April 30, 2007
Originally published September 24, 2003
On October 9th of this year I will hit the 24-year milestone at work. I've been a supervisor for all but a year and a half of that time. I've worked at various levels of supervision, depending on where the latest reorganization placed me, but I've always been bossing people for most of my career.
I am pretty crusty and cranky, but those aren't bad attributes to have as a supervisor. You have to be the bad guy sometimes. I've proved over and over that I'm willing to be the bad guy, so I seldom have to do it anymore. I trained a lot of new supervisors by mentioning Matt Dillon of "Gunsmoke" as an example of a good supervisor. He was THE LAW in Dodge City and he carried a badge and a big hog-leg on his hip.
He never wanted to pull it. He preferred to use persuasion, fatherly advice or a stern warning to stop trouble in town. But when diplomacy didn't work, he'd whip out his sidearm and shoot somebody dead in the street if they called him out to draw. Supervisors in a chemical plant have to be willing to do the same thing, or they will never be able to supervise ANYBODY.
I wear the big hog-leg on my hip, and the last thing I ever want to do at work is BE FORCED to pull it, because I don't like doing that. But I WILL, and I have no regrets about doing it when faced with no other choice. Once I was called the "scalpmaster" because I had fired more people than any other supervisor in the plant.
I never fired anyone in my life. THEY got THEMSELVES fired. I just provided the paperwork, kept my ducks in a row and let those suicidal idiots sail their own boat off the waterfall. I talked to them, I attempted to persuade them, then I threatened them. Still, they wanted to shoot it out on the streets of Dodge City.
They lost the gunfight.
I enjoy a lot of the mentoring and the "let's try THIS" that I do with operators when things go wrong at the plant. I have a pretty good rapport with my operators and supervisors. They do what I ask them to do and I don't get much bullshit in response.
My boss calls it "mutual respect," and he is absolutely right.
That's all I ask in return. I'll never ask an operator to do anything that I'm not willing to do myself. But I will not tolerate an operator who tells me "No. I ain't gonna do that. It ain't my job."
I go into Matt Dillon mode when that happens. The miscreant gets three choices and if he has a brain in his head, he'll take #1.
#1: Shut up and go do it.
#2: Shut up, go do it, and file a grievance because I made you get up off your lazy ass and actually WORK for your paycheck.
#3: Tell me AGAIN that ain't gonna do it, and I'll suspend your ass so fast you won't know what hit you, and I'll do my level best to FIRE you, because you called me out on the street in Dodge City. I'm going to have to reach for the hog-leg then, and I WILL fire.
These are simple rules for supervisors and operators. I am puzzled by the fact that so many people can't follow them.
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