Sunday, July 29, 2007

My worst employees

Is your boss cranky, mean, or incompetent? Everyone sympathizes. Try being the employer of a problem employee. Here are some of the people I had to deal with:

Fred, the janitor, who used to come in at closing time, to lock up the library, and ostensibly to clean. By the time we had circled the block, he was out the back door and headed to the bars on Main Street. Fred was subtle; he would leave a rag or broom in a conspicuous place so we would know he had dusted. Fred also had a proprietary attitude toward the trash--he didn't like it if you put anything sizable in the trash can. The staff would hardly ever put anything bigger than a staple in the trash can, so as not to incur the wrath of Fred. When it snowed, Fred was nowhere to be found; neither was our snowblower. Fred was out cleaning other people's walks with our snowblower. For extra money. We had to wait our turn. He was a civil servant, so I couldn't get rid of him. But I could eliminate his job and hire a cleaning service.

Maureen, who used to come in at eight, sign in, and to have her coffee with the other staff, who came in at eight but signed in at nine. She would then skip her lunch and breaks and leave at three o'clock, just when the schoolkids came in and the library was busy. When I called Maureen in to my office to ask why she had not done something, she informed me that I couldn't just tell her what to do; I had to earn her loyalty. Maureen earned her library degree on our dime. She set her schedule to conform with her classes and did her homework at her desk. If by any chance she had to get up to help someone, she heaved an exasperated sigh and cast her eyes heavenward. Then she would oh-so-slowly rise from her chair. It seemed to take several minutes for her to achieve a standing position. Fortunately, someone hired her away from us. She was subsequently fired. But never mind. Shes now a library director with, I hope, problem employees of her own.

Kris, who came from some persecuted ethnic group like Latka Gravis. The trouble was, because she used Latka Gravatian at home and hung out with fellow Gravatians, her English was a little rusty when she did her job, which was reference librarian, for God's sake. K would work if I held a gun to her head, but if I put the gun down she would stop. She sat at her desk reading romance novels and telling anyone who asked her for anything that we didn't have it in the library. She spent her book budget on reference books about Latka Gravistan. As awful as she was, she was a warm body and when she took an impromptu vacation I had to take her Saturday! Her theory evidently was that she got paid for showing up at work, doing anything was extra. She finally decided to retire, after 28 years of not doing anything.

Then there was Eddie, the head of circulation who never got to work on time and used to disappear. He was also a terrific ass-licker and back-stabber. He told his fellow employees that I would never fire him because he was a man and a minority. He was wrong: by the grace of New Jersey's civil service laws, Eddie was still provisional, and could be fired at will. It is never fun to fire anyone, but it wasn't too hard in Eddie's case.

Ethel told all the patrons that I was throwing out the Christian books and buying Jewish books in their stead. She was also mean to the patrons, particularly the children. I attempted to criticize her about something, and she had a hissy fit and ran out of the library, thus ending her career.

Most of the people I worked with were sweethearts who worked hard and were devoted to the patrons and the library. I thanked my lucky stars for them. Unfortunately, 80 percent of your time is devoted to the problem workers and only 20 percent to everything else.

(Recycled from 2006.)


Tat said...

Oy vey. [yes, I know. Nothing else fits]
I, too, come to work and immediately pour myself a fresh cup of coffee.

But I drink it with the phone at my ear, making the first call of the day!

Steve B said...

Yeeikes. Civil service at its best. Wait. Can I use "civil service" and "best" in the same sentence?