Friday, January 7, 2011

Bouncing Back from a Big Mistake

My workplace uses text messaging as our primary method of communication. Most of our management team doesn't pick up the phone, so texting is the best way to get people to actually hear what you need to tell them.

Of course, life being as it is, I've had not one, but two incidences where I sent a text to the wrong person.

The first one was relatively mild. Actually, I was just complaining about how my boss had scheduled me for a crappy shift... long, or late or something. Intended to send it to my boyfriend, sent it to my boss instead. Luckily, it had been rather good-natured complaining, so she laughed it off. Every once in awhile, I send a message to her, something like "OMG by boss is such a bitch!" and we have a good laugh.

I didn't get off so lucky with my second one.

We had a crew member, we'll call him Batman. He'd started out great, but due to (in my opinion) poor training and management (ie, my fault, at least in large part) he'd become a touch lazy. He'd seen what some people could get away with and followed suit. My manager had made the determination to fire him one day, but I talked her out of it, insisting that he'd been really great, maybe just a good talking to about his decline and a clear message that his job was one the line would be all it would take.

So she does that (although I suspect their talk was not as serious as it should have been) and I set to work re-training him when I can. Then, I hear a complaint from another supervisor: he'd been chewing gum during his shift. At a fast-food restaurant. And when she asked him if he was, he said no! She was peeved at him.

So I send a text to my boss, who is still looking for any good excuse to fire him: "Cathy caught Batman chewing gum today, and he lied about it. Why would he do something so stupid? I don't get it!!!" (It was something like that, anyway. Pretty close).

Of course, I sent this to Batman.

He was understandably upset. I mean, he clearly saw the humor in the situation, but still. And I freaked out a little. I felt SO bad. I needed to make it OK.

So here's what I did, and it may shock people that it actually worked: I was honest. I told him I'd intended to send that to our boss, but that I stood by what it said. I asked him why he would do something like that when he knew his job was on the line. His defense was weak (nobody told him he couldn't chew gum on the floor... why would you need someone to tell you that?), but he did explain that he hadn't lied about it, that when Cathy asked him, he'd said "No," as in "Not anymore!" which was followed by a conspicuous swallowing, intended to be funny but also communicate that he got the message and stopped the behavior.

And I admit one thing that made the whole thing better: I played the "I saved your job" card. I felt, and still feel, it was a questionable move, a sort of emotional blackmail, but I tried to explain that I'd gone out on a limb for him, and that he was expected to prove himself and not do stupid things and just trying to get fired.

In the end, our crew/supervisor relationship was stronger, and I really think it was because of the honesty. At my workplace, management has a strong tendency to not let crew members know when there is a problem, and unsurprisingly, problems then fester. Batman was eventually fired, but for calling his supervisor a douche (which was also a stupid move, but the supervisor really IS a douche, and is often called that, but that particular supervisor had wanted Batman fired for some time). He had improved marginally in the meantime, but he was still out of the job.

And that was my exciting foray into fixing my own terrible mistakes.


  1. I love this story! Can you tell us the story about him calling the manager a douche too, please? That sounds good.

  2. Alas, I wish I knew the whole story. I didn't even find out he'd been fired for about 4 days (we definitely have communication issues at that place). But it might be funny. I'll get back to you. :)