Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"Last Day At Work... Again"

((This blog is first in a four-part series "Attitude Problem"))

Oh my, where to begin? How about a brief recap: Back in April, my company had a round of layoffs. My job wasn't cut, but because of the union rules, someone else who was laid off was able to take my job even though she had no experience doing it. Flash forward a couple months, and this person takes another job, leaving my old position vacant. The company called me and asked me to come back and do my old job again (as a temp) because they had no one to do it. I agreed. A few weeks into my being back, they hired for my position and hired someone else--and once again, it was someone who had more seniority than me yet didn't know anything about how to do my job.

((Why, yes, this is something that could drive a man to drink. Not this man, though...))

However, due to a glitch in the matrix, they weren't able to put the new person into my job right away and so kept me in the position until such time as the issue had been resolved. So I kept working, not having the faintest clue how much longer I would be working, and knowing full well that at any moment things could be magically worked out and my services would no longer be required. My bosses did talk about keeping me around long enough to train my replacement, though. Isn't that nice of them?

As I kept on working, a situation ultimately came up where my superiors tried to assign me to a task that wasn't part of my job. It was something they knew I wouldn't want to do, and something they hadn't cleared me for as part of their agreement with my temp agency. It's possible they just hadn't expected me to be around this long. And it's possible they knew that if they'd tried to make my doing this task a condition of my coming back, that I wouldn't have come back to begin with. When the time came for me to do this task, they gave me no prior warning or notification; I came in to work one day and discovered I had simply been assigned to it. And the notice had come not in person, not by any official email, but by a phone call left on my voicemail.

This task was something I had done in the past, that I had complained to my superiors about each time, and loudly enough that they'd learned it wasn't really worth the headache to have me do it except on the most rare of occasions. It's an extremely menial task, something that is a poor use of me as a resource, and their assigning me to do it always gave me the impression (along with other more subtle indicators) that they didn't see me or the work I do as valuable.

When I was assigned to do it this time, I had an out. It wasn't work I'd been contracted to do; it actually would have been illegal for me to do it. Those are more technicalities than anything, though. The rigorously honest truth is that it was something I didn't want to do. Actually, no, here's the rigorously honest truth: oh HELL no, you are NOT making me do THAT shit.

After hearing the voicemail, I went to see my superiors. I let them know that I was pretty sure they couldn't assign me to do this task. I reminded them that I'm a skilled worker, and that I had my own job that needed doing. They looked at me with blank faces. Empty eyes stared back and I've no idea whether they were thinking to themselves "aha! Now we've got him!" Or "the robot is speaking? It's not supposed to do that..."

I stood my ground. Then I contacted my temp agency to let them know the situation. A flurry of communications went back and forth between my superiors, the temp folks, and our company's human resources department. The culmination of all these was a closed-door meeting between my superiors and myself. They let me know I was right, that they couldn't force me to do this task. Then they informed me they were going to hire a temp who they could force to do it and gave me the 'opportunity' to be that temp. They're such nice guys! I told them 'no, thank you.'

I got a call from my temp agency the next day. My contact asked about the meeting. Then she asked if they had given me a last date for my assignment here. I told her that they hadn't and that I was very surprised by this, given the nature of the conversation. She said, "well, they told me." And she let me know when it was--today is that day. It's less than a week later.


  1. Wow, unbelievable! I suppose I shouldn't be that surprised because companies seem to think these days that the down economy will be enough to scare employees (even temps) into doing whatever they're asked to just to keep their job. Kudos to you for standing up for yourself and not taking the crap. Although I'm truly saddened that you've become unemployed again, I'm so proud of the way you stood your ground and kept your self respect. I'm not sure what company you worked for or even what your job was but it's no doubt, they're loss. - Jen

  2. Z- All I can say is they are NOT your "superiors"!

  3. I'm quite disgusted by this situation. However, I'm sure that you'll rise above this and do meaningful things in your life. There are better opportunities out there and I'm sure you'll find them. You're definitely bigger than this small minded group of people.

  4. Well at least you still have the temp agency and you've probably gotten some brownie points for standing up to the old employers. Wishing the best for you!

  5. Z-All that counts is that you can look yourself in the mirror and know that you did what was right! Unfortunately, those that be cannot. I feel for you but will look forward to hearing from you....Peace!