The Trouble With Toilet Paper

Why the subject of toilet paper you ask? Well, mid-way through my time at my previous employer, someone in management or purchasing thought to themselves, “Hmm. How can we save some money on our lavatory expenses?  Obviously having the clean bathrooms cleaned less frequently is not an option, nor is perhaps having the lights shut off when the whole room is vacant… Ooh, perhaps, the urinals shouldn’t have been converted over to an automatic flush so that a gallon of water each time someone stands in front of it is wasted. No, no, they decided that it would be a great idea to buy cheaper paper.

Ok, so how does buying cheaper toilet paper and paper towels mix with management communication? I’m glad you asked! Looking from a high-level scope, it basically tells your employees that the company is so strapped for cash that they can’t shell out an extra $0.10 per roll in order for you to be more comfortable. Every time someone enters the bathroom and puts these things near their area, there’s a cringe at one of two possible outcomes: 1. The fact that it’s single ply AND cheap means that there are occasionally holes in the paper itself and now I have to use MORE of it to ensure that I don’t touch any of what it might pick up, and 2. I’ll chap what I have down there with the sandpaper finish that the paper provides.

Yes, I understand that this is all whining about something that is so trivial, but when you think about it, is it really trivial? When you decorate a house and put only large chunks of furniture in it with no smaller knick-knacks or sconces or the like, does it feel like it’s well done? I think the answer is no. And I can’t speak for everyone, but whenever I would go to the bathroom and see the paper towels (not to even mention the toilet paper), I think, “Management hates us.”  Well, maybe not so bold, but perhaps “management thinks we don’t deserve mid-range paper.”   Suffice it to say that my mood is in no way improved by the fact that simple things are being penny-pinched.

The other half of this is fascinating to me also. By providing thinner paper, people appear to use more of it each time they go. It’s not unheard of to see someone take the amount of paper provided by the automatic dispenser and yank down to obtain 3-5x the original amount to dry their hands. So all in all, it seems a wash because the money saved on quality is made up for in quantity. I haven’t seen numbers on it (so if anyone in accounting has any idea if the gain is worthwhile, please comment), but the point is not about cost.

While the world is shifting around all of us, layoffs are occurring, deficits abound, paychecks and benefits are being cut, why would an organization decide to do something mildly demoralizing to their employees which will be felt (literally) every single day and possibly more than once per day? HELP ME PEOPLE. Please explain! I know it’s a bit of a rant, but it’s not ABOUT the toilet paper; it’s about all of those little things: coffee brand change, or removal altogether, cancelling holiday parties, charging for things that we never charged for, etc.  The list can go on and on, but the reality is, the employees notice.

P.S. It should go over the roll, not under 😉

Treat Great Engineers Like Gold

golden stick figure with a loudspeaker

So now to the final discussion in my series.  About Great engineers!  I have been pondering this one, because, for some reason it’s the hardest to provide valuable information about.  Great engineers/employees in general are hard-working, deadline-meeting, project-churning machines that bring value to your organization consistently with a smile on their faces.  What could be wrong with that?!  I’ll guess that nothing is wrong with that, though there is the matter of keeping them as great engineers.  Lack of motivation, disinterest in doing the same ol’ thing, frustration with other engineers, and many more daily occurrences can push their productivity down.  So for a manager, your job is to ensure that they are happy and able to do their duty!

Without further ado:

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How to Handle Ineptitude

men discussing something

Ineptitude is a difficult issue to combat because there are, obviously, different levels of ineptitude.  They range from someone who is selectively disinterested in a specific task (I would argue this is the most frequent), all the way to completely dysfunctional.  In the case of the latter, expedient dismissal is the best option.  That being said, dismissal is a difficult issue to work with based upon your own organization’s policies regarding termination, and so, I won’t go into detail beyond documentation and getting them out as soon as is practical.

In the case of selective disinterest in certain pieces, however, there are some things you can do to help them to integrate more effectively into the team.

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5 Tips for Managing Shy People

man writing in his diary "Dear diary, sorry to bother you again"Update: If YOU are a shy individual and want to get more outgoing, check out this post from Upgrade Reality.

Now that I’ve described the main types of engineers, I’m going to gear some advice in how to work with them.  First on the chopping block is those shy and quiet engineers who don’t need, or even want to get noticed, or even talk to others.  I think that this category is one of the hardest to deal with because by virtue of their nature, they don’t want to talk to you about problems, improvements, questions, etc.

Throughout high-school, I was constantly berated by my classmates behind the backs of our teachers.  I was called many names that I don’t even care to think about to this day, and as a result, I was extremely introverted.  I had a close-knit group of 5-7 friends who I would hang out with in my spare time, but for the most part, I would stay at home with my family and watch TV or play on the computer.  That all changed when I moved out after high-school with my friend Ryan.  He was a jock (baseball player) and therefore had many friends who I had never met and had no interest in meeting.  They would come to our apartment and watch TV, play video games, and go off-roading with the group.  At first, I felt like my friend was being taken away from me, but as time went on, I realized that these people actually CARED What I had to say!  The names never came, and the more I spoke, the more intently I was received.  In fact, some of my best friends now, are those who came from his friend-pool and hung out with me!  I owe my extroverted nature to that experience. I’m not sure who I’d be if it weren’t for the short 9 months living with him.

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What Makes a Great Engineer?

Guy sitting looking at the camera with text saying "I am hoping that I can be known as a great engineer rather than a sex symbol"So here I’ve been sitting, contemplating how to write this post, and not having any epiphanies as to how to go about it. Shy engineers are easy to discuss, assholes are equally easy.  Ineptitude was a bit ranty, though in my defense, those engineers tend to rant of their own accord, so it seemed to fit.  Now comes the one that should be easiest to write, but is hard to really come up with something intriguing and useful.  So I’m just going to throw it out there for the record, because this is the category in which MOST engineers sit, and the reason engineering actually works in companies.  I’m going to refer to them as A+ Engineers because if they were in school, I’d tend to give them all A pluses for grades.

So, without further ado, here is a list of common traits to good, A+ engineers: Continue reading “What Makes a Great Engineer?”

5 Questions To Ask Yourself When Approached About Favors

man on his knees begging

What can be worse for a manager than to have someone come into their office trying to weasel out a favor?  Ok, I’m sure that any type of disciplinary action is worse, and even layoffs, but the idea of someone going out of their way to try and push an agenda of theirs onto you is definitely up in that top pet peeve list.  I have seen managers go from both extremes of pushing an employee out of their office when they realized what they were trying to do, to falling into it hook, line, and sinker, and then many somewhere in between.

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A Manager’s Focus

In the world of business, you can look at required tasks several different ways. At the largest scale, you can look at how a company’s stock price fluctuates with organizational decisions, ROI, Resource management and supplier/customer relations.  Each area you turn to, there are many different components which aggregate into the whole.  You can keep going further down until you finally hit those workers who are doing the seemingly menial tasks that must be accomplished in order to get the answers you (the manager) need to have in order to perform your job satisfactorily.http://www.sudospeak.com/wp-includes/js/tinymce/plugins/wordpress/img/trans.gif

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