Workplace bureaucracy is the worst but karma works in mysterious ways. These employees share the time a manager tried to implement a lousy new rule and it backfired epically.
“I worked in a small media company, where we made videos, animations, and that kind of stuff.
One day, after some complaints about pay scales and a client complaining that we were not ‘fast enough,’ the boss – the owner of the company – called a meeting.
‘We will stop paying you guys a fixed amount per month. Instead, we’re going to pay you for what you guys actually did,’ said the company owner with a grin.
We, who wrote and edited, animated, subtitled, created the cover art, etc., said, ‘But, how much for each product?’
We sat down, negotiated the price of stuff, wrote the table of prices, everyone agreed, and we moved on.
The next month, as we were paid monthly, we gave him our individual bills. No one — absolutely no one — worked less; every single one of us had a bill at least doubling the value of prior payments.
I can’t stress this enough. The guy thought we were a bunch of slackers, that we made excuses, and that we were costing him too much. We proved, in one single month, not only that he was wrong, but that he did not even know what we actually did and how much effort it took to achieve it.
Long story short, he tried to reverse things, but this time, the team (a very close team, this was five years ago, and we are all still friends) said, ‘No, we like this way better, it’s this way now. It makes more sense, those who worked more are paid more. It makes sense to all of us.’
He looked at me. I was the writer, I had the lower price range and the lowest payment, but was kind of the leader, and said, ‘What do you think? Do you want it this way or the other way?’
I was blushing, because I am not stupid and saw right through what he was doing, and said, ‘This way. I will not have as much money as the others, but we all make more money now; and, even better, the next time you make a demand that puts us in a 20-hour shift (which happened approximately once a month) you will think of this. It will be better for us and for you, and it will force you to change the way you plan stuff.’
His next move: hire new people with fixed salaries. Once the team discovered this, we, having no legal obligation to stay, simply walked out.
He called us, every single one of us, because if we did not return, he would lose contracts because he could not deliver, but, as I said, we were a close team and had already talked about that. We all had the same answer: ‘double or nothing.’
He paid double, we delivered, then refused to stay further after delivering what we had already begun.
Six months passed before he went out of business.”
A Taste of His Own Medicine!
“He was irritated to come out to a secretary’s desk and find she wasn’t yet seated. She was in the lounge putting away her coat and then fixed herself a cup of coffee, and she sat down at 8:36 — instead of 8:30.
It happened to be a morning of extreme stress and he really needed all hands on deck that morning. Got it, but he was very short-sighted. The six minutes didn’t change the course of the day, but his Memo to Staff certainly did.
He circulated a memo to all staff which said something to the effect of:
‘The day begins at 8:30. Not 8:36, or 8:40, or when you found a parking space, or when the coffee was ready. If you need more time, plan your day accordingly and make your cup of coffee, find your spot, and hang up your coat, earlier than normal. 8:30 means in your seat, at your desk, ready for the day’s work to begin. Not coming through the door.’
Okay — we got it. Well, I was a paralegal at the time, and I put in SO many more hours than the 40 hours I was paid for. I arrived early, left late, frequently delayed lunch, often didn’t take breaks on busy days preparing for trial.
His memo so back-fired, that every single employee was grumbling, not just the secretary. As it happened, I was the most affected (in a positive way, actually) by this policy memo because I was the staff member who had the MOST lost time from working beyond my schedule. I was never late, so he didn’t have a problem with me, but he also abused my time more than anyone else. There were months when I never took so much as a coffee break. Often ate lunch at my desk while working. Seldom left at closing time. Often come in on Saturdays or Sundays to help get ready for Mondays. I just always shrugged it away and took it as ‘part of the industry.’ A trial litigation practice is stressful and schedules need to be fluid.
He didn’t appreciate that, so we responded as a group of 16 employees with total solidarity.
We were AT our desks at 8:30 a.m. We LEFT our desks promptly at 5:30. We took our breaks and our lunch hours exactly on time.
It was a disaster.
I was the first to respond. ‘Sorry, I can’t help right now. My lunch is 12 to 1, and I have to stand up at 12 and sit back down at 1, so this copy project would make my lunch ’12 ish to 1 ish.’ I’ll start on this at exactly 1:01 p.m. when I’m back at my desk.’
I also left at exactly 5:30 p.m. I stood up, put the cover on my typewriter, and cleared my desk. He said ‘Can you just—-‘ and some paperwork in his hands.
‘No, I’m sorry. My day begins promptly at 8:30 and ends exactly at 5:30. I’ll help with that tomorrow.’
Everyone did the same. All week.
‘No I’m sorry, I’m required to take a 10-minute break in this hour.’
‘No, I’m sorry, my lunch begins in 15 minutes at 12:00, and that’s 30 minutes of dictation you want to be transcribed. I’ll begin exactly at 1:00 when I’m IN MY SEAT and AT MY DESK.’
He realized the petty nature of his Memo to Staff within 2 business days and sent around an apology memo within a week of disastrous results.
He then sent us all out for an extended lunch of 2 hours — on the house. He didn’t come.
His memo said ‘Go complain about your boss over a 2-hour lunch — on me.’”
Getting Paid To Not Work
“How about getting paid more for not showing up to work at all?
I used to work as a suit salesman in a large retail store. The pay was basically minimum wage, but you could make a commission that effectively doubled your wage.
My employer brought in a new rule around productivity. You now had to hit an ambitious AVERAGE sales target for each hour you worked to qualify to receive any commission. Hit the target and you would get commission on all sales you made, miss it and you just get your basic pay. Crucially, there were no exemptions for time spent working at quiet times or time spent working in the stockrooms, prepping for sales, or doing anything other than actively selling.
The result of this was that if you wanted to earn a commission, it was suicidal to do anything other than work the busiest shifts. You could sell loads one day, but spend a few hours in the stockroom selling nothing and your average sales per hour would collapse. We had part-timers working only Saturday and Sunday who were earning more than the full-timers who were working five days a week because it was so much easier to hit your targets on the weekend. If you were close to hitting your commission targets, you would obviously do literally anything to avoid doing anything which was not selling.
I used to come into work half an hour early to tidy, but had I continued to do so it would have pushed me out of my commission target and cost me thousands, so clearly that stopped.
Most of my colleagues suddenly requested to switch to part-time, weekend contracts for ‘personal reasons, and some were granted before management caught on to what was happening.
If you were called in to cover a shift, your answer would depend entirely on how busy the shift was likely to be. We would be falling over ourselves to work a Saturday, but working a Tuesday could literally cost us significant money. Once, a manager strong-armed me into working a weekday which I knew would be a dead zone. I explained that working this shift would literally cost me $1500 but he wouldn’t budge. I ended up agreeing to work the shift only if he agreed not to pay me for it, as that way I would preserve my productivity average and still get my commission.
Then the sickness started. Say you were juuust within your ‘productivity’ bracket for the month and in line to receive a commission, but had a week of slow shifts coming up – you knew for a fact that if you came into work you would slip out of the bracket, but call in sick and your productivity is preserved, so there was a perverse financial incentive for not coming to work at all.
It was a crazy, crazy system that resulted in far fewer sales overall, a hugely disorganized department, a massive blow to staff morale, and a divisive, angry atmosphere between those who made a commission, and those who didn’t, despite often working longer and harder.
I was lucky enough to be a part-timer, so I made out OK, but I left soon afterward as it was obvious the place was being run by idiots.”
More Pain? No Gain.
“Didn’t happen to me, but a friend of mine.
He worked in a private local company. At the end of 2017, the owner of the company changed which means the head of the board of directors changed (let’s call the new guy Jim). Obviously, Jim wanted to make some changes himself, mostly to establish dominance and show he’s the new sheriff in town. Rumors say he promised to double the company’s profit in a single year (remember this). There’s a thin line between ambitious and arrogant.
The first move he made didn’t have anything to do with the increasing work efficiency or meeting heads of departments or actually knowing the work that is done in that company. Jim had installed one of those time clock machines where employees check-in when they get to work and check out when they’re done.
Only they didn’t have tokens, but cards. Installation and writing guidelines took about a week after which he announced to heads of departments that every employee must check-in and check out themself even when they’re going out just for a break. Also, heads of departments should’ve forward this news to employees. The thing officially started the second or third week in January of 2018.
At first, employees didn’t take it so seriously and some of them didn’t check-in/out every day or didn’t (sometimes even forgot to) note down their breaks. At the end of the week, Jim would go through every employee’s record to see does any of them have less than 40 hours. (Notice he wasn’t interested in those who had more than 40 hours.) A friend told me that most of the employees were in the range 38–45 working hours and a very few around 37 but none under 37. Jim called for a meeting with heads of departments every Friday to inform them about the records and to warn those who work less. Also, there was no compensation for those who work more (stay late or work on weekends).
Employees protested about that kind of behavior and wanted time to clock out. That only made Jim push that thing even more and convinced the board of directors and the owner that the time clock is necessary. So it passed.
The thing is that the work climate has changed. Everyone was more concentrated on if they checked in and if they worked enough than the actual work and the pressure started to build up. The thing went on for two whole months until most of the employees (a friend said 80% but maybe he exaggerated a bit) decided to come to work, check-in, work their 8 hours at a moderate pace, check out and head home. No overtime, no working weekends, if the clock hit 16:00 people would leave mid-work or in the middle of the meeting not giving a shred of an F. Their excuse was that they did their 8 hours and if they want them to stay, they want a written notice (which is a proof of working overtime and must be paid).
This way every single employee had 40 working hours a week and not a minute more or less. But you know what? Jim wasn’t satisfied. Why? Because work suffered. He made the employees numbers and working slaves that have only one purpose – to work. This killed all the passion people had towards the job they were doing. It demoralized people. They had a feeling that someone is standing above their head every second of the day. And the time clock might not be a bad thing to check employees every once in a while, but to terrorize them like Jim did make them do anything just in spite of that work regime.
After 3 and a half months, the moment of truth came. The first quartal report came. It was a bit better than the last year so Jim stayed at his position. Employees continued with their strike. The second quartal report came and the profit was ~8% less than the same period of the previous year (maybe 9% I don’t remember). Jim ascribed it to a bad economy in the country and stayed at his position. Employees were informed about the drop in profit which made them to continue their strike. The third quartal report came. The company’s profit was down by an amazing 34% compared to the same period of the previous year. Jim was fired on the spot (even though his mandate was supposed to last 5 years) and the time clock was left just to control employees every now and then.
Conclusion: Treat your employees as humans which they are and maybe consult someone about your radical actions.”
Getting Paid $10 Per Complaint?!
“Years ago, when I first moved to Pennsylvania, I worked for an apartment rental company named Summit. I had a manager named Debbie, who was a complete idiot.
Summit was a good company. They paid well and really cared about the residents. At their properties (I was the maintenance supervisor), the customer was always right, and we were expected to do whatever it took to keep them satisfied.
We would have a monthly conference with our head office, and on one of the calls, it was mentioned that we had the lowest number of work orders called in out of the whole portfolio. I was pretty proud to hear that. I like to stay on top of preventive maintenance, go over our turns with a fine-toothed comb, and when something was repaired, I did it right the first time in order to avoid callbacks. The time I saved by doing my job right the first time was spent painting apartments in-house to save the company money, working on curb appeal, and being proactive to fix the small things that could turn into big things later.
I took the call as a huge compliment, but… Debbie saw it differently. She thought that it meant we weren’t working hard enough and not getting enough done, basically, slacking off. So she came up with a plan.
That very day she wanted us to deliver fliers to everyone’s door. The next week was going to be ‘Customer Appreciation Week.’
Every morning would be breakfast on the run. That meant ‘maintenance’ (all two of us) would come in two hours early to hand out bagels, muffins, juice, and granola bars to residents as they left for work out by the front entrance.
The next step in her grand plan was an incentive for the residents to call in more work orders- she offered a $10 rent credit for every work order they called in.
Finally, there was going to be a huge customer appreciation party at the end of the week, by the pool.
Not a lot of people cared about the breakfast thing, most just waved and drove right by.
The 10 buck credit for calling in a work order was very popular though. Everyone wanted in on that to the point where some people called in every single day, sometimes over and over again.
It started out easy enough, air filters and light bulbs, maybe a running toilet here and there, mostly legit requests, just tons of them at once.
Then, people started noticing gas smells (even though there was no gas in the apartments), at ten bucks a pop. Toilet seats were getting loose at an alarming pace. Blinds were breaking. Washing machines weren’t ‘cleaning properly,’ and dryers were ‘too slow.’ Drip pans needed to be replaced, and cabinet doors were loose.
We ran our a**es off that week. Every day was worse than the one before, and it was full speed ahead. Supply houses were delivering every day, and our shop was full of parts we were working overtime to replace.
Debbie was in heaven. We went from five or six work orders a day to easily 100 or more. That had to be good, right?
By the time Friday rolled around and customer appreciation week was finished, I was almost too tired to grill for the party. It was quite a blowout. Steak, shrimp, burgers, and hot dogs were served as well as brews, soda, and juice for the kids. Door prizes were handed out. It was the best party ever.
It was our last party with Debbie though.
By the time we had our next conference call, the bills started rolling in. Payroll was freaking out about all of the overtime. The rent credits were hitting the books. Thousands of dollars were totally wasted, but she was oblivious.
I ended up staying for 15 more years and went through five other ‘genius’ managers.”
The Missing “Part”
“Once upon a time, there was an auto repair shop. They had about six bays and a good average turnaround rate. They were doing pretty well. One day when the new manager was walking around, however, he noticed something shocking.
There was a guy… reading a magazine! He wasn’t working on a car or helping customers. He was just sitting behind a counter, eating up profits with his hourly rate.
He knew full well who this guy was. This was the ‘parts guy’. When the mechanics needed a part—an oil filter, a water pump, brake pads, etc.—they’d go to the parts counter and request it. The parts guy would retrieve it from the shelves and give it to them. If the part didn’t work out, they’d give it back to him and ask for a different one. If they didn’t have the required part, he’d order it. He’d also order commonly used parts when they started getting low. He kept the parts shelves nice and tidy.
But here he was in the middle of the workday, just sitting there! How often was he just sitting there? The new manager determined to find out.
So, over the course of the next week, the manager tracked how much time the parts guy ‘worked’ and how much time he just spent sitting around, chomping away at profits. He determined that 80% of the time, the parts guy did no work! He just sat there, reading a magazine or other material. Profitless!
So he fired the parts guy and told the mechanics that now they were in charge of getting their own parts. There was some moaning and groaning, but they complied. What else could they do?
Over the next month, the manager noticed a frightening trend. Their average turnaround time went up, way up! A repair that normally took a few hours now took a few days. A simple oil change went from less than an hour to half a day. Heck, even doing a simple tire plug could take half a day! And they were—gasp—losing customers!
He determined to find the root of the plummet in productivity.
To make a long story short, it was the missing parts guy. When the mechanics got their own parts, they’d grab them off the shelf and try them in their repair. If they didn’t work out or they grabbed too many, they’d just put them back any which way. They didn’t always put them back in the right place, or in the right box.
So that made it harder for them to even find the stuff they needed. Nothing was in order anymore. Plus, no one ever ordered anything, so they were always out of what they needed; they’d order it when they needed it, instead of beforehand. Then they had to wait for a parts delivery to get them the stuff they needed, which could take half a day.
So, instead of eating away at profits, the guy who only ‘worked’ 20% of his time allowed the rest of the staff to be more productive. His absence actually killed profits by a wide margin. He was hired back.
And they lived happily ever after.”
People First, Not Profits!
“My son worked at a chain fast food pizza place which I will not name but you have undoubtedly heard of. After a short time, he was promoted to assistant manager with only the franchise owner above him. The franchise owner was the manager in name, but only showed up about once or twice a week to open or close and otherwise just stayed in the back office getting wasted or was never seen.
One day the franchise owner/ manager sent a group text to all employees to say that he was starting a new policy, effective immediately, that masks would no longer be allowed at work. (We are in the midst of the quarantine, and wearing masks is a regular thing to protect people.) This caused concerns among a few employees including a pregnant woman who was worried for the safety of her unborn child, two older workers, and a driver who had both asthma and elderly relatives at home.
My son started receiving texts from these people and asked me for advice. I told him that the first thing he should do is discuss these concerns with the manager. He did so, and the manager was completely inflexible.
My next advice to him was that, being in a position of authority over these persons brings him a responsibility for their well-being and he should let that truth guide him. He thereafter chose not to enforce the policy. Unfortunately, the manager was adamant about no masks and started showing up at random times to tell people to remove their masks. This resulted in a number of people quitting.
At this point my son was doing the work of other people who had quit, in addition to his own duties of opening and closing on a split shift, doing inventories, filling in as cook (since the cook had quit), and trying to run the cash register too.
It was finally too much, and my son left also. Since the business was right around the corner from where we lived, we went past it many times a week and the owner’s truck was always parked outside, meaning he was now working long hours to make up for all the people he had lost due to his no mask policy.
A few weeks ago, we saw signs on the building saying it was for rent. The man lost his business for being inflexible over an ill-conceived rule that he never should have implemented in the first place.”
“We’re Eliminating Breaks!”
“At my first corporate job, back in the early 90s, management called an all-hands meeting.
‘We’re eliminating all breaks,’ they announced. ‘Some people are taking advantage of smoke breaks and work isn’t getting done.’
We did have a lot of smokers. I wasn’t one of them, but this didn’t seem fair. I raised my hand. ‘But aren’t you required by law to allow breaks?’ I asked.
‘No, we’ve checked into it,’ they said. ‘Employers aren’t required to offer breaks of any kind.’
We all left the meeting shaking our heads. Talking later, we figured out what was going on. One particular employee had been taking lots of breaks. He was both a smoker and hit the sauce hard. I hadn’t seen him drinking, but I’d noticed his hands shaking. The day before the meeting, apparently one of the managers had found him sleeping in his car.
So, rather than dealing with the problem employee one-on-one, management enacted a sweeping new policy that meant, effectively, we could never leave our desks except to go to the bathroom.
The guy was gone in a matter of days. I don’t know if he was fired or left on his own. So problem solved, I guess? Except that several good employees followed him out the door.
The policy was quickly reversed but the damage was done. Instead of facing a difficult problem head-on, they treated us all like children and paid the price.”
Punished For Getting Sick?!
“I was working as the assistant accountant at a company and had to leave early one day as I was sick. My boss insisted on a doctor certificate to cover that half day so I managed to see my gp the next morning who gave me a certificate for three days off plus the half day. I objected but the doc said if you’re feeling better in a few days just go back to work.
So two days later I’m feeling better and return to work. My boss was annoyed because instead of a few hours I’m now out two days so she says I need to go back to same dr to get a clearance to return to work.
By this time it’s midmorning of the last day of the certificate. I’m fine. It’s the last week of the month and we’re super busy and she wants me to drive 40 minutes each way to the doctor to get a certificate and the chances of an appointment with the same doctor is unlikely. And it’s going to cost me $80 for appointment.
I had lots of sick leave accrued and it’s also November.
I explained that we’d lose 1/2 to 3/4 of the day and I’d be out of pocket but nope she wanted me to go back to the doc.
Previously no one had ever enforced a doctor certificate if anyone came back early (unless it was workers comp). She told me that this was my ‘punishment’ for leaving early when I was sick a few days before!
When she said that, I made a decision. I said I wasn’t prepared to spend the money for the doctors to reassess me for 1/2 day work. She said in that case you can’t work today.
No problems I said. I’ll go do my Christmas shopping and I grabbed my handbag and sauntered out.
I’m told her face just dropped and she whined to the GM after I’d left and he laughed and told her she was the one who forced the issue.”