This is the second part of the interview with Vincent Shaw who is relating his experiences with a Turkish company. Interview with Vincent-Part 1
So when were you given the job of Human Resources in a Turkish company?
Well, I can’t say. Every other week my position would change. It depended on her moods [Cat woman, the owner] and his bright ideas [Penguin, the owner].. or what he had promised somebody else. I think I was Business Development officer at the same time as I was Human Resources.
So you were telling us about your experiences working with a Clinical Research Organization in Turkey. I get the impresssion that you don’t think much of the owner’s business practices. Am I correct?
It was like some kind of MBA study of how NOT to run a company. I suppose the biggest.. or should I say, over-riding problem- was that the husband and the wife , the owners and directors-used the company as a battle ground for their crappy marriage. They got to a point where they didn’t want to even be there at the same time. He would make this big announcement – his latest “ great idea”- and then she would come in and tell everybody to ignore it. This kind of thing kept happening.
I remember one time reminding them that, according to Turkish Labor Laws, the employees were entitled to some kind of vacation time. A few had been there something like two years without having any real time off. She was, like, annoyed. He told me to make the arrangements.
So, I checked back to starting dates of each of the employees and determined if they had worked a year.
To see if they qualified for a paid vacation.
Right. She came to me and said. “No. No. This isn’t right. You will give all the employees a vacation before the end of this year.” I tried to tell her that some of the employees would not have completed a full year before the calendar year would end. But you could see the light in her eyes kind of fade. She said, I mean, really sharply, “This is HOW major companies in Europe do things!”
And what happened?
Well, I gave everybody a calendar and asked them to arrange their holidays to be used before the end of the year. Which they did, even though some of them had started like 6 months before. And this was in October or so. Anyway, they had not completed a year.
So after the vacation dates were coordinated, Cat Woman comes in, takes one look at it and says, “I didn’t approve of this. No way. You will have to tell them this will not be acceptable.”
You mean, after you told them they could have vacations.. you had to go back and tell them they couldn’t have one?
Exactly. She denied that she had insisted on it and tried to blame me for it. But, as I said, this is just a small example. She was always doing things like this. But her dishonesty was much worse. Also she had this very destructive love for gossip with the employees.
What about “The Penguin”?
First of all, it was an open secret that he was cheating on his wife. I mean, everybody knew about it because he liked to brag about it all the time. That made things pretty uncomfortable, of course.
Also, he liked to undermine company rules. One time, we had an employee that like press the limits of office dress. You know, very low tops without a bra, very high skirts. Now this is a very touchy subject for a lot of women and a dress code is like a nightmare for a Human Resource office. Anyway, sometimes it was her hair. Sometimes it was her top. Sometimes it was her skirt. One day, Cat woman, who had been noticing this, came and said, “Well, bingo. Today ‘s all three at the same time.” I have to say, it was a bit embarrassing.
What did you say?
I asked her to go home and change into something more suitable for an office. I have to say, we were having guests that day. so it was pretty important to give a good impression. She handled it ok and left and came back looking a bit better. Problem solved?
No. She immediately went to Penguin and complained about the dress code. He told her to ignore it and that I must have been in a bad mood or something.
One thing I don’t understand. Obviously the conditions were bad. Why did you stay there?
Good question. First of all, every day was not a nightmare. Some days were pretty rewarding. And I suppose I have worked in some pretty crappy jobs in the past. Penguin kept telling me that I was doing a good job and he appreciated my input. I always felt like I was making slow progress. But, by Christmas time, I was about finished.
What happened then?
We had had a audit from the client which was, like, a super big deal. We had been informed about it about 3 months in advance. I had drawn up a schedule so that by the time of the audit, we could have checked and double checked everything. It gave us plenty of time to make sure every last detail was correct.
Cat woman ignored it. Forget about Penguin. He generally refused to take any active part in office operations, despite being the director of operations. So weeks passed and I did everything I could to get her interested. At least so that I could have my own department ready.
In the end, she waited until the very last day. She made bad fakes of training sessions that had never happened and bogus job descriptions and slipped them into my files on the morning of the auditors’ visit. I had no idea until we had to bring the files to the auditors.
When the auditors saw this, they immediately called me in for an interview. They asked questions about the training and I told them the truth. I told him that I had no idea where those documents had come from and they, as he could see, I had signed none of them. He asked me,”You don’t have any background in Human Resources or Business Administration, do you? What makes you think you are qualified to do this particular job?” Talk about degrading .
What did you say?
I said, “Hell if I know.” Seriously, I told him that it had never been my decision in the first place. But that was when I decided that, unless they pay for some serious training in Human Resources, I would have to take my final bow and leave.
But you never got a chance to resign did you?
No. Well, not as I had planned anyway.
Next week, the interview continues. Don’t hesitate to comment. I’d be glad to hear what you think.