Saturday, February 14, 2009

Logic is little tweeting bird chirping in meadow. Logic is wreath of pretty flowers that smell bad.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Go Animate just added a flash feature where you can make a Star Trek cartoon. Here's what I threw together trying to include as many of my blogger friends as I could.

The tool is pretty cool but it won't let you add anything that looks like a swear word ("class" or "ubermilf".) Do you have any idea how hard it is to do a Randal Graves character without swearing?

Also- I didn't have time to add everybody but a big Valentine's Day hug to everybody. Oh, Snabalus- you were going to be Chief Engineer Montgomery Snabby but I didn't do an engine room scene. Maybe if I continue the story... Blogger Trek

Like it? Create your own at It's free and fun!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Baa-ram-ewe! Baa-ram-ewe! To your breed, your fleece, your clan be true! Sheep be true! Baa-ram-ewe!

Obligatory 1000 post critter pictures.

1000 posts. That's a hell of a lot of bad grammar, poor spelling and improper punctuation. :)

NAME: Little Joe, AKA "Rasputin."

TURN ONS: Supergoat brand oats, wild blackberries, being scratched between the horns, pellet pooping wherever I please and staring at the two-leggers with my devil eyes.

TURN OFFS: Wasps, dogs, flooding in my pen and amorous hillbillies.

HOW I GOT HERE: A farmer gave me away.

QUOTE: "Feed me or die."

NAME: Mathilda

TURN ONS: Napping, sitting on the couch with Dean with my head on his shoulder, chasing my people's car across the highway.

TURN OFFS: Fireworks, thunder and amorous little dogs.

HOW I GOT HERE: I was adopted from the Humane Society after they caught me and my mom running wild through the park.

QUOTE: "It's all good."

NAME: Sheba

TURN ONS: A full bowl of dog food, my best friend #1Animefan and chasing my tail.

TURN OFFS: An empty dog food bowl, grouchy little dogs and having to go outside when it's cold.

HOW DID I GET HERE? I'm just staying temporarily while they find me a new home. Going on five years now.

QUOTE: "What? Hey, look there's something shiny."

NAME: Spike, AKA "CMD" (Chihuaha of Mass Destruction), "Little Devil," "Mini Monster," "Spikerdoodles."

TURN ONS: Playing fetch with my red ball, push my red ball into the people's hand so they'll play fetch, finding my red ball after they've hidden it because I'm annoying them.

TURN OFFS: Being put in a cat carrier (it's so humiliating), having Dean take something out of my mouth that I'm not suppossed to have and my nails clipped.

HOW DID I GET HERE? They paid good money for me from a breeder. Suckers.

QUOTE: "Okay, you die and you walk away with a severe limp."

Good luck with your layoffs, all right? I hope your firings go really well.

This is the 999th post so tomorrow it's pix of my critters.

I've been sharing some of the more egregious things I've seen from inside the corporate world to try and present a sort of counterpoint to all the bitching we've seen about the role of government as of late. There seem to be a large block of people who still believe that government is inherently evil, while private enterprise is all noble competition, candy canes and lollipops.

Besides the salary limits and bonus thing I've already talked about, the company I work for has also done the following in the last few years---

  • Eliminated carryover vacation time for employees and instituted a "use it or lose it" policy. (I refuse to honor this btw. If my employees made good faith efforts to use their time I comp it into the next year.)

  • Changed health care providers plans every year and health care providers twice. Each time our rates and deductibles have gone up.

  • During the most recent change they picked a provider that implemented the social engineering with deductibles plan. We're responsible for a much higher percentage of our deductible for diagnostics. The excuse is that they're trying to keep people from getting "frivolous" MRIs and X-rays by making it more expensive. I am seriously considering taking my kids out of sports because of this. We can't afford an injury.

  • Eliminated a 70-year old company tradition by which the company essentially shuts down, employees are recognized at a party and, most importantly, frontline employees were allowed to ask direct questions of the top management of the company. Funny how this went away just as they started squeezing employees.

For those of you that might be wondering why I continue to work for an institution that would take all those actions the answer is that I have friends at competing companies and the horror stories they tell about cuts to benefits, etc. make the complaints I've listed sound benign by comparison. These issues are widespread and systematic.

Some of the things I hear about how government should stay out of the way and let the market just correct itself leave me seriously flabbergasted. I can't help but wonder if these corporate fanboys have spent even a single day in a corporate environment. The idea that corporations are anything less than amoral institutions dedicated almost entirely to providing value to their shareholders is pretty ridiculous.

I wonder if we could ever get back to the days of Henry Ford when the prevailing corporate philosophy was to take care of their employees with the recognition that they themselves were consumers. I consider conservative's arguments about corporate tax cuts and how they would lead to higher wages and job creation and think they might as well be speaking Farsi for all the sense those arguments make. They simply have no relation to reality.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

You're walking around blind without a cane, pal. A fool and his money are lucky enough to get together in the first place.

I'm having a hard time figuring out how to write this and not have it come across as whining because it concerns my personal bonus, or lack thereof. I decided to share this because it's just another micro example of how American business doesn't always operate in good faith towards the people it employs.

I'm a believer in incentive (bonus) programs not just for managers but for years I've been pushing the company to adopt some sort of profit sharing plan for staff. If they're structured correctly and tied to performance I believe they provide the company with engaged, satisfied staff.

The incentive program I participate is pretty standard. Basically I'm given a numerical rating on a quarterly basis. This rating is a combination of employee and customer satisfaction and performance against budget. If my numerical rating is mid to low against those factors then I don't qualify for a bonus.

If I'm an dick of a boss and have a bunch of employees leave then I won't qualify for a bonus. If I have really unhappy staff and that's reflected on employee feedback surveys then I won't qualify for a bonus. If I lose customers or customers are unhappy with our product or service then I won't qualify for a bonus. If I don't beat the company's top and bottom line financial goals for my book of business then I really, really won't qualify for a bonus.

On paper it's a pretty good plan. You can see how managing to that plan forces me to be a better manager and not take anything, or anyone for granted.

In 2007 the company tweaked the plan. Apparently corporate didn't like the unexpected allocations for bonuses that would pop up (they don't like financial surprises) so they decided to take money out of your book of business to set aside for any bonuses you may qualify for. A line titled "performance sharing" appeared on my profit and loss statements and a dollar amount based on a percentage my salary was set aside from my total revenue each month on this line.

This had it's obvious downside for managers. The financial goals for an incentive now became that much harder as your numerical rating was figured after all of those line items, including "performance sharing" were subtracted from your overall revenue. They were slyly making it harder to score a bonus.

In 2008 they tweaked the plan again. This time they indexed manager's numerical ratings against their region. This means you could have a great quarter but not see a penny if the other managers in the region were boneheads who didn't know how to run their businesses. Their excuse was that this would encourage "teamwork" but that idea is laughable. I have nothing to contribute to accounts in Seattle or San Francisco in terms of personnel and vice versa.

This had the desired effect of putting bonuses out of reach of even the best performing managers, myself included. My feeling was something akin to "Whatever. I'm lucky to have this job. At least the site financials will look even better."

Yet, they continued to take "performance sharing" dollars out of my account like clockwork. I had assumed that they would just pay that unused chunk of bonus cash back into the account at the end of the year when they closed the books. I kept checking my financials for this big block of cash, now totalling over $7000 to show up. Of course it never did.

This week I had a conversation with my manager and asked him where this money went. He flew into a rant. Apparently we've already identified and complained about this with corporate and were met with the hand. Apparently that "performance sharing" is meant for somebody else to share and is not to be questioned.

To sum up: the company takes money out of my book of business to cover a potential cash incentive for me, the very act of taking this money out makes it harder for me to achieve that incentive so they don't have to pay it, when I fail to achieve the incentive they keep that money without an explanation rather put it back into my business.

Why, it's almost like they're stealing it.

Monday, February 09, 2009

I wish I could tell you that Andy fought the good fight, and the Sisters let him be. I wish I could tell you that - but prison is no fairy-tale world.

Tales from private industry...

Boiled down to it's essence the debate over the stimulus is between those that subscribe to the tired religion of the "free market" vs. those who realistically recognize that there are occasions when it's necessary for the government to take action to keep the economic waterwheel that is the economy from seizing up and grinding to a stop.

There are more than a few people who continue to look at government as evil and for them the debate begins and ends with that concept. They cannot fathom that private industry ain't all that and a bag of chips. As someone who actually has spent his whole life in private industry I find this idea pretty absurd. Every criticism you can level at government can be turned around and thrown and private companies. Every single one.

I value my bloggy anonymity, mainly because I'm often reading, writing and commenting on other's blogs from work. They say that's frowned upon. So this may be somewhat vague, but all of it is true.

I'm a middle manager at a Fortune 500 company in real life. I like the company I work for quite a bit. I consider them well run, their reporting to Wall Street is pretty above board and they're not likely to wind up on the nightly news because of any corporate shenanigans. But they are a company like any other, which means we've continued to increase productivity for years without rewarding employees and they do things that I would consider unfair if they weren't standard corporate practice.

Just one example of how employees suffer the death of a thousand cuts behind the scenes. For years annual merit raises have been held to 3% average, 5% for our best performing employees. It's a sort of grading curve where as a manager I'm expected to identify poorly performing staff and exclude them from an annual raise. The thing is - I have no poorly performing employees. If I did they wouldn't be working for me.

So the net result is that my experienced, tenured staff wind up getting 3% raises annually. Well below the cost of health care inflation alone, not to mention the cost of living. The longer they work for me here the worse off they are going to be financially.

I've been terribly worried that this year this would be even worse and that the percentages for non-exempts would be lowered or raises frozen altogether. They've done that with managers like myself already so I won't be getting a raise this year. Truth be told- I'm just happy to have a job in this economy so I'm not terribly upset.

Tomorrow I'll tell you about how the company recently started sticking me with incentives I'm eligible for. They've really become quite ingenious in how they screw you. Under other circumstances I might admire their creativity.