February 13th, 2013

Let’s Talk with Kalola: Industrial Worker


Let’s Talk with Kalola, where targets can share their experiences with WBI’s blog readers. Here we go!

Dear Kalola,

This is what happened that led up to the harassment charge I used on my Lead Supervisor.

I was told to come in early and work two hours overtime for the Lead Supervisor for the rest of the week and start third shift on a particular date and so I did. I was told by several co-workers on first shift that the Lead Supervisor thinks he knows it all and can’t be trusted.

Anyway, I went in early as I was told to do and the Lead Supervisor wasted no time, everything I did was not good enough or fast enough.   I could tell from that day, working with him is going to be a rough ride. After three days of that, I was concerned and asked my Trainer what I should do about this guy?  My Trainer told me to keep a journal but I didn’t.

A few days later when I started 3rd shift, I pushed myself as hard as I could.  My training had been rushed because the Big Boss told me he needed me on third shift now to free up the Lead Supervisor so he could do his paper work and get off the forklift and so he could get other things done. There was still more that I needed to learn and I was learning as I worked each day.  The Big Boss told me, “I don’t expect you to know everything right now it takes a long time to learn this job, Phosphate is a hard job and its rough, just do your best and ask someone if you need help.”

I still had a co-worker to help me; the co-worker was the phosphate machine operator associate that was being transferred into another department because he made so many big mistakes.  The Big Boss decided to transfer him instead of firing him.  The co-worker told me once you get your 90 days in here its next to impossible to get fired here, then he laughed and told all about the mistakes he made. That he could not drive a forklift or operate an overhead crane and the medication he was on, that he had to go on medication because of working here and that our Lead Supervisor was like a high school bully!

On my first night on 3rd shift, the Lead Supervisor was all over me! Barking out orders, stopping me in the middle of what I was doing and getting me to do something else or adding more work on me as if I didn’t have enough to do but I did it anyway. The Lead Supervisor would give me an intimidating glare every time he looked at me, he would every night yell at me, when I was on the forklift, yelling “come over here”, and as I drove towards his way I could see him laughing at himself, I knew he was enjoying harassing me.

One day he walked up to me and said “nothing you are doing is right! It’s all wrong! You’re not fast enough; you don’t do your paperwork right! You’re too slow and I am letting you know right now that you and this place is not going to happen!” I said “but I thought I was doing a great job, I got everything done and I am still learning instead of waiting till the job you want done isn’t done, why not tell me beforehand instead of waiting to the last minute to tell me, when it’s too late in the morning to do anything about it because first shift is here.”

The Lead Supervisor just gave me an intimidating look and yelled out! “You need to go faster and manage your time better”, I said “OK, I will try even harder and go even faster, the only problem is, I don’t feel safe driving this forklift as fast as it can go, I could end up hurting someone.”  The Lead Supervisor just walked away and I felt confused, I didn’t know how I could get on this guy’s good side because for me I realized he didn’t have a good side for me and this was going to be ongoing, when I realized that I couldn’t deal with it.

This went on every night, my co-worker told me to stand up for myself that our Lead Supervisor is nothing more than a bully. On Thursday, I went to the Co-Supervisor, I am not sure what his title is but I knew he was the next chain in command and the Lead Supervisor’s boss. I told the Co-Supervisor that my Lead Supervisor is harassing me and I needed his help.  The Co-Supervisor told me that he was going to talk to my Lead Supervisor right now about it and he did.

The following night it was as if nothing that the Co-Supervisor said to my Lead Supervisor mattered at all, if anything it made the harassment even worse! The Lead Supervisor walks up to me while I was on the forklift talking to my co-worker, and started to harass me again, this time in front of my co-worker. The Lead Supervisor started just yelling at me as loud as he could, telling me again that I wasn’t good enough! That I was too slow! And I don’t manage my time right!

I yelled back! I yelled out “That is enough! You have harassed me for two weeks now and this is where it all stops right now!” The Lead Supervisor yelled at me to get off the forklift! So I got off the forklift. He yelled out “come over here” so I said “OK now what!” The Lead Supervisor said, “Give me your time badge and get out of here!” I yelled back “I am not giving you my time badge! I am not giving you anything! You can’t make me leave for I did nothing wrong! You’re wrong! Why don’t you get out of here!”

The Lead Supervisor walked up to me and got right into my face, my co-worker the other phosphate operator was stand right there with us watching the whole thing. The Lead Supervisor took his right arm and started pushing my chest! Telling me to get out! I looked down at his fore arm pushing me and I yelled out “Don’t push me Man!” Then the Lead Supervisor yelled, “GET OUT OF MY FACE!” So I took a big step back and I said, “OK, now I am back here but I am telling you right now if you push me again I will defend myself!”  The Lead Supervisor started walking and said, “Come with me right now! And I said, “You want to take me somewhere without witnesses I don’t think so! I don’t trust you! I don’t trust you! I DON’T TRUST YOU!”  Then the Lead Supervisor yelled back at me, “I don’t trust you either!” Then he walked away and I stood there with my co-worker at my side saying, “Good job for sticking up for yourself, why not go outside and calm down and have a smoke and when the Big Boss comes in this morning tell him what happened and I will also tell him the truth”, the co-worker said, so I went outside and had a smoke and thought about what just happened.

When the Big Boss came in that morning I told him all about what happened and he took me and the Lead Supervisor into his office and talked about it, I told him my side of the story and the Lead Supervisor told him his side. I told the Big Boss why not go ask my co-worker, what happened? The co-worker was there the whole time, so the Big Boss asked my co-worker and he told the Big Boss the truth, and then the Big Boss went and got the Lead Supervisor and took him to his office and reamed him for lying to him and for harassing me.

The Big Boss came up to me and told me to write out in a letter exactly what happened, so I went to my car and I wrote a letter addressed to the Big Boss what happened. Then the Big Boss took my letter to Associate Relations, they waited a week before the Big Boss walked me to the Associate Relations Office.

A.R. said these are some serious charges here, tell us in your own words what happened so I told them, they asked me why didn’t I go to the Big Boss? I told them that I had to follow the chain of command and the co-supervisor was the next step in the chain of command, I didn’t want to step on any toes. They asked me if I thought this was going to continue? I said I can’t see into the future but I am a big man enough to let things go and move on with my life. I said I got 90 days to prove myself and I don’t want any problems but I am not going to allow myself to be harassed either. They asked me how has the Lead Supervisor been treating you for the past week? I said he has been nice to me and the Big Boss looked at me and said, “The reason why the Lead Supervisor has been nice to you “J” is because I took him into my office and I reamed him good!”

The Big Boss said he would check up on me each morning for a week and for me to let him know if the Lead Supervisor was still harassing  me, and I said OK that would be nice and the Associate Relations said for me to talk to them or the Big Boss if I had any more problems. Nothing happened to the Lead Supervisor just a small slap on the hand, that’s it.

J


Dear J,


The Lead Supervisor was on you from the start by telling you that you weren’t good enough or fast enough.  After a few days, you discussed with your Trainer how your Lead Supervisor was treating you.  Your Trainer suggested that you keep a journal.  The Trainer gave you good advice.  When you get home, keep a journal documenting any incidents that occurred with the Lead Supervisor or anyone else.  To the best of your recollection write down the date/time/location/circumstances.  Next time, you may not have a witness to corroborate your story.

You first reported to the Lead Supervisor’s superior, the Co-Supervisor, that you felt you were being mistreated.  The Co-Supervisor later had a talk with the Lead Supervisor.  The Lead Supervisor retaliated and the bullying escalated.

A co-worker warned you about the Lead Supervisor, and said he was like a high school bully.  The co-worker had been bullied so much that he told you he needed medication to be on the job, and as a result of the medication couldn’t operate machinery.  Although the co-worker confided in you that he had made some big mistakes, the co-worker was being transferred to another department.  You weren’t the first Target of the bully.

 

The Lead Supervisor barked out orders to you, frequently yelled at you, and interrupted your work.  He constantly criticized you by telling you that you weren’t fast enough or good enough.  This went on for more than a week.  The next time the Lead Supervisor got after you, you responded back that you felt you were doing a great job, and if you had advance notice of a job needing to be done that you could get it done.

 

A major incident with the Lead Supervisor occurred while you were running a powered industrial truck/forklift.   You were fortunate that the co-worker was there, and that he was willing to bear witness to what occurred.  Without the witness, the outcome of what happened might have been different.

Usually, I tell workers that it is inappropriate to yell or scream at another worker or others unless there is an immediate need to warn of a danger/hazard/emergency.  In an industrial setting where there is noisy equipment and machinery, workers may need to raise their voices and/or wave their arms to get the attention of another worker.  However, screaming at each other, face to face, is still inappropriate.  Your Lead Supervisor angrily told you to turn in your time badge and leave the premises.  You refused to do so.  The Lead Supervisor jabbed at your chest, and yelled at you to get out of his face.  You took one step back, and warned him not to touch you again or you would defend yourself.  The Lead Supervisor wanted you to go with him to another location which you refused.  Where you were at, you had a witness.   The situation was diffused when the Lead Supervisor walked away.

I don’t recommend in your face, in the heat of anger confrontations as the situation can quickly escalate to violence.  Many workplaces have a zero-tolerance for workplace violence.  Although you were insubordinate by refusing to turn in your time badge and refusing to leave the premises, the confrontation would not have taken place had the Lead Supervisor not provoked you, and continued to provoked you. 

Later that morning, you reported to your Lead Supervisor’s superior, the Big Boss, and told him what happened.  The Big Boss called you and your Lead Supervisor into his office.  You were each given an opportunity to tell your side of the story.  The co-worker who witnessed what had occurred was also called in.  The co-worker told the Big Boss what he had witnessed which concurred with your story.  Later, the Big Boss lectured the Lead Supervisor.  The Big Boss asked you to write down in a letter what had happened which you did.  The letter was given to Associate Relations for the record.  Unknown—A reprimand may have been placed in the Lead Supervisor’s personnel file and/or he could have been given a verbal warning. 

A week later, Associate Relations called you in to get your side of the story.  You reported that there were no further problems with the Lead Supervisor.  You displayed a positive attitude.  The Big Boss said there were no problems because he had given the Lead Supervisor a good lecture.  The Big Boss told you to report any problems to him.  However, you feel that the Lead Supervisor only got a slap on the wrist.  Only time will tell, and if the bully continues to bully others.

 

Someone, another bullied worker, stood up for you by being a witness.  Would you be willing to stand up for another person by being a witness if you observed a co-worker being bullied?  Many times co-workers look the other way, pretends not to see, or say they don’t want to get involved when they have witnessed bullying.   Why do co-workers behave this way?  Mainly out of fear.  They don’t want to be the next Target.  The fear of losing their job. 

In your particular workplace, it sounds like workers including your bully are given opportunities to improve their performance.  In the meantime, write in your journal and keep a record.  If the Lead Supervisor decides to retaliate, document each incident.  Keep your documentation or journal at home.  If you see signs of trouble with the Lead Supervisor, talk to the Big Boss immediately.

 

Be safe on the job.  You don’t need distractions when you work with industrial equipment and machinery.  The U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says:  “Employers must ensure that each powered industrial truck operator (or forklift driver) is competent to operate a powered industrial truck safely, as demonstrated by the successful completion of training and evaluation specified in  29 CFR 1910.178(I)(1).”  CFR stands for “Code of Federal Regulations”. The website notes that forklift overturns are the leading cause of fatalities involving forklifts which represent about 25 percent of all forklift-related deaths.  Information about Industry Standards for the operation of powered truck operators or forklifts can also be found at the following website:  http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/poweredindustrialtrucks/index.html

The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act protects workers who complain to their employer, OSHA or other government agencies about unsafe or unhealthful working conditions in the workplace or environmental problems.  You cannot be transferred, denied a raise, have your hours reduced, be fired, or punished in any other way because you used any right given to you under the OSH Act.  If you have been punished or discriminated against for using your rights, you must file a complaint with OSHA within 30 days of the alleged discriminatory act.

 

Reference: http://www.osha.gov/as/opa/worker/complain.html

Thank you for telling your industrial workplace story.  I hope the rest of your training period goes smoothly.  No worker should have to work under a tyrant whose unreasonable demands and intimidating behavior could put the safety of workers and innocent bystanders in jeopardy.

 

From Hillstreet Blues—after each roll call/briefing session, the Sgt. would say to the officers and detectives, “Let’s be careful out there.”

Sincerely,

Kalola

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 13th, 2013 at 9:00 am and is filed under Let's Talk with Kalola. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.



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  • cardcarryingmemberzillion

    I appreciate that you used your conscience and put workplace safety – for yourself and others – first. We all need to remember to follow our consciences, regardless of our lines of work, and workplace bullies unfortunately sometimes pressure us to ignore ethics or quality in the interest of expediency. My workplace problems are different, but I’m very familiar with the experience of having bully-bosses run me off my feet. There are times when employees like us do need to work more quickly or efficiently (and it helps us be more efficient if we’re not bullied!) but bosses sometimes wilfully abuse this by taking it to extremes. For me in my line of work, it’s harder to recognize when this is happening, but definitely don’t operate forklifts or heavy machinery beyond their intended speed. And no one should put up with being pressured to run red lights (as a pedestrian) against heavy traffic as was shown in the movies “The Devil Wears Prada” or the “Pursuit of Happyness”. These are just some objective standards because they involve our own or someone else’s safety. Good luck in everything you’re doing. I think you did the right thing.

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