Missing Woody

by admin on February 7, 2013

Our store manager, Woody, was going to be transferred. In our line of work, store managers and department heads often got transferred with very little notice given to the rest of the staff. The prevalent complaint against Woody was his tendency and tenacity to cut schedules. He did this in order to meet requirements handed down from on high. Despite these reasonable reasons, many of the department heads and other workers didn’t like this practice. Mainly because it negatively impacted their paychecks. Working as the interment payroll clerk while the main clerk was out on maternity leave and taking time off to spend with her newborn child, I worked extremely close with Woody. Because of our close working relationship, Edna (the regular payroll clerk) and I were saddened to hear of Woody’s transfer. Those disgruntled department heads, however, were practically doing cartwheels down the hall. They could barely contain their glee. Edna was in tears while those others were grinning from ear to ear.

The grins and the glee did not last long. Enter Brad, the new store manager.

Woody, though known for his schedule slashing, had been a rather laid back manager. As long as you looked busy and at least appeared to be doing your job, he left folks alone. The department heads were free to run their departments as they saw fit, with very little input from him.

Not Brad.

He was up their butts and on their backs from the moment he walked through the door to the second he left for the day. He wanted to know what they were doing, why they were doing it, and how come they weren’t doing it his way. Woe on the unfortunate soul who did not have adequate answers for his questions. This was a man who would give you a dirty look for interrupting his conversation with another worker by simply saying Good Morning and, the next week, ask you why you had simply walked by without saying Good Morning while he was mid-coversation with someone else. In a matter of weeks, he instilled a level of fear and paranoia that was only seen in Stephen King novels.

All those that had been crowing in delight at Woody’s exit are now, quite frequently, crying their eyes out in the bathroom after being taken to task by Brad. Their only hope now is for Brad to be transferred before someone has a nervous breakdown.

Just the other day, I heard the unimaginable words, “Man, I sure miss Woody.”

Coworkers, be careful what you wish for! 0129-13

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

wimpy February 7, 2013 at 5:18 am

I’m confused by this submission. It doesn’t seem to have much to do with etiquette. Disliking your boss isn’t rude. Disagreeing with company policy isn’t rude. I guess the way you express your dislike/disagreement could be rude but I’m not seeing much of that here.

I don’t see how just because you could have a much worse boss automatically means any complaints against the current one are invalid. I’m pretty sure that by that standard no one in the Western world should ever be unhappy with their job since it could be so much worse, after all.

And I don’t really get why OP is so invested in this to the point where he/she is gleeful about the coworkers’ misfortune. As long as it doesn’t interfere with your work, who cares whether everyone likes the boss or not? I can see thinking it’s unfair but it’s just… not really your business or something you should be involved in. Just leave them to it and get on with your work.

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Sazerac February 7, 2013 at 6:48 am

Other than the obvious schadenfreude of the co-workers at Woody’s transfer, I don’t see this so much as an etiquette issue, but more of a cautionary tale. It reminds me much of the old Irish folk song, “I Long To Be Single Again”:

“Come, all ye young men who have wives,
and all young men who have none, oh then,
Be kind to the first, for the second’s far worse,
And you’ll long for the old one again.”

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Chris February 7, 2013 at 7:34 am

OP you and your coworkers ARE aware that managers, even store managers, are not immune from work place harassment and hostile working environment complaints and lawsuits, yes?

I recognize your point about being careful about what you wish for, however your story appears to clearly illustrate hostile working conditions created by Brad. Regardless of how he runs his store if his behavior is pushing people to TEARS or fearing a nervous breakdown, his behavior has created hostile working conditions. If this is a corporation, as it sounds to be, report him to district or regional management. If that fails, go to the corporate office. If no actions are taken, a lawyer will gleefully take the case.

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clairedelune February 7, 2013 at 7:57 am

This doesn’t sound like a terribly employee-friendly workplace in general, no matter who is enforcing the dicta from “on high.”

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SFL February 7, 2013 at 8:39 am

It can often take time for employees to get used to a new manager who has a very different management style. Maybe some won’t get used to it all all.

But what stuck me: “As long as you looked busy and at least appeared to be doing your job,…”

Maybe that is some of the problem. If people WERE busy and DOING their job Brad might not be trying to micromanage.

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desireesgranny February 7, 2013 at 8:44 am

I always say the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know. Be careful what you wish for!

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Kate February 7, 2013 at 9:39 am

I think the etiquette issue is how we treat people for doing their job. Woody was told he had to cut hours to meet whatever goal the company had for the store. So he followed orders and people were angry with him when it was beyond his control. It’s too bad they were focused on one thing instead of seeing the big picture. Managers often have to make tough decisions and hopefully they do so fairly and professionally.

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Rap February 7, 2013 at 10:40 am

Kate, I agree. I’ve worked at the same place for years and we occasionally get orders from on high that I can tell aren’t pleasing to my direct supervisor…. but if they aren’t enforced, then my supervisor gets into trouble. So he enforces it and has to listen to everyone grumble and complain about how mean he is.

As for hostile working conditions – I’ll be honest, one reason I’ve never had much urge to promote up is that I don’t have the patience to deal with all the whining and wailing. Yes, yes, everyone is special and yes, everyone deserves to hear compliments, but really… watching the dance my boss has to do in order to let someone know their work isn’t up to snuff without damaging their feelings drives me up the wall.

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Roslyn February 7, 2013 at 11:02 am

It sounds to me like Brad was working hard to whip a lot of employees into shape after they had been slacking off under “Woody’s” rein.

They were used to doing things their way, and now there is a new sheriff in town.

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Stacey Frith-Smith February 7, 2013 at 11:10 am

Anxiety in a relationship can show up as distancing (Woody, who was so laid back), conflict (Brad, who is so aggressive), projecting/ scapegoating (mangers et al blaming Woody for decisions made by higher-ups, and over or under performance (functioning) that attempts to compensate. A job is not a personal relationship, and a corporate culture wears a unique face- but I think that the shoe “fits”. There seems to be a lack of clarity, predictability and continuity in your workplace culture that drives a lot of drama. Very sad too because just imagine what could be done with the extra time, energy and resources on behalf of the employees AND in the interest of the company’s profit margin if the impact of such dynamics were reduced. Reducing it should be a priority as it’s costing resources that could be spent elsewhere. Maybe some differences of approach are called for, along with some mindfulness, transparency, and a better set of best practices. Then fewer people would be crying in the bathroom or muttering into their morning coffee to vent.

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Snarkastic February 7, 2013 at 11:20 am

Yes, not a cut and dry etiquette tale, but – oh, boy! – can I sympathize with all the employees.

I had an Office Manager that micromanaged, screamed, yelled, would fly off the handle when I would ask questions relating to my job or a task at hand. I developed such fear, that I was constantly on edge at my job. If I was left with nothing to do (because she had hijacked all my tasks as I was either incompetent or usurping her authority, depending on her mood), I would do anything to look busy for fear she would see me doing nothing and start screaming and carrying on. My boss did nothing.

Now I work somewhere else, where I am the Office Manager. I don’t yell at anyone. Here’s hoping Brad chills out.

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Enna February 7, 2013 at 11:37 am

I agree with Chris on this one. This manager makes people cry. That is not good.

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Allie February 7, 2013 at 1:37 pm

I agree with Wimpy. I don’t see any etiquette issues here. Brad is certainly not creating any workplace morale and I personally don’t agree with his management style, but I’m not sure his conduct crosses a line legally in terms of what is acceptable behaviour in the workplace. Hopefully, he will be transferred and someone better will come along.

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Melalucci February 8, 2013 at 2:15 am

I’d say the etiquette issue was the people cackling and celebrating Woody’s transfer before he was even out the door — in front of someone who was upset, no less. Common courtesy would have them at least do it on their own time.

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Rebecca February 12, 2013 at 4:43 am

Ah, retail. I don’t miss it. Apart from not being allowed to have a life at all because I was expected to conform to an unpredictable and wacky schedule, it was also because of the slashing of my hours with next to no notice, ie “it’s not as busy as we thought it would be, so your hours are being cut in half this week.”

As the OP states,
“Despite these reasonable reasons, many of the department heads and other workers didn’t like this practice. Mainly because it negatively impacted their paychecks.”

Yes, well, our paychecks were kind of important to us as we had rent and other bills to pay. Yet it always seemed that upper management felt that we were working for a little extra pocket money for pleasure spending, not because we actually needed the money. It came across in the “oh, no problem, we’ll just cut hours” attitude rather than, “I’m sorry, I’m going to have to cut your hours.” Or the numerous times they made a big mistake on my paycheck and when I asked for it to be corrected, I always got, “Oh, OK, we’ll put it on the next check.” (I knew they COULD cut me a check immediately, but they just didn’t want to because it’s a little more work for them – I was talking $400 that my landlord really wasn’t going to wait another two weeks for).

What made all this slashing of hours especially irritating was that come busy season (2 months in summer), they expected everyone to be available 40 hours a week for whatever shift, day or night, weekday or weekend, they chose to give us. Which could be quite difficult if you were trying to hold down a second job to supplement your income for the times when they scheduled you for only 8 hours in a week.

Or they’d schedule you for 25 hours in a week, just to make sure they had reserved your time, but then with no notice, cut it back to 16.

In short, you were a valuable employee when they needed you, but you could lie in the streets and die of starvation the rest of the time for all they cared.

I recognize that none of this was Woody’s fault though. They are under pressure from head office.

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Kathy February 14, 2013 at 1:54 pm

I doubt you were the “interment” payroll clerk, unless you were working in a funeral home. I’m guessing you were the “interim” payroll clerk.

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