Never Treat the “Temps” like They’re Expendable

Boy would I like to have been a fly on the wall during the upshot of this debacle!

I ran into Bill the “temp” last week. He was out in the parking lot smoking a cigarette and looked as though he needed a friend. I’ve run into Bill before. He’s an older gentlemen who was recently “right sized” from a company where he had worked as a middle manager for over twenty years. Both Bill and another “temp” were recently brought on to fill in for Liz who is off on maternity leave.

We’ll return to my meeting with Bill in a moment.

Liz is an executive assistant to a powerful, (and of course) pompous and arrogant senior vice president of something or other. She was a “coat-tailer” who had followed her boss to the company from another firm. Both Liz and her boss have been around for about three years. I never paid much attention to her but I definitely get the impression that she is not very well liked by the rank and file around the office. I guess she has developed a sense of entitlement and “status” due to her connection with a powerful superior. I’ve heard that Liz is both distrusted and feared by many due to the fact that she will blame anyone and everyone for any mistakes or errors in the reports that she prepares for her superior from data provided by her boss’s subordinates at the division level. Regardless of the real causes of the errors, Liz’s boss always takes her word over anyone else’s. She is, in a word, untouchable.

I suppose that when you’re as powerful and important as Liz’s superior, you rely on your aide de camp for everything and, therefore, support and protect them at all costs. It seems that Liz can get away with just about anything. I guess that she is even perceived to be so important that it requires two “temps” to fill in for her while she is away. But that’s only part of the story.

You see Liz’s boss has a reputation for being a real jerk as well. Overly demanding and idiosyncratic about the goofiest things, this senior vice president is the stuff that I love to write about. I have done some research on this character and found that he has probably never really worked a day in his adult life. He has a five star education and it appears that he had actually started his career at the executive level. How does one do that? Anyway, I hear that he is always lambasting his subordinates over the bad news, errors and mistakes that result from the reports provided by Liz. Based upon some comments that I’ve heard from others, Liz’s boss does not think much of anyone in the organization.

Well, Liz goes off to have a baby and the temps take over her duties. Things progress for a month and then all hell seems to break loose. I heard that the temps have been working awful hours and putting up with a lot of guff from Liz’s boss. The rumor mill has it that they’re pretty much fed up.

Back to my meeting with Bill.

So I walked up to Bill in the parking lot and asked him how he was doing. He shook his head and began telling me about the confrontation that he and the other temp just had with Liz’s boss. It seems that since the time that Liz left, both Bill and the other temp have struggled to get the reports completed for their new superior. Not only were they poorly trained by Liz but Bill says that the report formats themselves were fraught with formula errors. It seems that a lot of the data reported by the divisions became distorted and irreconcilable due to all of the mistakes in Liz’s calculations. The boss would hear nothing of it. He demanded the reports be prepared on time and could care less about the cause of the errors. He was an executive and not interested in the details. The truth of the matter, according to Bill, is that this senior vice president was clueless about how the reports functioned or how the formulas worked. He only wanted to see the results on time. Both temps were chastised each time they’d mention uncovering Liz’s mistakes or ask for his help or advice. Tempers were beginning to flare

The final straw hit the camel’s back earlier that day when Liz’s boss asked the temps about the monthly forecast report that was due later that morning. They replied that they didn’t even know what he was talking about. At that point, Liz’s boss flew into a snit. Bill said that he did all of the talking in defense of the two and told the executive that Liz had not gone over the extremely complicated forecasting process with them. At that point, the irate executive called Liz at home and asked her if she had reviewed the forecast with the temps. At first, Liz insisted that she had. But as Bill interjected himself into the conversation on the speaker phone, Liz relented and admitted that she had forgotten. Her boss then asked if she could review it with Bill but Liz whined about being too tired. The conversation ended. The now red faced executive instructed both of the temps to “just figure it out”. The deadline was looming and he didn’t care if they had to stay there all night to get it done. At that point, the other temp stated she had appointments for that evening. The executive replied that he didn’t care about her problems. Having endured enough, she quit the assignment and exited the building.

Left to his own devices, Bill said that he had attempted to reverse engineer the forecast to determine how to proceed with it. He wasn’t getting anywhere and his attempts to gain information and insight from the executive were fruitless. “I’m a level B executive!” Bill was told, “I want results not excuses! I’m not concerned with details. I want answers.” “Don’t you think that you have a responsibility to know what your assistant is doing?” asked Bill, “Didn’t you ensure that she had adequately trained us before she left?” Bill said that the executive was silent although he could tell that the man was seething. “I’ve been managing direct reports for years.” said Bill, “As a manager; I’ve always felt that I had a responsibility to make sure that people got trained properly and that operations ran smoothly. I always followed up.” Bill said that he received no further response. Frustrated and disgusted, Bill went out for a smoke.

So I asked Bill what he was going to do. “You know I need to work.” he confided, “But I don’t need this.” I have not seen Bill since.

An office-wide call went out for “volunteers” to help the executive during Liz’s leave. There have been no takers. I wonder who is preparing the forecast.
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2 Responses to “Never Treat the “Temps” like They’re Expendable”

  1. raunnie Says:

    This story is wicked! I am a temp and can totally relate to Bills story. I hope he found something good. As a temp, I notice that all the good workers don’t come back because of politics. At least as a temp you are a temp and not in a trap. Before becoming a temp, I worked as a pharmacy tech under a manager who would not share any information with her colleagues because she was so afraid of losing her manager position that she had to dumb down all of her employees and demanded respect at the same time. I only respect managers who give knowledge; I give them hard work in return.

  2. finallyhezgone Says:

    I have worked with a not very supportive manager for 5 years. He was the cause for some of my earlier promotions but when it came to a stage where stronger enforcers started to influence him he took the safe path, when confronted he got pretty vindictive and never gave me a good deal, getting a fair deal was huge for me..

    I learn yesterday that hez been asked to leave in a manner of unprecedented coldness; he deserves it, I like him but with him it has been more bad than good, showing too many emotions for a manager and screwing the happiness of team, not being innovative, curbing new ideas, stopping enhancement of process; there is a gloomy atmosphere in the office but I guess most of them appreciate the move…But I like your site and was about to go for your book, but it will still be a useful one and adds lot of cushion to the point you are putting across…

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