Saturday, June 23, 2012

Do I matter or have value?

It occurs to me that the economic times, not just since 'the crash' in '08, but maybe for years or decades earlier, has taken the love factor out of the employer/employee relationship.  

It has been some time since the employee was beloved by a company.  The employee represents the face of the company and the quality of the employee is a large factor in repeat business.  How inclined are you as a customer to go back to a business where you were treated poorly?  That feeling is based on your interaction with the one person you dealt with, not with the business owner.  But, I'm thinking it has been a while since you heard of an employee who was treated as if they were one of the family.  

I think there are a lot of contributing factors.  Financial cost of business goes up, but what consumer expects to pay for product does not rise as quickly.  

Myself, I have never wanted to be a business owner.  I am able to find contentment in putting in my hours, doing my shift, and going home.  I have learned by necessity I can get by on very little, my needs I am well versed in minimizing.  I just want my family and to be creative, and I find my creativity limited if I have to focus on the paperwork.  Paperwork zaps my soul power.  I don't think my soul functions when it spends a lot of time focused on paperwork, my nightmares usually have to do with a lost note.

However, I am empathetic.  I have been someone's employee for about 35 years, never anywhere for very long.  As someone's employee, from behind the counter you do hope to put down some roots.  You hear all the pros and cons of your company and the longer you are with the company, the more you defend them, the more your heart breaks when you decide to leave, even more so when asked to leave.

So, when I mention an employee being part of the family, I am trying to depict employees who are cherished, encouraged to grow, cared for when down or mourned when lost.  I don't mean the low kind of people, who would steal from the company or expect what they hadn't earned, but the ones that showed up for work early, skipped breaks or minimized lunches, stayed late and went out of their way and invented new ways to contribute to the business.  The humane person would want to make sure that employee had what we all need for benefits ~ the assurance that when something catastrophic happens, things will work out, because steps were taken to minimize the impact and to prevent them from happening in the first place.  In this way, insuring that the face of the company always greets the public with a smile as well as a great product.

In the Self Storage industry, being an employee is a very lonely business.  You almost never see your co-workers, because you actually work miles away from each other and when you do, it's most usually in a training forum.  Personalities are never learned.  The time you spend with your supervisors is also for training and/or discipline.  The supervisors I've had have been unable emotionally to attempt to bond with me for fear that they'd have to let me go, someday, and it's hard to fire a friend.  

Another factor is communication. Not everyone has the same level of desire when it comes to offering customer service.  It's really hard getting to know your co-workers when they can't understand why you are going out of your way to offer their information to someone you are communicating with about their property.  With supervisors there is a huge amount of time is consumed 'putting out fires' but when a message isn't returned or a proposal takes months to acknowledge (regardless of acceptance or denial) alienation between employer and employee is an ever widening chasm.

When we left the last company, it was a huge effort not to do so with any bitterness.  We showed up to give our notice with an afghan I made for the new grand-baby.  She expressed a shocked disbelief.  It was heartbreaking to realize later that it was an effort wasted to attempt to tip-toe away, but really, we had been existing in a 'low state' for a long time.  Partly because we'd been led to believe this would be a family atmosphere, where we could be a contributing factor and partly because our attempts to contribute were so ignored and rebuffed.  

We are now with another Storage company and in some ways it's better, but in others it much worse by far.  We are getting answers to questions for the most part, so that's a good thing.  The company has been passed down to someone who only expects the negative outcomes, so the answer is most often 'no'.  The kinds of communication that keeps everyone on the same page is lacking, so confusion flourishes and is a massive effort to fix problems.  Gossip is also a massive problem to the extent that the men are the major spreaders of misinformation, which was a surprise to me to see.  Usually guys have better things to do!

The reason this all comes to mind is because we have a company, non-training but for social, gathering coming up.  My husband and I are having an unproductive discussion about attending as we always have.  He doesn't tolerate insincere-ness very well, and I have a problem with crowds that has triggered panic attacks in the past, so he uses these as reasons not to go.  My feeling, however, is to shelve those reasons, to go and be as friendly as I can make myself be, hoping that sitting on the edge of the crowd, smiling and waving at those I can make eye-contact with, is enough to let everyone know that we hope to be here for a while and that we sincerely are striving toward good things for everybody we meet.

Whether or not that helps anyone in the long run is hard to tell at this point.  In the here and now, is the only place it seems to matter, so we take the warmth to remember in future.  In the meantime, we all matter to someone.  It may not be at work anymore, unless it's to make a customer's day with a laugh, but as a means to an end, you matter to you, first, and to me, next.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Fiber Train Festival 2012

So, I moved from Portland, Oregon, to Boise, Idaho, early last fall, did you know that?

I realize now that I must have taken the creative atmosphere for granted.  I loved going to knitting groups, especially at Wynona Studios in Oregon City, various fiber events and gatherings like Sock Summit, meeting the Seattle to Portland Yarn Train and the Spinning Guild events.  I went to a couple of Knitting Guild events, too, but they were a little stiff.... perhaps that's a story for another blogpost.

There is a great new book, Craft Activism by Joan Tapper after a wonderful chapter about Ravelry, she describes Portland:  'Portland, Oregon, may be home to more than half a million people, but to outsiders it sometimes seems as if all of them are artists. "Portland is the kind of city that fosters creativity"...'  Oh, yes, I miss that.

Boise is a whole other place, craft-wise.  Before I got here, I was scoping out Ravelry to find what events happen or where the shops were, hoping for a knit group close to me.  The posts I did find weren't very current, and some out-right outdated.  Not to worry, I would be bold and figure it out.  I hope.

Turns out, as far as knitting gatherings go, knitting together was a new concept.  There are a couple of gatherings, one that meets every other week at various restaurants around town (I went once because they had decided to meet at a place not far from my post office, so I could find it.  Haven't gone back yet, because a.) they have been meeting a places I couldn't find and b.) food seems to be as big or bigger deal than knitting, and since food is one of my least favorite topics, well.... ) and a Knitting Guild meeting.  There was a stitching group that met at a library.  That was disappointing too because they meet once a month, and I was the only knitter.  A yarn/quilt shop relocated to within 10 miles of me after I'd been here a couple of months, so, finally, I found a regular hang-out. 

As far as events, things haven't gotten too far there either.  There is a minor league baseball team here, but as of yet, the season hasn't started (don't they know it's summer?!?) and I wait and search and hope, but have not heard if there is a Stitch & Pitch. I've heard rumors that at the farmer's market, someone is selling alpaca yarn, but the details on that factoid were iffy too.

And then finally there was this:
  This event took place over the Sunday and Monday of Memorial Day weekend, located where the usual Saturday Farmer's Market happens. The website is still up if you wish to look at how fun the event was going to be.
I have not seen my Ravelry button since the move, but they had them there for the first (number) of people who showed up so now I have two.  I guess when I find my other one, I will have a pair to make earrings out of them or maybe wear them front and back so other Ravelers will know me coming and going...      But clearly, I was under-dressed.  I did not know this was a pink tutu event.  I would have worn my purple tights, too, then me and this little girl could have been twins!

Two alpacas (I think the lady said they were a year old) and a mohair goat made star appearances.  The chocolate colored alpaca was singing in a low tenor voice.  I would have sung along, but did not know the words.
I met a lady who was displaying her hobby of turning grocery bags into other, better, bags.  I hope she can get stocked up before they are banned everywhere.  One of the gals that I see at knit-night here picked one up and loves it, lightweight and stands up for holding her current project.  I loved to see her product and told her when I was in elementary school and lived in Seattle, my mom made a rug from plastic bread bags that stayed by the back door as a great mat for wiping the mud off your shoes!
There were lots of ready-made products to see, a blacksmith was there with his fire smoking.  These yarn bowls were from the local shop that was instrumental in organizing the event.  I liked the leaf designs, and the
way the 'Y' on the YARN bowls made the natural slot for the fiber to flow through, but my favorite design was the ones at the top that also had given place for your needles to rest.

One vendor I went there to see was Knit Girl in Idaho, who I had not met before, but whose stitch markers were displayed in the first Jane Austen Knits magazine.  I picked the one that says 'An artist cannot do anything slovenly ~ Jane Austen' and she gave me a freebie marker for being there early.  It's the little sheep one on the right.  She has her product on Etsy but she is also on Facebook as Knit Girl in Idaho.  Her website/Etsy page is:

The rest of these images are of the yarn bombing done in honor of the event that we saw on the way home.

Many thanks and deep appreciation to Superman for taking me, driving me so I could knit en route and not get lost either. This was the first time he and I went together. I think he enjoyed seeing everything and he was the one who pointed out the yarn bombing.