Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Book publisher wanted!

I continued to consider leaving Gamma Supplies, but because of my financial situation, I could not afford to just pack up and leave. Despite the finances involved, I continued to look for ways to find a new job rapidly. I made some inquiring phone calls with no success. I also finally expressed my problems to Anita and during our discussion, I stressed that despite all the problems, the Delta job still offered me exposure to the other business facets such as sales, accounting, marketing and production that I could not get with larger companies. And that exposure fit into my long term plans. At that moment it was the one reason I could see for staying at Gamma Supplies.

The next day at work, late in the afternoon, Darth wandered into my office and started a discussion which rapidly turned into a sales pitch on the merits of working for Gamma Supplies. I had had another bad day with Ravi and John, and I was not buying any of it. By now I considered Darth as much or more to blame for my problems than I did Ravi. It was becoming obvious to Darth that I wasn't buying his pitch when he said, “You know, Delta offers you exposure to other facets of the business such as sales, accounting, marketing, and production that you wouldn't get in another company.”

I blurted out, “That's EXACTLY what I said to my wife last night.”

I was somewhat take back by his statement, but I just dismissed it as a coincident. The coincidences at Gamma Supplies began to occur with more and more frequency and several occasion they seemed truly bizarre. At one of the management meetings, Darth had briefly mentioned psychologist Maslow's hierarchy of needs which states that a person's needs can be grouped into five categories, and that the categories are pyramidal in nature. That is, one need must be satisfied before the next higher need can be fulfilled. The third level need is belonging or association.

During a routine office conversation with Ralph Sampson, I jokingly said, “ I know what's the matter with me. My Maslow's sense of belonging is not being fulfilled.” Then I went back to my lab and continued working.

Within a couple of minutes of my conversation with Ralph, Darth came into the lab and slapped me on the back. Then he put his arm over my shoulder as if we were old buddies and said, “How are you doing Russ?”

The conversation continued for a couple of minutes, then Darth removed his arm from my shoulder and went on his way. The timing of Darth's action in relation to my comment to Ralph Sampson was uncanny. Darth had never acted like that before. In fact, Darth was always the isolated power figure. His actions seemed amateur like as if he were deliberately trying to make me feel that I belonged at Gamma Supplies.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Suggestions and stress!

Once the criticalness of the free formaldehyde in the phenolic resin had been established in the performance of the “Rapid Set”, Darth decided that no one outside of the laboratory should know about it. It was a technical secret that was to stay known only to a select few.

Several days later I had a scheduled meeting with George Hammond who was Vice President of Sales. The meeting was scheduled for nine o'clock in his office. As I walked down the hall toward George's office, I could hear John's voice. I paused and listened. John was talking to George and Paul Johnson and telling them all about the importance of free formaldehyde! I walked into the office, John looked at me, completed what he was saying and then left. I was furious. I went upstairs and stormed into Darth's office.

“What the hell is going on here? We agreed not to tell anyone about the effect of free formaldehyde and I walk into George's office and there is John blabbing all about it.”

Darth remained very aloof, and then said something about including John more in our plans to keep John from doing such things. I failed to mention that it was Darth's job to do that since John never listened to anything I wanted.

Since my appointment with Georng had been arranged for nine A.M., so John's presence and blunder seemed almost deliberate. But WHY? It was not until several months later that I realized these little arranged incidents were designed to generate a strong emotional response. This incident with John was one of many that were arranged to get my emotions running out of control. But at the time, it just seemed like another bizarre event at Gamma Supplies.

At that point I had enough of Gamma Supplies. John had worked for Mobile and knew better than divulge critical information. The information he was relaying had been obtained by, at best, questionable means as far as I was concerned. And, it was considered to be a critical trade secret. Yet Darth was condoning John's conduct by saying we had handled incorrectly. I was going to find another job.

I wanted to find a position immediately because I didn't want to get involved any deeper in Gamma's legal battle with Better Supplies. I called an acquaintance from a previous job and explained my situation to him. He had approached me with an offer prior to my joining Gamma. He said that he would be in Chicago in December for the Plastics Show, and maybe I could meet with him there to discuss the situation in more detail. I said I didn't know how I was going to get to the show, but if I could, I would contact him. Since I didn't have many alternatives, I decided I would try to manage a trip to the Chicago show.

I was very unhappy with Gamma Supplies, and I no longer believed anything Darth told me. Even if Kash was fired, I had been treated so badly that I wouldn't want to stay with Gamma, but I still wanted to leave under conditions which were best for me. Apparently my unhappiness was noted because I was given constant reminders that Ravi would be fired. One day Darth walked into my office and handed me a stack of papers concerning Gamma Supplies technology and suggested I look through them. All the papers were technical in nature except one which was one of Darth's business scenarios titled “The Paul White Young Co.”. That story was about a young manager who had been hire to replace an older, unpopular man. The new man is given an office adjacent to the unpopular manager. Eventually the older manager is fired , and the newly hire man takes his position. The analogy of situation with Ravi could not have been missed.

Later when I saw Darth, he asked if I had looked through the papers he had given me. I said, “yes”. The he said with a wink, “did you find anything interesting?” He smiled as only Darth could.

The absurd suggestions continued. One day when I was in the outer business office copying some papers, G. T. Cline walked up to me. I was about to say hello, when he smiled and stuck out his hand. I shook his hand and he turned and walked away.

That evening I told Anita what had happened and I exclaimed, “Now what the hell did that mean?”

“I don't know.” She replied.

The second week of November, I kept my appointment with Dr. Agayoff. Dr. Agayoff quickly asked me what was wrong and then gave me a quick once over. He then asked me a series of questions concerning the use of stimulants, such as coffee, to which I answered negative in all cases. Then he asked me if I had been under a lot of stress at work. I explained my situation at Gamma Supplies and with Ravi. He concluded that my problem was due to externally generated stress.

I was curious what someone else might do if they were in my situation. When I asked him his opinion, his solution was to hang on until Ravi was fired and to hope that things would improve. Even he seemed uneasy with that solution, but it was the best he could offer. He answer was not encouraging, but it made me feel as though I was doing the most practical thing by staying on the job. An EKG was taken and it proved to be normal. The appointment confirmed what I had believed all
along; I was under a tremendous amount of stress at work.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Answers Out of Nowhere(or Heaven)!

I was not pleased at all with his answer because it did not solve my immediate stress problem and the related health problems, and Darth despite all his power had not acted sooner to rectify the problem.

I replied, “Fine, if you get rid of Ravi, I will stay and see your lawsuit through to a successful completion.” At that point I had decided as soon as the lawsuit was completed, I was out of Delta Oil.

Then the conversation turned to my research results. As we were discussing what should be done, Darth quired, “what about the free formaldehyde?” Since I saw no reason from my work as to why free formaldehyde should be important, I tended to ignore his comment and continued on with what I thought was important.

After the meeting that day, we all gathered in the cocktail lounge for a drink. Darth joined us and soon everyone was listening to his business philosophy. After a couple of drinks, Darth began to brag more. He took great pride in telling how he and some friend had operated a telephone scam designed to bilk old ladies out of their savings. As I sat there and listened I couldn't help but think what a sad state of affairs it was to have a man like that as a business and community leader. In addition he pointed out that he was an Elder at a church in his community.

The next day, Darth came into my office and handed me a sheet of paper.

“Here are some thoughts I jotted down this morning on what should be done. I gave Ravi a copy. Why don't you draw up some plans and give them to Ravi.”

I looked at this list and there was item number 4, “What effect does free formaldehyde have?” The question again surfaced in my mind as to why he was so insistent on looking into the free formaldehyde. It seemed to me that he had been told that the free formaldehyde was critical. But by whom and why had Darth been given that information.

I drew up a detailed research plan, but I didn't include any work on free formaldehyde because I couldn't get all the work done by myself. I had my research plans typed and had a copy sent to Ravi and Darth.

The direct response I was expecting did not come from neither Ravi nor Darth.
Instead, John showed up in the upper lab and started to work on making phenolic resins to determine what the effect of free formaldehyde was on the “Quick Set” formulation. The results were dramatic. The correct level of free formaldehyde was critical to get the optimum performance on “Quick Set”. Now I was completely baffled as to how Darth knew that. He had been so insistent on it that he had to have known. And there were at least a dozen other parameters we could have looked at, but originally, the only thing he told me he was interested in was the free formaldehyde.

And in a later conversation, Darth all but admitted he had been given the information when we were talking about the free formaldehyde and he said, “I should have thought of that! It is comparable to another product we have.” I decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Monday, September 8, 2008

CHRISTMAS - A Good Time to Eliminate People!

The one day away from the confines of Gamma Supplies did help me put things in perspective. While talking to Ed, my former office partner at Florida, I realized how distorted my view of things had become and how much stress I was under. It seemed as though my values and belief in myself had been warped by my exposure to the barrage of criticism I had endured at Gamma Supplies. It really frightened me, but I didn't see any way out of my present predicament.

My relationship with Ravi had not improved, and he and John continually kept me under constant pressure. The extreme stress I was under began to show up in physical symptoms. Initially it was nothing more serious that frequent colds and fatigue, but in early October, I developed an irregular heart beat. At first the palpitations were just a skipped beat now and then, but their occurrence was becoming more and more frequent. Finally, one evening as I was driving home, my heart started racing out of control. I wasn't sure what was happening, and I quickly pulled my car off the road. I sat there for a minute or two while my heart raced at triple time. I was frightened and wasn't sure what to do. Then, just as suddenly as it had started, my heart rate dropped down to its normal beat pattern. I cautiously resumed my trip home. When I arrived home I did not say anything to
my wife for fear of alarming her.

The next day I called the Chicago Medical Clinic and asked for an appointment. Since I was new to the area, I had to describe my problem to a nurse who finally gave me an appointment with Dr. Agayoff. The problem was I would have to wait two weeks to see internist Dr. Agayoff. I was not too pleased about waiting that long, but I already knew what the problem was and as long as my heart didn't act up again like the previous night, I could wait.

That same week we were scheduled to have another management meeting. Again I decided to confront Darth with the situation with Ravi and John. The meeting was held at the West End Inn and we were to discuss a short scenario we had been given and we would also discuss the process of evaluating personnel. The scenario we were given was titled “Excelsior Bakeries, Inc.” and it presented the classic problem of the conflict which arises when a person is suddenly made manager over people with whom he has been long time friends. I was particularly interested in Darth's analysis since he had gone to Chicago's Business School. Again my expectations were not fulfilled as the morning discussion never addressed the basic issue of the paper. Instead we talked about assembly line operations, which was of little value to us, since we had no assembly line. And Darth carefully avoided the subject of conflict among company personnel which was prevalent in the Excelsior scenario.

I was going to talk to Darth at the noon break, but instead he, Jay and I went to a local foundry to see Better Supplies's “Fast Set” being used in production. After watching production at the foundry for awhile, we returned to the inn.

The afternoon session was equally uninformative and we adjourned around three
o'clock. As everyone was leaving the room I collared Darth and said we had to talk. I told him I was fed up with the situation in the laboratory and that either Ravi went or I was leaving. I told him I had a phenolic resin which worked well, and Ravi was blocking my efforts to do further research on it. Darth was prepared.

He said, “Ravi will be fired and you will be given his job, but we can't do it now.”

I was puzzled. “Why not?” I asked.

“We don't want to fire him until after G. T. leaves for Florida in December. Besides, if we do it at Christmas time, the rest of the people are busy with the holidays and they don't think about it,” replied Darth.

This was the first of many Christmases that would be used to "eliminate" someone from the work environment. To this day I still hate the Christmas holiday!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Think One by SUGGESTION!

My earlier laboratory results had shown that one particular phenolic resin worked
particularly well in Gamma's “Rapid Set” formulation. This was an important result, and there was a need to identify why that particular material worked so well and then to characterize that particular material. However, before I did that, I wanted to find out what was going on at Gamma Supplies. I decided to run a little test.

Before I went to Blackwater for analytical data, I decided to tell Darth and Dave some of my results. We met in my office and I explained my results to them. Darth quickly asked why I thought one particular material worked well. I knew what answer Darth wanted, but I deliberately gave him an answer that was not supportive of Gamma's cause. Darth sat there, visibley annoyed, commented on my interesting results and then queried as to when I would have my analytical results supporting my conclusion. I told him it would be a while because it was a long drive to Blackdwater and I wanted to wait until I had lots of samples for analysis. That way I could make the most efficient use of my time and spend the entire day on their equipment. Darth said fine and the meeting was adjourned. He made no attempt
to question my conclusions, and he offered no alternative explanation.

About a week later I passed Darth in the hall, and as we passed he shouted out
something. Since I didn't understand what he had said, I stopped him and asked him to repeat it.

“One is the magic number.” Then he turned and continued on his way.

Several days later he walked through the lab and as he passed me he said, “Think one!”

This scenario was repeated on two other occasions, and I knew what Darth was telling me. The phenolic resin which worked so well was what polymer chemists call monomeric, or as a layman would say, it had a unit of one. I had been certain that was the case all along, but I was not going to confirm it with analytical data until I found out how Darth was going to tell what was wanted for the legal battle. Finally, I went to Blackwater and obtained the analytical data which quickly confirmed the phenolic resin which had worked well was indeed low molecular weight or near monomeric. When I returned to the laboratory the next day, I informed Darth that my initial conclusion that the desired material was polymeric was wrong and that I was surprised to find that “one” was indeed the magic number. Darth was relieved.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Frustration, Frustration Frustration

As work on the quality control committee progressed, I became more and more
disenchanted. I was working hard at learning all I could about the product processes so changes could be made. Darth would verbally support all of the groups recommendations, but nothing was done. One day in early November, I was preparing for a meeting, when I sat back and reflected on the situation. Every couple of weeks we would meet in Darth's office, discuss our findings, recommend actions that should be taken, get Darth's support and approval and then nothing would happen.

At the next meeting I was going to address the lack of progress. I took my notes from the previous meeting and made up a list of seventeen actions which was supposed to have occurred in the intervening two weeks. I also noted the person who was responsible for implementing the change. I wanted to find out why nothing was being done.

I started the next quality control meeting by saying I wanted to go over what had been done since the last time. Darth tried to steer the meeting in another direction, but I was insistent. I took out my list, and one by one I addressed the expected actions and the person responsible. The answer was always the same; the people responsible had done nothing and they acted like they could care less. Finally, when I had completed the list, Darth turned to me and said, “Russ, how may items were you responsible for?”

“Three,” I replied.

“Well you only did two of them. See you didn't do all you were suppose to.”

I sat there in disbelief. No one else in the room had done anything, and Jordan was reprimanding me. He said nothing more to the other people. Once again I was wrong. Then we went on to business as usual.

I left the meeting feeling frustrated and with little enthusiasm for the quality control work. Darth was suppose to be all-powerful in the company and he was verbally supporting all of our recommendations, yet he said and did nothing when no actions were being taken. The feeling of frustration and failure was further enforced by the actions of another committee which had been formed at about the same time as our quality control committee. That group was responsible for identifying cost problems in production and then taking corrective actions. Ralph Sampson was a group member and he dutifully kept me abreast of their work. In direct contrast to our group, their group was being successful in carrying out corrective actions and they were achieving results. I was baffled by the difference in the results of the two groups.

My work in the laboratory was going well, and I had solved the major problem of not having adequate analytical facilities at Gamma Supplies by gaining access to equipment at the University of Wisconsin, Blackwater. In a stroke of luck, I had learned that my former office partner from the University of Florida was now a professor at the U. of Wisc., Blackwater. I quickly contacted him and gained permission to use the equipment there. Not only did it make my work easier, but there was no cost to Gamma Supplies which resulted in a savings of several thousand dollars in analytical fees. The analytical data was absolutely essential to support our technical position in the legal battle against Tenneland. Despite
all the other activity, winning the lawsuit was still the major objective of my work.