I’m watching Menander‘s ancient wisdom come to life, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
About a year ago – just over now – we hired a new guy. He came in after being laid off by a large company (not as large as ours though), and was a former co-worker and friend of our customer service supervisor. She knew his work ethic, his abilities, and she basically shoe-horned him in after two whiffs with other candidates for the job. The first wanted to use us to leverage another company. The second wanted to show up a few minutes late every day and didn’t straighten up and fly right even after being told she was on thin ice. (Wt…?)
So, anyway, she made sure (sorta) he got the job. And he’s doing fine, really.
But I sit directly over a cubicle wall from him, and I hear things I don’t think our CSS hears. I hear the personal phone calls (and, there are a lot of them). I hear the whispered conversations (well…I can hear the whispering, anyway, not the conversations). I can hear the BS sessions with the two people he’s sandwiched between, sometimes for upwards of 20 or 30 minutes at a time.
We ALL chit-chat at work. We all spend time doing things other than working while we’re at work. I spend time on the Internet, doing code monkey stuff, learning, watching training videos. Others get up and go have a cigarette…five or six or ten times a day. (I used to smoke, but c’mon.) Some of them wander around the building and waste other people’s time too, outside our business group. Whatever it is, we all have something we do. (Except my boss, maybe.)
The new guy – I’ll call him John – sits between two people who are, let’s say, of questionable character. One of them – the one in the cubicle to his right – is very, very fast and does a lot of work. She also thinks she’s special somehow, and need not follow the same procedures and orders of operation as everyone else. Doesn’t have to follow the chain of command, either, apparently. Because she does a ton of work. she doesn’t get much discipline. I disagree with that philosophy, but that’s me.
The other person, in the cube on to John’s left, is not a super star by volume. He’s good at what he does, I guess, and he handles our biggest customer (by dollars at least, if not volume). He’s lazy. He’s underhanded. He’s shifty. Don’t turn your back on him, not even for a moment. He’s in good with a few big customers, so he’s secure in his job, but he’s being carried by the person to John’s right. Why? Well, they’re sort of obvious about their “relationship” with one another. Obvious as in, during a stand-up weekly meeting, she was rubbing her foot up and down his leg and more than one person noticed.
So, they’re in some sort of personal fraternization situation and we won’t go any further on that today.
But these two are also notorious for their distaste for our CSS. When she got promoted from Senior Customer Service Rep to Customer Service Supervisor, the guy to John’s left (let’s call him Vince) figured he should have gotten a shot at it. He shouldn’t and didn’t, because he’s not knowledgeable enough and he’s not a good leader. He plays favorites, and he’s got that lazy thing. It’s a lazy thing a mile wide too.
The woman – and let’s call her TJ – is vitriolic. She’s crass. She’s hard and sort of a cross between biker chick and trailer trash. She’s good at what she does and she’s good at dropping F-bombs all over the place. She even does it with customers (if they have that kind of relationship). She’s not lazy, but she also thinks she’s way, way smarter than she is. She thinks we’re not on to her, and she thinks we can’t figure her out. She holds herself as an equal in skill to my boss…yet another error in her judgment. She’s arrogant and demeaning to anyone who isn’t her.
Do I sound judgmental? Well, I’m trying to highlight the sort of things the new person to our team is surrounded with. Bear with me.
TJ and Vince spend a lot of time talking to John or each other. In instant messages, in person, who knows how else. It would be amusing to capture their conversations and funnel them to their spouses, frankly. Vince’s wife is a night time nurse, and I know from former sweethearts who became nurses there was serious money in that (because no one would take them so they paid premium wages). She’s the bread winner in their household, and I know that because I have an idea what he makes.
TJ’s husband is a large man with a job as an electrician on staff with another big company in this area. He didn’t start out making big money, but he’s probably union and by now, he’s got the bread winner title in that house too.
What’s this got to do with John?
Almost nothing, you’d think. But they whisper to him all day long. They talk to him. And more and more I see him behaving badly, trying to fit in, laughing at their jokes, and spending his time imitating them. They think he’s one of the good ones. They determined to “initiate” him properly. (“Indoctrinate” would be a better word.)
Unfortunately, John and our CSS are still “friends” – as much as they could be – from their past work history. So he tells her the things they say. He expressed his frustration about their constant hammering on him with mental and verbal battering rams. He’s told her he laughs, plays along, and does what he has to not to make enemies. He’s been doing that for a year now.
The company finally finished the hiring process with him a few months ago (June 30 was his first day, I believe, as a full-time employee). But he’s still doing the same things – laughing, agreeing, talking, spending time doing their things. And I can’t help but believe there’s been an erosion under the veneer. That sort of venom is bound to have an effect, especially in that amount.
Time will show, I suppose.