Gut Rumbles

January 19, 2006


I never thought I would say such an outlandish thing, but it's true. Sometimes, I miss working at the chemical plant. It's been more than two years now since I last passed through the hallowed portal of the Front Gate the way I did for 23 years, and I often wax nostalgic about the place. I spent a large chunk of my life there and I'll always remember it.

One thing I certainly DO NOT miss about working at the chemical plant is REORGANIZATION: The Cutting Edge Trend of the Moment striking rapture among corporate potentates and hanging the Sword of Damoclese over my head. During my last 10 years at the plant, I survived five different reoriganizations.

"Reorganzation," for those NOT on the Cutting Edge of corporate shitspeak, is a value-added process of human resources reallocation designed to capture competitive opportunities for positive outcomes based on the synergy of change agents, risk-takers and effective teams. Something a lot like this, only less scientific where I worked.

When the company announced another "Re-org," everybody walked around with asscheeks clenched and wondered how long they could live on whatever severance package offered THIS time. This period usually lasted about 90 days, plenty long enough to give employees time to think about Getting Fired. A strange combination of angst, paranoia and pure-ass FEAR spread like a flu through the place. Those were Bad Times.

They never got me in one of those head-count reductions, but I saw a lot of good people get the axe, simply to cut the workforce. Those cuts almost ALWAYS came in management positions, too, because to get rid of a union employee, they had to eliminate an entire JOB, not just one or two people. I was management, so I always got the galloping fantods just like everybody else whenever the Reaper came to make his rounds every two years. Hell--- I had a wife and children to support.

What I experienced is nothing unique. I think all corporations do the same thing today. If you work for them, that "good" job you have is subject to change and/or cancellation at any time. Nobody is secure.

I understand costs and competitiveness, but reinventing yourself every two years sounds kinda schizophrenic to me. I also realize that no employer ever guaranteed me a got-dam thing except a paycheck for work performed. They never promised to keep me until I retired. They never said that they wouldn't get rid of my ass some day. It's a business; it ain't your family, no matter what bullshit some Sunshine Pumper hits you with in teamwork meetings.

It's a jungle, where you may be killed and eaten at any time. It's a hostile environment. I'm glad I'm outta there.

But... y'know... sometimes I STILL miss working at the plant.


Hell, there are times I miss working as the grill cook at Jack in the Box. It was a high stress job, especially at the lunch and dinner rush, because the whole place revolved around you. But I was damn good at it, and I used to take immense pleasure at doing a job well. I started at that place sweeping the parking lot for minimum wage, and I was an assistant manger in just over a year. I used to get chewed out as an assistant manger because I would put on my apron and hit the grill, because I could do it better than anyone working for me.

Posted by: Gahrie on January 20, 2006 01:53 AM

Heh. Rob, when you miss the plant it's time to hit the sack :)

Posted by: caltechgirl on January 20, 2006 02:34 AM

I worked 30 years in small shipyards and boat shops, usually on yachts. I liked being around rich people and working on their much loved toys. I met a lot of pleasant folks who shared my appreciation of fine woodwork, and got to play with their very expensive toys and got paid for it as well. Good times.

Posted by: Gerry N. on January 20, 2006 06:22 AM

There's a certain comraderie that comes from working 12-hour shifts with the same people day in and day out, sharing meals and everything else together, playing pranks on each other, working hard, slacking off, etc... My mom worked in plants for 20+ years as an operator. She got fired a couple of years ago for failing a drug test (big dummy)... she worked for that company nearly 15 years. Shame on her and shame on them I say. She's 52 yrs old and has to start all over again. She knows nothing else really. Anyhwho! ok! happy nastalgia!

Posted by: Danielle on January 20, 2006 09:15 AM

"It's a business; it ain't your family, no matter what bullshit some Sunshine Pumper hits you with in teamwork meetings."

Amen to that. All I ever wanted was to go to work and do my job and collect my paycheck. "Team-building", "synergy", "diversity awareness" are all a waste of my life. I spent more than enough time as a foodservice professional to see that people either want to work well together or they don't, and there's very little you can do to change them.

I don't know what I did right to get this job, but I work for a dream company: none of this reorg bullshit, no "teamwork exercises", just design, build and sell. I get to spend my day playing around with hydraulic components and figuring out how to make them better, faster, cheaper. I get a hell of a paycheck and excellent benefits. AND the company actually cares about their employees.

Despite all that, I update my resume quarterly, and I only have enough personal stuff in my office to fill one paper box. I know better than to assume that things will stay this way for the 30 or so years until I retire. I used to think that was sucky, now I'm not so sure... maybe by forcing me to stay on my toes, it's making me into a better worker.

Posted by: disconnect on January 20, 2006 11:19 AM

I think I've gone through 6 or 7 rounds of layoffs in my life by now.

I'm only 25. Things sure are different than what they were 30 years ago.

Posted by: Justin Buist on January 20, 2006 12:07 PM

is a value-added process of human resources reallocation designed to capture competitive opportunities for positive outcomes based on the synergy of change agents, risk-takers and effective teams.

You're a pro!

Posted by: Norm C on January 20, 2006 01:57 PM

Oh, man! Twisted corporate-speak from the Acid-Dude! THAT blindsided me.

Posted by: Rivrdog on January 20, 2006 07:16 PM

I still hear that shit in my sleep.

Posted by: Acidman on January 20, 2006 07:57 PM

I have a recurring dream.
I'm at work. I've retired, but I'm still working for a paycheck, like I always did. I'm expecting to get "fired" during reorg, even though I'm retired.

Then I wake up. I AM RETIRED. I did it at age 54, and I'm 63. I am getting a PENSION & S.S. Then I remember. GM is going to go bankrupt to get rid of retiree "costs".

Am I fucked up, or what.
No, I have ONE HELL OF AN IRA. And Medicare in two years.
Still have the dream every now and then.
Also the one where I'm failing one class the last semester in college, and won't graduate.

You can lie to yourself, and others, and act cool.
But, you can't hide your type A personality during dreams.

Posted by: Dan Pursel on January 20, 2006 08:50 PM
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