my commitment to the company; I cruised comfortably through the answers.

At the end of the whole process, the promotion decision was affixed on the company notice board, and I found out that I placed second from a group of five applicants, and that the promotion had been awarded to Joe. I cannot believe it, and I cannot see anything work-related in which he has done a better job than I did, outside ingratiating the manager in a conscious and deliberate manner. Did I miss out on the role because of the football team that I support? I cannot believe that as from tomorrow I will be reporting to Joe.

The only positive side to the story is that at least I have been confirmed through my probationary period.

17TH MAY 2013
Rumours have started going round that Vector Manufacturing has lost one of its most important clients, and that if new business does not come in, we run the risk of going through collective redundancies. We received an email on the company intranet from the Managing Director (an Estonian guy, who I have never seen), saying that our operation in Malta was not at risk, but to be honest, the fact that the issue was brought up gave me the impression that something is amiss.

Earlier, Joe came out of a Supervisors meeting pale faced and seemingly tense, but when we asked him what happened he only stuttered that there was nothing wrong and that we should be focusing on our job.

17TH JUNE 2013
Joe is doing nothing but strutting his plumes. Since having taken over his new role, he is doing nothing but reporting colleagues to management whenever he sees an infraction, when up to a couple of days ago he was the one doing these things himself.
I will try to find the right opportunity to speak to him about this and the disrespect he is showing to the others in the team.
17TH JULY 2013
Maybe speaking to Joe was not a good idea. Yesterday, I told him that the team was very disappointed with his approach and that everyone thought that he had forgotten very quickly what it actually means to work in the assembly line. He said that he was simply doing his job and that he was only acting in the interest of the company. The discussion got heated and we ended up throwing at each other some rough words.

I left away steaming, only to see Joe show up with the Operations Manager a couple of minutes later. I was called in a meeting room where I was told that what I had done was insubordination and that I would be given a written warning and that at the end of the day I was lucky not to have been dismissed on the spot.
When I spoke with the others about this afterwards they were incredulous.
17TH AUGUST 2013
Another written warning, this time for coming in two minutes late. I am wondering whether the company is doing this to get rid of me.
Today I walked in early to work, punching in about 10 minutes before the start of the shift. I made my way to my machine and got down to work in what I like to call brainless mode. After about 15 minutes Joe came over to my work station and he started clearing the area from some cardboard boxes and grumbling about how disorganised I was and how disinterested I had looked in the 5S training. He went on doing this for a couple of minutes, raising his voice gradually over time, to make the point that he wanted me to overhear him.
I dredged on through my work, ignoring his provocations. At this point he picked up a largish piece of cardboard and threw it on my line - the machine glitched because of this and in a matter of seconds, the inbuilt alarm system went on and I had the Operations Manager, the on-duty Health and Safety officer, and two technicians join Joe and his poisoned look.

Questions started flying and I looked around seeking eye contact of the other operators working in the room, but they all seemed focused and intent on their own activities. No space for mercy, no opportunity for camaraderie - safeguarding their own jobs seemed to be their priority.

From here, the remainder was a formality. Company procedure was followed as I was suspended from work, given an opportunity for a ‘fair’ hearing, before being given a third and final formal warning and shown the way out of the organisation. A couple of minutes ago, I logged onto the company’s website and clicked on the section ‘Company Values’; the rhetoric there stated, “Vector Electronics firmly beliefs that its greatest asset is its workforce”. A pity that there was no space to leave feedback and comments.

Last modified onMonday, 03 March 2014 08:17
Calvin Cassar

Calvin Cassar is currently employed as Human Resources Manager at FTIAS, part of FTI GmbH, a multi-national company operating in the tourism industry. He holds particular interest and expertise in recruitment, assessment and quantitative analyses having gained exposure in these through academic as well as work experiences.

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