Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A momentous date

Greetings Curtain fans. So, after reading this post's title, you may be wondering, WHY is this date momentous? The answer is...today is the anniversary of my start of employment with the Rather Large Airline! Which means, not only am I am officially off probation, I also get a pay raise! (Happy Dance time ensues.) It also means that I feel it's been long enough so that I can tell the truth about the events that occurred surrounding when I left my last job...

I was SO happy to get my new job, I can't put it fully into words, but I will try. There are several reasons I was extra-happy about the job offer. First, my old airline had lost its contract with one major airline and had switched all our flying from the Midwest to a carrier based in the eastern US. What this meant for me was the end of pass travel privileges that made it relatively easy to fly to my Mom's house. Due to her recent medical issues, this was a sizable concern to me. Secondly, I was having MAJOR issues with the management at my old carrier. We were a union shop, and I had volunteered to be the section chair for our union, which I'd been doing for about a year at my time of departure.

I didn't ever get along extremely well with my immediate boss there (in fact, he was the main reason I had decided to get more involved with the union) but things had recently gotten really rocky in my last few months of employment. He had suspended me for three days in January for an incident relating to insubordination due to an argument I'd had with one of the shift supervisors, and rather smugly implied that as the section chair, I should know the rules. Without going into details, I will say I could have acted more professionally on the night the incident in question occurred. However, he never listened to my side of things, either...I saw the letter saying I'd be suspended on his desk as soon as I walked into his office to talk about what had happened.

Since I did know the rules with regards to our contract, I submitted a grievance over the suspension...and the company did agree to pay me for one of the days I had been suspended rather than take it to a hearing. This appeared to anger my boss even further, as well as his bosses (up to this point I'd had fairly good relations at the company with everyone except him.)

I began to get singled out for criticism of minor issues. They also tried to have me removed from my position as section chair for the union by spreading some misinformation to the president of my union's local. (This attempt on their part failed.) One day, I overslept and my cell phone was turned off (I have no land line) and the shift manager sent a police car to my house to check on me (true story.) I could go on and on about the what all happened during my last few months, but I think you can get the general idea. During my last "counseling session" with my old boss, last March, I was given a day off (with pay) to "consider my future with the company."

Anyhow, I took the day off, went in on Monday, said I recognized the error of my ways, et cetera, and that I would be a good employee from now on. My boss had appeared to calm down a bit by this point also, so that session ended with little fanfare. But very fortunately for me, one week after the day I had received off from work to "consider my future" I got this in my inbox:

I would like to offer you a position of Dispatcher here at (the Rather Large Airline.) The class will start April 10. I will need to set you up for another drug test and have you fill out one more form for your background check. Let me know when you would be able to get down here to get that accomplished.

Needless to say, I was BEYOND happy to receive this email. I had originally interviewed for the position in December, but they couldn't hire as many people as they originally intended. This might have added to my bad mood about things in general, and the winter weather in Wisconsin didn't help a whole lot with my mood, either.

There is one footnote to this story...we had a safety event review committee at my old airline, which reviewed what were supposed to be anonymous reports from dispatchers about incidents regarding flight safety. I think my boss originally wanted this so he could keep track of what mistakes people made (despite the guarantee of anonymity, he could always figure out who had submitted the reports by cross-referencing the flight numbers mentioned.)

Before I quit, my boss had reduced staffing in the afternoons, and people had started complaining to me about workload, and per our FAA representative's suggestion, I told people that they should submit reports to the safety program. So, some people did start submitting reports saying that our workload was too high. This evidently infuriated my boss, and I heard that he once said that if this kept up, the company would opt out of this safety program.

One of the many things my boss had been trying to do in my last few months of employment there was to get me kicked off the safety committee as the union representative for the dispatchers. I don't want to get into all the details on how he was justifying that, but let's just say he didn't succeed before I left.

Anyhow, back to these safety reports. One of the problems we were having on the reports about workload was that people weren't identifying specific incidents regarding safety, but just saying they were too busy. Someone finally did submit one report that was specific, and included flight numbers. And, my boss, prior to the safety committee meeting, figured out who had submitted the report by cross-referencing the flight numbers the report referred to, and emailed the submitter a quasi-threatening email about it (so much for any pretense of anonymity.)

Once I got word of this, I emailed the president of my union local as well as our FAA representative to let them know what was going on. Both of them were present at the next safety committee meeting...

OK, this would be a good time for a cliffhanger, but I'll go ahead and finish instead. By the time the next safety meeting occurred, I had just received my offer from the Rather Large Airline. However, I hadn't yet gotten word back about the results of my pre-employment drug test. To be on the ultra-safe side, I decided to wait and make sure everything was A-OK with that before I gave my notice...not that I was worried about the results, but I just wanted to be SURE before I gave my notice. As it turns out, this was smart thinking on my part.

I told the union local president about my job offer right before the meeting, but nobody else knew until later on. My boss was unfortunately not in attendance for this meeting, but his boss was, and believe me I laid into him big time about my boss emailing someone who thought they were submitting a safety report anonymously. Watching my boss's boss squirm in front of the FAA was rather entertaining..."Um, well, we just wanted to make sure he was using all the resources he had available and, um..." but nothing too dramatic happened. The FAA representative did say I seemed like "a whole different person" at this meeting...he thought it was because my boss wasn't there, but he didn't know about my job offer.

Anyhow, as soon as I got word that yes, there were no problems with the drug test, I put in my notice. I timed it so that my last day would be in early April, thus extending my insurance coverage another month. My boss wasn't in his office when I left my resignation letter, but I did see him later that day. He seemed rather happy (perhaps not surprisingly) and said, "So you're leaving us, huh?" I said, yes, I was going to the Rather Large Airline. He replied, "Rather Large Airline Express?" No, I said, the mainline carrier. He frowned. I think he'd been hoping I would quit, but he was annoyed I had gotten with a major carrier. I asked if there was any paperwork I needed to take care of, and he said, "We'll do that later."

Towards the end of my shift that night, my boss's boss, the guy who I had made squirm at the safety meeting, showed up (around 10:30 P.M.) He asked me to come talk with him, along with the shift supervisor, and told me thanks for giving my notice, that was very professional of me, but they'd decided to just pay me my last two weeks salary instead. I didn't really object at all, but I was a bit surprised, because my boss was a NOTORIOUS cheapskate. Anyhow, I turned in my travel card and ID, cleaned out my locker, and left.

I think my boss did try to make it appear I had been fired rather than tell people where I'd gone. Evidently all the combinations on the doors were changed the next day, which usually only occurred when someone was terminated. I'm still not exactly sure why they didn't let me just work the last two weeks, but I think they may have been worried I would hack the computers or something (which I wouldn't have. I was unhappy there, sure, but there was no way I would screw up my big opportunity by doing anything I could get sued for later.) I also take the fact that they were afraid of what I might do as a slight compliment on their part, in a way...not that it really matters too much.

The only bad thing about this was that evidently most of the people I worked with were intimidated enough not to show up at the going-away party that I had...but hey, they did still work there, and I didn't, anymore. Honestly, I was so happy to leave, that I didn't really care too much. Just in case they also tried to feed my union president or the FAA a line of BS about why I'd left, I called and clarified things with both of them the morning after my last shift and surprise exit.

I must give my old boss SOME credit here. I was indeed paid for the last two weeks that I didn't work. The day off I'd been given (with pay) to "consider my future" didn't show up on my last paycheck, so I emailed him about that, and he got the company to send me a check for that day's pay. He also fixed things with HR over the ending date for my medical coverage.

All that being said, though, he's still in the top three of Worst Bosses I Ever Had. He'd been working for the company since before I was born (and I'm in my late thirties) so I guess he probably saw me as some kid trying to stir things up for no good reason. I was happy to get my old job when I did, after my previous airline went out of business back in 2002, since the industry was in a BIG slump when I got hired there...but I was even happier to escape.


Suldog said...

Quite a story, Chuck. Interesting how anonymity rules can be circumvented so easily, but not surprising. I've never trusted the exit phone interviews where you reply with A,B,C,D, etc. to a recorded questioner.

(Some of my work now involves recording those things. I still don't trust them.)

Chuck said...

Suldog - Yeah, my old airline didn't bother to ask me for an exit interview. I think they knew I wouldn't have much good to say...