More Awful Truth From Ex-Sprint Employee
Why I dropped out of the corporate world
Last October I quit my job at Sprint. I had worked in telecom for 20 years, and for the first 18 or so, I really enjoyed the work. Then, about a year and half ago, it all changed. Things started to go horribly, horribly wrong. I didn't realize it at first. It took me a while to face the fact that my work- the work I once enjoyed and excelled at- was going to kill me if I didn't get away from it. I had to quit. Maybe you've been in a similar situation. Maybe you still are. If so, get out of the cubicle as fast as you can. I want to tell you about some of the things that led to my decision to walk away from a good job with a good company. This probably isn't the most entertaining blog entry, and certainly not that humorous, but I just gotta get this stuff off my chest, okay?
Why I quit:
Constant threat of layoffs - Managers exploited the fear of layoff to motivate employees to work harder, and to accept ridiculous expectations without complaining about them. Everyone struggled to work within the constant, lurking shadow of disapproval and the threat of losing credibility within the organization.
Expectation of lying to direct reports - When it came time for performance reviews, we were graded on a curve. That's a reality of business- I am sure many companies do this. It only makes sense- there's a limited amount of cash in the budget for bonuses and pay raises, so there has to be some way to allocate that money. Thus, there's a ratings curve. Everybody can't get the highest rating. Some people get good ratings, others get average ratings, and a few get poor ratings. We were told by our manager to deny the existence of a curve. If our direct reports were to ask about forced rankings, we were to tell them there was no such thing. Meanwhile, we would not even have the final say in what rankings we gave to our direct reports. Often their ranking was determined by a middle manager that had never even met the employees being ranked. It really didn't matter, as long as everything fit the curve- the curve that didn't exist.
Targeting certain employees for discipline - Once an employee made the slightest mistake, or was even perceived to have made a mistake, whether or not he or she actually did whatever it was, that employee's reputation was ruined for a very long time. Even a year or more later, previous transgressions, real or rumored, could be dug up at the worst possible times, such as during the yearly rankings and ratings sessions held by the supervisors and managers. One minor mistake could cost an employee a raise or bonus for two more years. I personally experienced this when trying to rate one of my direct reports. She was a stellar employee in every way, but because she was involved in a service outage two years prior, I had to go all the way to the vice president level to get approval to give her a favorable performance rating! Even then, supervisors in other departments, who didn't even know her personally but had heard rumors about the alleged incident, challenged the rating I gave the employee.
Half of the people I worked with were completely inept, and afraid of being found out. Many of my peers and colleagues had little or no experience in telecom. One particular "engineer" was a former cocktail waitress. She had been hired at Sprint by a manager who frequented the bar she worked in. One of my direct reports came to Sprint after working as a golf course landscaper. Another one had been in radio advertising sales. Another engineer ran a t-shirt silk screen business, and was a scuba instructor.
I was constantly second-guessed, constantly cross-examined, and treated like a child. Once, after staying late and spending 30 minutes patiently explaining a complex network issue to my boss's boss, she said she understood, thanked me for my time and left for the day. She then went outside to the parking garage and called my boss at his desk to tell him she didn't believe anything I had just told her, and demanded that he order me to check my facts with an individual she considered to be the subject matter expert on the particular topic. I did exactly as she asked, and the information I received from the "expert" was exactly the same as what I had previously given her. This was a huge waste of everyone's time.
Layoffs followed by open job postings - We backfilled nearly every laid off person's position with somebody new within 30 days.
Older workers were targeted for extra discipline and layoffs. Invariably, each round of layoffs would wipe out the over-40 employees. By the time I left, there were only 3 people in my department that were over 40, and two of them were under constant scrutiny from management, and undoubtedly targeted for the next round of layoffs. They both are going to get unsatisfactory performance ratings on their next yearly reviews. That was decided back in September, even though the reviews aren't given to employees until March of the following year.
Women are treated as second-class employees - In my group of 10 direct reports, the men made an average of $10,000 more per year than the women, all doing same job in same job title, with similar backgrounds, experience, education. The highest rated, most productive employees were the lowest paid members of the group. The lowest rated employee in my group actually had a base salary that was slightly higher than mine.
We would constantly get requests for various kinds of performance reports and statistics about the network- all based on whatever random thoughts popped into some ignorant middle manager's empty head. They seem to think that the way to make people more productive is to make them create a never-ending series of reports and graphs about their work performance, and about the performance of the network. We would be bombarded with report requests, and compiling the reports would take up most of our days and most of our weeks, to the detriment of any real work we might need to do. It is a completely passive-aggressive style of management. After a while, I realized that most of the reports we produced and sent out each week never got read or used by anyone. That was because the reports were meaningless in the first place, and by the time we got them done, whoever was asking for them had already forgotten about them and moved on to some other useless fire drill. Most of the time, it didn't matter whether I spent hours creating reports and graphs, or just said I would do them and then didn't do them at all. Nobody seemed to notice either way.
I started ignoring all e-mails and phone calls. I learned to ignore requests from other departments just long enough for the direction to change so that the request would be outdated and thus invalid. I never answered my telephone, preferring instead to let all calls go to voicemail. Over half the callers never left me a voicemail message, so I figured by not answering my phone, I was at least 50% more efficient (due to the work I avoided). I filed all e-mails, usually without reading them first. It didn't even matter one little bit. I avoided face-to-face meetings whenever possible, and never participated in conference calls.
After a while, this sick, dysfunctional environment just wore me down. I was getting migraines that lasted for weeks. I had irregular heartbeats that would wake me up in the middle of the night, or get so bad during the day I'd end up going to the emergency room, convinced I was having a heart attack. My doctor put me on antidepressant medication. I was having to chemically alter my brain just so I could get through a day at Sprint. I started to drop out of the workflow. I would arrive each day around 830 am, even though the workday started at 8. I would sit at my desk and read CNN, Drudge, and other news web sites. By mid-morning one of my direct reports might stop by to ask me some dumbass question or tell me about some minor problem they were having. I'd pretend to be interested, act like I was listening, and say whatever I needed to say to get them to go away. If I needed to promise to escalate an issue to another department, or help them solve some technical problem, or get answers for them about some company policy or procedure, I'd agree to do so, just to get them to go away and leave me alone. I avoided my direct reports as much as possible. I started sleeping at work - a LOT. If nobody was looking for me, or if my boss was out of his office in a meeting, I'd sneak off to the "quiet room". The quiet room is simply a small, windowless room with a recliner in it. It is really for use when an employee isn't feeling well, to give them a quiet, dark place to go rest for a few minutes. You can go in, bolt the door, turn off the lights and stretch out for a peaceful work nap, with no possibility of intrusion, since nobody can see who is in the quiet room once the door is locked. Usually I would drift off to sleep for 30 to 60 minutes at the most, but one time I woke up from a really good work nap and found that I had been out for nearly 3 hours. I got up, rubbed my eyes, left the quiet room and walked back to my desk. I was relieved to find that nobody had missed me, or looked for me, or even noticed I had been gone. I often wondered if they knew where I was during these work naps. Since the quiet room was in another part of the building, my direct reports and peers couldn't see me coming and going from there. On a really bad day, I'd have a mid-morning nap, followed by a two hour lunch, followed by a mid-afternoon nap. Then I'd sneak back to my desk for an hour or so before leaving early to go home. The really disturbing part of all this was, nobody seemed to notice. I continued to get the highest possible performance rating, and the highest possible raise, all while doing nothing. I did this for the better part of a year before I finally resigned.
Gee Sprint... do you think _this_ might have something to do with the shitty customer service? If you treat your employees like crap, and basically your company practices borderline personality disorder as a management style and practice, maybe this is harming customer service? Ya think?