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Paul Butler | It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad (Working) World

Paul Butler: Going the Extra Mile

I heard it said recently there are three phrases we tend to use, which are indicative of us getting old. In no particular order, these are as follows: 

“You know, I remember when all this was fields,” said when looking out at a strip mall or housing development. 

“How much?” said when standing in any store, aghast at the price of something. 

“This isn’t real music,” said when listening to the tunes of the generation that followed ours. 

I saw and heard three things last week that made me think I’m either getting old or the working world is going mad — maybe both? 

A friend of mine is a supervisor, which I always thought was a rather strange job title. The moniker implies the person who has explicit, formal authority over another has better vision than their subordinates. Thus, super-vision. Seems to me, in the case I’m about to explain, I do think my friend saw things more clearly than her direct report. 

My friend has had trouble with one of her staff members not turning up to work on time. To add insult to injury, this employee elects not to participate in certain required duties and tasks because, well — he wants to do what he wants to do and disregards the rest. The employee takes shortcuts and generally seems to fire on three cylinders throughout most of their short-changed day. 

My friend, (the person with the super-vision), has brought the matter to the attention of the employee politely and yet firmly on a number of occasions. Just last week, the employee complained to the organization that he felt the supervisor was being too demanding to expect them to be on time every day and to complete all tasks as per the job description.  

Rather than addressing poor performance, the organization decided to sidestep the supervisor and make accommodations for the employee, accepting partial performance in an untimely manner. I’m like, “Huh?” 

Another, mad, mad, example: Did you know dogs are now allowed into many big-box retailers? Now, that’s a question you’re not asked every day. Not just seeing-eye dogs and other service animals. I mean regular dogs. On what planet does it make sense to have an animal wandering around where food is prepared and sold? I guess having people sauntering around in their PJs was not pushing the boundaries of respectability enough, so let’s allow them to bring in their dogs. 

Someone I know works as a greeter inside a big box and told me about someone walking right past him with their dog and without so much as a “Good Morning.” My friend then observed the person allow their dog to do a No. 2 on aisle two. As numerically poetic as this sounds, it’s just not right, even by the employer’s new operations manual, surely? 

My third and final example of a working world that seems to be going mad was a webinar last week. About 55 recently hired employees attended the educational webinar, and of the 55, only about six had their cameras on. There was just a sea of black screens with names on them. Some black squares didn’t even show full names but rather just first names, nicknames, or names of devices such as “iPad 4579.” It’s difficult enough having a conversation with a black screen, but I’m not sure how to even address “iPad 4579.” 

I always think how strange it would be to walk into an actual meeting room with a black trash bag liner over one’s head. To me, that’s how bizarre it is to come onto a webinar that your employer is paying you to attend with your camera turned off. I believe the only thing that’s worse than that is if the black trash bag doesn’t talk for 90 minutes. Makes me wonder if there’s actually anyone inside the black trash bag. 

I must be getting old to a world where supervisors are sidestepped from actually supervising; where dogs can now do their business in a place of business, and black trash bags named “iPad 4579” are now on the payroll. 

But living in Santa Clarita, I can actually remember when all this was fields. 

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected]. 

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