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Saturday, December 06, 2008 

I hate politics

Which considering I'm a trade union rep and a member of a certain British ruling political party may be an odd thing to say. Politics permeates everywhere, and everything nowadays. You can't escape it, politics sadly affects everyone, in every aspect of life from regulating shop opening hours (I'd be stuffed if I couldn't buy milk on a Sunday morning from my local garage) to whether or not Britain goes to war with another state. I guess I understand this, but politics at work is another thing. And the bigger the organisation the worse it is in my experience.

If there's one thing I've learned in recent years, and VERY painfully, is that there's nothing worse than having a line manager who hates you, for whatever irrational, arbitrary, or other reason. It's crap, and I know from personal experience what it's like to be singled out, victimised etc. At best it's an annoyance, at worst it can affect your pay, your career opportunities, your health and in some instances has lead to people taking the ultimate sanction in order to get out the situation (use your imagination).

I blame hierarchies within organisations. Bonuses within business functions dependant on performance, pressures put on successive layers within a business to achieve certain targets, the interrelationship of functions within a business (political units), how they relate to other functions and finally the 'troops', non bonussed employees at the bottom of the 'food chain' who perform the work that ensures the 'managers' get their bonuses. Coupled with a performance related assessment system which relies more on an adherence to a 'bell curve' distribution of performance, than actual performance you have a recipe for all sorts of heartache on the shop floor.

If you're very lucky, you might work in a function that is isolated from other functions within an organisation. This situation, otherwise known as a 'cushy number' is rare within large organisations. In the real world most functions within a business are continually jockeying with each other, asserting influence and establishing a functional hierarchy. Usually, any quality control function is seen as being at the bottom of that hierarchy, irrespective of how well regulated the business may be within it's particular industry. You only have to look at capital expenditure, head count, salaries, career opportunities etc.

Anyway, I'm starting to ramble. But the point I'm trying to make is that in order to survive in today's world of work, it's not enough to be doing your job, you have to be seen to be doing your job. It's about perception, being proactive, being competitive, playing the 'game', otherwise you run the risk of losing your job, your pension etc. The system bloody stinks as far as I'm concerned and it'll only get worse. If you aren't intelligent, or astute enough to see the 'end result' you're stuffed. Is it any wonder that 'back stabbing' is promoted within this system, that people who are otherwise good workers are singled out if for whatever reason their performance falls (personal reasons or otherwise).

And of course, if you are disabled in anyway?

Good post JJ

I feel qualified to comment as I spent a few years working at the place you are talking about and although some things may have changed since I left (thank god I got out even though I had to do it three times)I feel many things will be the same.

The first and easiest point to answer is that of departmental budgets. QC does not produce anything. It doesn't make any money. As much as management tell you that your role is one of importance, in reality they believe you are a necessary evil. A cost that must be reduced to the absolute bare bare minimum. Employees will ideally come from overseas deprived countries (I truly believe that this is RB policy) to keep "fixed term costs" down. Overtime is to be done on their terms and if the workload increases (no matter how ridiculously) then you are expected to meet it. It's not their fault if the lead times are not hit, its yours.

As for job perception, I think it's always been like that. The trick is to work to your job contract. Use HR whenever necessary and don't let management tell you that this is awkward behaviour. No short breaks (but no long ones either), No short dinners (but no long ones either), no staying late or coming in early without pay. Not even for 1 minute. Every minute you work over and above contract is free money for them. You don't want overtime paid in hours back unless you get at least 1.5 hrs back for every hour worked in overtime. Don't be persuaded otherwise.

I had a manager who was way out of his depth at a certain yeast factory. In fact most of the managers there were. I had 18 months of nonsense thrown at me which can only be described as the dictionary definition of bullying. He even tried to stitch me up with a disciplinary. The one piece of paper work which proved my innocence was missing from his bundle in the disciplinary hearing. He assured me and his line manager (who was in attendance) that this missing bit of paper confirmed everything else. Anyway luckily for me the senior manager asked to see it anyway. After my idiot line manager finally produced it under protest it showed quite clearly that I was not even on site when the mistake happened. The disciplinary was quietly dropped. If I had been a bit more switched on in those days I could have got him into some serious shit. As it was I left not long after that, there is only so much I will put up with. I cannot tell you how good it feels when I drive past the place knowing what a shithole I got away from.

I have to say JJ that I have worked at a few companies now and the appraisal process at RB is quite nasty and discriminatory in comparison. All the others I have had expect targets to be met but they don't seem to be actively trying to find reasons to put you down. In fact the company that I now work for places "silent running" (as they call it) above all else. This is were those that do the job they are paid for do it day in day out with no fuss 365 days a year. We are not expected to always want promotion. If you are happy at your level then so long as you do your job they leave you alone.


The link above relates to an interview with your CEO. Below are a couple of interesting paragraphs that I extracted.

Another team, “Extrim”, is focused on the efficiency of the rest of the operation, including everything from cheaper sourcing to the speed and layout of factories. “It may also include closing plants,” Mr Becht added.

His description makes the Reckitt/ Becht approach to making consumer goods sound a little like a military operation. Not quite, according to the man himself. “It’s a little bit less disciplined,” he said, “and also we believe in constructive conflict.”

If there were ever two paragraphs that would put me off joining a company then I think they must be them.

I must say that in your position as union rep then you do have some influence over certain things in your department. The first thing is to get co-workers involved. Not all will agree with unionisation. It's up to you to spell out the benefits and then make them happen. The show trial that is the "pay offer" once a year is frankly pathetic. That probably does the most to undermine the unions position. Engage your co-workers and explain some of the user friendly aspects of socialism. Do not be discouraged by ignorance. Many of your co-workers may not even know what the word means.They probably wrongly equate it to china and Russia.

Of course if you did take this route then you must be prepared to be squeaky clean because "upstairs" will come gunning for you. I think if you have the motivation then you could be well placed to start promoting workers interests. I know how it feels to be the one standing out from a crowd and saying the things that need to be said. It can be intimidating and management will always try and tell you you are wrong. One big must is to not be emotional (i.e get angry or shout etc). One must be logical and use legal argument and constructive dismantling of managements position. I am sure the support you need could be provided by your union organisation if you required it.

I do not wish to talk out of turn but I believe sometimes big events in peoples lives can put a new spin on ones perspective. The death of your father for instance could be a powerful motivator for you. After all, if you can deal with that then you can deal with any piss ant manager that crosses your path.

Excellently put Mr Fendertele!

So what your saying JJ, is that it's a cutthroat, dog eat dog world and you'll slay down any disabled mother fucker who stands in your way? lol.

One last point JJ. When its your turn to meet your maker do you want to look back on your life as someone who cowered beneath the fist of oppression or do you want to know that you looked it squarely in the knuckle and used all the tools at your disposal to construct a weapon of retaliation.

I feel you can do it if you believe in yourself.

Merry Xmas Macca Pacca. Power to the union masses.


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  • I'm JJ
  • From Hull, Yorkshire, United Kingdom
  • I still haven't got the hang of Thursdays, nevermind life in general. Perhaps I should get out more?
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* The title of this blog inspired by a piece of music written by fellow Yorkshireman, and favourite musician / composer / guitarist, Bill Nelson.