As I walked to my cube one morning reporting to work, I heard the Production Manager talking to the Engineering Manager. It was not a good conversation because the PM was angry and going through his usual routine of ranting, raving, yelling, bellowing, cursing, etc.
It didn't take long to determine who the target of his ire was this time. Moi. One of my departments had run 2.5 hours of rejects, which ran into hundreds of thousands of dollars at that point in the process.
I ran down to the morning meeting room to see the defect. In bad lighting, poor position, and with no correction on my eyes, I could see the defect. It couldn't be missed. This kind of defect happened periodically. Usually it was caught quickly because an operator would see the cause as the product arrived in that department or would catch it at the next inspection. I quickly walked the plant gathering information. I went back to my cube and waited for the inevitable.
My boss, the EM, defended me. He was quizzed about why I wasn't at work during the evening hours. My boss calmly answered with, "She had a night class. Did anyone call her? She lives 5 minutes from the plant. She would have come, if someone had called her." The PM angrily huffed out with, "She just should have been here!"
The PM then came to my cube and proceeded to ream me a new one. Both of us stood. He was so angry his skin was beet red, his jugulars bulged, his body was shaking, and his fists were tightly clenched. He was about 9" taller than me and slightly large thus intimidating as all get out. I kept an eye on his clenched fists. You never know what anger will do.
When he finished, I politely told him that I looked at the defect and noted how obvious it was to see. I politely told him:
- Logbooks were empty.
- The line was full of bad product because the department responsible for packing it off for shipment noted the defect.
- Therefore, defective products subsequently traveled through multiple departments without detection.
- Product was automatically pulled, in the errant department, for manual inspection by the operator on shift every 15 minutes, which meant about 10 inspections were not done.
- No one called. Had anyone called, I would have been there.
- I asked if the line supervisor had been called. The answer was no.
The Production Manager previously informed me that I was not management thus was not to tell the operators to do anything. I was to tell the foreman or his boss, the line supervisor, and let one of them tell the operators what to do. I followed orders. I reminded him of my station in the plant.
This situation was clearly not an engineering problem but a management problem. Consequently, I asked him where his operators and foreman were. What were they doing for 2.5 hours and 10 inspections in my department? What were the other operators doing down the line? That angered him further and he bellowed some more. I politely held to my position and questions.
He angrily left me with, "You just should have been here!" That was the only evening that happened. How could anyone know future events including him?
Not long after that, he put me on notice to be fired. His announcement came without any warning or reason. He clearly disliked me for some reason. I don't think it was me. He didn't seem to like anyone including the Plant Manager, who he talked to publicly very disrespectfully and practically called him an idiot in one meeting. The Plant Manager said nothing to him. It was an amazing dynamic to watch with so many in the meetings.
The PM railed on everyone so often it was ridiculously old. He would go from calm to angry in a NY second and over the silliest "problems." People had begun to tune him out months before. They tired of his yelling, bellowing, cursing, and screaming. They knew his reputation before he arrived at that plant and knew what to expect. They hoped he would be different in our plant but he wasn't. They waited for him to be rotated out. The more timid people kept a very low profile to keep their stress to a minimum. They felt they couldn't handle any more stress than they already had.
That particular evening the most problematic operator was on shift. She was capable but disliked management and was lazy. She wouldn't acknowledge me at all. She ate in the clean room. She talked on the phone often. She would leave her station. She painted her nails in the clean room. She made out her grocery list in the clean room. She routinely walked through the plant without safety gear. No one in management said anything to her about the safety gear. Ultimately, the PM held me accountable for the operators's behavior so I had to tell her. Even with great diplomacy and concern for her health, she didn't change her behaviors. She still has the same reputation, by the way.
My job rested on her stubborn rebellion and the decisions of a crazy manager.