I had been hired by Aluminum Elements Corp. (AEC), and it was my first day of work. I was 26 years old, and I was now the manager of AEC’s customer service group, which looked after customers, logistics and some of the raw material purchasing. My superior, George, was the vice president of the company. AEC manufactured most of its products, a majority of which were destined for the construction industry, from aluminum.
As I walked around the shop floor, the employees appear to be concentrating on their jobs, barely noticing me. Management held daily meetings in which various production issues were discussed. No one from the shop floor was invited to these meetings unless there was specific problem. Later I also learned that management had separate washrooms and separate lunchrooms, as well as other perks that floor employees did not have. Most of the floor employees felt that management, although polite on the surface, did not really feel they had anything to learn from the floor employees.
John, who worked on the aluminum slitter, a crucial operation required before any other operations could commence, had suffered a number of unpleasant encounters with George. As result, George usually sent written memos to the floor to avoid a direct confrontation with John. Because the directions in the memos were complex, these memos were often more than two pages in length.
One morning as I was walking around, I noticed that John was very upset. Feeling that perhaps there was something I could do; I approached John and asked him if I could help. He indicated that everything was just fine. From the looks of the situation and John’s body language, I felt that he was willing to talk but John knew that this was not the way things were done at AEC. Tony, who worked at the machine next to John’s, then cursed and said that the office guys cared only about schedules, not about the people down on the floor. I just looked at him, and then said that I began working here...
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