Friday, August 24, 2007

You Get What You Pay For

If you are a manager at the company you work for you know the difficulties that come with trying to manage a group of people. If you work for a company that is salary stingy it makes things even more interesting in that it is difficult to find and hire good people.

Recently there has been some good and bad news in the department I manage as a couple of my people have been promoted (see I actually care about my employees and try to help them succeed). That’s the good news! The bad news is that I have to find people to replace them. The reason its bad news is that my company, based on salary comparisons I’ve done, traditionally pays people about 30% less than these positions warrant. In addition to having to pass the poor salary hurdle, I also have an inept HR department that sends me people that are in no way qualified for the positions or have questionable backgrounds. As if those two things weren’t enough I also have to overcome a poor company image. To further this point, here are some classics from recent applications and interviews I’ve conducted that prove my point that you get what you pay for:

  • HR forwards an application for a gentleman with the comment “this person has nice experience”. I look through the application and find he has a felony listed for assault and was fired from his last position. Not only was this application littered with red flags, he in no way had the qualifications for the position.
  • I receive a resume for a candidate that has the experience and qualifications I was looking for. I conducted a phone interview and live interview and based on the results thought the candidate would be a perfect fit. The candidate had listed a salary requirement that was slightly more than what we usually start this position at. I submit the resume to HR and inform my boss of this great candidate and the slightly higher salary requirements. I ask HR if we could be creative as I really wanted to hire this person. A day later I receive an email that they (HR) offered the candidate no more than what they usually offer and the candidate declined. Stingy, stingy, stingy!
  • I received an application from a candidate that falls in the range we are willing to pay. Hallelujah!!! The application has several gaps in employment. I call the candidate and ask them about the gaps. The response “I just didn’t want work” during the first gap and “I was fired for a disagreement with my boss” for the second gap. What a gem. I had a few others applications with employment gaps and didn’t feel like putting myself through more agony in calling these folks.
  • A recent candidate that I had an interview with arrived at my company and like all visitors waited in the lobby for me to come out to get them. The word is out that my company is not a good company to work for as this candidate asked our receptionist if what he’s heard about my company is true. The receptionist asked “what is it that you hear”. The candidates response “that the pay is low, the benefits are bad, and that the people aren’t treated very well.” The receptionist honestly replied to my candidate…”well, the pay is low, the benefits are bad, but your boss is a great person to work for.” The guy walked out. Now I was mad at the receptionist at first, but the reality is that he probably wouldn’t have taken the job anyway because of the salary.

Now I’m sure you’ve read in different books or articles that salary is not the most important thing to most people…this is complete bull. I do believe that people want a rewarding job doing something they enjoy to do, but unfortunately most people don’t live in straw huts living off the land. It’s takes money to live and with prices for everything constantly going up, most workers do really care about making a good wage. If you have a home, car payments, student loans, or children, you know that what you make is extremely important in providing stability to you and your family. The quality of candidates you are able to get absolutely does relate to the amount you are willing to pay. If your company however is salary stingy you have one strike against you. If your company also has a bad reputation you even further screwed. No matter how good you are as a manager, you simply cannot make up for overall inadequacies of the company you work for. If paying employees appropriately is one of those inadequacies, you will unfortunately be stuck getting the best of the worst. You get what you pay for and if you pay poorly you are more than likely to get lesser quality employees.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Armchair Manager

We’ve all probably sat back and watched a football game, second guessing the decisions of the team’s Quarterback or other players. “How could he throw that pass” or “What was he thinking” are probably some common phrases that come out of your mouth as you watch your favorite team. Everything looks easy from your comfortable chair and your decision making for your team is near perfect as you criticize mistakes or missed chances. It’s all harmless as you really have zero control over the players on your favorite football team, but you feel better just being able to have some sort of knowledge or say about the play of the team. There's no harm in being an Armchair Quarterback when dealing with your favorite sports team. But what if you were the one being constantly criticized, but instead of it being harmless talk, it actually impacted your job?

There are plenty of Armchair Managers out there that have no problem with constantly criticizing or critiquing everything you do from the comfort of their cozy office chair. This type of manager is by far, the worse type of person to work for. They will be the first to point out an error and explain how they would have done something differently. You will try to explain your mindset or the complexities of what you are working on, but the Armchair Manager doesn’t want to try and understand what happened, they are more interesting in telling you how they would have done it and done it better. Probably like me, you welcome feedback and ideas on how to do something better, but the tone and arrogance the Armchair Manager uses is not at all meant to help you. The Armchair Manager just wants to spout off without having a real purpose other than to feel more powerful. Even though you are a competent, hard working employee, you always walk away from the Armchair Manager feeling like the village idiot.

Yes the Armchair Manager is one of the many breeds of bad bosses out there that Turtles like you and me have to deal with. The Armchair Manager is difficult to combat because their ego never allows them to actually listen to what you have to say, so don't try to stand up against them, you'll only bring more crap onto yourself. Instead, Turtle along and try to weather the attacks of the Armchair Manager until you can find another job working for hopefully a non Armchair Manager. It's survival out there and sometimes being a Turtle at Work is all you can do to get through the day.

So next time you are watching your favorite team, remember, it’s harder than it looks so try not to be an Armchair Quarterback. Especially since you know how hard your job is and you don’t appreciate your Armchair Manager

Friday, August 17, 2007

Executive Perks: The Rich Get Richer

When I sit and watch the incredibly ridiculous decisions that are made at my company I always get pissed off thinking how our Executives are grossly overpaid. Every Friday when I receive my paycheck I get a reminder of how shitty my pay is compared to theirs. I then get another reminder at performance review time when I get a shitty increase. I also get daily reminders when I watch them go out for lunch everyday, driving off in their high end, luxury vehicles.

As I was reading through some articles online the other day I received another reminder of how underpaid I am and how overpaid they (Executives) are. I found a few articles on Executive pay and this new concept of lavish CEO perks. You see, it seems that getting paid millions of dollars a year is not enough for most executives. They need more, which is why many executives today are now getting paid perks like monthly housing allowances and health club dues, just to name a few.

Michelle Leder of, a website which tracks executive compensation packages says “It's crazy. These are not people making insignificant amounts of money and I don't see a stop to it.”

The theory that the rich get richer is alive and well at my company and many other companies around the world. So when you are busting your ass out there for peanuts, just remind yourself that your Executives are probably not only getting big bucks, but they are also getting lavish perks paid for by the company. Also remind yourself that these big shot perks are for things that you and I either can’t afford or have to pay for out of our own pockets (like a mortgage, meals, etc). If this isn’t incentive to be a Turtle at Work I don’t know what is! You can either stick your neck out for your company and help increase the salary and perks for your executives, or you can turtle along. Either way, your going to get screwed, so you might as well do less. That's the Way of the Turtle.

Executive Perks Listing (Source: USA TODAY)

Imagine that the folks who work for the below companies now know about the below perks their big shots get. Can you say morale killer?

  • Tyson Foods: CEO John Tyson received $457,780 in perks, including $265,875 to cover taxes, $324,472 for personal use of corporate aircraft and $56,867 for insurance premiums.

  • Morgan Stanley: The company gave ex-CEO Philip Purcell $52 million in severance, including $115,000 annually in lifetime administrative support and $250,000 a year to his favorite charities.

  • American Express: CEO Ken Chenault, paid $16.3 million in salary, bonus and stock, received $294,450 worth of personal aircraft use, $163,500 in "local" travel benefits and $77,300 for taxes. Like many CEOs with supplemental pensions, he also got $1.1 million in interest on deferred compensation.

  • Cendant: CEO Henry Silverman, who pulled in $133 million from salary, bonus and stock options, received $49,388 for aircraft use and $49,986 for cars and drivers.

  • Corning: The company paid Chairman James Houghton $4,050 for the nine nights he stayed at his New York apartment in lieu of company-paid hotels. He received $7.4 million in salary, bonus, stock and other compensation, and gained $1.7 million from options.

  • Capital One Financial: The company spent $123,000 for CEO Richard Fairbank's personal financial services, security and car expenses. He made $249.3 million exercising stock options.

  • Time Warner: The company provided CEO Richard Parsons $100,000 for financial services, $321,127 for travel expenses and $52,800 to rent a Los Angeles apartment. Parsons got $12.2 million in pay and stock.

  • Raymond James Financial: The company covered insurance and pay for three staffers who serve as curators for CEO Thomas James ' 1,500 piece art collection at company headquarters. Cost: about $190,000.

  • Cabela's: The sporting goods retailer bought back $18,650 in unused vacation time from CEO Dennis Highby, paid $2.3 million.

  • Sara Lee: The company paid $53,256 for a surgical procedure not covered by former CEO Steve McMillan 's health plan, saying it "significantly shortened" his recovery. McMillan, who retired in February 2005, received $6.5 million in compensation. On July 1, he'll start collecting $6 million in "salary continuation" payments.
    The company gave division President Lee Chaden $35,000 for club dues, $18,483 for financial services and a $600,000 "renovation allowance" for his North Carolina home.

  • Cadence Design: The company upped its monthly housing allowance to CEO Michael Fister 240% to $17,000. That's on top of $3 million in compensation and options valued at up to $23 million.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Send Your Boss to China!

Today I was reading through and came across an article on the Mattel Toy Recall. In short, a Chinese toy manufacturer was at the heart of this recall as they produced Fisher Price Sesame Street toys that were decorated with paint that contained massive amounts of lead. This recall was huge, involving over 967,000 toys sold in the United States. The Chinese businessman that owned the company that manufactured the tainted toys was found dead after he apparently hung himself in his office over the weekend.

You may also recall a few months ago, the huge pet food recalls which also originated in Chinese plants. In case you didn't know, the Chinese government executed their Head of Food Safety after he was found guilty of accepting bribes from firms to register their products without making them undergo the necessary safety checks. In the U.S. we use the term "getting the ax" when someone is fired, but this guy is really headed to the chopping block for his actions. A spokeswoman for the Chinese Government issued this statement relating to the problems:

As a developing country, China's food and drug supervision work began late and its foundations are weak," spokeswoman Yan Jiangying said.

"Therefore, the food and drug safety situation is not something we can be optimistic about."

She said Zheng Xiaoyu's case had "brought shame" on the department, adding that anyone who abused their power would be punished.

Hey, how about that, they not only admitted the issues, but they also laid out the expectations for the future. Novel idea!

I guess you are wondering why I'm writing about two Chinese businessmen that met unfortunate ends. Well, it amazed me that the Chinese culture just doesn't except failure or incompetence. The businessman involved in the toy recall knew he was finished for sending out toxic toys, so rather than deal with the shame and humiliation, he killed himself. When the Head of Food Safety tried to lower the standards and skip the safety checks, the Chinese government didn't just fire the guy, they killed him. Yikes.....pretty harsh society.

Now I'm not saying the United States should adopt such a culture because even though I know the big shots above me are idiots, I certainly wouldn't want to see all of them put to death for their incompetence. Hell, my boss alone would have been executed over 20 times this year for all of his screw-ups. We don't have the execution squad at my work, but we also don't have people willing to admit mistakes and flaws. It is this failure to realize failure that we continue to flounder. At my company, people don't learn from their mistakes and our big shots would rather cover things up to save their own ass.
The crazy thing is that everyone in the U.S. knows there are way to many incompetent people running companies, yet nothing changes. My blog is an example and the many of you that comment or email me deal with incompetent bosses or co-workers and just can't take it anymore. Then you have movies like Office Space and comic strips like Dilbert that everyone laughs at and agrees with, but again nothing changes.
Maybe we should start importing Chinese business people instead of their products. Maybe if my boss was Chinese I wouldn't be a Turtle at Work because he or she would actually be competent and disciplined. Or maybe we should start sending our incompetent executives to China. In a matter of days, they would all be sentenced to death for their idiotic decisions and behavior. What a perfect world that would be!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

More Turtles Welcome!!

Turtles at Work has had some really great comments over the past few weeks. The business cliche list really has hit a nerve with the fellow Turtles out there. I will be updating the list again, as I have recently received more cliches in comments and email. Keep those cliches coming.

As I've posted in the past, on the right sidebar I have a guest map and message forum. Please feel free to sign the guest map or comment on the forum. A big welcome to some recent guest map Turtles:

Jen Esh of Columbus, Ohio
Jessica V of California.

I've taken some suggestions and moved the links for the guest map and message forum to the top right sidebar. Join the Turtle community by signing the guest map!!

Also, I'm always interesting in hearing suggestions, comments or ideas. Please feel free to comment to this or any post. You can also reach me at My email address has a period between the king and of parts, so don't forget that if you are emailing. Well, hope everyone is enjoy the posts.

Take care and "lay low" my fellow Turtles. There is comfort within the shell!!!

Turtle King

Monday, August 6, 2007

Beyond Logic

Recently I was lucky enough to be in a meeting to review the results of a inventory audit. My company every quarter at the directive of the Brain Trust (ie Executive Management Staff) conducts a count of every piece of manufactured product we have stored in our warehouse. The big shots stress how important it is to conduct these counts to ensure everything is accurate. This would seem like a logical request as any company would want to make sure the inventory stored was as accurate as possible. But at my company what may seem logical on the surface becomes idiotic and wasteful when you drill down deeper.

Doing such a count at my company is pointless due to the fact that product cycles out of our warehouse very quickly. The product kept in our warehouse only sits in our warehouse for an average of 10 days. Also, we have people that are responsible for counting and reporting on inventory daily. They can't count every type of product we have stored, but they usually cycle through the various portions of our warehouse each month. So the directive to count product quarterly does nothing more than waste time, effort and money. Here's the results of our latest quarterly warehouse counting effort that proves that point:

Cost to Pay Employees to Count: $16,500 (combination of regular time and OT)
Unit Difference Actual Inventory vs. Reported Inventory: -8 units
Dollar Difference Actual Inventory vs. Reported Inventory: -$150
Inventory Accuracy %: 99.98%

So we spent $16,500 in labor to find a shortage of 8 units and $150. Now, I've tried to look at this to see how anyone could explain spending $16,500 to uncover $150. Alas, I haven't developed any new form of math or logic that could justify this.

Now as a Turtle I would normally just "lay low" and let this slide, but I had a moment of temporary insanity. When the costs and results were being reviewed I actually questioned why we would continuously conduct such a costly exercise knowing that each time our inventory nearly matches up perfectly. I was met with an "Who's on First" Abbot and Costello type response from the various head honchos in the meeting. I retreated back into my shell to avoid any further bullshit responses, but in the back of my mind I began thinking about what that wasted $16,500 could have been used for. It could have gone towards:

  • Better pay raises for me and my employees. It's nice watching the big shots drive around in expensive cars, wear expensive clothing, and take lavish vacations, while we get a pat on the back and a bag of donuts instead of raises.
  • Training. We get zero training at my company. The rivers would turn red, it would rain frogs and locusts would attack the day we actually had a training class at my company.
  • New cubicles. Our cubicles are seriously from the '70s. Many of my employees have Frankenstein cubicles made up of mismatched cubicle parts. Very professional!
  • Office Equipment. Since our printer and copier breakdown at least once a week.
  • Real Paper. We have this cheap paper that is so thin that it constantly gets caught in the printer causing it to jam up and overheat.

Smack! That's the sound of me crashing back to reality. The $16k could have applied to any of the above things, but instead my company will waste it on a pointless activity that has zero impact.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Scapegoat No More!

When a company suffers poor performance who is responsible? Those of you out there that are brainwashed by the "we're a team" slogans probably feel responsible to some extent. If you are in middle management or a worker bee you absolutely do have impact on the performance and success of your company.

But in reality what impacts success or failure is the plan a company puts forth and who puts the plans together? Here's a hint...they make a six figure salary with bonuses and perks. Yes, the executive management team is the answer. These people have the biggest impact on the success and are supposed to be the brain trust of your company. These mavens of strategy are supposed to develop and communicate a strategy that will lead to success.

If you, as a pawn of the company execute their plan, then success is supposed to follow. But what if the plan is flawed or poorly designed? Well, if the plan doesn't work it's very rarely the genius' that thought the plan up that take the fall. Enter, stage right, the scapegoats! Yep, anyone not on the executive management team become scapegoats for the failed plan, and that means people like you and me get screwed each year with no or poor pay raises, zero bonuses and sometimes layoffs. Meanwhile the big shots who crafted the disastrous plan get to keep their high paying jobs because the essence of senior management is to take care of each other, while screwing everyone below them (see ENRON, TYCO, and Adelphia Cable).

Well, I'm sick of being the scapegoat for poor planning. I'm sick and tired of getting zippo in return for top performance because big shots can't put two and two together and come up with a well thought out strategy. There are other folks like me out there sick of being scapegoats but their called something turtles. Because being a turtle at work is the only way to avoid being the scapegoat for high priced, low result idiots at the top. That's my rant for this fine Saturday afternoon. I"m out!

Newer Posts Older Posts Home