State of the Unemployed Union

The End of a Brief Era – Adventures in Temping

April 22, 2010
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Well, I had avoided this blog for many weeks while I was working a temporary assignment so that I would not say too much that might be taken the wrong way should the right people read it, i.e., the company I was temping with. But, since the assignment ended one week ago, I am free to write as I please.

This last assignment was a good re-introduction into the workplace. It lasted six months and I can confidently say that I did a good job. But there were issues, as there are with any company.

I learned much about the trucking industry while working as a temporary assistant at this local depot. Truckers may be a little rough around the edges, but they are very nice people. The guys were always polite whether on the phone or in person and always behaved respectably. I had been warned by the temp agency that there could be rough behavior at this job because I would be dealing with truckers. I am proud to say that the truckers were not the problem.

No, management was the problem. My direct supervisor, a lovely older lady who really liked me, tried hard to convince upper management to take me on as a permanent employee. The pay would have been lower than what I am accustomed to, but this office was literally five minutes from my house, so I would have sufficed with whatever I was offered. Supervisor needed the assistance as she had grown weary of having to take work home every night. She looked forward to having a permanent assistant. I had succeeded six other temps in the same position, Supervisor told me, and had taken on more responsibility than any of the others.She told me of her long-term personal plans and wanted to have someone ready to take her place. I had hoped that person would be myself.

But the company had greater issues with which to deal at this time. Gas prices were rising. Business was slowing. Their secondary branch out of state had been burglarized for the umpteenth time. They had raised the prices they were charging to customers and had lowered the prices they were paying to owner-operatoring truckers. This caused outrage amongst the driving ranks and several of them made their concerns vocal in loud meetings at the office. As this was a very small office with no private meeting quarters everyone could hear everything that happened within its walls. One trucker was fired and three others quit and I can only assume that the lowered pay was the reason.

There also was a struggle between Supervisor and the Vice President (VP). If any mistakes were made within a particular department, VP would deflect those mistakes onto Supervisor’s department, which included me. Now, I am a fallable human being and did make mistakes during this assignment, but the mistakes I am discussing right now actually had little or nothing to do with me, personally. They affected other members of Supervisor’s department. Supervisor, naturally, would defend her staff, but to no avail. They would take the blame for actions over which they had no control. This caused a great deal of stress on nearly a daily basis.

Supervisor had grown to confide in me. She admitted to me that while I had correctly guessed that VP did not like me, it was another employee that VP was after. This poor girl was under constant scrutiny and regularly berated by the Controller of the company. She kept on doing her job to the best of her ability. I honestly don’t know how she did it.

Anyway, due to hearing about these issues more and more as time went on, I contacted the temp agency and asked them to begin seeking a new assignment for me. I told them everything I had learned and that, if offered a permanent role, I would not accept under any circumstances. I would have to fight a losing battle daily. Why would I tie myself into a situation like that rather than free myself to seek a better situation? I promised to maintain my obligation to the temporary assignment until another job came along. The temp agency agreed.

Some weeks after that conversation with my representative at the temp agency, the assignment came to an abrupt end. I had finished my duties early in the day and was allowed to go home around noon. At 4:30 p.m. I received a call from the temp agency. The representative had just ended a call with Supervisor informing her that she had just left an emergency meeting that had been called that afternoon. The company was closing its secondary branch and making other changes to its business. I was relieved of my temporary assignment and no temp was going to be used at all. The representative asked me how I felt. Relieved. I had seen it coming for a few months, piecing together the conversations that I’d heard within the office. I told her that I had closed a company before and all the rhetoric was the same with this company. It was inevitable.

Now, one week later, I have had one interview with another agency, but for a permanent position. I have updated my resume to include this temporary assignment and Supervisor has agreed to be a reference for me. The job market is still tight but I am optimistic.