Speaking from Experience, Venting, Work

Will management ever learn?

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Welcome back blog readers,

In a recent post I mentioned that I was handing in my resignation as my manager was not accommodating my schedule (length of shift/ number of shifts with time off in between) as per my doctor’s note that was requested upon my first shift and the letter I wrote to him last month explaining a second time what I needed.

Having been a former associate of this company two years ago at a different location, I know what the company hopes to achieve. The company would like to have their “Fresh Department” associates cross-trained to work in any position and have open availabilty so they can be scheduled to rotate from opening, midday and closing shifts.

For example, The morning baking shift 5am-1:30pm, stocking shift varies from 7am to 4:30pm, a closing shift can start as early as 1:30pm until the store closes at 10pm.

When I was hired on the job posting was for the baking shift and the closing shift that was advertised as 3:30-10pm. I applied hoping to land the closing shift because I know what my body can handle.

The reality is that most people have other commitments, appointments and prefer a set schedule. Some people, like myself, have limited/restricted movements that prevent them from stocking from the freezer to the sales floor for 8 hours a day, 4 days a week.

At this location we have:

  • One associate that can only work 5am-1:30pm Monday- Friday (she is a single mother with 2 kids)
  • One associate that prefers the morning stocking shift and can work up to 4 days a week
  • One associate that prefers the 3:30pm – 10pm shifts and can only work 3 days a week as long as it’s not the last 3 days followed by the first 3 days making it 6 days in a row.
  •  We have 2 younger high school students that now don’t have open availability, but can work one or two closing shifts during the week (5pm-10pm) and any shift on the weekends.
  • We are still in need of another associate that can also work rotating open to close shifts a few days a week.

I do understand wanting to have all associates to have open availability, but what the company wants versus the availability of those looking for work are two different things. They should stop trying to force their associates to constantly juggle shifts, which tends to be only me at the moment. The company is not permitted to schedule you for a closing shift followed by an opening shift, but it happens. I’ve been a part of the scheduling process at the former location when a new manager took over.  I know that the program alerts you when you’ve done that with a message that says there are not enough hours in between shifts, but it seems the message gets ignored and then forgotten.

Seriously, how hard is it to pull the sheet of paper from the week ending to have with you when you create the next week’s schedule so you know NOT to schedule a “CLOPEN”? As a manager for this company for 7 years, I expect better from him. Of all of the responsibilities of an assistant manager, why is scheduling so complicated?

At least with steady shifts of either 5am-1:30pm, 7am- 3:30pm/8am-4:30pm, 3:30-10pm you can plan your life around that in advance. Granted we do get our schedules 3 weeks in advance, but when your shifts are all over the place it really screws up your sleeping schedule. It’s difficult to go from getting home at 10:20pm, staying up for a few hours before going to bed at 12:30am/1am for two weeks to forcing yourself to go to bed at 7:30pm because you have to wake up at 4am for an opening shift.

I can see that I’ve ranted for far longer than I expected. My point is that I did hand in my resignation, to which my manager didn’t seemed to care nor did he ask to see if there was anything he could do that might change my mind. A few days had passed and I got a text from one of my co-workers asking if it was true and why. She went on to tell me that it’s a shame because I do good work and couldn’t I just ask our manager to give me 3 shifts/week to save them from finding another person. To which I replied that I have brought my concerns to his attention and for 3 months they have gone ignored.

This associate questioned our manager and suggested that he reconsider, give me 3 shorter closing shifts and keep a good employee instead of letting me go and taking his sweet time finding a replacement that will need to be trained. The manager told her that I never came to him with my concerns ( which is complete BS ) and that he would talk with me.

A few days would pass when we were both working before he stepped up and confirmed what the other associate mentioned. He said, ” I heard that if I give you 3 shifts a week that you’d stay, is this true?” I said it’s half true, it’s not just 3 shifts of your choosing, it’s 3 shorter closing shifts with time off in between so that I can properly manage my back to avoid blowing it out. While I can do the opening shift, it’s too long and too many repetitive movements that my doctor’s note clearly states  I can not do, a note you asked for an updated version of upon my first shift (3 months ago).

My manager asked if I would be able to work an occasional 4th day to cover holidays/vacation/someone calling in. On occasion I probably could, I just don’t want to be taken advantage of and I absolutely can’t STOCK. My last day was expected to be September 14th to which I have a stocking shift 8am-4pm, but the morning baker lets me take over and they stock for the rest of their shift. The associates care more about my health than the manager does.

The schedule for the week of the 15th-21st is posted and my manager wanted to know if I wanted that week off. I told him to pencil me in for 3 closing shifts because I know he’s shorthanded now that the kids are back to school. As of right now, he has yet to update the schedule, but I have taken one closing shift from the associate that spoke up on my behalf (she likes the stocking shifts and really didn’t want to close).

Hopefully things will get better, but I’m not holding my breath. Our manager isn’t really running our department, the 3 associates that give a shit are. He never stops by to see what’s going on, to ask how things are going. The only comment I hear is a quick “Hello Hannah” in passing and poof he’s gone. The only time the stocking associate hears from him is when there is an empty space on the shelf and he demands to find something to fill it, nevermind how well the rest of the department looks or offer a “great job” on clearing 2 full skids of product from the freezer by herself.

Enough venting about work on my day off.  I’m going to continue to do the best that I can for as long as my back can handle it. ~ Hannah

 

Work

Time to face the reality

Welcome back blog readers,

I’ve decided it was best for my health to call in and allow myself four days to recover. I knew when I was hired on that this job was temporary, but I was hoping that it would have lasted longer that this. It’s time that I face the reality that while my mind feels like a young 20 something, my back is screaming at me and often feels like it’s 80 years old.

For the last week my back has been spasming/tweaked/stiff which has also been affecting my shoulders and neck which aren’t normally bothered. Before I went back to work in mid June, I was able to maintain a once a month visit with my chiropractor, but as of yesterday I have been there twice in one week with another appointment in two weeks. Not cool and for the cost of each visit ($46 each) it’s not worth working part-time just to add more frequent visits for adjustments.

While I haven’t fully blown my back out again (yet) it certainly feels like it did the last time it happened. I have my resignation letter ready to be handed in on Monday when my next shift is scheduled. I hate quitting, but I have to do what is best for me and my body/health. While it’s easy to say, “Don’t work so hard” it’s not that easy for me. Maybe it’s my sense of pride, maybe it’s the fact that my entire life I’ve been told you can’t and I feel like I have to prove them wrong and that I can. I know myself enough to know that if I see something that needs to be done I will get it done because I don’t like doing things half-assed.

I will own partial blame for pushing myself too hard, but the other portion is my manager that continues to schedule me 3 shifts in a row with one day off and being scheduled 8-hour shifts when my doctor’s note clearly stated that I need shorter shifts with time off in between. Gotta love the employers that demand these notes and don’t follow them. Since my back feels like it’s on the verge of another blowout and my manager still can’t schedule the shifts that will keep me working, then I have to quit before my 90 days is fulfilled.

At least I know that I have made the effort to get back into the workplace. While this news doesn’t sound very chipper, there is a silver lining. I’ll be able to catch up on the bookkeeping for my husband’s business and take on more responsibilities writing content and other tasks for his clients as he expands his business. Working from home, making my own hours and not having the stress for working a typical job.

As one chapter ends another chapter begins. ~ Hannah

Cake Decorating, Customer Service, Speaking from Experience, Venting, Work

Work related pet peeves

Welcome back for another round of venting. As the title suggests, I will be covering pet peeves in the workplace. Not just pet peeves at my current place of employment, but also former jobs to give you a sneak peek as to the things I’ve witnessed/encountered over the last 20 years in the world of retail.

I spent the first 15 years of my career in the automotive industry, mostly as a Parts Advisor but I was also cross-trained in Service, Warranty and Cash Office. As you might expect, being a young female in a male dominant field was a challenge in itself. I had my fair share of customers who refused my help and they quickly asked for the “guy behind the counter” which was usually the manager. To which my manager would often reply, “she’s more than capable of looking up the part you need” just to make a point.

Not only was I expected to look up parts, but my job also included testing various parts and installing parts. One particular customer who was also one of our wholesale customers was a real piece of work. The type of guy that runs his own towing company/repair shop in a hick town and thinks he knows everything about vehicles. The type of guy that never knew the name for most parts he was looking for, refusing to give us the VIN so that we could verify what he was working on, because not all parts from one year are compatible with the next year. The VIN was also helpful in knowing which engine/transmission/driveline was used, but this guy naturally knew and by knew I mean made his best guess which was often wrong.

His constant guessing and ego caused him to make more trips back to return parts that were not compatible. While he was quick to blame us (me) for not knowing what I was doing, the truth is it was his ego that was the problem. Give me the info I need and I’ll give you the right part. If you guess at what engine you have, and you don’t know what you’re looking for, chances are I will not look up the proper part that will fix your issue. So frustrating! Especially when he loved to throw “The customer is always right” BS in my face usually followed by some insult within earshot of other customers. Real professional, right?

This guy treated me like garbage for the first two years, always insulting me in my place of work and assuming that I didn’t know what I was doing, why would they let a girl behind the counter when I belonged in the kitchen. I can’t stand that sexist mentality. As an employee, there wasn’t much I could do about it, except take it. Avoiding and ignoring him was made difficult when he would go out of his way to insult me. At this particular DIY auto parts chain that I like to call Autohole, we accepted used oil that we had to dump into the big recycling tank in the back.

This guy always waited until he had several gallons saved up and brought it all in at once. He never took a minute to wipe down the containers, they were always covered in dirty oil dripping everywhere and sometimes the oil was still hot as it was just drained into the recycling bucket and brought in. Guess who had the honor of lugging all of his nasty used oil containers to the back? In his mind I was unfit to look up anything he needed, so he’d call my co-worker over to look up his parts and order me to carry in all of his dirty oil to be recycled.

One day his idea of me changed. If I had to guess it was the fact that a few of my younger male co-workers were not as experienced and often asked me for help looking up what this jackass needed. He had experienced this enough to realize that this girl knows what’s she’s doing behind the parts counter. From that point on I was his main point of contact when he called or came in. I should mention that I guess in his small closed mind, I was the lesser of two evils. Our store had changed managers and this jackass didn’t want to deal with a person of color. His tune had changed to, “Let me talk to the girl behind the counter.” Some might consider this a small victory, I might have if he didn’t treat everyone else just as horrible and the fact that he always smelled like he peed himself.

Moving right along…

I really enjoyed my days as a cake decorator, especially when I was given the creative freedom to decorate it without restrictions. Keep in mind that I wasn’t creating Cake Boss level cakes, but rather a Big Chain grocery/retail bakery department style cakes. Our smallest size was an 8″ single round layer up to a Full Slab double layer that served up to 72 people (give or take depending on how generous the slices are cut).

Just a tip: If you are considering pre-ordering a cake for any occasion, Please know (roughly) how many people you intend to serve. Believe it or not, the question of “What size cake do you need?” seems to stump many customers. If you are unsure, it’s always a safe bet to order larger and have extra, than it is to order smaller and not have enough; especially if the cake is for a child’s birthday.

Also, keep in mind that most employees are not “professionally trained” when they are hired on as a decorator in a large chain bakery department. While some may accept special requests/custom orders because they may have more experience, not all associates will be able to accommodate you. Insisting that so and so has done it for you in the past and so and so no longer works there, please keep in mind that when an associate declines your custom order, it’s because they know they can’t give you the quality that you are asking for. Trust that they know their limitations, don’t take it as a sign that they are being difficult. If you want custom work, go to a custom bakery where they offer that service normally, but expect to place your order well in advance, not the next day. It’s safe to say that if you don’t see what you want from the 3-ring binder of visual examples, then expect that we can’t accommodate your 3-tier custom order as we do not have the packaging for a 3-tier cake.

Being the people pleaser that I was a few years ago, I did offer to create a custom cake for a customer. She brought two pages of random images that she wanted to incorporate onto her kids’ 1st birthday cake. By random I mean an image of a penguin, music notes, stick figure kids dancing, and I can’t recall but I know there was a fourth image. There wasn’t a theme, but rather just images that her 1-year-old enjoyed.

I went the extra mile, I drew up a rough sketch and showed the customer what I had in mind as far as the placement of where the images would be, to give her an idea as to how the cake might look. She agreed that what I had in mind would be acceptable. I confirmed the order form, size, cake flavor, icing, the image placement to make sure she was still onboard, and I was given the green light and “creative freedom”.

I knew going in that this cake wasn’t going to be easy and that it would be very time consuming. I made sure to complete the order on a shift that I didn’t have anything else pending. Once it was done, I placed it in the freezer to stay fresh until the customer picked it up.

Since I don’t have a photo (I wish I did), I’ll do my best to describe how this cake looked. To start it was a half slab double layer covered in white icing so the colors would show up better. I placed the penguin at the center (top) as that was the image that was most important to display. That image took up 1/2  of the space from bottom to the top because I wanted to leave room to write Happy 1st Birthday (insert kid’s name) at the top * That was the 4th thing*  I had a stick figure dancing kid near the edge, one on each side of the penguin so there wasn’t so much white space and I placed the music notes all around the four sides of the cake. I was feeling pretty good about incorporating all of the images that were requested, granted with no theme it did look a bit off, but that is what the customer asked for.

The customer came in to pick up the cake and naturally she wants to see it before taking it home. I expected to hear “Thank You” or “Wow that looks great!” Not even close. Instead she insults my work, claims it’s the worst cake she’s ever seen, the kids don’t look like they’re dancing, to which I replied that it’s hard to show movement with icing. There was too much white space and insisted that more decorating needs to be done before she’s willing to take that home. I asked her what she wanted me to add while pointing out that I have incorporated all of the images she requested. She thought more music notes might help to show that the stick figures were dancing. More music notes were added. She was still not satified and wanted something more to tie it together. I’m at a loss because there isn’t a theme, so I suggested adding colored sprinkles to add a bit more color to the cake, to which she agreed. She was still not satisfied with the end result, but brought the cake home anyway, but not before mentioning that if she knew the cake was going to be so ugly, she would have done it herself…… Good luck with that!

Just ungrateful! If I’m to be completely honest, I’m quite sure the 1-year-old didn’t care how the cake looked. I’ve seen some bad cakes and this wasn’t one of them. I put in time off of the clock to resize the images so they fit the cake better. I gave her what she asked for, she agreed to the placement. I can’t be held responsible if she thought the image of a stuffed penguin was going to look as real in icing as it does on paper. I can’t really jazz up music notes or stick figure kids. Thanks for reminding why we don’t take custom orders.

Just to show that I’m not a hack, here are a few images of cakes that I have decorated.

wedding cakeMinion cakeFrozen CakeBasket Weavenemocake5cake

Moving right along…

I find it difficult to work with associates that don’t take as much pride in what they do or care about the cleanliness of their workspace (especially if it’s a shared workspace). Maybe difficult isn’t the right word… Annoying, Frustrating and Irritating sum it up better.

Due to the fact that we are working with food, preparing food, packaging food and there are customer that have food allergies, we need to take precautions. As a customer I don’t want to grab a container that is sticky, covered in sugar, covered in marinara sauce or cream cheese icing. As a customer, I expect better from those handling/packaging the baked goods and I make sure that I extend that courtesy when I’m the one packaging during my shift.

I wish I could say the same thing for my co-workers. I often go in for my closing shift to find that I have to wipe down most of the containers as I can’t in good conscience put them out looking disgusting. Another pet peeve of mine is finding all of the baking trays stacked in a pile on the prep table with a layer of dirty parchment paper in between each tray.

For the love of god, THROW OUT THE PARCHMENT PAPER! We can’t reuse it and leaving it there only creates a mess on the botton of the trays. If they were making pizza buns, now sauce and cheese are on the bottom of various trays which means that if I don’t wash them (nights I am not scheduled) then the next person will put those trays in the oven and what’s on the bottom of those trays will most likely fall onto the product baking below it, which might be cookies or turnovers which now has bits of marinara and cheese due to someone’s laziness.

Speaking of cleanliness, once we are finished packaging any product with nuts (peanut butter or macadamia nut cookies) those trays are to be set aside and washed before being used again. That doesn’t happen in my department. In fact nobody seems to make that connection, including the manager(s). It’s just my opinion, but I strongly believe that those working with food and managing food departments should ALL be food safety handling certified. Just my two cents.

While I’m on the topic of working in the bakery, when you as a customer see an associate pulling trays out of the oven and onto the cooling rack, please refrain from asking, “Did those just come out of the oven?” Because I know you just watched me take them out. Also, don’t ask if I can just give you one. ONE: It just came out of the oven and I am not going to burn myself or risk a lawsuit as you burn yourself. TWO: We don’t sell items as a single, we package in quantities of 6, 12, 21 and giving one away means my counts are off and I’m wasting product.

With that said, my pet peeve ranting is coming to an end. Not to say that there won’t be any more, just not today.

Enjoy your weekend and be kind to the retail associates~ Hannah

 

 

scoliosis/subluxation, Work

Permanent Restrictions

Good Morning World,

Just to continue a bit from my last blog post, I did have my appointment with my Chiropractor and was able to get the Fitness Assessment form filled out.

Diagnosis: Lumbar & Thoracic mechanical joint dysfunction, secondary to scoliosis.

Symptoms: Pain, Inflammation, decreased mobility.

Does patient have any significant physical impairment at this time: YES

What are the restrictions/capabilities:

Walking, No restriction/ Standing, As tolerated/ Sitting, As tolerated/ Lifting floor to waist, less than 5kg or 10 pounds/ Lifting waist to shoulder, less than 10kg or 20 pounds/ Ladder climbing, 2or 3 steps while keeping lifting to a minimum.

Limitations: Bending, twisting and lifting only as tolerated, No repetitive stocking of shelves, No above the shoulder activity, No pushing or pulling carts or skids that are loaded in excess of 50 pounds.

Is this condition permanent: YES

Additional Concerns/Restrictions: No repetitive bending, twisting, lifting, reaching above the shoulders, if possible schedule shorter shifts (less than 8 hours/day) and space them out.

There you have it. It’s basically what I had explained to my manager on Wednesday. I’m scheduled for a stocking shift today, so we’ll see how that plays out.

My restrictions don’t stop me from doing the tasks of a Baker, which is what the 5am-1:30pm shift is. I just can’t work more than two days in a row without having a day off in between. Having a shock absorbing mat behind the baker’s table wouldn’t hurt either. Right now there isn’t one and the employees are standing on concrete for their eight hour shifts.

Wish me luck ~ Hannah

Venting, Work

Skeleton Crew

So much for my attempt at working on a part-time basis. I will admit to not being a fan of the “group interview” process this company makes all potential new hires go through. This event doesn’t happen in a private room, free from distractions. Instead, it’s held in the training room where other associates are free to waltz in, interrupt the manager running the interview, and associates are constantly coming in and out for various reasons. There were a few key points that should have been mentioned and some questions/concerns I wish I had brought up, but the whole thing felt so rushed and unorganized.

For example, the job description of the person working a 5am-1:30pm shift and what duties it includes, what is expected to be done during that shift. The same goes for the 3:30pm-10pm shift and those respective duties. The only thing mentioned was those were the hours that department needed to fill, nothing more was mentioned. I was in the process of telling the manager that I have prior experience and I was interrupted and found myself trailing off as I typically do in those situations. We never came back to where I left off and we proceeded to engage in another group activity.

 

I did get hired on, full-time and my first two shifts included ZERO training or guidance from management. Luckily for them, I have prior experience and had an idea as to what needed to be done. My issue was that I didn’t know where most things were located or what their policies were for certain things.  So, I did the best that I could until a manager introduced themselves and showed me how to use their oven. I was promised to be shown many things, which never happened. I let that manager know that I have lifting/mobility restrictions due to my scoliosis and she seemed to think that it wouldn’t be an issue. There are plenty of associates that work in the back area and asking them for help with heavy items shouldn’t be a problem.

I brought in a copy of my “Fitness Assessment” from two years ago as proof that I do in fact have limitations, and I’m not just being lazy or insubordinate. Granted the form was dated 2016 and I expected that I would be asked for an updated one, which I was and will get tomorrow. I was able to hand that off to my manager (the same that ran the group interview) and he said he’ll get back to me about that. That was three days ago and he’s on vacation starting tomorrow.

I was able to catch him before I left this afternoon, to find out about the shift I couldn’t work, yet somehow I was scheduled and I wanted to make sure he knew I wasn’t going to make it and not consider it as a ” No Call No Show” situation. I also wanted to hear what he had to say about my mobility limitations. I was vocal to everyone I encountered during my first four shifts: to which they all had the same reaction, that it shouldn’t be a problem if I need help or ask for assistance.

My manager doesn’t share that point of view. He asked why I didn’t bring that up during the hiring process. I stated that I didn’t have a chance, there were many interruptions and that I handed in my old form as soon as I saw him because I knew I didn’t have the chance to bring it to his attention sooner. He claimed that he explained the duties and that moving skids and stocking was part of the job and I should have mentioned my concerns then. I let him know that I agree to disagree because that conversation didn’t take place. I knew he had several interviews and he was probably confusing my session with another group. I didn’t call him on that, just chose to keep it to myself and not come across as argumentative.

I can understand how this situation may appear, and I have tried to state my case and let him know that while the form is outdated and the prognosis appeared to be temporary, the limitations are permanent. If I push myself too hard and continue to reinjure my back, then I risk doing serious damage. Yes, I can bake and package items and not put myself at risk of blowing my back out. I did that for years and there wasn’t an issue. The issue started when I was forced to take stocking shifts as a means of being a “well rounded” employee and everyone should be able to do all duties in that department.

I warned my former manager that I will do my best and don’t mind stocking in a pinch, but I can’t do this day after day because I know how my back would respond. That didn’t go over very well. What I got was, “I hear your concern, but do it anyway.” Being the team player that I am, I did it anyway for two more shifts until I had to call in because I physically could not get out of bed the next morning. I also called in the next day because I wasn’t better and I was asked for a doctor’s note. My husband made a few phone calls and found a great chiropractor that was able to see me right away. I was charged a hefty fee for their assessment and note that was requested.

I handed in the note only to be told that I now needed to have the doctor fill out their company “Fitness Assessment” form and return it. Even after handing that in stating my limitation in mobility and it stating specifically that I am unable to STOCK SHELVES and LIFT more than 10 pounds (5kg), I was asked to return to my stocking duties. My manager insisted and another associate bullied me to do what I had just proved I could not. I still was not fully recovered and moving /walking very slowly. It was very obvious that I was in pain and not moving as quickly as they were used to seeing. I felt that management wasn’t taking my health concerns seriously, there was no attempt to accommodate my duties, no option for shorter shifts, nothing except attitude and dirty looks for the three weeks I was on light duty. Even after the three weeks, I still wasn’t 100% and I was asked to stock again. I refused because I felt unsafe, I continued to decorate cakes as a means of being productive during my shift. Clearly, something needed to change and my manager wasn’t going to budge. I felt my only option was to quit, so that is what I did.

While the note stated my condition (pain/limitations), I was expected to make a full recovery after three weeks as long as I returned to my normal duties (baking/cake decorating); it would be almost two years before I realized that the damage done was in fact permanent. I can perform baking/decorating duties as long as the items in the freezer are accessible and not too heavy to lift and place on a cart. I may have to make more frequent (smaller) trips, but I can get it done.

I expect that this new form (same blank form from 2 years ago) will state the same information I have already shared. My new manager doesn’t seem pleased and hinted that if that is the case then I might be let go within my probation period. He also made it clear that if I had known that I couldn’t do the job as the description stated, that I should not have applied. The job description is very general much of which includes many “May Include” statements, and again the duties vary from store to store. Some locations have a set morning baker and they take care of all baked in-store products, some locations have a set stocker and that is all they do stock the shelves with product from the walk-in freezer, and a closing person will bake a little and prep/clean for the morning baker. This is what I was used to, but again it was never discussed as to what was expected. Actually, those details still have yet to be discussed. I will add that if the hours he was looking to fill was just 5am-1:30pm (morning baker) and 3:30-10pm (closing) why am I being scheduled for 10am-6:30pm and 7am-3:30pm which are STOCKING shifts? Yes, you can bet that I have made my concerns known about those shifts.

I guess I’ll just have to wait and see how this situation plays out. It’s just convenient that my manager will be on vacation starting tomorrow. I will continue to show up and do the best that I can for as long as I can handle it.

Gonna try to enjoy my two days off. ~ Hannah