TPS reports, HR threats, and stifling productivity: an open letter to small businesses

Posted on Posted in general, life

Those who have experienced the growing pains of a small company know how it can all go wrong. When an organization grows, certain intangible benefits are bound to be lost. Many times at small companies I heard the stories of “how it used to be”. Transformations are never painless, and the edict is generally “adapt or get out”. Though perhaps it’s not such a sharply worded message, it’s even more insidious when the bitter pill is sugar coated. Whether it’s sharply worded or not, the end game is the same.

In my days in the military, I bore witness to many officers coming and going. Each time, they came in like a wolf and wanted to set the world on fire. Those with firebrand preaching skills and egos to match declared that all previously collected data was to be thrown out, because of course it could not have possibly been accurate without their keen eye to oversee it. Warehouses were torn apart and put back together on a whim of a new Supply Officer, inventories were taken weeks after being already completed, and those at the bottom generally had their WTF faces on.

When an organization grows, it is much like a living being. It requires modification or addition of rules and regulations to adapt and be successful in it’s newly complex environment. What is sometimes lost, though, is the empathy associated with being a smaller entity. Having a manager that knows your name, your story, and how you will react to certain pressures is key to achieving harmony and productivity in the workplace.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, when a new “person in charge” comes in and his ego is larger than the organization, most will fall in line because of fear. Fear of losing their jobs, being criticized, and a multitude of other fears I can’t list because I wasn’t a Psychology major in college. Deadlines become threats (“you will be fired if you do not turn in a status report next week”). Status reports initiated by that manager become an extra burden along with the 3 other places you are required to track your work.

A manager that cannot even muster the will to do his own time (it must be so beneath him to follow the organization’s rules), on the other hand requires these status reports to be completed or those who dare to forget will be thrown to the streets over it. He can, however, enforce his own regulation by calling a meeting titled “HR Incident Review” and waving his purported power around.

Then HR comes into the picture. I don’t mind being told I did something wrong, and that need to fix it. I am beyond humble with my work and welcome tactful criticism because I am constantly seeking professional growth. Notice the word tactful. When something becomes threatening, I tune out because I no longer take it seriously. For a time my current employer seemed to be ideal. The owner was great: technically brilliant and a great people person. The people were happy and things ran smoothly.

Soon the growing pains began. It seemed like weekly there were e-mails from Human Resources detailing a new requirement with the understanding that failing to comply would be punishable by “up to and including termination”. I would most likely be underestimating that the phrase exists in the policy at least 15 times.

I have never had my job threatened because I was not fulfilling my primary job function. As of last Monday, I can say that I have had my employment threatened because of a status report.

In the meeting it was said that “there is no ego involved here”. How can that possibly be true when after I submit the status report in the format he expects, a response slithers its way into my inbox an hour later stating that it seemed “too automated”. At this point I’m too angry to even keep writing about it. I no longer want to discuss my flair.

Update: I did however, make an XtraNormal video about it. lol. video attached

Update: 8/23/13 – Apparently XtraNormal has shut down. Removed video, will repost if I find a local copy of it.

What started off as a calm, collected post about small businesses and the dangers of their growing pains became a rant. Sorry about that.

All of this reminds me of:

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