• (cs) in reply to PoorContractorAtInternetGiant

    SOP everywhere I've been. If management didn't think of it first OR somehow couldn't claim it as their's, then you may as well not do it.

  • AnonCoward (unregistered)

    This article is a classic example of bad management meeting bad leadership.

    The branch manager had not been able to increase productivity by himself and found himself in an awkward position after he found out a new guy was doing his job for him. Fear of losing his job to the new guy if his boss found out lead him to demoralise the staff further.

    In a nutshell, the manager not only didn't do his job, he hindered the companys performance. Classic example bad leadership and the dilbertisation trend today.

  • Christian R. (unregistered)

    This story is my original submission, slightly altered to protect the guilty. I just came across it, after completely forgetting about ever writing it all those years back. Tells you something about the job I have now (which also has a submission done already). So I could just not keep myself from raising this from the dead :)

    First, this was all in Europe, not America. Then no ISO played a role in this.

    A bit more background: I worked at one of the satellite branches of the retailer. Most of our orders were online. But there is where the magic begins. You see the main branch ran the webserver. It was some ancient ugly script (which is still the same to this day) that takes your order, saves it to a log file and then sends an email to the branch that it was order for pickup in. So if the user selected the branch I worked in, my boss gets an email, for every single order. First thing in the morning he had to login to his machine, print out a stack of mails, and then keep remembering to check for new orders, print them and bring them to the sales guys who entered them, when not servicing customers.

    Now what if someone ordered between the end of the day yesterday and the morning and stood at the door when we opened? They got their stuff, left and we entered their order anyways because the person entering them did not know that it was already picked up.

    So we needed to be able to do this faster. The problem was how to get the data into our POS thing we used. And yes you can use both ways of interpret that one. Our stations were all in Windows NT4 at that time. The application was DOS based.

    If a new price update came during the day, or something else important that needed to change base data on the system, every copy of it running in our branch had t be closed or it would corrupt the data and it would have to run again. Of course you would only see after waiting the 5 minutes it took to do the update if it was corrupt.

    So first I suggested why can't they, when they make an automatic update every morning, already push the data for the orders directly into our local storage server, instead of doing the roundabout way. I was smiled at and told I would not understand this thing. In the next 15 minutes I custom built a rugged PC that would go around the world, through ice and deserts for an extreme vacationing guy, and gave a government agency a half million worth of hardware in an estimate, which they had originally thought would run them in the ten millions. Both were very thankful and even wrote letters to my boss and his boss about it, citing my large knowledge in these things.

    So I couldn't even get an answer who was responsible for it at the main branch and asking at the branch directly didn't really give me any clues either. What it did show me though is that nobody wanted to go near it and thought it a good idea not to pry more into it.

    Ok, so all I have is those emails at that point. The one tool I was most fluent with, was PHP at that time and so I looked at it from a simple point of view. Just get the email, parse it and then do something with it. I considered using some macro program that would enter the strings needed, but that would have made it overly complicated and need installation and so on. So instead, I looked at what I had. The mails were printed anyways, for record keeping, so why not enhance it and then use the scanners, ready available everywhere on each single workstation, to get the strings in it that way? Still wooden table, but at least we could get an order done in under a minute and not 5 - 10 depending on the size of it.

    Next was to simply check if I could even do it. So I made a script that created a bar code. One of the things we had to do often was write "OK 1X". the reason for that is that every single item expected a serial number. So for items that had none, we entered OK then the number of items sold and and the X as indicator that was that many times. Mostly it was single items, so "OK 1X" was the most typed thing. Therefore I made the script capable of accepting strings and the first one was OK 1X. I printed the bar code, and taped it over the numlock/capslock/scrollock lights area in the top right of the keyboard. So now when I scanned one of those items, I swung the scanner from the bar code of the item (still on, as it reacted to motion) to the OK 1X code and I could take care of the next item, without having to put down my scanner.

    I tested it for all of 3 items, then showed it to my boss of the branch. He was sceptical but told me to demonstrate. He watched me serve two customers and nodded in aprooval that this was much more streamlined and would cut down on the scanners being dumped on the table all the time, prolonging their life and making the time the customer had to wait to get his stuff and pay shorter. A few prints later, each workstation was equiped with those printouts. So if you go shopping in Europe, and the store you are in ends in "PC", have a look at their keyboard. You might discover my sticker is in use to this date.

    I let it rest for a week at that. I made certain that my coworkers would express how it was much slicker this way to our boss. With him properly primed, I decided to ask him to forward me a few of the emails he got every morning of the orders, outlining what I had in mind. He had no problem with it whatsoever, I mean I could just have copied the rintouts to take the data or sent myself the entire application home from my workstation any ways, so there was no concern about data security in that regard.

    Armed with a total of ten emails, I worked at home to parse them, convert them, and spit them back out in almost the same way, with added images for the barcodes. I tested it at work and I was able to enter all ten orders (sans opening the customer record) in less time than it took one of my collegues to enter a 3 item order sitting beside me. Now to make it even slicker, I ran it on my dedicated server and created a special email address. All you had to do was forward your email to that adress, it would parse the order, create the mail, and reply with the result to the sender. This worked out great and my boss used it for almost two weeks without a hitch. I suggested using some small decrepit machine that must be somewhere in the great big mass of hardware we had accumulated in our branch alone, to setup a server for the company that would do the job internally and not on my own server anymore, so it was secure and all the companies thing. He said he would talk to the higher ups once we had used it for a month or so, then it would be easier to convince them.

    The problem was that a guy who works at the main branch was in our branch once in a while. When he didn't do odd jobs, he was entering the orders at the main branch. Yes, they too got emails, printed them and entered them into the dinosaur application. Problem was, they had all the mailorder business as well, and often that meant dozens of items per order, making some orders a matter of half an hour or even an hour to fullfill one order. So I just gave him the emailaddress and he was able to foward the mails from his workstation at the mainbranch and get it back to his place there again, without me adding a line of code. That proved to me, it could work for ANY branch.

    This is where the excrement hit the air accelerator.

    The bullpit where the 30 or so people worked that entered orders and took phones at the same time were, was pretty much where everyone had to pass through all the time. This guys desk was the one in the front most part because he was coming and going often to do his various tasks. Of course he had a small stack of orders laying around all the time, and suddenly the look of them changed. That was noticed by none other than the VP of the company, the guy that was working with the softwre developers to make the new version (which I think was in development hell for about 3 years at that point in time and STILL is not done to my knowledge about 9 years of development time later) and who was also related to some degree with someone at said company wiht a stake in it. Yes he was getting kick backs for this, everyone knew it, nobody said it to his face.

    So he saw this as an undermining of his great plan for the new version. An undermining of his authority and that by a lowly guy that was selling stuff for his company none the less. It was an inslut of the highest order.

    After getting chewed out by my boss, in a very humane way and with a smile on his face while he told me I just skimmed passed being fired from up high, he shrugged it off and said that we have to go back doing it the way we did it in the past. The guy at the main office though changed seats to one where he was in the last row against the far wall and kept using the tool without anyone noticing but me seeing his mails being churned out on my server.

    That was a bit of a setback, but then again, I didn't care too much. The promise of the new system made it bearable and I just focused my attention on other things instead of improving my workplace.

    Then that performance review came. They really told me I don't smile enough. When a customer approached, I smiled at them, greeted them friendly and then listened intently, trying to find the technical solution to their problem as quickly as possible, while staying within their budget. Dring that time, I don't smile very much, as I concentrate on the customers input. Yes I'm not one of those smiley guys. But I haven't treated a single customer unkindly or rude, even those yelling and cursing at me. One of those yellers even once sent an appology letter, adressed to my boss commending how professional I was in handling the situation and how sorry he was. He didn't remember my name, but knew the position I sat in, which is always the same for each sales guy.

    The raise question was asked by me after my probation period in late fall. I didn't get a bump after the probation which was already odd to me. After christmas, being not even included in the reviews this yer I asked again, being told I didn't work a year there yet, so I had to wait. In Summer, after habing been there over a year, I was told to wait till the review. then I decided to do this foolish barcode thing.

    So when I asked them about the raise he said it was impossible. He was happy that they wouldn't have to fire anyone, but a raise was out of the question. Then I drilled him as told in the story of when that would happen. His answer was pretty much no, so that once I have worked there for 5 years I might see a raise, maybe. Probably not. I asked for a token raise then, not 500 or a grand, but just something small, like 100 or so. No raise at all meant actually a cut in pay, because things get more expensive over time. After they said that this was totally impossible, I said that then I might have to look for another place to work for.

    And then he did something I will never forget in my life. He opened the folder he had in front of him, looked into it, scanned down a list of I don't know what, sighed and looked me straight in the eye and said "I guess you will have to do that then".

    My direct boss had been gushing about my technical expertise and although I'm not a born salesman, I was the second best sales guy in terms of total sales value, not counting the really big things though, that wouldn't be fair now would it. Besides the I don't smile enough negative point, there is one juicy bit about that late story that didn't make it.

    The reason I was late, was not that there was an accident. the reason was that I was in that accident, without my own fault. On the highway, I had to break suddenly as a traffic jam formed from one second to the next. I stopped with about a couple feet spare to the bumper in front of me and then could watch how the guy behind me, with threetimes as much space to break, didn't. Unable to even drive to the side to avoid him, all I could do was watch him total his small plastic car on the rear end of my old steel construction beater. Dizy we drove to the side. I had a small dent in the bumper. His car was trashed completely. You could see the pedals and what was left of the engine compartment while it was leaking oil and water all over the highway. Completely out of it and with the last though I had before it happened burn in my mind "You have to get to work", I decided it's not worth the effort and he will have enough trouble as it is. Yes I didn't even get his name, just sat back in my car and left to work, arriving in time to stand behind my desk just as the door to the shop opened.

    I spent the day with splitting headaches, scrounged pain killers from two other employees and staid my entire shift. Thankfully I had my day off the next day.

    And my boss didn't find it worth to mention that bit.

    I got hired by the first company I applied for. One of their questions at the interview was what out of the box thinking I had been doing in the past. I explained to them my most recent project, the scanner solution and after that bit, I had the feeling I was pretty much hired.

  • wtf (unregistered)

    So, help me out here: am I supposed to comment on this article, or on the re-run of this article?

  • (cs) in reply to bdowling
    And the only way to get a raise is to go somwhere else.

    Or threaten to leave. Those are the only two ways to get ahead. No company is just going to volunteer to pay you more money.

    It's best to have an offer letter in your pocket if you're going to do that. Of course, once you've gone through the effort of interviewing and getting an offer in the first place, you might as well take it...

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