Archive for the 'Work' Category


Locating Fault In The Workplace



Angry Boss?

If you are ever involved in working for a living and wind up working for somebody else… You are going to experience a boss who has gone off the deep end. He/she will come at you guns a blazin’ and do his/her level best to intimidate, castigate, and otherwise make you feel insignificant and stupid. Best advice? Cat zen.


Choosing Between UPS & FedEx

Some will already point out that I am not including USPS in this. Easy. Their tracking system sucks. Now that we have that settled, time to move on. Both of these companies provide domestic shipping services with excellent tracking abilities. That is where the similarities end. For 99.9% of my package shipping, I choose UPS. Both will pick up at my doorstep or allow me to drop off in a variety of convenient locations. Both allow me to create a shipment transaction online. Both are reasonably priced. It’s when you bring up the subject of integrity that the choice is really made.

Both companies are not perfect and make mistakes. Time and time again… FedEx has lied to me about those mistakes. Several years ago I was to receive a rather large package from overseas. This package was filled with holiday presents and was insured at a rather high value. It also required an adult signature to deliver. You guessed it: the large package was left on my doorstep and it was subsequently stolen. I went through months of arguing with FedEx until they finally admitted that they were wrong. Recently, I was awaiting a shipment from New Mexico. It was supposed to be delivered on the 10th. Then it got changed to the 11th. That’s not a big deal. The night of the 11th (about 7:30pm), there’s a FedEx van out front. I walk out and ask if the driver has a package for me. “Maybe.” He spends an hour rummaging, giving me some story about how he didn’t load the truck and maybe the package is on this truck or another truck. He leaves. I check the tracking and it says that there is an exception: “Customer not available or business closed – Adult signature required”. That’s a complete fabrication. I was there the whole time. FedEx lost the package yesterday and cannot actually confirm that it is on the truck for delivery today. That makes at least one big fat lie and three days shot waiting for something to arrive that needs a signature.

What can brown do for me? Just what you have done before: tell me the truth when things go wrong.


Government Meddles in Business

As traditional posted mail continues to get marginalized by email, about the only thing of importance left for the courier enterprise is parcel delivery. Regular mail is a distant second thought while getting a packaged delivered or a document overnighted is still a big business. In the US, loyalty neatly divides amongst two providers: UPS and FedEx. Sure there are others, but these are the big boys on the block. And our government insists on regulating the two players closely. And with two completely different play books. You’d think that the government would at least regulate them to the advantage of the subsidized postal system. You’d be wrong…


Service Industry Lessons

The epic movie Lonesome Dove had its moments. One of the best was this little lesson on customer interaction in the food service industry…


Risk Management


Quit Your Day Job

Getting a job is easy… compared to quitting one. First, there is the connotation of the word quit. Nobody likes a quitter, right? Sometimes, it’s not a matter of your failure, but your inability to continue. Many people have asked me about how they should know when it’s time to part ways. To me, it’s something that you just know. Nevertheless, here’s the top ten list from

These are the top ten reasons why you might want to quit your current job. These are difficult, if not impossible, work problems to solve. You need to look out for your best interests. Your job consumes too many hours of too many days of your life for you to stay where you are if you’re miserable. No excuses, now. If these problems exist in your current job, make a plan, and quit your job.

  1. Your company is experiencing a downward spiral, losing customers, losing money, and rumors of possible closure, bankruptcy and failure prevail.
  2. Your relationship with your manager is damaged beyond repair. You have sought help to mend the relationship but you know it is too damaged for recovery. (Perhaps you were untrustworthy, missed work on too many days, or the manager acts like an untrustworthy jerk.) Whatever the reason, the relationship is irrecoverably damaged.
  3. Your life situation has changed. Perhaps you have married or had a baby, and the salary and benefits no longer support your life needs. You need to move on to better opportunities to support your family.
  4. Your values are at odds with the corporate culture. Perhaps your company is egalitarian and you believe in assigned parking spots for salaried employees. Your company does annual employee satisfaction surveys and you think these are a waste of time. Your company is hierarchical and you want to influence every aspect of your job. No matter where the clash is occurring, a lack of congruence with the corporate culture will destroy your attitude at work.
  5. You’ve stopped having fun and enjoying your job. No matter what changed, when you dread going to work in the morning, it’s time to quit your job.
  6. Your company is ethically challenged. Perhaps the managers lie to customers about the quality of the products or the day on which the product will ship. You become aware that the company is stealing information from competitors. Whatever the issue, don’t stay in an organization where your ethics are out of sync.
  7. For whatever reason, you have behaved in ways that are considered improper at work. You’ve missed too many days of work, slacked off on the job, failed to maintain needed skills, and / or just generally developed the reputation of a loser. That reputation, once earned, is unlikely to change; you might as well quit your job, while you have the opportunity.
  8. You’ve burned your bridges with your coworkers. Your group is not getting along in an environment that requires people to work together well. Again, at some point, the reasons don’t matter; start fresh in a new job and resolve to not let this situation happen again.
  9. Your stress level is so high at work that it is affecting your physical or mental health and your relationships with your friends and family. Watch for the signs of burnout and if they can’t be cured, move on. Read this article, Tips for Managing Stress and Change at Work for ideas about managing work stress.
  10. And the top ten reason to quit your job? You are unchallenged, need more responsibility, and seek opportunities that just don’t exist for you in your current organization. You’ve explored the current and potential options, and they are limited. It’s time to quit your job.

Workplace Screwage

We all get it. The economy is in the crapper. Jobs are hard to find and sometimes hard to keep. Don’t be stupid if you decide to take a job that wants to pay you as a “contract” employee. In many cases, this is a recipe for disaster. What’s the big deal… Employers like a contract situation because all they do is hand over a lump sum to an employee. No federal income taxes, social security taxes, unemployment taxes, etc. to be held back from a paycheck. This also means no employer share of the taxes being paid. But it also means that the employer loses a lot of control that they might not really ever do give up.

Although there are complex terms and matrices to determine an employee’s status, the basic theory is that a contract employee is hired to complete a specific job. The employer has little, if any, control over how the job gets completed… He’s just paying for the completed task. If he is directing the employee, as in: when to show up, how long to stay, how to do the job.. the employee is really not a contract employee. If I hire you to paint my house, I’m paying you to do just that. You pretty much do it how you want and I pay you the agreed amount. You are responsible for all the tax ickiness. But if I hire you to show up at 8:00am and leave at 4:00pm, to paint specific tasks as I assign them… then you really may not qualify as a contract employee.

Beware of being paid as a contract employee when you do not qualify. At some point, things may go south. You may get fired for some silly reason. You’ll want to collect unemployment benefits, right? There aren’t any unemployment insurance premiums paid on behalf of contract employees. Dang. But if you really were not a contract employee and you are entitled to benefits (and a refund of a bunch of taxes)… you can file a few forms with the IRS to get an employee status determination and then do a little re-filing of your taxes. Of course, this might wind up having your boss paying for the original taxes he sought to avoid… and penalties and interest.


Stuffing Envelopes

I’ve just finished up a little mailing campaign for one of the enterprises that I am involved with. Every time I stuff an envelope I think of Sandi Stewart. She taught me how to do it right. What’s this about there being a right way and a wrong way to stuff an envelope? Yep. About 25 years ago I can remember walking past Sandi’s desk at the office. She was very deliberately folding letters and stuffing them just so into envelopes. I was kind of mesmerized with the diligence of what she was doing and actually had the temerity to ask why she was doing it that way. I was rewarded with a wry smile and a “Because it’s the right way to do it.”

Sandi went on to explain that it was important that the first thing a recipient sees when they open the letter was the sender’s name or letterhead image. And just as important was that the recipient should not have to work to see that. The B plan was to stuff the envelope in such a way that the recipient only had to slide out the letter and unfold once to see the name. The A plan was that the recipient merely had to slide the letter out. Most of us fold a letter with the text toward the “inside” of the fold and stuff the envelope. If you put the open edge of the letter situated such that the recipent has to remove the letter from the envelope, turn it around and open two folds to see who it is from… you’ve wasted their time. Sandi folded the letter accordian style and stuffed it so that all the recipient had to do was begin to remove the letter and they instantly knew who it was from. Genius.


Serial Litigants

Work… earning a living… being productive… All of these things have different definitions for many folks. Rarely will you find two folks who have a common basis for what they think “proper” work should be. That said, I think that many folks will agree that their is some common ground to be shared in the thought that work takes place when things of value are exchanged. I wash your clothes, you give me money. You tend my fields, I give you shelter. Establishing a quid pro quo is just one way of describing the work/value arrangement. But what about serial litigants?

What’s that you say? I am talking about folks who seize upon an opportunity created by legislation to use that legislation to earn a living. Huh? For the record, I am not coming down on those folks who cannot work and collect some kind of government subsidy. I am talking about those who turn themselves into well-paid champions of contorted regulation. Thomas Mundy, a beefy ex-contractor with longish brown hair and a daily routine of dining out and enjoying the ocean, spies an 8-inch concrete platform on which a woman in a dark-green sari has set up a table of sunglasses under an awning. “There’s nothing in there that I’d want to buy but this might be of interest to a judge,” 50-year-old Mundy, a paraplegic since a 1988 motorcycle accident in Maryland, observed with a knowing air. Mundy says he has filed more than 150 lawsuits in 18 months demanding damages from small businesses in violation of the exacting requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Attorneys representing those he has sued estimate Mundy’s proceeds at about $300,000 in little more than a year, and a similar sum for his attorney, Morse Mehrban, from Mundy’s cases alone.

This is not work. This is extortion.