Friday, January 05, 2007

Workin' for the man...

Last week at work the building services folks were power washing our building and our windows. They did a great job and worked very hard. Friday afternoon as I looked out my office windows I noticed the guys in blue shirts (the working class) working their asses off power washing the building while the white shirt (supervisor) sat in the truck with the motor running, windows up and A/C on for hours.

Surprised? No. This is common here. I'm sure this isn't in writing anywhere, but I've been told by dozens of hardworking building services and other physical plant employees I've gotten to know and like over the years, that supervisors are not required to work, only to supervise. The ladies who have cleaned our offices work very hard and on many occasions, they were short-staffed. During most of these times there were no supervisors filling in the gap and helping out. Yes I have seen supervisors helping out but it is not consistent. One of the hardworking custodian ladies I knew once told me that while she was overworked, her supervisor would be in the custodial office down the hall from her doing nothing.

There's a lot of waste at UF, and manpower is one of them. And I'm not the only one who has seen it. Many employees from all areas of campus have complained over the years, but I think little is done.

What really pissed me off today is that it was hot and humid outside and these blue shirts were working their asses off and that white shirt supervisor sat in his truck with the A/C on. THis is a time of year when new and prospective students bring their families in for a visit. What kind of message does that send to them when they see people just sitting around while others work? Also, and more importantly, what does this do to the morale of the regular employees? If I were in their position doing that job and my supervisor sat on his fat lazy ass all day in the A/C listening relaxing while I busted my ass, I'd be pissed. Now you might be thinking "well the supervisor earned it" that's why he doesn't have to work. It isn't like he's a college educated executive. Most of these folks don't have a college education, they just know the right person and have been there awhile.

I was brought up with the idea that a good boss never asks his/her employees to do something he/she wouldn't do. Well I've seen a lot of regular blue shirts busting their asses in physical plant but very few of their white shirted supervisors are busting ass with them. This doesn't mean ALL blue shirts work hard (I've seen my share of laziness around campus) and it doesn't mean all white shirts are lazy (I've seen supervisors who do work). But just add this to the list of things wrong with how the campus is run. Depending on your boss there, if you have a problem you may have to just suck it up. If your immediate supervisor is an asshole, you can't run to his boss, because his boss doesn't care. And so you're stuck because nobody up the chain of command cares, although they put out a newsletter and a website emphasizing how much they care.

I hate to generalize the place because it would send the message that I am saying ALL white shirts in physical plant do not work and ALL blue shirts do work. That is not true. There are a fair share of hardworking white shirts and an equally fair share of lazy blue shirts in the physical plant area. However let's not just pick on physical plant here, that would not be fair. UF overall has its fair share of dedicated hardworking employees, both faculty and staff and also its fair share of lazy people, both faculty and staff. They come from a variety of areas on campus, from all walks of life, all races, religions, and social classes.

Most of the students and their parents never see the waste of manpower and resources, most politicians don't see it, most alumni and millionaire donors don't see it. But those of us day to day who work there see it and there is nothing we can do. Unfortunately while there's rumor of a policy encouraging employees to report wasteful use of tax dollars, few want to do it because hell who wants to lose their job or be labeled a troublemaker? The waste comes in all forms. There are people who work on the campus who do not perform but have been left alone for years because their administrators are afraid of pursuing their termination because of fear of a discrimination suit. But hell, it isn't just tied to race or gender, there are light skinned folks on campus who have been working in the system awhile and are good buddies with either their boss, someone in charge or both. Most folks at UF know the "it's who you know" phrase.

"It's who you know" is fine so long as you are qualified for the job and hired in in a manner that is compliant to the process but while "it's who you know" can help you get your foot in the door, it should be up the employee alone to keep the job. That employee has a responsibility to prove him or herself and if they don't they should be gone and someone more competent should be hired in their place. UF should not be holding on to incompetent, non-performing employees simply because they are a certain gender, race, or because they're buddy buddy with someone in the system.

Alas, in retrospect, it is a fact that I do not know all the circumstances surrounding Friday's situation. I can only tell you my thoughts based on what I saw. Perhaps there were other reasons for the supervisor not working? Sure, but I'm only telling you my impression from what I saw and I can assure you I'm not the only one who has noticed this now or in the past. People are talking but I don't think anyone's listening.


  1. Bravo for you for making that statement. I remember seeing the same things, when I worked at UF from 1983-92. I see the same things happening where I work now at CCA. And I saw it happening with BellSouth, for the 27 years your dad worked there.

    Your dad sweated his ass off for years in 100 degree heat, rain and cold, on the line crew, and then as an installer and then in cable repair. The only employees who got air conditioned trucks were the first line supervisors and the ass-kissers. We all know this goes on and will continue to go on.
    I'm just glad he survived the phone company and CCA. He more than earned it. Unfortunately, both CCA and the phone company got his best years and IMHO are responsible for him having to be home now, when he would give anything to be back at work. He's part of a dying breed, the hard working man, who did his best for his employer and showed up every single day, even when he was sick, because he knew they needed him there.

  2. The only people who should get paid to sit in air conditioned offices are those whose job is necessary for the company to function and has to be done from a desk. If someone's job doesn't fit that description, then it's probably not necessary.

    If your field technicians need a supervisor to check their work, then frankly, it should be the supervisor in the field doing the work until the techs can be trusted to do it on their own.