Monday, December 20, 2010

The Gorilla Chronicles

I know it is the holidays, and I should be posting nice, warm-fuzzy posts, full of holiday cheer and goodwill towards men.

But I hate one of my coworkers.

And I have to vent about him before I can get back to my warm fuzzy place. Luckily for you, dear readers, I am pretty much exhausted from talking about him, thinking about him, venting about him and stressing out about him. So I will give you the short version of what I will call The Gorilla Chronicles.

Last June, we hired this guy. He's the supervisor for another department at the library. This department works pretty closely with my department, so it's only natural for us to share an office (there are few private offices in my building). I prepared for his arrival by stocking up his desk with some office supplies, giving him a copy of a training manual I made for my department and emailing him stuff I thought he might be interested in knowing. I assumed that since he was new not only to our school, but also to Savannah, he would have TONS of questions to ask me. I mean, isn't that what people do when they are new at a job? They ask a bunch of questions. Since I answer questions for a living, this is fine with me. I am happy to help.

Only, he didn't ask questions. And when our boss and our colleagues tried to explain to him why we do certain things a certain way, they were all ignored. When S, the woman who was temporarily running his department before he arrived gave him advice, it was ignored.

So this guy was basically learning nothing about his new job. When he did ask questions, he never understood people's explanations, so the other person had to explain themselves over and over and over. It's extremely frustrating. It was like he wasn't even listening. So even when he does want to know something, it's an uphill battle to explain it to him. But usually he operates in this vicious cycle: he doesn't ask questions --> he doesn't know anything --> this doesn't stop him from barking orders at people to do things that make no sense --> he is totally opposed from receiving input from others. Sounds fun, huh? Yeah, the last 6 months at work have sucked.

To boot, he snubbed his nose at us whenever we invited him out to baseball games (most of us attend the local baseball games here in town about 3 x per summer), happy hours, lunches, etc. We realize that socializing with your coworkers is not a requirement of your job, but is it too much to ask that you at least say good morning to people? Or tell your staff that you're leaving for the evening? It's like he didn't want to talk to ANYONE. He literally does not talk to me. Do you know how awkward it is to sit 6 feet away from someone, 40 hours a week, and never acknowledge their existence?

For a while, we thought he was just kind of weird. Ok, so he's not social. Whatever. But then, he started to make all these changes in his department. His ideas stink on ice, to put it bluntly. They were confusing to his staff, not communicated well and seemed to be fixing things that weren't broken. Whenever his staff asked a question about it, because like I said, these ideas were not communicated clearly, he would tell them that they are not supposed to ask questions, but instead are supposed to just do what he says -- he's the supervisor. He is one of those macho guys who drinks protein shakes and works out for 2 hours every day. He props his feet up on his desk when he's on the phone, he wears tight t-shirts to work to show off his muscles and he drives a BMW. This attitude, combined with his persona, is why we call him The Gorilla.

I could write a post just about the super mean things he has done to one girl in his department, including threatening her, making sexist comments/implications, and telling her to follow rules that he breaks on a regular basis! And she's supposed to shut up and do what he says!

Well, I can tell you that this is NOT how we roll at our library. One of the things I like about my job is that it's super team-oriented and very collaborative. Everyone's input is valued and shared and discussed. He wants to operate like a dictator over his staff. This is so foreign, I cannot even tell you. I know you may be thinking that perhaps we were a little bossy towards him or something, or telling him what to do, but that was not it at all. We have been giving him heads up about things which affect his department, and described successful ways to deal with these situations, and he just ignores us. Everything we have done has been as a gesture of helping him. But he doesn't think anyone can tell him anything. He thinks he knows everything.

The worst part about it is, our boss, who could have gotten him all straightened out, quit while I was in Hong Kong. This leaves Big Boss to supervise him, and she is super busy and travels a lot. It's not her fault, but he is just not being supervised well right now. Meanwhile, his ideas are getting worse, he refuses to listen to anyone and has started to get into arguments with people, including me.

But I am not the only one. There are no fewer than 5 people that have complained about him to Big Boss. He will "forget" to attend meetings, avoid responsibility for things which fall under his authority, not uphold his end of bargains, do something directly opposite of what Big Boss tells him, show up an hour late, take 2 hour lunch breaks, etc. Every once in a while, he will ask a question, and it's something he should have learned MONTHS ago. Or he'll ask a question, and it's totally lame. Basically, he sucks. He's incompetent. And he's not even nice to people!

One day, I was working at my desk when he blurted out to another coworker an idea that was so ridiculously stupid, I turned around and said, "Dude, I hear you. That is a problem, but doing what you're thinking of doing is probably a bad idea, and I can tell you why." So I tried to explain to him why it was such a bad idea, and since he's either stupid or refuses to listen, it became a very frustrating conversation on my end -- he just wasn't getting what I was saying, and I had to keep repeating myself. Apparently, at some point in the conversation, although I do not remember saying it, I called him "stupid" or an "idiot". I do not remember saying this at all, although I will admit to thinking it a lot!!! (I am not excusing my behavior -- I was unprofessional and shouldn't have said whatever I said.)

The next thing I know, I have to have a meeting with HR and Big Boss about all of this. I told them that I may have said it, because I was very frustrated at the time, but I do not remember saying the exact phrase he was claiming. In fact, I think what I may have said is that the IDEA was stupid. (Yes, I realize that neither comment is professional or appropriate, but they mean different things!) I was kind of pissed that rather than talking to me about all of this, he went to HR, and was now making a big deal out of nothing. I realized during this meeting that The Gorilla was not playing, and I needed to protect myself. So I sang like a canary and told them all stuff he had done. My Big Boss, who was there, was shocked and had no idea all of this stuff had been going on. She also talked to the girl on his staff I mentioned a minute ago -- she sang like a canary, too. But Big Boss was still thinking it may just be a personality conflict and that he just needed more training. We were worried that she wasn't taking us seriously, and that she was on his side.

Then, all hell broke loose on the last day of classes before Thanksgiving. As this is the day that all the students are done with classes and exams, we get a T-O-N of books returned at the desk. We literally have thousands returned in the matter of one day. So we have always used this great organization system to manage it all so we don't end up with giant piles of books on the floor. This system works great, and so ahead of time, my coworker S told him all about it. She said, "Hey, this is the system I came up with, and it works really great. You may want to put it in place before the last day of classes, or you can do your own thing, too, if you want." (By this point in time, she had already been told, like I had, to mind her own business and keep her nose out of his department, so she just wanted to offer it as an option to him. Besides, Big Boss had told her to mentor him until the end of the year, so she was doing as she was instructed.)

True to form, he ignored her. Then, he was not even at work on this super busy day (it is the busiest day of the whole year for his department!). So all hell is breaking loose while he is gone, because he told his staff to NOT use the system that worked. They were supposed to use this other system that he created (which was not really anything at all). S happens to walk by the desk and sees his staff (who are also her friends, btw) struggling to keep up with all the books. She asks them what the plan is for dealing w/all of this, and no one says anything. One person asked if they could set up the usual system. S asked everyone, "Do you want to use the regular system?" and everyone nodded. So they did it, and everything began to get organized and the staff wasn't so stressed out. Yay!

The next day, when The Gorilla came into work, and saw that the old system was set up, he took it all down, ripping the organization signs down, and demanded answers from his staff as to who had set up the old system. Once he found out, he emailed S a very nasty email, claiming she was undermining his authority and lowering the morale of his staff. This email made S cry, it was so mean spirited. S did not reply to it, because honestly, it didn't deserve a response. It was totally out of line, unprofessional and disrespectful. S just told Big Boss that she wanted to talk to her about it, and forwarded the email to Big Boss.

Big Boss told her that The Gorilla had already forwarded a copy to her. Yes, you read that correctly, The Gorilla sent a copy of his nasty email to Big Boss voluntarily. That is how much he thinks he is right! He can't even recognize when he's being a jerk! He thought that email was totally appropriate!

This event, combined with stuff that he has done to Big Boss (oh yes, this guy has some serious cojones!!!), has definitely turned the tables on him. S and I had to meet again with HR about our "conflicts" because basically, The Gorilla wanted us to apologize to him. He wanted accountability. Whatever. I apologized for what I said, as I should have. I don't have a problem with that. But even though the HR lady was trying to explain to him how inappropriate his email was, he still didn't get it. During this meeting with HR, I found out that The Gorilla has been talking to HR for WEEKS saying who knows what about all of us. I know that some of the stuff he's said is flat-out not true, because we had to correct the HR lady at the meeting. I think that he's got a lawyer and is being coached on how to sue for hostile work environment or something. His last job was at a law firm, so we are thinking he has a buddy who is coaching him. This guy is super dangerous. That's why even though he has not acknowledged my existence, I am ok with that, because I don't want to give him any more ammo!

Anyway, this guy is ridiculous, and I really hope his arguments don't hold up, because I am so tired of dealing with him. We all are. Luckily, Big Boss totally sees our side (now that she has been a victim, too!) now and I am pretty sure she is ready to give him the old heave ho. His arguments really don't carry much weight. I guess we will have to see how it turns out.

Whew! Sorry, I tried to make it short. I'm going home to Virginia tomorrow. If I don't get a chance to blog while I'm there, I hope everyone reading this has a VERY Merry Christmas!!!!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Sunny...with a Chance of Rain

Sorry about the woe-is-me post, there, guys. I was getting the last little bits of my down mood out of me. I have been making a bigger effort to get out of the house and meet people and be busier, because that always puts me in a better mood. I have had a great week, actually. I think my prayers have finally been answered. I feel more optimistic and happy than I have in a long time.

Well, except for one thing.

Just as the proverbial sun has come out, along comes a little black rain cloud: they have started to have layoffs at the school where I work. I am pretty sure I am safe, along with at least most of my immediate coworkers. But it's a little tense right now. Upper administration isn't providing much information, so the rumor mill is going bonkers -- 100 people are getting laid off, one of our campuses is closing, bosses are forced to justify who they can keep... -- it's nuts. The only things I know for sure:

* 2 people have been laid off (but I'm pretty sure there are more)
* lots of people, from all kinds of departments, have to take2 weeks or a month's furlough
*most of the non-essential buildings around campus are closed (as in, no power or water) for the month

What makes me nervous is that we are getting no information, and since there's a school policy that prohibits us from talking to the media, there is nowhere for me to get info, other than the rumor mill. I am also concerned about the fact that they never offered to freeze/cut pay as a way to prevent layoffs -- does that mean we are past that as an option? I don't like that they have shut down power/water to most of the buildings on campus. That sounds really extreme and last-resort-y to me. I did some rough number crunching about how much $ this would save to shut down most of the buildings on campus for one month (long story as to how I have numbers to use!) -- it's about $350k. If they need more than that, exactly how bad is it?

Is this just round one? Is there more to come? Has the president cut her own salary and bonus? Who knows?! But I have my suspicions that things have been bad for a while and they just haven't told us. Our Hong Kong campus is not taking off like we thought it would. Anytime you start something like a new campus, you have to expect that it will be a little slow to get off the ground -- we were entering a new market, for Pete's sake. But I think they thought it would be gang busters, and they have been struggling since day one. Everyone knows it. I'm pretty sure they are WAY over budget and I get the feeling they didn't do their homework when they hatched this idea. One of the Admissions girls in Hong Kong told me that everyone assumed there would be all these mainland China people who would enroll, but they had just found out that anyone who wants to attend school in Hong Kong must wait a year before they can go -- there's some bureaucratic law/immigration rule that requires students to wait one year before going to Hong Kong. Which set us back in admissions BIG time. Then there were a few signs last spring that something was rotten in Denmark. But no one thought anything of it. Now it's adding up, at least in my head. I work at an expensive, private school. I guess the economy finally caught up to us. Why go to our school for $27k per year, when you can go to a state school for less?

For several reasons, the library should be mostly, if not entirely, unscathed in this. Which means we will all have survivor's guilt. Can you imagine losing your job 3 weeks before Christmas? I know one of the people who was laid off -- she's a mom with a son in college. That sucks. Just in case, I am definitely going to be trimming back on things. Luckily, I have a lot of vacation time saved up, so if there's a 2 week furlough, it shouldn't affect me. Guess it pays to never take days off! I have also saved some money -- enough to pay my bills for a month if I have to deal with a worst-case scenario.

I called my mom today to tell her about all this. She says that worst-case scenario, I break my lease, pack all my stuff, and move in with her. There are actually a couple of jobs open in my hometown right now in libraries there. Then she told me there is no point in worrying about it, because I can't do anything about decisions made above my head. Which is true.

The thing is with layoffs and financial troubles, it works like an onion -- you peel off layers until you have the core you need just to stay operating on a skeleton crew. And right now, I don't know what layers are being peeled off and I certainly don't know which layer I am in. I am pretty sure I am in a better state than the guy who shares my office. Boy, is he a piece of work! I need to post about him -- you guys would NOT believe how awful he is. I'm glad my big boss likes me. Hard work always pays off. Right?