Saturday, September 1, 2007

Diversity is the Spice of Life

Hello blogreader. Welcome back. Hopefully the handful of regulars haven't deserted me. My abstract, digital love for you is your reward. Since my last post I have traveled across the country in search of Peace and Love, created a piece of art and had fun doing it, been honored for my contribution to the population, witnessed (via just about every media outlet) the transformation of a celebutante into--momentarily--a real human being, visited a pig farm in a too-brief flirtation with rock stardom (sort of) and spent my first night in a girl's dorm. It's every bit as thrilling as it sounds.
...That's what I was going to write to you, way back in semi-early July. I had all sorts of plans to fill you in on my adventures. I had stories to tell. The world was ripe with topics--glistening, low-hanging fruit for me to pick and share with you.

And then...

...I was fired. Canned. Let go. Asked to leave. Given a pink slip. Discharged. That last one's my favourite. It's what the Illinois Department of Employment Security calls it. Sounds like an unpleasant secretion associated with some sort of disease common to women of ill repute. And sailors.

So anyhow, for the first time in my life, I involuntarily lost my job. I would have felt worse about it if I had liked the job at all. I had worked there almost three years--I started on July 30 of 2004. I was fired on July 10. I'll spare you the details of that day...they're really mostly dull, as the job had been, for the most part. I was at lunch, working at my desk on a side project, and my boss asked if we could talk in his office for a minute. It took him less than a minute to let me know why I was there.

I disagree with his assessment of my skills, abilities and work ethic, as he laid it out for me. Any reviews of my work prior to this have been essentially positive. Even when he had criticism for me, or asked me to improve in some area, he told me that I was "the best person he's had in my postion." But, somehow, on this particular day, he felt the need to tell me that I worked poorly with others, my work was "slapdash" and "not very creative", and that the sales people were unmotivated to pursue the creative work from their clients because they didn't have confidence that I could deliver.

He also told me that he felt there was no point in asking me to improve, because knowing what he knows about me, he didn't think that I would try to work on those issues.

He is, apparently, a very insightful person.

Anyhow, I respectfully informed him that I belived he was wrong, and that I had been set up to fail. But in the end, I told him that I suppose he should do what he felt he had to do. And then I packed up my things and left, before anyone else came back from lunch.

So, what followed next was several weeks of unemployment. I filed an unemployment insurance claim. I sent a bunch of resumés out. I spent some time updating my portfolio website. I went on a few job interviews. I don't really like job interviews. I have a hard time conveying to people just how awesome my talent and skills truly are, due to equal parts humility and social awkwardness. None of the interviews have panned out.

So, I've listed with four different placement agencies. Finally, one of those agencies did get me work. This short-term assignment doesn't pay as well as I need it to, but it pays better than unemployment insurance does. The downside is I actually have to go to work.

It isn't all bad. At least there's stuff to laugh at. In fact, I find a lot of humour at my current assignment. It's a company that sells medical supplies and equipment. I'm helping layout the catalog. Most of this involves copying information from the old catalog, and pasting it into the correct page of the new catalog. If a dolphin had opposable thumbs, it could probably do the work. Except the computer would probably be destroyed by the water. And the dolphin might get electrocuted. So they hired me. And I get to read descriptions of medical products like "It's the helmet that kids and adults love to wear!" So I laugh cruelly at the misfortune of the models who have to pretend to be disabled or retarded for the catalog (I hope they aren't really disabled...then I'd feel bad about the laughing). And then I start to think of how lucky I am that my three children are healthy and intellegent and have no special needs.

So I need something new to laugh at. Fortunately, like any large company, the people in the HR department need to do something to keep themselves occupied between processing new hires and chastising employees caught in the broom closet together. So they have to take up "initiatives." In my experience, HR "initiatives" tend to take the shape of some sort of seminar, followed up by some sort of signage posted in common areas of the office to reinforce whatever topic was covered in the seminar. The image below is of a poster that I found in the cafeteria. I liked it so much, I hunted it down online, so that you could have a nice image for your viewing pleasure.

Go on it, so you can get a better view. I'll wait.

I'm not sure I get the "diner" theme. I mean...I understand it in the context of diversity "feeding" the competitive edge. But is it suggesting that we should consider those who are different than us our adversaries? Oh well...they probably covered it in the seminar.

I'm also not sure what we're supposed to make of the guy behind the counter who is leacherously oogling the balding fellow. I suppose he's supposed to represent gay people. I wonder why he's in the position of serving the others. Is this a subtle prejudice on the part of the poster's designer? And why isn't he looking at the black guy. Of the two men on the "straight" side of the counter, I think all my gay friends would choose black fellow instead. He's appears to be in better shape. Plus, it would add another layer of diversity to the poster if the suggestion of interracial romance were introduced.

There was another poster in the series. It depicted a similar set of multi-culti people sitting in a booth at the diner, as if some kids from those Benetton ads in the '80's had grown up, gone to work at the same company, and then went to lunch at the same diner. It was called "Diversity is the Spice of Life." I didn't like it as well, but I did like the description that was there to coax the HR representative to purcase it:

Hang this poster in your facility to remind employees that when differences are accepted and valued, discrimination decreases and productivity increases.

I'm not sure how you measure that, but there was a 15 day/100% satisfaction, money-back guarantee. I don't know if they were thinking that somehow you could measure a decrease in discrimination and a subsequent productivity increase in as little as 15 days. But if I was an HR person, I'd want my money back.


Chris said...

Hey, I'm still here and still a fan. So sorry to hear about the job thing. I've only been fired twice. Once was at a convenience store where they never trained me, many items had no prices and the safe was on this timed lock thingy and I could never figure out how to open it. The other time I was fired was when I was hired by an insurance broker to replace a guy that was moving, and then never did because he couldn't find a job.

I hope you can find something eventually that is fun and creative or that you can do some personal side project that eventually pays (isn't that all our dream though).

Good to hear from you again.

basest said...

Hi Chris.
thanks for hanging in. I'm getting back into the swing of things, and will start posting more regularly again.

I did neglect to mention that the worst (or is it best) part about the whole being fired situation is that the guy they replaced me with has absolutely NO experience--and from what I've heard from some of my coworkers, he doesn't even have complete knowledge of the necessary computer programs to do his job. I imagine they got him for a lot less money that I was making. Cheap bastards!