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You Never Know Who Might be Listening

Jan 27th, 2012 | By | Category: Nick Kemper's Blog

Where I used to manage we had a camera system in our shop and in our dispatch center and they were wired in to a variable-speed VCR. Quite honestly, I rarely looked at the videos unless I was tipped off to employee behavior warranting attention, such as dispatchers sleeping at their post or drivers throwing punches at each other.

I had one dispatcher prone to “wandering.” She liked to leave the dispatch center to personally deliver messages that could just as easily be given over the phone, intercom or email, and she liked to go out and smoke cigarettes with the drivers. She just could not sit still. I addressed the behavior several times. Although she usually worked in tandem with another dispatcher, our 7-line phone system sometimes got quite busy and there just wasn’t a need for her to be circulating so freely throughout the facility. One day I went through an entire work shift for her on the taped recording of that day and counted how many times she left the office and for how long she was gone. When I reported to her that, in one eight-hour shift, she left the office 56 times for a total of three hours and 11 minutes, she was shocked.

The most humorous episode involving the camera system was not a taped recording, however. If the monitor was on while the VCR was recording, you would see a live feed of the four cameras. If you switched it to one camera, you would hear audio. You wouldn’t hear audio on the recording unless you confined it to the recording to a single camera at normal speed. The monitor and VCR was in my office, but I rarely had the monitor and/or audio on while I was there in spite of my boss encouraging me to do so. There were few things I could imagine less interesting than monitoring the dispatch center or the shop. Sometimes I would turn it on and keep the audio low, and if something weird seemed to be going on I would turn it up.

For part of my time there, I shared an office with our lien personnel, and one young lady who worked there was at her desk one day while the camera was on. Her husband was one of our drivers. At that time I was managing the dispatchers and lien personnel, but not the drivers. The driver manager was in the dispatch center, talking to the dispatcher on duty. I wasn’t paying attention, but they were talking about the driver who was the husband of the lien specialist, and she was listening to them. I don’t know how crazy your house is, but have you ever been sitting at home, watching TV or reading, and all of a sudden there is shouting and quick movement going on around you, and you have no idea what’s going on? That’s what happened in my office, the dispatch center, and the space in between that day. Apparently the dispatcher on duty and driver manager made disparaging comments about the driver who was married to the lien specialist. She heard it and made a beeline to the dispatch center to give them an earful. They must have been very surprised when she made her entrance.

The dispatcher on duty figured it out first, and ran into my office yelling something about how the monitor shouldn’t be on, and I then realized that drama was occurring. After I made heads or tails of all of the shouting, I just started laughing. I told the dispatcher on duty: “Well, I guess you need to be more careful about talking behind people’s backs, because you never know who might be listening.” She was livid, and embarrassed. You know how people in a work environment tend to complain about co-workers they don’t like, but not in the presence of that coworker — or anyone else who might be an ally to that coworker — and then, when they are in the presence of that co-worker they are all smiles and fake-nice? Well, when their true colors show, it can be quite interesting — usually something in a shade of red. Just the look of horror, embarrassment and disbelief on that dispatcher’s face made me laugh heartily. And then there was the driver manager, who had a lot of ‘splainin’ to do — having spoken profanely about the work performance of one of his employees to another employee who did not have management status. The look on his face was more like, “Why did I come to work today?”

It was the lien specialist who impressed me the most. She did not mince words, even to her husband’s boss, the driver manager. She was only 18 at the time, and that was the first of many times I witnessed her asserting herself. I eventually counted her as one of my most valuable employees, and she figured into many episodes worth relating.

Conversations in the dispatch center were quite cordial for a while after that.

Have a safe and profitable week.

Nick Kemper