Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ten Years of Service

"Oh this came early, here you go" She casually gave me an envelope as I was walking from the lobby to the restroom. I asked "what is it?" She answered that it was my tenth year anniversary recognition with the company. I hesitated for a second, I didn't know what to say or how to react. I guess the recognition (or the lack ofmade me go back to August of 2007 when I was on my second assignment managing a Santa Monica store right after the Pacific Palisades store. My previous manager called me up during our monthly managers meeting and I had no idea what it was for. She announced my 5th year milestone anniversary by saying "Here's a manager I mentored and watched grow into his  current role with so much success, he's shown leadership since he was a teller and a personal banker, I'm so proud to have worked with you Tony and to still have you on my team". She gave me a cornerstone with my name engraved on it, hugged me, and whispered in my ear while the rest of the managers were clapping for me, "I wanna give you another one in 5 more years". Damn that felt special!

"What!" her voice brought me back to the envelop as she saw me speechless. I didn't respond. I continued my walk into the restroom while I was opening the envelop. It contained a tiny little pin with the number 10 on it and a letter telling me that I gained enough points with the company to get a free juicer or cufflinks with the company's logo engraved on. 

I went back to my desk and called the next customer to help them with my service. Ten years of service were summed up in a pin and a free juicer. But that part didn't really matter to me. It was the way my current manager approached that important achievement in my professional career that took away all the excitement. 

One day not too long ago, our consumer market executive said to us in a meeting "People do not leave because of the companies they work for, nor they leave because of their pay, they rather leave because of their managers". I cannot debate that. I know she was right. But I have gone through many managers in my life, and I didn't let any of them be the reason for me to quit my job or transfer to another branch. I watched them leave instead, and this one is no exception. It's a matter of time before she moves on to her next promotion in her journey of realizing "the American dream". How do I know? It's through a story called "Stop the madness".

In 2008 the same consumer market executive who told us that employees leave because of their managers, wrote on a big board (that looked like a wagon wheel) the words "Stop the madness" and rotated them so fast. She turned around and looked us in the eye (in our hypnotized eyes) for a few seconds to allow us to draw our own conclusions first. She always said she had no problem with silence, no matter how uncomfortable it could be. Some of us had crazy theories and some of us were clueless of what madness we needed to stop. She then told us that we were the highest paid managers in the company, and that we should stop asking for raises. I never doubted that we were well compensated. However I always knew that it was too little of a pay compared to what we had to put up with from the never-ending tasks, to the "ten-hour plus" day long at work, to the constant change of rules and policies, to even the backstabbing and being ganged up on at every opportunity. The atmosphere was never safe. I never cared for those meetings though I admit, the boss was one of the smartest people I have ever worked for, and that was my consolation in being away from the store I used to manage. I always wanted to go back to my branch and take care of my customers and my employees. It was the place where I didn't have to put up with the corporate politics, the politically correct cliches, and the fake smiles. I did what I always do best; genuinely extending my service in the best way I possible can. But the "Stop the madness" phrase hit a string that was on a totally different level.

When I said she too will leave, I know that she will, because like her, I too was caught up in that vicious cycle. It's only a matter of time before she feels overwhelmed or exhausted or jaded. And if she doesn't for the time being, she will continue climbing the ladder of the corporate world till her service is no longer needed or cannot be afforded. She'll then get a package. It's the same ladder I descended in 2009 and stopped my own madness to replace it with starting my own business. Today, I cannot agree more on the decision I made three years ago to stop my own madness. After all I am the "Just a personal banker" most employees in my branch refer to when customers keep on asking if I were the branch manager. And being "Just a personal banker" equals getting "Just a pin" along with the casual "Oh this came early, here you go, which in my opinion translates into "Please accept this token (pin) of our appreciation for completing ten years of service with our company. We value your obedience, now make sure that pin doesn't leave a hole in your shirt, because that would look tacky   ...... ".

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bad doctor Bad doctor!!!

"I tutor Arabic language, Doctor" I answer his question about my profession. He says couple of sentences in Arabic and I'm impressed for a second. 

"Let me check your knees and elbows" he says "Okay, no sensitive touch points, how do you sleep?" I say I sleep on my back and I put couple of pillows under my knees. He concludes that it's the mattress. I say to him "Doctor, I assure you, it's not the mattress. in the last three months I went overseas, I slept at my friends' place, and unless I take the medicine, the tingling and numbness in my limbs don't allow me to fall asleep regardless of the mattress". 

"How old are you?" to which I answer "38". "See?" he responds with a face expression that I don't know what to make out of. "See what?" I ask. He says "Well, you haven't been 38 before, right?" He sees my "surprised" face expression and he yells at himself "Bad doctor, bad doctor" while he's slapping one hand with the other. He tells me a story about an 80 year-old woman and how he told her "Sweetheart, you haven't been 80 before, so you know, your body does or does not do certain things at this age". 

I am shocked, I guess he's trying to be funny. I try to force a smile while I say "I'm 38, not 80 and even if I were 80, I would still like to either fall asleep when I go to bed or at least know exactly what's wrong".

"Do you have a significant other or someone you sleep with? I mean someone who sleeps next to you?" 
"Excuse me? I don't see the relevance here"
"Oh, I'm just saying, how annoying that would be for them too, since you have to move your legs and arms to get rid of the tingling". I don't comment. He winks at me and says "It pays off to be single sometimes." I want to take his hand and slap his face instead of his other hand and tell him "You're a Bad doctor who makes assumptions". But I keep my thoughts to myself instead.

- I will ask you to change the position of the way you sleep, and also do an MRI to your neck and STDs.
- STDs! why? 
- Oh, I just don't want to leave anything out
- Ummm, okay, but STDs! seriously?
- Hehe, I was once having a conversation with an old lady (Oh great, here comes the old lady again) and I asked her to do some STD tests, to which she answered (and he is now imitating her voice, I'll let you imagine that) But doctor, my husband has been dead for 15 years and I have always been faithful to him, I never had any sexual activity after him. Well sweetheart, I hate to tell you, it's not you whom I'm concerned about her sexual activities, it's your deceased husband whom I'm questioning his faithfulness to you. 

My jaw drops and hit the floor. I mean telling a widow after 15 years that her husband could have been cheating on her, is just wrong. He sees the expression on my face and slaps his hand with the other again saying "Bad doctor, bad doctor". I am beyond uncomfortable now, I'm looking for a way out of this room. I say 'My STD results from 3 months ago are in the computer, if you'd like to check them out, please be my guest, but I'm not doing them again."

"Oh, okay then, no worries. Could I have your card to call you for some Arabic lessons". 
"I don't have any on me."
"Okay, next time bring one."
"There won't be next time ..... And I don't teach doctors"

Bad doctor, indeed.