Yet another boring work-related update

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Tojiah
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Dec 4 2007 22:12
Yet another boring work-related update

Coincidently with my telling my boss that I want to move to a store closer to home (a notion to which she was sympathetic, though she warned me it may take a while), I was asked by former store worker turned HR manager of sorts to fill in at a store that is closer to home. That would mean taking a few double shifts. I did that twice this week, I may do it once per week in the future, if I find it suits me. I used the time to acquaint myself with a different store, and most importantly, with its workers. Seems like worker-boss relations there are even worse than at my current store, with much grumbling against the boss and the regional manager. I suggested the work-by-rule coupled with empty inventory by phone tactic to one of the workers there, who seemed to lighten up at the notion. This filling in business is essential to the company's survival, it turns out, which might just be the kind of opportunity I was looking for to poison more workers. cool

That's it, pretty much. More when there's more to share.

Mike Harman
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Dec 5 2007 00:44

That's not boring. It's lovely.

Kim Müller
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Dec 13 2007 19:31

"empty inventory by phone tactic"

I am not familliar with that tactic, would you care to explain it?

Mike Harman
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Dec 13 2007 20:06

yeah me neither, wtf is that?

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Tojiah
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Dec 14 2007 01:57

Oh, it was kind of short-hand for telling anyone who asks for a book on the phone that that self-same book isn't in the store, whether or not there is a copy, thus making the inventory effectively empty by phone.

Kim Müller
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Dec 18 2007 14:50

Ok, i know THAT tactic, but the other way around - "empty inventory by phone tactic" for me means "full restaurant by phone tactic", when some customers is trying to reserve tables by phone and we dont want them there.

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Tojiah
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Dec 18 2007 15:31

Let's compromise on calling it "deter potential customers on phone", then.. smile

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Dec 23 2007 15:05

And now that the financial year is coming to an end, management is in crisis over profits and they're trying to push that over to us. Sales targets are up to the roof, and we have now been hit with shift targets, meaning that we have to report our bulk income every shift and have the next shift be further pressured if we're below quota. And, of course, everything is our fault for not pushing enough products. More grumbles by many of the staff, more positive responses regarding on-the-job action. Must take care with whom to talk, though, the new people are unknown elements, and some of the older people are too likely to leak things to the bosses. Anyway, since this is chain-wide, I hope to get a second shift at that other store again and see if I can stir up trouble there, too.

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Dec 24 2007 22:05

Came into work today to find that we've been given more last-ditch special offers to help boost sales. Talked at length to fellow worker who's been in the chain for more than two years, says that this is unprecedented, that sales targets used to allow working competently and getting a bonus every month as opposed to lately where they presume us working our asses off pestering every client, or whatnot. Thinks that action would only cause us to be fired, while having no positive effect. Seems like this end-of-fiscal-year panic is a normal thing for retail chains, talked to a worker from a home improvement chain who said that management was frantic there, too, only the workers weren't taking any notice.

She also informed me that the chain is looking for managers coming from a sales-oriented background (to replace all those damned old fogies who happen to know something about books), and that they want to introduce individual targets and bonuses.

I think that an immediate demand to curtail this would be demanding a chain-wide pay-raise to offset their inability to provide decent sales targets, or maybe an increased store-size based bonus. Not sure how to go about it, though, I suppose we would have to start by somehow forcing them to decrease this month's target, but I'm not sure how to go about it organization-wise without just getting a bunch of angry workers in a single store fired.

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Dec 25 2007 15:16

Talked to a worker from another store who comes to our store basically as a favor to our boss. Asked her what she thought of the end-of-the-year nonsense, but it seems that this only affected the larger stores like ours. She was shocked to hear of all that shift-specific targets, nonsense promotional stuff, etc. I told her I thought that we should be taking action and she noted that we didn't have a union or anything, so we couldn't do much, and things aren't so bad for us, etc. Hadn't enough time to talk about it openly because the manager and the implanted second-in-command were always around.

Another worker, the one who eventually made certain requests which got us that staff meeting pay, came in and seemed open to work-by-rule action, said that we could try and talk between shifts or after the Friday shift or something, but that it would be difficult.

This would really have been easier for me, personally, if it wasn't for the fact that I was living so far away, but the fact is that now about half of the staff live at a distance, making after-job meetings kind of difficult, though not impossible. It would have to be worked at, though. Hope I can do something with the allies I've made, though the latter doesn't really get along with some of the earlier cohorts. Still, it's bread-and-butter, that should cut through some personal grievances, shouldn't it?

<Edit>
Scratch that last bit, I just remembered that this worker talked to me about something one of the cohorts said to her earlier, that we should just not bother trying for the target if it's too high, otherwise they'll just raise them more insanely, meaning that they are talking about it and that the bread-and-butter has already managed to cut through grievances. Man, I need some sleep, damned clopeners. angry wall angry
</Edit>
(PS: I hope you people are enjoying the holiday, our next break will be near Easter, you damned Christian bastards.. angry wink)

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Dec 26 2007 15:49

Well, I'm not sure, but it seems like most of the workers in yesterday's night shift were purposefully slacking off. I got contradictory information about that: one said that they just jerked around instead of working, another said that there was just nothing to do.

Anyway, we keep missing those shift sales targets but management no longer hassle us about it, I suppose they've realised by now how credible they are to us.

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Dec 26 2007 15:52

Well, I'm not sure, but it seems like most of the workers in yesterday's night shift were purposefully slacking off. I got contradictory information about that: one said that they just jerked around instead of working, another said that there was just nothing to do.

Anyway, we keep missing those shift sales targets but management no longer hassle us about it, I suppose they've realised by now how credible they are to us.

Edit: Called the worker who said that they were slacking off, just to get a clearer picture without the boss's ear around: seems like there weren't many clients, so they started just hanging out at the counter, and, well, if you just let that kind of slacking off dynamic spin off without forcing yourself to look around for new clients, they just become uncomfortable asking you for stuff, so they end up not buying... cool I don't believe it hadn't occurred to me in that way before.. wall Simple, straight-forward and effective, though I don't think it would work if there are too many people at the store.

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Dec 27 2007 15:38

We're just plodding along. Today I made a point of going around very slowly for a few hours and telling people that "we shouldn't be in any hurry", but I don't think people were really cooperating, though a coworker thinks differently. It's not an overt organized resistance, though, just a general lethargy. It's not that there were that many clients to ignore, to be honest; business was so bad that our boss just sat over some crossword puzzles in the back for the last two hours of the shift.

Kim Müller
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Dec 28 2007 18:24

First of all thanks for some interesting and fun reading.

I would like to know if you got any "secret" or internal language on the workplace - like nicknames on bosses, special jokes between the employees or names for some of the practices. Communication in the workplace is one of my big interests!

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Steven.
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Dec 28 2007 19:43

I got told to keep it down by my coworkers at our xmas do when I kept saying how one of our managers was a "fucking cock"...

redyred
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Dec 30 2007 20:05

Both my manager and proprieter hate me, are scared of me or for whatever reason are unable to face me. My manager avoids speaking to me on shift, and has been passing messages via a team leader.

As for the proprieter, she tends to avoid coming in when I'm on shift. She came in this morning but avoided me and did everything via a new member of staff who didn't really know what was going on and kept having to come to me to find out what whe was talking about. Then this afternoon (I was doing a couple of hours overtime) I got a phone call from her that went something like

Me: Hello, The Willows, Martin speaking
Her: Oh. You're on all day?
M: No, I'm just covering the first few hours cos the late senior is taking her son to hospital
H: Oh. When will she be back?
M: She called just now, she should be back in an hour.
H: Oh. [Click]

This is the kind of thing that happens when you threaten to shop people in for institutional abuse. The manager is taking it out on me via the staff rota - I've been put down to work overnight new years eve. I knew I'd get that.

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Tojiah
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Dec 30 2007 20:46

Kim, we always call the regional manager "that bitch" behind her back, etc, but that's all. The only thing I can think of is when we call the customer service center "hamokesh" (meaning "the landmine") instead of "hamoked" (meaning "the call center" more or less), but that's a term we got from the manager.

redyred, you'd think you could get some leverage off the threat to get better treatment, rather than the other way around. What gives?

Kim Müller
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Dec 30 2007 22:13

A friend of mine who worked in the health care business told me they had a special "warning" song when their boss arrived at the workplace. It was a hip-hop song and the first words was "Yo bitch, back to fuck up?!"

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Dec 31 2007 01:09

Can't sleep and just realized I have something to add, so here we go:

Other workers grumbled about how the bosses have won from all of this, we're pretty close to the sales targets but we won't be getting any bonuses for this month, so that saves them some money. My notion that they won't change squat until we start aiming much lower than the target is starting to echo. Discussed tactics with them sporadically, problem is that all of these tactics are harder to apply when boss is around without making it official and confrontational, and I'm not sure we're ready yet, also not all workers are trustworthy even when boss isn't around.

Mike Harman
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Dec 31 2007 09:29
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we're pretty close to the sales targets but we won't be getting any bonuses for this month, so that saves them some money.

Shit I didn't even think of that one through properly - that should get people pissed off no?

So one month you sell x amount of books, get bonus - next month, same amount of books sold - no bonus? In that case you can really push that the higher sales targets are an attack on wages, not a method to sell more books.

What about doing an (anonymous) leaflet to put into other branches - could you walk into stores, browse books and slip them into places you know they'll be found? Be aware that management will get a copy though - same shit happened at my work. None of us got into trouble, and the main focus (a meeting) happened anyway, but they got the initiative on some other stuff - like trying to set up a works council to head off the meeting.

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Tojiah
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Dec 31 2007 14:55

It is getting people pissed off, and they don't need to be pushed to think of it as an attack on wages. And it's obvious that the targets are not geared to give us any bonuses, because hardly any of the stores in the chain will be reaching above their targets, and this is after fervent sales notions of various sorts. Naturally, one can expect that one would have a different amount of income for different months of the year, and some growth can be expected, but even our store boss doesn't really think that it makes any sense in that way (although she doesn't acknowledge it when she talks to us about it roll eyes).

I keep saying that if we want to get anything done, we need to aim far below the target, and I've even proposed that we demand higher base wages instead of bonuses --- people agree, but it's still all in the air. We hardly did any work today, though it was a slow day anyway, but it's hard for people to do anything while the boss is around (she only came in for the afternoon shift).

Considering that a month or so ago people weren't sure what I was talking about when I said that we should be aiming low, not high, and that now it's getting obvious that this has to be done, I guess I can say that things are improving. Nevertheless, it hasn't gone far enough that people are willing to confront the boss.

As for leafleting other branches, that's a good idea, but I'm not sure what to put in such a leaflet. Should it just state our conclusion that management is upping the sales target in order to deprive us of bonuses? Should it also state a reasonable demand that base wages be increased instead of or in addition to lowering targets?

A concluding note: one of the reasons it's doubtful that this could tie in with any of the unionizing efforts going around Israeli labour is that there's nothing illegal about what the company is doing: we're paid above minimum wage, all benefits, etc, so we're not victims of illegal caprices by evil employers: we're just getting screwed out of a better wage. All the other unions that have been forming of late are in places where workers` legal rights were violated. Even that's been somewhat of an uphill battle, but it's much easier to fight in the purely legal sphere than what I hope we might be able to accomplish at some point in our more well-off sector.

Mike Harman
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Jan 1 2008 01:16
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As for leafleting other branches, that's a good idea, but I'm not sure what to put in such a leaflet. Should it just state our conclusion that management is upping the sales target in order to deprive us of bonuses?

Yes definitely. Again - you have to be aware that management will read it - so ideally it'd need to be accurate so they can't dismiss it as bullshit, but also show very clearly that you know exactly what they're doing and why. Two audiences: getting your views out to a wider number of your colleagues - and putting the shits up management. So I'd add to this what you've already said - targets are so high that they're both unwinnable/makeable and punitive - so why the fuck bother trying - again, considering both your audiences. If they think there's chance you'll actually work harder and sell more books with lower targets, they may well drop them to head off a widespread go-slow or any kind of open confrontation*.

Quote:
Should it also state a reasonable demand that base wages be increased instead of or in addition to lowering targets?

Well if I was doing it, I certainly wouldn't put a figure on it - but you can show how the bonuses system is being used to attack conditions, and say that higher base wages would make that harder to do at the same time, so why not. Do you think you'd actually be able to force higher wages out of the chain at any point in the short to medium term?

*One more thing - when we had a similar-ish thing at my old work (although completely different circumstances) we had middle managers calling individuals into offices, HR calling departments into offices, senior managers visitng team meetings - this wasn't anything very inflammatory, but it still provoked that effect (not an all-out witch-hunt but it was along those lines). So be prepared both for some quick minor concessions that might take the sting out of what you're trying (although it might also increase confidence, and no harm if you get something for nothing), and also some backstabbing at the same time.

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Jan 2 2008 16:11

toj, nice one, it's good to see the frame of workers' reference finally changing, nice one.

redyred, you sure it's wise to put your actual work's name here?

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Jan 3 2008 12:28

Yesterday I said that we should go through go-slow action etc, but I ended up being the only one who did it, though others agreed, because they didn't trust the rest of the shift workers to go along. It seems like now that management has backed off (we weren't told directly of our sales target, and we haven't been directly bothered about things since the start of the new year), the motivation for action is lowering, though I did tell one worker that we should do a go-slow even if it seems like we may be able to get to the target this time, to take revenge against them for having terrorized us for the past three months.

I will get the fliers printed, but distribution will be a mess, I think I can hit a lot of central branches in Tel Aviv, but there's a hell of a lot of branches I can't hit. Another option is using the internal email list, but this might not get to workers in stores before the managers can get it off, and they'll know which store it came from.

I'm going to substitute in yet another branch today, I'll try and see how sentiments are there.

Mike Harman
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Jan 3 2008 12:35
Quote:
I will get the fliers printed, but distribution will be a mess, I think I can hit a lot of central branches in Tel Aviv, but there's a hell of a lot of branches I can't hit. Another option is using the internal email list, but this might not get to workers in stores before the managers can get it off, and they'll know which store it came from.

Does stock ever get moved shop to shop? Say if a customer requested a specific book and didn't want to travel?

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Jan 3 2008 12:38

Actually I've considered trying to clue the supply drivers in, maybe getting them to allow me to put fliers in all the boxes, but that has its risks. Stock does get moved from shop to shop, but very sporadically, and usually the managers are the ones who get to them first. Also, the source will be obvious.

Mike Harman
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Jan 3 2008 12:40

OK really bad idea then.

Kim Müller
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Jan 3 2008 16:36

Have you got some group or friends that can help you spread the leaflets?

Anyway, if a "real" go-slow action is hard, maybe just doing other stuff instead of working, like reading, talking, crosswords?

A friend of mine organized a "busy-doing-nothing" action at their workplace, they were undermanned and when the management was there they worked hard like hell but made things in the wrong order and was generally just moving stuff around. The bosses was fooled and hired more people.

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Jan 4 2008 14:44

I'm still getting the feel of the land. For a moment I was fooled to think that most shops in the other district, in which I was working yesterday, were given reasonable targets, but that turned out to be sarcasm by some guy on the staff, turns out that hardly any store gets above targets (ours is special in that sense). I'll have to word the fliers accordingly.

Without any assistance I think I can hit about half a dozen stores or more in that other district (which are very close to one another).

It's hard for us to fool management in the way you describe, Kim, since our store manager is there very day, and when she's not her second is. To a point it'll be possible when they're distracted, otherwise it'll have to rise to the point of open conflict.

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Steven.
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Jan 4 2008 15:43

Please post up the flier here when you've done it or drafted it TOJ!

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jef costello
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Jan 4 2008 15:59
tojiah wrote:
It's hard for us to fool management in the way you describe, Kim, since our store manager is there very day, and when she's not her second is. To a point it'll be possible when they're distracted, otherwise it'll have to rise to the point of open conflict.

It depends on the workplace, when management don't supervise you can make yourself look very busy and important by striding purposefully and if possible carrying a clipboard. People thought I was really hard-working and has had a promotion at one place I worked cause of that. Was a fairly hands off manager.
You can do things that waste lots of time such as bringing out cases of books to restock but then returning the cases because you've deliberately brought too much.
You can also try spending a few minutes writing a list, then bringing all the stock in several trips. Blocks up the gangways and makes you look like you're working hard, then you put some books on the shelves and then start taking the lot back again.