Performance Reviews & other Bulls**t

Official warning: This article contains the words that Americans that do real work use. If the F word and variants of the S word offend you, you are excused to go back to whatever padded cell you escaped from. Everybody else: Enjoy

LunchNow that the requisite human resource warning is out of the way, let’s talk a bit about the real world. Does anybody in the whole wide world believe that the nonsense paperwork we do for human resources, OSHA, DOT, FERC, FEMA and the rest of the alphabet soup ever get read? Yeah, exactly. It’s there so that if something goes wrong the blame can be shoved down the ladder to someone who’s not important. The fact that he’s probably the only one who knows how to do the job is irrelevant.

After all, he might embarrass you at the country club. The fact that he and the millions of others like him are what keeps this country going is unimportant. Or so you think. Because I’ve got a clue for you, the people who do stuff are getting very fed up with your nonsense, not to mention that we’re getting older, and your touchy-feely education system that doesn’t bother educating kids to do anything but rut like animals ain’t going to produce another generation that even understands lefty-loosey: righty-tighty.

But, you know, another twenty or so years of your politically correct society (not to mention your health care nonsystem) will have killed enough of the productive members of society off that you can live in the world you’ve created. Don’t forget your matches, cause I don’t think you’re smart enough to use flint and steel, and when the electricity doesn’t work anymore, it get a bit chilly in winter.

“Bullshit” Is One Word, “Performance Review” Two 
by Larry McCoy

I had just arrived in the newsroom for my shift as a copy editor when a manager came over to my desk and declared, “We need to discuss your goals.” I was 66 years old – past retirement age, damn near old enough to be his father – and he wants to discuss my “goals.”

“Go away,” I told him. Preparing to take over the main desk was always an extremely hectic part of the day. I was “reading in,” as journalists call it, looking at all the stories that had been edited that day by the main desk. It was impossible to read every story from start to finish, so you skimmed some, skipped some and made sure you thoroughly read the big ones you knew would be changing once you took over the desk.

Floyd, the name we’ll give the manager, wasn’t attuned to the idea of a right time and place to do things. Like a squirrel digging for nuts, Floyd kept at it. “We have to discuss your goals sometime. It’s part of your Performance Review.”

“Well, we’re not doing it now. Go away!”

Floyd was both dense and tone deaf. He wouldn’t go away. If only Floyd were as dogged in fleshing out a good story. The Performance Review had to be done, he said. I wasn’t going to budge either. It was a crock – something dreamed up by the morons in Human Resources who had nothing to do and, worst of all, absolutely no experience in newsrooms. They all ought to be fired, I said, several times in several ways. This back and forth continued, with the volume of each exchange rising, until the magic words came out.

“Go f–k yourself,” I said.

Do continue reading Performance Review, if you are smarter than a box of Special K you’ll enjoy it a lot. If you don’t, well,

“Who is John Galt”



evil-conservativeWriting about Mrs Thatcher and reading Neo’s excellent pieces on Conservatism and the links, got me to thinking about my own position.

I’m not a political animal. In many ways that seem to me natural. Most people aren’t. Most people I know think politicians are in it for themselves and given a choice between the public good and the chance to make a quick buck, they’ll go for the last every time.

Looking at English Conservatism, the position on the State is fairly neutral. Most Conservatives until Mrs Thatcher’s time regarded it as a necessary evil, and most of them seem to have accepted pretty easily the Socialist expansion of its role after 1945. In as far as Conservatism is ‘the art of the possible’ it is easy enough to see why. If something isn’t broke, don’t fix it. Until the late 1960s, early 1970s it seemed that the large State was delivering the goods, so they left it alone. When that ceased to be so, unlike the Labour Party, parts of the Conservative Party looked again to see what could be done. In that sense Conservatism isn’t an ideology, and it chimes with how many of us go about our lives.

In that sense it seems to me that conservatism is pretty natural and organic. There is in it something of the Christian recognition of Original Sin; order and good government are important. I think one of the differences between traditional conservatism in the UK and its equivalent in the USA is this business of individual liberty. British Conservatives have been suspicious of ‘the mob’ and wanted to keep it under control. It is no accident that it was a Conservative Government (that of the Duke of Wellington in the late 1820s) which brought in the modern police force. Given the choice between liberty and order, British Conservatives have tended to prefer order.

In that sense I guess I am a British type Conservative.

I hate it when liberals pretend that Conservatives don’t care about the poor and the disadvantaged. More often than on the Left, conservatives have come from poorer backgrounds and worked their way up. That’s why they have faith in self-reliance and hard work; they often exemplify its virtues. But I meet no Conservatives who say: ‘let the poor starve in gutters’. They simply dispute the idea that easy welfare is the answer. Here in the UK we have a real debate going on about the extent to which the Welfare State has killed initiative in its recipients. In one recent case a man with 17 children by different women was in receipt of £60k in child benefit – what incentive was there for him to go out to work? OK, that’s an extreme case, but it illustrates why many Conservatives are worried. No one who set up the Welfare State intended for that to happen, or for welfare to be a good alternative to work – yet that is what has happened.

So I find myself questioning some of the basic things we take for granted in the UK, like the Welfare State. By UK standards, I guess I must be a conservative 🙂

What to teach

warningAs we continue our look at education, there is one point which my co-author made to me I want to raise for discussion here. Here pointed out that in the UK a decision was taken, quite deliberately, to, as an act of Government policy, try to get nearly half the young people in this country to go to University. The reasoning here was not overly sophisticated. If University education was good for the few, then from the democratic view, it must be good for the many. I would like to suggest that it is this sort of egalitarianism which threatens to undermine the achievements of more than a century.

When my co-author on my blog went to University in the UK in the early 1970s he was one of about 8% of the population who did so. That did not mean that the rest of the population was under-educated. Then, if you wanted to be a lawyer or an accountant, then you could, and often did, take professional courses whilst training on the job; the same was true for other jobs, such as nursing and engineering. Now, in the UK, you need a degree to get into nursing.  Does that mean that our nurses here are better? Not if recent reports to the effect that they need to take courses on ‘caring’ are anything to go by. My sister, who trained as a nurse in the late 1970s, did so without a degree (though she got one later), and her account chimes with others I hear now – that modern nurses may have degrees, but they are not necessarily any better than they should be at actually caring; indeed, there is evidence that they think it beneath them to empty bed pans and clean up patients. Progress does not equal better.

An emphasis on higher education, skews what happens before that. One of the things which puzzles UK politicians is that though many new jobs have been created, unemployment figures remain high. Part of the answer is that social security provision in the UK is generous, and those eligible for it sometimes find it better not to get into work – and that work is then done by immigrants who will work longer hours for lower pay. Another part of the answer is that too many kids in our schools have the wrong skill-set. Kids told that they ought to be setting their eyes on University won’t think that they want to pick up a trade – yet electricians and plumbers here are rare enough to command premium prices for their services – provided they can sign up to the slew of red-tape which the Government insists upon in the sacred name of Health and Safety.

So, you end up with plenty of chiefs, but not a lot of Indians; lots of managers, but not too many to manage. You also end up with a real dearth of skilled labour. Not everyone can be a manager, or a computer entrepreneur, and there is, it seems, such a thing as being educated out of usefulness. Perhaps that is controversial – but it is a view gaining ground in the UK.

Jobs?, Not In This Country

The seal of the United States Department of Labor

The seal of the United States Department of Labor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


OK, I know you think that the reason so many jobs have gone to Mexico and Asia is because of American wages, and there is truth in that. But, and it’s a big but, it’s not the whole reason, often it’s not even the primary reason. We’re going to talk about that today. I’m going to start with a story from a guy who lost his job Monday. I’ll tell you right now that with my experience, it rings absolutely true to me, I’ve seen it at least dozens if not hundreds of times. Nor am I going to apologize for his language, he speaks as what he is, a good, hard-working American.

Monday was a long day in what turned out to be my last day of employment at my job. Unfortunately, I can’t lay the blame for this particular development at Obama’s feet, but rather, I fault my own increasingly intolerant disposition towards this dysfunctional trend of eroding integrity and intelligence so many in our Country seem content to spiral down into. So much seems so ass backwards anymore since the days when I viewed the world through the eyes of a much younger, more selfishly self-indulgent, and ignorant me. Before, things that would have been deemed unacceptable in a work setting and gotten your ass shown to the door, now are accepted. For whatever reasons, be they a base apathy or basic fear of possible litigated reprisals for whatever perceived slights or discrimination, real or imagined. Just more of the subliminal intended consequences of political correctness basically as far as I’m concerned. Maddening!

I refer to my job. But it’s not the job itself (I enjoyed my work), so much as a lot of the people around me I could do without. I tried keeping to myself in my area where I worked for a Cabinet and door manufacturing company. I would show up about 45 minutes to an hour early before start time each day, setting up (off the clock and on my own time) to prep my machine for dying cabinet doors, panels, and frames a variety of colors using only two colors of dye kept in their own respective 30 gallon tanks, which I would fill up each morning before beginning. These colors were brown and purple. With brown dye I would color some cabinet pieces either Chestnut or Mocha depending on the order. With the purple dye, it would be either Brandy or Burgundy. To achieve the desired color scheme depended on the speed of my run line and the number of coats each side of the cabinet piece required. At what had previously been considered a 2 man job before I was hired, I had been doing now by myself for the better part of the last 4 months. There’s a lot more to it (the poor ventilation of fumes and persistent rattle in my chest I’d developed in the past couple of months not withstanding), but I’m getting off the beaten path of my intended narrative here, so allow me to refer back to my previous statement when I said how a lot of the people at my job I could do without, and the whole point of this commentary to begin with…

Continue reading Like A Festering Boil On The Ass Of America, Obama Frustrates These Days Of Our Lives! | The D.C. Clothesline. I’ll wait for you.

I do a certain amount of woodworking myself, it’s one of my hobbies. One of the first things you learn is to keep the work area clean when you’re finishing wood, it’ll screw up the finish in no time.

What happened here is that the company lost a good dependable employee because they wouldn’t enforce work rules on a woman. And as long as they have that attitude (and it’s pretty much enshrined in Labor Law) they’ll continue to go downhill and eventually close because they’ll find it increasingly difficult to find competent people.

Gresham’s Labor Law: Bad employees drive out good, every time

That’s one way we screw our selves, there are others.

You all know that I’m an electrician and lineman, which I’ve always enjoyed. I’m one of the people who is quite good at troubleshooting, for a guy who can connect cause and effect, it’s one of the most rewarding parts of the job, or used to be. I’ve done this for about 40 years now, and yes I’ve been shocked I few times when I got stupid or careless, nobody’s fault but mine.

But now, because there are so few competent people out there, we have rules, man do we have rules. All my life I’ve worn long sleeve shirts, and no rings because it protects you, simple common sense that I was taught when I was about 12. Now to work in a live panel (including the one in your house) I must have a professional engineer calculate the ‘arc-fault current’ available, actually I can do it, it’s a bit complicated but a spreadsheet template can cure that, but in the world today that’s not good enough, it needs that PE stamp. Then I must have the proper rated arc fault resistant (no, not flame resistant) clothing, a hard hat with a face shield, and the proper gloves, all have to be lab approved, and I have to use insulated tools.

That list is worth about $5000, and it makes the job take at least three times as long. How do we avoid that? We no longer will work in an energized panel, which means that sometimes we can’t find the problem, and most of the time in a production facility we are going to shut down a lot of equipment we don’t need to. Why do we do this? because we cannot hire people who are willing to be responsible for their own safety, they need baby-sitters.

I’ve told you before (here) about why electrical work is so expensive, this makes all that worse.

I have friends that are installing OSHA mandated safety equipment in a factory not to far from here. The factory has several production lines (as most do) and multiple similar machines. The thing is, some of these machines date back to World War II, when we made quality machines, and they’ve been updated several times. That shouldn’t be a problem, except that according to the company they are all exactly the same, unfortunately in the real world, they have at least three different generations of electrical controls, different wiring and several other technical differences. But according to engineering they are identical.

So they want a cut and dried approach to updating and can’t understand when one machine takes longer and is somewhat difference. What it really is laziness, they don’t want to maintain separate drawings for each machine, and doing this covers their butts (no that is not the term we use)

The thing is the manufacturer of the safety system has to sign off on it, and won’t until they’ve inspected each machine. What we have here is a joke where the client is effectively requiring everybody to lie to them. CYA is the name of the game.

But here’s the kicker. In my analysis if someone gets hurt, by the time the lawsuits are over, the guy to blame will be, not one of three multi-million dollar companies involved but…

The Journeyman electrician installing it.

Heck of a way to run the world, and a lot of why we are no longer a manufacturing country.


Car 54, Where are you

When I was a kid there was a comedy about the NYPD, and a couple of misfit officers who were never where they should have been. It seems strange now, a comedy about the police but it was reasonably amusing.

Simpler, better days, they were.

But I can also remember my folks telling my sisters to call when they got home. I thought it was silly, they’re grown-ups they’ll be fine, after all they always had been. Funny how this changes, isn’t it?

My partner is currently in the Philippines with his fiancée, if I haven’t mentioned it she’s pretty darned wonderful in my opinion, as well, apart from being an industrial engineer and a specialist in lean management.

Immigration has turned into a nightmare, apparently our State Department equates self-employment with being unemployed, in some cases I’m sure it’s true but their requirements for sponsoring her into the country are very burdensome, they start with $80,000 in liquid assets and go on from there, and then add the requirements of her government and you have just created a red tape mountain of Everestian proportions.

They completely failed once, and that is why or business is on hold, we decided if we were going to get this done, we would just have to close and let him take a job, we do enough side work to keep me going but that’s about it, for now. Honestly, he took a pretty good pay cut to do it as well.

And he’s like that too, he’s knows its going fine so why tell anybody so (full disclosure: so am I) but you know, it’s hard when your sitting here with several problems stewing and you don’t know for sure because you haven’t heard from him. It’s very likely that everything is fine and he’s having a wonderful time like those old postcards from Florida said. But I wish he’s say so.

Silly? Of course it is. But I’ll bet every one of you parents know exactly what I mean. After a while, the ‘what-if’s’ start piling in and pretty soon you’re living on coffee and antacids, and worrying more and more.

And if it happens that two people drop off the screen at the same time, it seems to about treble the worry. Rational? No, it’s not. But it is.

Car 54, Where are You?

Jobs, and their Creation

Dock lights on at dusk from Nebraska Tech

OK, this election cycle we’re talking a lot about jobs. Unless you’re an employer you most likely have no idea how we decide to create a job. While every business is different, we all do something similar to this when we are thinking about adding people. Here I’m going to talk about adding a journeyman electrician because that’s the lowest I can employ in the field without supervision. Note that this implies that I’m also going to hire at least one apprentice as well, there are few jobs that can be done efficiently in the field with one man, some but few.

This is a very general guide to what it costs to put a crew on the road. To cover the cost to the organization of complying with regulations, other taxes, training and other overhead costs, plus enough profit (10-15%) you need to double these figures.

Item Cost Cost/hr min. cost/hr max cost/year min. Cost/yr/max
Journeyman electrician $20.00 $50.00 $41,600.00 $104,000.00
Employment taxes/benefits $15.00 $30.00 $31,200.00 $62,400.00
Apprentice electrician each $10.00 $20.00 $20,800.00 $41,600.00
Employment taxes/benefits $10.00 $20.00 $20,800.00 $41,600.00
Service Truck $55,000.00 $11,000.00 $18,333.33
Power tools 1000-2000 $500.00 $2,000.00
Consumables (bits saw blades etc) $300.00 $300.00 $1,800.00
Fuel/vehicle maintenance etc. $31,200.00 $31,200.00
Inventory on truck $1,200.00 $1,200.00 $1,200.00
Totals $55.00 $120.00 $158,600.00 $304,133.33

As I said, these are very general, in the real world I would have far more information such as residential or industrial, service, or construction, there are a lot of variables, including where you are based, my costs for some things here are lower than the cities but higher in others. But that is basically what we look at. Also note that fuel costs are over $30,000 dollars per year, like yours, that number has doubled in the last four years.

The other thing is, if I don’t have at least 6 months of work on the books for that crew, and a full year is much better, I just see if my guys will work enough overtime to get things done, or I will try to subcontract or I’ll drop jobs. But essentially I need $300,000 to $600,000 worth of work to comfortably add a crew. and everything else flows from this, if I am not adding crews, there is no reason for me to hire office staff, or new computers or anything else unless it’s broken.

Another problem right now is, those costs per employee that have all that slop in them, I have only the vaguest idea of what they’ll look like next fall and that makes me even more cautious than usual.

Oh, and did I mention that it is nearly impossible for small business to borrow money right now. All that equipment above, about $60,000 worth, and you’ll find that almost always it’ll be higher, often much higher,  I must have the money to pay for it, and it isn’t in my mattress after four years of recession or stagnation or whatever Mr. Obama has given us. In my opinion the word is depression, by the way.

Creating jobs for me remains in the realm of a fantasy until the economy is growing again, right now all sectors of my business are flat or worse, some are all but shut down now, and I cannot see how any are going to be better before next summer at least.

But I would love to be wrong on that prediction.

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