labor2American business spends forty five billion dollars a year on insurance, worker’s compensation and safety pamphlets (actually, the dollar amount could be much higher; I have no real idea and just made up the figure, but it seems reasonable, doesn’t it?  At least when you include the pamphlets.)  On the other hand, American business spends a few quarters and nickels, and maybe some spare pocket lint on proactive safety improvements in the work place.  This proves that the old adage “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is commonly ignored and may be in fact incorrect.  After all, if we can get by on nickel improvements, since we’re already spending so much on cures, why up the ante?  The issue is so confusing– many managers will actually scratch their heads when asked about worker safety– that it is all commonly swept aside at meetings in favor of the more popular discussion: What donuts/bagels do we order at the next meeting?

One of the big things that happens when workers get hurt is that they tend not to come to work when they are recuperating.  What gets into an employee with fifty seven stitches around his skull from a falling crate accident that he can’t show up for work (yeah, yeah, they have a doctor’s note, and yes, those eye bandages hinder driving a car)?  Damn it, he can’t possibly work less than he did when he was healthy!  But you have to give him the time off and not give him any grief about it.

However, the other workers get repercussions big time.  Every company sets sick day policy differently.  But every employee works sick days the same.  They use them all, every one, by January 10th of the New Year.  Unless, of course, they can accrue those sick days.  Then you’ve got the very weird situation of employees retiring at the age of sixty five, but being absent for thirteen continuous years prior to their retirement date on the basis of accrued sick days.  And if vacations are accruable as well, the worker may go directly into retirement without ever actually having worked a day for the company.  Still, I’m an advocate of the accrued and/or paid-at-year’s-end policy of sick days simply because it promotes attendance.  Anything that promotes attendance is okay by me.  Just take a look at your company production levels around the Chanukah/Christmas holidays when everyone is out shopping for food and gifts, and you’ll see the impact of absenteeism on production.   If you haven’t noticed, a lot of supervision has a lot to do with judging people.  And I don’t mean the daily snap judgments we slap on even the remotest stranger, a person of whom we may know no more than what a rumor-mongering tabloid presents us from its scandal and celebrity lies files.  No, the kind of pondering that goes on in a good supervisor’s mind has to do not with personality types, but rather with skill identification and competency.  A supervisor is less effective asking, “Why is Francine slower on the heavy sewing machine than the daisy chain machine?” when the question might be more effective, “How can I get Francine more time on the daisy chain?”

Used judiciously, this kind of judgment will help you put the best people on the most efficient tasks (though you have to find a way to test people’s skills occasionally in the name of growth).  It also helps you to spot the rare but ever-present time-bomb psychopath worker who’s just about set to explode by midday tomorrow when he learns he’s been denied sick pay (through computer glitch in payroll) for the seventeenth time in a row in the past three years.  Tomorrow is Tuesday, and you judge Tuesday to be a good day to take off sick.  You read about your slain co-workers in the morning paper on Wednesday, and go back to work (feeling better, thanks) with a bright new future ahead of filling personnel spots.  These quiet workers who go suddenly berserk are well-known to supervisors.  Supervisors see the gleam of anger in a worker’s eyes long before the smoke starts coming out of their ears.  Once every seven years or so, a good pruning of the work force like this is considered tragically effective in re-invigorating the surviving employees.

I could go on for a long while listing the tasks a supervisor must do, even though many of them are beyond what he/she is expected to do, in order to straighten out the fuck ups of management and force the teeming, filthy, idle masses of labor to accomplish some fraction of what was promised to the stockholders in a posh board room last spring.  I think the point is made, which is that supervision is the most important part of all business ventures, and is second in importance globally behind perhaps only motherhood itself, which could conceivably be seen as the mother of all supervisory positions.  So here you are looking for some answers, some hint of hope, some morsel of advice to help you get better at doing the impossible.  Well, go look somewhere else, I’m just here to bitch.  No, not really.  But I want to tell you, this is the most underpaid, misunderstood, leaned upon and neglected piece of shit career an idiot could want.  Going into supervision as a future, as a fan, is like wanting to be committed to a mental ward so that you can watch more television.  You and me do this thing and that’s that.  Don’t ask why.  Let’s just open the door to this haunted house and creep our way through without being too frightened, or worse, paying full price to get in.  Go ahead, open the creaky old door.  It’s up to you to want to go into the fetid, shadowy, fungusland that is modern business.  It’s up to you to shake the severed hand of labor and tell them their insurance is probably not going to cover much of that surgery.  Here, let me push you in, through the ghosts of workers’ moods and bosses’ furies, into the darkness of another poorly planned schedule.  There in the distance, you see that light?  It’s our salvation, the place where all men go for wisdom and reflection.  It’s the soft, welcoming glow of the bathroom light.  Somebody left the door open.

I wouldn’t pretend to know everything, but I know I’ve suffered enough to have learned to duck when the crane swings by overhead and keep my heads up around fork lifts and loading docks.  Keep special eye on things that chop or rotate in any way.  So I figure I’d point out a few of the swinging booms and electric cables that can make life troublesome.  I’ll talk from all that experience.  And I’ll make up the rest as I go along.  So let’s call one another brother and or sister and go forward together toward improved production rates and a better overall fiscal future.  Right after I go to the john.