Dr-Fix-It! Notebook Archive:
The Gregg Enigma . . .
To a limited degree, it might be said that every company has an employee like Gregg. But Gregg was, in my work experience, the ultimate "Untouchable". To the consternation of his fellow employees - especially me, Gregg seemed free to do absolutely anything he pleased without any consequence. Whatever he did, he always got away with it.
Gregg would wander into work at 9:00 AM. Everyone else in the Department had to start work at 7:00. Gregg frequently took two hour lunch breaks. Everyone else in the Department had to gulp down their food in thirty minutes. Gregg often left at 2:45. Everyone else in the Department was obliged to complete an eight hour day and stay until 3:30. Short hours and lost time didn't matter to Gregg. He was on salary. Everyone else in the Department punched the clock.
When Gregg was at work, he would visit one work station, then the next, striking up a conversation with every person he encountered. Like a hummingbird in a flower garden, Gregg would flit from one person to the next to discuss how much work he had to do and how important it was. His work-cart loaded with tools and parts, he appeared to be on his way to an urgent job. To hear him talk, you would think Gregg was the most diligent, talented, overworked and sought-after technician in our mill.
The assignment sheets in his 'To Do' box made a stack about two inches tall. Out of curiosity, I counted Gregg's assignment sheets one morning. A remarkable backlog! There were about 130 outstanding work orders dating back 14 months.
Gregg's level of production was no secret to any worker in the mill. Even the few workers that liked Gregg as a person had no respect for his work. His Nicknames ranged from sounds-like-Gregg-names such as 'Egg' and 'Grog' to outright insulting names like 'Useless', 'Slug', and 'Stroke'. Once, I was within earshot when a new recruit was introduced to Gregg for the first time. Gregg had stopped to talk, of course. The Trainer introduced the new recruit to Gregg then said, " . . . And this is Gregg. He doesn't do a damn thing around here." The new recruit smiled and nodded assuming he was a witness to some good-natured ribbing amongst friendly coworkers. But the trainer was deadly serious.
I have never understood why all the managers seemed to be oblivious to Gregg's behavior on the job. I wondered how more than one hundred untouched work-orders could possibly escape notice. Weren't people calling and complaining that scheduled work was not being done? Didn't any manager see a two-inch tall stack of assignments in Gregg's 'To Do' Box?
The Ladies in Dispatch who answered the phones and the radios heard the calls and complaints. They were keenly aware that, if they gave Gregg an assignment, it wouldn't get done. As a result, they frequently assigned Gregg's jobs to other technicians. That solved their problem but created another. Nearly every morning, some technician reviewing his day's assignments would mumble, " Shouldn't this be Gregg's job? Why do I have to do HIS work AND mine too?"
One day, I discovered Gregg was 'Double-Dipping'. Gregg would park his truck outside the gate and walk in so there would be no security record of his comings and goings. He would wander through Dispatch in the morning and again in the afternoon - just to keep up appearances. But Gregg would spend the rest of the day on a house remodel side-job about a mile away from the mill. .
Gregg's actions were so brazen that they exceeded my tolerance limit. The blatant dishonesty of Gregg's behavior was more than I could bear. I was a teen-aged kid who still clung to the belief that a person should stand up for what he thinks as right - no matter the consequences. I said to myself, "That's it." I 'told on' Gregg. I 'Ratted'.
I marched into my supervisor's office, took a deep breath and blurted, " If you go over to 'such-and-such' address, you will find Gregg doing a side job for cash while he is on the payroll of this company, using company materials and company tools."
I assumed 'Stuff' would hit the fan. I assumed Gregg would be fired. I imagined Gregg would consult with his friends in the Company and soon discover that I was the 'Rat'. At that time and in that place, 'Rats' paid for their mouths. At the very minimum, a 'Rat' could reasonably expect retaliation in the form of long knife gashes in the side wall of every tire on his truck. At worst, a 'Rat' could expect long knife gashes in his face.
But, the next morning, it was business as usual. Gregg blew through Dispatch for the sake of appearances and scurried off to his side-job. Nothing ever happened. Nothing ever changed. Looking back on it now, I can only assume Gregg's friends in the Company included some upper-level management too.
Gregg's escapades were a constant source of gossip at lunch. Around the lunchroom, workers postulated theories to logically explain Gregg's continued employment. Maybe he was the illegitimate son or the inept son-in-law or the cousin or the stepchild of the General Manager. Maybe Gregg sued or threatened legal action against the Company and now the Company is afraid to say or do anything with him. Maybe Gregg is really a snitch or a Narc or an undercover cop whose real job was to surveil us. Maybe Gregg is actually a dealer or a pimp and supplies the upper-level management with their . . . Ummm . . . recreational needs. The debate was a constant source of conversation over the lunch break.
By working in an unfair environment, I came to appreciate fairness in management. I now feel that a well run company is one where everyone works by the same rules. Favoritism eventually destroys employee morale as well as management's credibility.
I came to cope with the unfairness I felt by convincing myself that Gregg was good for me. I told myself that he represented my job security. I could do anything at work because Gregg had set the precedent that it was allowed. Whatever mischief I could possibly do at work, Gregg had already done and gotten away with it. Fair Labor Standards would prohibit me from getting fired for doing what Gregg was allowed to do.
But I didn't do any mischief. And the unfairness of the situation took its toll. I eventually tired of having to be productive while Gregg waltzed through the workday doing nothing but talk. I finally quit that job. In my 'Exit Interview', The Human Resources Lady asked if I had any final questions or comments.
I wondered aloud, "How does Gregg keep his job?"
Her reply was hauntingly cryptic: "I can't answer that."