Sunday, July 27, 2008

Book publisher wanted!

While my life at work was very unsettling, my personal life was initially enjoyable. After work hours were spent settling in our new house. Our furniture had not arrived yet and our time was spent doing general cleaning and painting the interior of the house. The previous owners had some unusual color schemes and repainting the purple hall walls was a top priority. With my help at night and Anita working on it most of the day, we were able to repaint most of rooms before our furniture finally arrived.

An immediate problem that confronted us was how to mow the one acre of rapidly
growing grass. Mowing the lawn with our hand pushed power mower required four to
five hours a week and that quickly became a chore. Since we couldn't afford to purchase a riding lawn mower, Ursula and I took turns keeping the lawn under control. Besides the rapidly growing grass, we had to contend with a plethora of dandelions which were springing up all over the area. We decided to let the dandelions flourish since it was well into the summer by the time we moved into the house.

The local community had two sets of public outdoor tennis courts so we
occasionally found time to sneak in a set or two of tennis. Tennis was one of my favorite recreational pastimes, and like most things I did, I took it seriously and worked hard at it. In my previous job I had belonged to the company tennis ladder and had done fairly well. In a company playoff tournament to determine the tennis champion, I lost a closely contested three set match to the number three seed.

Anita had first sparked my interest in tennis when we lived in Florida and we played together quite frequently. Actually, she knew my game so well and played with such confidence against me I had difficult time beating her. If she had a particularly good day or I had a bad day, she would occasionally beat me. I also found that Jeff from the lab played tennis, and we occasionally would stop at some near-by courts after work and play a set or two.

In mid-August, a notice for a tennis tournament that was being held at a local club was posted on the company bulletin board. It was a handicap tournament which benefited a local charity. The reason it was on the Gamma bulletin board was that the Clines were supporters of the tournament and the awards dinner was being held at the Full Sails Restaurant which the Cline family owned. Bobby Cline, the younger brother to Arnold, ran the Full Sails and a couple of other restaurants which were part of the Cline's Resco Corporation.

When I first arrived at Gamma Supplies, the Full Sails served as a Friday after work watering hole. Every Friday the management group along with Darth, Arnold and Bobby Cline would gather there and consume a fair amount of alcohol. All the managers attended except Carl Host and Ravi. Of course, the laboratory workers never attended although they were all aware of the ritual. Bar tabs would frequently disappeared which meant the drinks were in essence, on the house. The free drinks encouraged drinking and the meetings frequently became quit boisterous. These gatherings took place regularly for the first few months I was at Gamma and then they suddenly ceased. In addition to the sudden cessation, no one ever mentioned the gatherings. But, for the first few months, this gave me a weekly social hour with other people at Gamma Supplies.

One of our last Friday gatherings occurred in a Milwaukee hotel lounge rather than at the usual meeting place, The Full Sail. As usual, Darth was the center of attention and he talked incessantly on a variety of subjects. And he receive some kidding about his pig covered, mcp (male chauvinist pig) necktie.

It was still early in the evening when the gathering began to wind down. I was about to leave when Jay and Cliff came over to me and invited me to a private party. I quickly said “No Thanks,” but the were insistent and kept badgering me. Then they started telling me about all the women that would be at the party and how attractive these women were. They emphasized that there would be a lot of attractive women ther and only a few men. As they were trying to sell me on going to the party, I could hep but wonder why two single men would want a married man to go to a party to meet attractive single women. Finally, over their protests, I said “NO” and left.

As I drove home, I had an uncomfortable feeling about what had just transpired. I kept thinking about how a one night mistake at a party could be used to blackmail me in the future. It almost seemed like a setup to me and given what I was perceiving to be the morals and ethics of the people I was working for and with, the idea didn't seem all that far fetched. In fact, several years later I saw the movie “The Firm” with Tom Cruise and that type of blackmail scenario was part of the plot.

The following Monday I went to work and shortly after my arrival I got a call from Josh, the Chief Financial Officer. Josh said he wanted me to come to his office right away. I was bewildered as to why Josh wanted to talk to me and was a little apprehensive as I hurried to his office. After we exchanged pleasantries, Josh got right to the point.

He said, “I hear you didn't go to the party Friday night. You know those women were there for you!”

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Computer problems caused delayed posting.

This was not the last time the management meetings and/or short excerpts on some
subject from a book was used to imply that I had been wrong in taking some action. In addition, future meetings served to establish policies and rules which prevented me from taking corrective actions in the laboratory.

Two other important topics were covered in the first meeting. First, Darth went over a list of characteristics that were desirable to have in order to be a “winner”. The list included thirteen characteristics such a dedication, honesty and maturity. The importance of this list was not in its content, but rather in how it would be used in the future. The other item discussed was the formation of an investment club. This would allow us as a group to learn and practice investing in the stock market. I was particularly enthused about the formation of the investment group and expressed my interest to several members of the group after the meeting.

Several days after the management meeting, Darth came into my office and I asked him about the investment club. He replied he had changed his mind and that the club would not be formed. I was very disappointed because I was interested in learning how to invest and I was looking forward to participating with the rest of the group. Darth gave no explanation as to why he had decided against forming the investment club.

My war with Ravi continued, and it was picking up again after a couple of weeks
respite following the meetings in Darth's office. One day Jeff Teller came into my office and started to talk about Ravi. I replied that he shouldn't worry because Ravi didn't have the final say in everything and that he should just do his job. That was the extent of my comments – don't worry and do your job.

The next day Ravi called me into his office and started blasting for my conversation with Jeff!

“Did you say I don't have complete authority in the laboratory?” he shouted.

“I told Jeff the you don't make all of the decisions concerning policies at Gamma Supplies.” I calmly replied.

He continued to aggressively attack me. “Then you did say I don't have authority. My word is final! What I say goes!”

I was shocked. “How do you know what I told Jeff?”

Ravi was momentarily stunned and not sure what to say. After a moment of silence he retorted, “Never mind how I know. You admitted to saying it.” Then he continued his attack on me which lasted for about ten minutes. The theme of the attack was constant. I was wrong and I had better watch my step.

I left his office angry and confused. What purpose did yelling at me serve? And I was getting tired of constantly be told I was wrong about everything I said or did. How did he know what I had told Jeff? Ravi's office was adjacent to mine, but he was not in his office during my conversation with Jeff, and I had checked the hallway and my office door had been ajar so I knew no one had been in the hall. How did he know? It was almost as if everyone was plotting against me, but that didn't make any sense unless I was part of some elaborate psychological experiment and that didn't seem likely. But I couldn't help but wonder how Ravi knew what I had said.

The next day, as had already become the norm, someone would give me an rational for some unusual occurrence. Jeff came in my office again and began talking to me.
Just before he left, he turned and said, “Oh by the way, when we were talking the other day I saw John listening outside your door. I forgot to tell you.”

And just like that another mystery was solved. It seemed so convenient.

The implication was that John had told Ravi about my conversation with Jeff. The only problem was I wonder how Jeff had managed to see John outside my door and I hadn't. And I had checked before, during and after our conversation. Things didn't seem right, but I had no better explanation.

Conditions continued to deteriorate and I was continually amazed at Ravi's and John's open hostility toward me. They were a team whose mission was to cause me as much rouble as possible. The emphasis on their closeness was demonstrated one day when I walked into the lab and there was John talking quietly to Ravi.

John looked at me and then exclaimed loudly, “After all, what are they going to do? Fire us?”

The implication was clear, as Ravi goes, so goes John. But I couldn't help thinking what a careless, crass remark that was for John to say in front of me.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Why Foreigners Are Welcomed In The USA

Another nonproductive implemented change was that Darth informed me he was
organizing a series of management meetings which was to include myself, Ralph Simpson, Bill James, head of production, Dave Lipton, head of the computer room, Jay Wells, head of technical services, and of course Carl Host, the titleless wonder. Darth explained that he was conducting a similar series for the sales department and wanted to do the same for production/laboratory managers. He also made it a point to tell me that everyone thought the management meetings was a good idea, except Ravi. Ravi had opposed my attending the meeting. I was surprised at Darth's statement because he was just fueling the problem and he was keeping me in an insecure position by telling me of Ravi's opposition.

My inclusion to the management meetings supported the story that I was to be a manager and, in fact, that was how it was presented to me. I was to be a manager in the future. However, all of the other attendees were managers with appropriate titles and responsibilities, except for Carl Host who just seemed to float around the laboratory, production and technical services. While inclusion in the management meetings seemed good for me on the surface, I would learn in time that the purpose of these meetings served a much more sinister purpose.

In September of 1976, Buzhoha Yazzi returned to Gamma Supplies from Iran. Buzz, as everyone called him, was an Iranian citizen who had worked for Gamma Supplies for several years and then had returned home and had stayed there for six months before returning to Gamma Supplies. Darth had told me in August that Buzz would be returning, but no effort was made to introduce me to Buzz when he finally showed up in the laboratory one day. Finally, I went into the lab and introduced myself. It was apparent that Buzz did not consider me his boss, and there was no indication that he had been told that was the case.

Buzz was a diminutive, outspoken man who was to become another one of my
antagonists. Buzz's general attitude was summed up one day when he said, “You
Americans have too much freedom.” However, when it came to Iran, he believed Iranians should have more freedom under the American supported tyrant, the Shah of Iran. I guess I should have asked him if he didn't like in the U.S., why didn't he stay in Iran.

As time and events went on in subsequent years, I found Buzz was to be the first of several foreign nationals that American industry and government found to be more valuable than native American citizens. It is not surprising then that illegal foreign workers today have become a major political problem.

Buzz quickly decided he did not want to work in the main laboratory across from my office where John, Jeff and I worked, but instead, he wanted to work in what was called the lower quality control laboratory. Since that laboratory was separated from the main research laboratory by a fire door which was always kept closed, he was virtually hidden from all observation in that location. This made it difficult for me to keep track of the work he was doing. I expressed my concern at his working in the lower laboratory, but like everything else, I was powerless to take any corrective action. In fact, Darth quickly sided with Buzz and said there was no problem with Buzz working in the lower laboratory. Later, Buzz's relationship with Darth was to become much like John Mason's relationship with Ravi.

The subtle failures by Darth to back any of my recommendations in the beginning was to escalate into direct criticism of my actions. I was having difficulty dealing with everyone. Ravi was openly hostile, John was openly and aggressively antagonistic, Buzz was uncooperative and Jeff was generally lethargic. Coincidently, the first management meeting was to offer an explanation for all of my difficulties.

The first management meeting was held on September 27, 1976 in a rented room at the Red Carpet Inn near the airport. Darth talked about how the Gamma Supplies organization and his philosophy on why the company should grow. He talked about making acquisitions and how it was best to expand in hard times. It was like a stockbroker telling you the way to succeed in the stock market was to buy low and sell high. Everyone knows that but the key is in execution. Still, Darth made it sound as though he was revealing some sort of magic formula for company growth.

This was followed by the main theme of the first meeting which was that the Gamma Supplies organization was a horizontal, and not a vertical hierarchy. Management was done by persuasion and all people had equal say in things. Management by decree was not acceptable. Later one of the participants called what Darth had described as “bottoms up management.”

As part of the management meetings, we were given short texts to read in advance, and then we were asked to make an analysis of the scenario depicted. The first story we were given to analyze was was about a new manager in a company who wanted to make a change. To effect the change the manager sent out a memo detailing the procedure he wanted followed. The story went on to explain how no one followed his instructions and how his actions had disastrous consequences. Darth used this to expound on his theme that Gamma just did not operate that way. The analogy to my situation and my memo on monthly reports was hard to miss, and of course the obvious implied conclusion was that I had acted incorrectly.

I found it curious that Darth took most of the meetings time to dwell on a subject that really only applied to me since I was the only new "manager" in the group. He could have spent ten minutes in private to tell how he wanted things done. But instead he did it through suggestion and implication. (I was to learn much latter that the use of suggestion and implications are key to mind control and mental torture.) I thought to myself that maybe I was suppose to wait for the people in the laboratory to decide they wanted to write monthly reports! I felt like telling Darth to take his job and shove it, but somehow I got the feeling Darth knew I was trapped economically and had to put up with his BS.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Book Publisher Wanted - Guaranteed Best Seller

Another example of Ravi's open hostility concerned the budget. Since I was suppose to “build the laboratory”, I needed to know what kind of resources the company was committing to accomplish that job and where current funds were going. Ralph Simpson, the office manager and accountant, came into my office one day and gave me a copy of laboratory expenses and the laboratory costs as a percent of sales. Three things immediately caught my eye. First, Ravi was very well paid and the cost of his company car was being charged to the laboratory. Second, the workers in the laboratory were not well paid when one considers the benefits the company had, and third, and most important to me was that the laboratory expenses as a percent of sales was 1.8%. I was to learn that the goal was to reduce that figure to 1.2%. Some large corporations spend 2-4% of gross sales and the nation as a whole spends 2-3% of GNP on R&D; the low figure bothered me.

I did not know what small companies spent as an average on R&D, but I thought Gamma's attempt to reduce the figure to 1.2% of gross sales was the wrong direction to go and was not in line with my objective. My concerns about the expenses quickly vanished several days later when Ralph Simson told me I would not be getting any more monthly budget reports because Ravi had ordered a stop to it. At this point I had had enough, and I requested that Darth. Ravi and I get together for a discussion.

That evening I reviewed my written offer of employment and compared it to my
situation at Gamma Supplies. About the only place the offer agreed with the my actual situation was in the salary. I wanted an explanation as to the discrepancies and I wanted to know what was going to be done to correct the situation.

The next morning Ravi and I met with Darth in his office. Darth sat behind his desk with Ravi to his immediate left, and I sat across the room confronting them. Suddenly, they were management, and I was put in the position of dissident worker. The meeting did never did address the problems between Ravi and me. Instead, I pointed out that they were not living up to their agreement with me. Darth tried to sell me on the fact that indeed my present assignment did not meet their promises, but he didn't see any problem. I was angry.

“I managed projects worth over $250,000 before I came here, and supervised four people. I didn't come here to be a bench chemist! The projects I managed were more than the entire laboratory budget here.”

Darth acted anxious and replied, “Gamma Supplies has a good future and we expect you to grow with the company.” He paused, “I have to catch a plane in a half-an-hour so Ravi , tell Russell about the good future here.”

With that statement, Darth got up and left the office! Ravi sat there dumbfounded and then mumbled something about the growth potential of Gamma Supplies and the good future with the company. I wanted changes made to give me the responsibility I had been verbally promised and had been lead to believe I would have in my offer of employment. Nothing was resolved in the meeting, and I left believing more and more that I had been hired solely to provide a technical base for Gamma Supplies' legal battle with Better Supplies. I considered the possibility of leaving Gamma Supplies, but the economic repercussions would be enormous.

After that meeting things simmered down in the laboratory, and I was able to work without hindrance from John Mason. But now I was curious as to how others viewed Darth and his reliability in doing what he promised. I decided to inquire about Darth's integrity from the head of the Quality Control laboratory, George Landry. George was an elderly man with an easy going nature and appeared to be a person who felt secure in his world as the man responsible for checking the products before they were shipped to the customer. One day I engaged George in a light conversation, and Darth came up as a topic of conversation.

“I guess if Darth promises you something you can rely on it,” I said.

“Oh yes,” George replied. “He keeps his word.”

At that point I started living on promises and not on the reality of the present condition. This was to become a standard practice of keeping me going with promises and delivering nothing in practice.

In addition to being told that Darth's word was good, the shock of his bizarre exit during the meeting was rationalized in a conversation with Ralph Simpson. We were chatting about the business one day when I brought up Darth's behavior. Ralph quickly assured me that his actions were typical for Darth, and that he had walked out of a sales meeting in Pittsburgh in a similar manner. He went on to tell me how incompetent Darth was and what a poor manager he was. This caused me a problem too, because I was aware Darth had an MBA from the University of Chicago, which is one of the top business schools in the country. He couldn't be that incompetent but he sure looked that way.

Other concessions were made after that meeting with Ravi and Darth. The second
change to occur, was that I was told that Jeff would now work for me as a technician. I immediately ceased upon the situation by assigning to Jeff the objective of carrying out the phenolic resin work which I had outlined while I explored other potential products. This arrangement quickly changed a week later when Ravi told me Jeff had to work on some other things, and since the phenolic resin had top priority, I was to do that work. What the whole scenario did was it reduced my immediate frustration and then quickly reverted back to the same situation.