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Friday, January 17, 2014

Past bruises that have never been spoken

My last post exposed some bruises that I have not exposed before.  Thinking of them brought back some other scars that I have not openly talked about.  They caused me great stress and pain during the second half of my Civil Service career.   These stressors may very well be a contributing factor to my disease.  If not, they certainly took much of the joy out of a wonderful career.

For reasons that do not need discussed here, our Command personnel voted to unionize.   That was a traumatic shock to management.  One we were not equipped to deal with or properly trained for.  The HRO in Norfolk was no help either.  They seemed to enjoy picking fights with the Union and that caused us even greater problems.  They wanted to play hardball with the union and would never even try to find common ground.

When I was moved from the Branch Head position in the Programs Branch to the Search Radar Branch, I inherited the union Vice President.  He was as hot headed and adversarial as the HRO was.  The senior Command management, in Uniform and in $10,000 suits had no plan to deal with the union.  There was no consistency in how they dealt with the union.  So, our management combined with the HRO office stumbled from one calamity to another.  My immediate supervisor was only in this for him.  He worried only about what upper management thought of him.  He was only concerned about his promotion.  And anyone or anything that he perceived reflected negatively on him was killed.

The Command changed how they wanted me to deal with the "Official Time" of the union vice president so many times, I lost track.  They would tell me: "Official time can only be approved by the Executive Director, or HRO, or the Captain.  Then, without telling me, they would schedule a meeting with the VP of the union and keep him busy all day.  Of course, I was being hounded to keep the VP on jobs on ships.  He was a great Radar tech!  The Coast Guard made him their tech of choice when they tasked us for search radar work.  Hopefully you can see the stress on me.

On a number of occasions, my immediate supervisor called me down to his office for severe ass chewing.  He was not really good at that though.  Believe me, I have had my ass chewed by real pros that actually had reason to chew my ass.  He was only covering his.  At least once, out of a clear blue sky, he called me down to a conference room and held a formal investigation type of questioning about the whereabouts of the union VP.  He also called me at home on weekends and when I was TAD to other locations to ask what I had the VP doing.  The harassment of me came in an unpredictable manner.  Sometimes months would go by and then, BAM!   I was the dirt no good again!  

Even though I knew these events were caused by the Executive Director, Captain, or HRO pinging on my boss, I was always the one who caught all the hell.  They never dealt directly with the VP or the problem they perceived.  They just shot at me, often!   Once, the Executive Director openly questioned my LOYALTY!  He told my Boss that I was the cause of all the Command's problems with the union.  I actually confronted the Executive Director about this charge and he blew me off.  I was anything but disloyal.   Again, I hope you can see the stress I lived under for ten years!

Just before I retired, HRO changed directions and the new HRO representative to our Command actually came to me and apologized for how I was treated over the last ten years.  Can you imagine how shocked I was!?   Of course, my immediate supervisor never apologized.  He just smiled and plotted his next victim.

I retired because of the effects of my Lewy Body Dementia.  I was suffering from the dementia portion of this disease in that I could not do my job because I forgot how to.   One day, I was trying to send a tech rep over seas.  I have a short window to get him on the airplane to New York to meet a flight to Bahrain.  I could not input his orders into the computer system!   After two hours, I had to ask another Branch Head to do what I had done thousands of times before!  I was also getting lost driving home, not knowing where I was or where I was going.  There were other issues related to my LBD, and I knew it was time to go.  By then I had a new immediate supervisor that actually thought I was a good, loyal, part of the team.  He wanted me to stay, regardless of my problems.  But I knew it was time.

The constant stress of being the supervisor of the union VP was worse that anything I had gone through in uniform or out.  The constant fight between management and the union with me in the middle was murder.   I still have scars from those fights that will never heal.  My immediate supervisor, a GS-14, has finally been found out for what he was.  I have no satisfaction in that.

I do believe the entire command would have been better if they had just found common ground with the union.  The idea of always fighting and picking fights is mutually destructive.  And it ended up destroying me.

I am sure I have left out issues that also impacted me negatively.  My memory is not as good as it once was.  But, the pain still remains.   It subsides now, but it comes back whenever I think about my days as a Civil Servant.  Even though I have fond memories of those 20 years,  the pain of how I was treated by my immediate supervisor will never go away.  Never!

I wrote this as therapy for me.  Not to cause anyone problems or to get back at anyone.  Those days are past.   Maybe someone can learn from what happened to me.   But mostly, I just needed to get this off my chest.  Nothing more.  I hold no grudges.


  1. Thanks Master Chief, I think it is worth some outside comment so here goes.
    It's an inherently invidious position for anyone to be caught in. That needs to be said right up front. Anybody who ever finds themselves in a similar situation should insist on getting the details of the positions laid out and signed by each of the managers so all are clear on what is agreed. This kind of thing happens for people that are picked up by PR for PR duties and leave you hanging in the breeze or when one of your people is a semi-pro athlete trying to make an Olympic moment happen for the USN and needs time off to do it.
    It's a no-win situation to be played by both the management and labor. Pick your side and stick with it. If you're management you definitely need to pick management. The issues your superiors have with a dual hatted subordinate will be taken up by them with that subordinate if he is too difficult to manage, ie he's more than 10% of your problems. In other words, if his union duties keep him off the job let him be the one to explain it to management and fight for any pay or benefits that are due him/her. That is his/her job as the Union rep and he/she should be well up to the task.
    I had a style I developed as a very young leader and that was to admit that everybody got one good bite off me unless their behavior was criminal. I'd go to bat once for you but that was it. It worked then but I am a sincere believer that 10% of the people in your work are 90% of the problem and if you can make them go away you are all better for it.
    I never had a problem with problem people. It wasn't my job to make all of them find the promised land, just enough of them and if a few didn't make it, that was too bad. On the other hand I had a very high tolerance factor. I never sweated the small things that drove some people nuts. Comes from being a snipe at heart.

  2. Master Chief:

    As therapy you might want to read the book by Phil Porter called "Eat or Be Eaten: Guide to Master Corporate Politician".


    It sounds like you worked for a master corporate politician and Phil's book will probably be painful to read as it might sound like he was right next to you for some of the awful experiences you had.

    I have had a couple of those experiences. People hire me to sort out their manufacturing issues in Operations and Supply Chain and I am very good at what I do. Yet occasionally the very people that hired me to be the expert and provide expert level advice as to how to 'un-f**k" the situation that they created will not listen to what I have to say and sometimes have the temerity to blame me for their mess!!!! WTF??

    Being data driven as I am it does not matter if the facts are on your side. I famously had one senior manager tell me to "stop showing me the graphs" as they kept telling anyone with a 3rd grade education that he was driving the facility into the ground. That quote got a lot of repetition but unfortunately it was not enough to save the facility where 200 people worked from being closed down. This despite the fact that in the final 6 months I proved that the facility could be wildly profitable once the morons were removed from positions of authority.

    People just do not want to admit they made a mistake. And proving that they made a mistake with hard numbers just puts you on their shit list. Been there done that.

    But if you are good at what you are doing you will survive and you will move on.