Friday, April 15, 2005

where there's smoke...

I’ve run across something today that bothers me enough to blog about it. Seeing as how it won’t make much difference either way (at least until the budget for next year is approved by corporate) I might as well get it out of my system.

Our plant manager decided to deal with the issue of the smoke smell in the Lab today. (We have a big safety audit coming up – I’m probably being ungenerous here, but I think it may have had something to do with it – that, and the fact that our HR Manager is quitting in three weeks and they wanted to deal with the problem before she flew the coop.)

He called us all into his office, then my boss shut the door. I wish the door had stayed open.

He said that the problems with the smell had to do with the corridor of open ventilation that runs the length of the plant, and that at this time he didn’t have the money to build another smoke room, or create another office for me, which was my idea. Hell, I seem to be the only person in the lab who’s really pissed off about it. (This comes up soon, just watch.)

So his only option was to get rid of the smoke room and make people smoke outside. He said that before he did that, he wanted us to know what the consequences of that would be. He wouldn’t lie to people – they would know that the reason the smoke room was closed was that the smell was offensive to the Lab personnel. And that he couldn’t do much about how we were treated as a result of it, unless we were specifically accosted. (There’s a lot of back-biting that goes on here, by the way.)

Can you tell where this is going yet?

Basically what it came down to is management wanting to cover their asses, and laying the no-win decision on us. I stepped up to the plate.

“I’m pretty sure I’m the one who really hates the smell. No one else seems to really care one way or the other. I’m at this company long-term, and I intend to remain here for a while. I don’t see it as good for my welfare here – not to mention getting my job done - if there are people who are hostile to me because of this decision. I’m already an internal auditor, which isn’t exactly the most popular job. So can’t we at least ask for the money in next year’s budget and see what happens before we take the step of shutting down the smoke room?”

That’s what we eventually did, or will do. The Plant Manager hung his head and bemoaned the fact that the money might not get approved next year, either. I said, “Sure, but it’s worth a shot. And if it’s not approved, then we can look at other options.”

There are some other smaller fixes that might help improve the situation as well, which will be taken as short-term measures.

My boss made things so much cozier by saying as the meeting closed, "Yeah, there are people here who can stab you in the back before you even see it coming." SHEESH.

I feel dirty. I’m mad at the plant manager for putting us in that situation. I’m mad because he couldn’t find a better solution than just thrusting a no-win situation at us and manipulating us (read:me) into having to choose between being liked and working in a healthy environment. It seems to me that he ought to find a way to protect us, blame it on corporate (which will happen next year anyway, if they don’t approve the money for a new smoke room.)

I want tell everyone in that nasty little smoke room what just happened. I want to shake the plant manager (who I used to work for and had a good relationship with) and slap him around a little. But I’ll content myself, for now, with posting this and asking for your comments on the situation. I’m not entirely sure I did the right thing. Should I have stood my ground and went along with the smoke room shutdown? Am I being a pussy because I can’t take not being liked? (Let’s face it, no one is liked by everyone, myself included.) Or is it a reasonable, if difficult, decision, anyway, to try to balance physical health with mental health? Because I have a hard enough time motivating myself to punch that damned time clock every day without having to work with people who are pissed off at me. And folks around here hold grudges for a long, long time.

I guess I always have the option of quitting. But that idea frankly scares the crap out of me.

Your thoughts?


Sam said...

Well, I may be the completely WRONG person to listen to, because obviously I have decided to smile along, vent in my blog - which as you well know, these assholes apparently READ (and now that I know that, it shall become a tool for me rather than a weapon for them, MUWAHAHAHA! I double-dog DARE those cowardly bastards to keep reading MY blog! oh, just you wait!!! :D :D :D) - and quit as soon as I can. I was scared too, but my latest wave of work-related angst has been a VERY big straw, and I'm willing to risk the loss of security in order to gain some peace of mind. Then again, I got no human babies to care for...

I think your boss is a stinkbug-
head, to say the very least. It pisses me off that he (she?) put you in this position. (Surely they can find you another office somewhere?!) I know all about dealing with the fallout of bad management too. Your health is important, and I believe you could turn this around.
I think that you could try talking to the folks in the smoke room, explain the situation as honestly as possible, and see what they say, how they respond. If they don't care, then maybe you'll feel better about writing them off. Hopefully though, the majority will appreciate your concern for them, and that will head off as much of the backbiting b.s. as possible. Maybe there's some sort of compromise possible, maybe not, but if you decide to go ahead and "banish" them (and I believe that they SHOULD be banished. I think offices and public places should be smoke AND perfume free, goddamnit!) you could live with the backlash - for a while. And if you are kind and sweet (and smart) enough to try to explain the problem to them, and ask for their 'help', maybe they'll comply. At the very least, you could say to yourself and others that you TRIED, that you did the best you could, and tried to look out for their well-being, and beyond that point, !@#$ 'em, feed 'em fish heads!
Maybe I can get my bizness off the ground enough that I'll need some help, y'know? I'd like to start a craft co-op... there's a place in Hendo that wants some of my jewelry and "clothing" art... I can't sew, but I could decorate the hell out of a simple skirt, dress, tunic, if I had someone to make them for me. All original, they'd fetch a pretty penny, and I could certainly use help with the jewelry, card, and book-making...
Life is short baby - you don't always HAVE to suck it up.
Good luck, keep us posted, and if you need to - CALL THE BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU!

EB said...

Yeah, what Sam said.

AND- as I am a legal assistant to a labor/employment attorney who represents employees, I feel very very strongly that you absolutely, unequivocally have a right to a healthy work environment. That doesn't help you get along with colleagues, though, I realize. Back-biting, grudge-holding coworkers cannot make your job any easier.

If they are so very attached to their nicotine that it interferes with their ability to respect your desire for health, God help you. So, no I don't think you are a pussy for seeking a way to get along by trying to find alternatives to shutting down the smoking lounge.

There are other organizations that support employees (the BBB generally supports employers) and workplace wellness issues and offer all kinds of literature that you could use as ammunition with your coworkers and your bosses if you end up in conversation about this issue.

Having been a smoker I understand the need to have a haven to indulge one's addiction. But surely having to go outside for a smoke isn't a bonecracking hardship? Gimme a break.

The state of Florida passed a ban on smoking in all public and workplace buildings several years ago. Folks moaned and bitched about it, but it still passed the vote and in general Florida smokers don't mind nowadays. It sounds as if NC has no such laws passed. That does not mean there aren't other options.

Switching jobs may be one of them- don't let your fear paralyze you. I don't know what the job market is like there, but your skills, experience and proven longevity would be considered highly valuable assets to any number of employers. Were I in position to hire you or recommend you to someone, you would be A#1 top of my list. Bar none.

Management will always toss their folk under the bus if it suits their purposes- it's just the nature of the beast and you therefore should not be distressed over it, and also you therefore do not owe them any loyalty. Your first and foremost loyalty should be to you and yours. Your repeated dissatisfaction at various workplace issues makes me think you are not being loyal to yourself. Management sticking it to you (squirming like half-awake zombies who have some inkling that their lord and master might be the Dark Prince though they may be while they do it) and coworkers who nurse grudges like evil little homonculi? Sounds like a reason to find a new job to me. The longer you remain in an atmosphere choked with smoke and ill-will, the faster your armor will wear down. Armor that you need as a human, as a woman and as a mother.

All jobs have an inherent dissatisfaction built into them. They wouldn't be work otherwise- but the novelty of learning a new system could alleviate that, at least for a time. It's worth considering. That it scares you is all the more reason to consider it.

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