Saturday, December 20, 2008

A tale of two companies

I work for two very different companies in two very similar fields. I took a 2nd job last August because I'm sick and tired of being broke, and I want Meg and I to be in the best possible financial position when the time comes to sign on our house in 2011. I was very picky about where I would work; I didn't want to just take some meaningless retail or manual labor job where I'd be forced to work with people I didn't care about for people who didn't care about me.

I stumbled upon a local company (Let's call them Prime Rib from here on) that serves intellectually disabled adults and had open positions that fit my already tight schedule while offering the relevant experience and job satisfaction that I was looking for. I was hired quickly, and have been working there for a little over three months now with few complaints. PR was recently named to that "Best places to work in PA" list, and I can personally attest to the validity of its' nomination.

My other employer (Chopped Liver, to protect the innocent-me) used to be a good place to work too. But for a litany of reasons, mostly mistakes made on every level in the company's relentless quest to be the end-all/be-all in treatment for behaviorally disordered kids across the country (and make all the bigwigs boatloads of $$$ in the process), it isn't such a great place to work anymore. A few of the gory details:

-Vacations rolled back "to better reflect industry standards" in late '07. Resulted in me personally losing 5 Vacation days this year, and 10 days next year through whenever I finally decide to leave. Cost to me (rough estimate): $560 in '08 and $1120 in '09 & beyond. Not to mention that precious "mental health" time away from the extreme stress of the job that vacation time provides is lost as well. Because I have three weddings next year, of which I am in two (and I work every weekend), I will be left with no choice but to use nearly my entire allotment of hard-earned vacation time to cover wedding-related activities in '09. My first day off next year outside of my normal Sunday/Monday rotation won't come until July 10th.

-Overtime eliminated in mid-'08; all OT must now have "administrative approval," which means that it isn't going to be approved unless there is no other feasible way to cover things. Notorious OT abusers go unpunished; instead everyone loses.

-"Census-driven staffing," meaning that units are staffed at minimum levels per the ratio specified in governmental regulations. No extra staff on hand to assist with crisis (or any other abnormal) situations. By the way, overnight ratio is 16:1; can you handle 16 rowdy (on their best day) teenagers alone?

-Many open positions eliminated; some excellent staff laid off or offered positions @ substantial pay cuts, which coincidentally hurts their ability to collect unemployment as well.

-'09 budget approved with pay cuts for every employee (more on this later).

-Most employee appreciation and similar activities eliminated or held only on employee time @ employee expense.

-"Personal belongings in the workplace" policy enacted in reaction to a client overdose on staff medication; now all employee belongings, from wallets to cell phones to laptops, etc must be locked up. While the situation that sparked this policy was a horrible tragedy and the policy makes a lot of sense when the kids are awake, what about the wee hours of the morning when staff are dying for something to occupy themselves as the kids are sleeping? If not amended, I won't be able to bring my laptop to complete schoolwork anymore once I go back to KU, unless I want to violate the rules. What's next, if a staff reading a book fails to notice a client doing something inappropriate, are they going to ban books too? Once again everyone suffers the consequences of a few bad/inept apples.

-Absentee supervisors/managers continue to collect hefty paychecks for time they haven't put in. Perhaps they'd be held accountable, if their own managers & supervisors were ever around themselves.

-Countless wonderful staff lost to frustration and better opportunities elsewhere. Those left behind wondering whey they shouldn't do the same.

Now, I am certainly not perfect. But I really feel that the problems facing CL are less a result of a failing economy or a shift in referral practices by the agencies that fill our beds, and more a result of years of mismanagement, negligence and greed on the part of those at the top of the chain of command. In this way, the problems at CL are very reflective of the problems facing our entire nation; decades of corporate greed have poisoned our economy, and now we're all paying the price.

Our new CEO, who is a bank guy, is trying everything he can to keep the ship afloat, and I applaud his efforts-I am particularly impressed by the pay cut that only minimally impacts frontline employees, who will lose less than $200 over the course of the year...pennies, really, while the bigwigs will lose up to 10% of their bloated yearly bounties-but I feel like I'm scrambling up the stern of the Titanic as it pitched up out of the sea just before its' inevitable plunge to the bottom. Will I be sucked under with it?

PR has had its' problems too. The house I work in was cited for a serious safety violation during a recent inspection, and it took a mammoth effort to remedy the situation. The difference is, PR not only aggressively treated the problem right away, it continually includes staff input in its' decision-making, because the staff who actually do the work of the company are valuable to those on the executive level. There is no Grand Canyon-sized disconnect like the one between the executive fantasy and frontline reality @ CL.

CL would do well to take a page out of PR's book. Treat your employees well, and they'll be more inclined to take bullets for you. Act like they should feel lucky to have a job, and run the risk that they actually will find another one somewhere else.

What am I going to do? Stay tuned...


1 comment:

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