Monday, May 30, 2005

Where's My Bonus?

If you've looked around my little blog world at all, you know what I do for a living; I'm a Retail Store Manager. I haven't -- and don't intend to -- reveal the company I work for, for the purpose of protecting the company from scorn and protecting myself from the company.

If you've ever spent any time working in Retail Management, you are probably aware that most Retail companies offer
bonuses to their Managers. The purpose, of course, is to incentivize their Managers to constantly improve performance. The ulterior motive, I think, is to say that the bonus is considered a portion of the compensation package and to therefore pay a lower annual salary. The best of the best make a killing while the rest get by on peanuts.

Recently, it was bonus time at my company. I won't go into too many details about the bonus program, as it might reveal to some the company I'm speaking of and, to those in the company who know me, possibly my own identity. Suffice it to say that bonuses at my company are paid for improving certain performance measures of the store over the previous year. That is, in fact, the way many Retailers calculate bonuses for their Managers. In this case, however, there has been a lot of change lately in the company that has caused a great deal of confusion about how bonuses are to be calculated, who is to qualify for bonuses, and when they are to be paid.

Some of those questions were answered recently, while others remain completely unaddressed. Bottom line: of five Managers in my location, only one received a bonus -- the lowest man on the bonus-earning totem pole. A man who could not have possibly earned his bonus if not for the support of the rest of the Management team. A man who contributes the least to the overall performance of the store team.

Frustrated? You bet! To this day, no one has informed us exactly how our performance was evaluated to determine whether we qualify for a bonus or not. I first received the biggest joke of a Profit and Loss Statement that I have ever seen in nearly twelve years in Retail Management, accompanied by a message that bonuses would be arriving that day for Managers who earned them. No indication of who those Managers would be, and no real explanation of what the very-abbreviated, very-changed P&L Statement meant.

I'm no idiot. I have been managing Retail Business using a P&L Statement for many years, and consider myself to be one of the best among my peers. But this was no real P&L Statement. This was more of a bulleted list of whatever numbers the number-crunchers felt would justify their determinations of whom to pay and whom not to pay.

No, I did not receive a bonus -- with an average of $10,000 increased sales per month over 2004, I did not receive a bonus. I'm not
bitter, just greatly disappointed. Of the five major Retailers that I have worked for in my career, only one of them actually had a bonus program that presented the Managers with a realistically achievable bonus that actually paid out month after month, year after year. If they have no intention of paying a bonus, or if they plan to manipulate the numbers (which is what I believe happened in this case, as less than five percent of the Managers in my District were paid a bonus) to avoid paying bonuses, then they shouldn't try to sell us on the idea that they are part of our total compensation package. Just pay me what I'm worth and quit trying to sweeten the pot with false promises.

What do you think?


Sunday, May 29, 2005

Book Review: Animal Farm by George Orwell

Book ReviewHave you ever read Animal Farm by George Orwell? I did recently, more out of curiosity than anything else. Briefly, the book is about a group of animals overthrowing their human "captors" and taking over day-to-day operations of "Manor Farm," which they rename "Animal Farm." As is so often the case, the animals initial intent to run the farm as a community of equals goes sour when one breed rises to the top and assumes total control. I won't spoil the surprise ending for you, because it's definitely worth waiting for.

Orwell is known openly writing politically charged books that speak out against totalitarianism. In his article, "Why I Write," Orwell himself puts it best:

Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism.... Animal Farm was the first book in which I tried, with full consciousness of what I was doing, to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole.

Told entirely from the point of view of the animals on the farm,
Animal Farm is a unique political commentary that is both a short and entertaining read, even if you aren't normally a reader if political writings.

Check it out, then tell me what you think.


Sunday, May 22, 2005

Book Review: Turn Four by Tom Morrisey

Book ReviewTurn Four is the only book by Tom Morrisey that I have actually managed to read through. I browsed through Yucatan Deep and didn't think it sounded compelling, and read about forty pages of Deep Blue before deciding that some of the author's character descriptions were a little more detailed than I felt appropriate for the Christian fiction genre. I read no further and don't recommend the book.

However, Turn Four takes the reader into the world of stock car racing with NASCAR. I wondered how an author of books about deep sea diving found his way to a book about stock car racing. It turns out that Tom Morrisey was a feature writer for several NASCAR-oriented racing magazines for more than two decades. He expertly uses his experiences of those twenty-plus years to spin a realistic racing world that anyone familiar with the world of NASCAR racing can appreciate.

But there's more than racing to Turn Four. Morrisey takes the reader inside the lives of a racing family and the unmistakable role that religion plays in NASCAR. NASCAR is a rare gem in the world of sports in the way it incorporates religion into all that it does. Each race of the NASCAR season is preceded by an invocation. More than one former NASCAR Winston Cup champion (as I believe they should still be called for winning the championship prior to the introduction of Nextel sponsorship) openly professes a faith in God, and Bobby Labonte actually has "John 3:16" inscribed on a taillight of the Interstate Batteries Monte Carlo.

But none of that says much about Tom Morrisey's Turn Four. I found it to be a realistic depiction of what I imagine a racing family lives with, as well as a story with a compelling enough plot to keep me pushing toward the finale.

I say, read it, and then tell me your thoughts.


Monday, May 9, 2005

Happy Mothers Day to My Wife

Mothers Day comes but once a year,
a time for dad and son
to show the one they love so dear
that she is number one.

She does so much work around the house
to keep our lives on course.
She's more than a mommy and more than a spouse,
she's more like a driving force.

She keeps us in motion when we're feeling drained
and just want to sit and rest.
She keeps right on going when she's feeling strained
and always gives us her best.

She's a wonderful mommy and wonderful wife,
of that there can be no doubt.
She's the special woman who means most in our life
that we just can't live without.

One day's not enough in the span of a year
to give her our thanks and our love.
There's no one on Earth who can even compare.
She's an angel from Heaven above.

Every day of the year we should find some way
to show the mom in our lives,
that she's so much more special than words can say
and the greatest of moms and wives.

Happy Mothers Day! We Love You!

Monday, May 2, 2005

Daylight Saving Time

Last week, the Indiana General Assembly voted in favor of Daylight Saving Time, sending the bill to Governor Mitch Daniels to sign it into law. It's a victory for the Governor that he ran on in the 2004 election, defeating former Governor Joe Kernan. Daylight Saving Time has always been a sore spot in Indiana, with most of the state staying on Eastern Standard Time year-round. For years, Indiana has been one of only three states that have not observed Daylight Saving Time, including Hawaii and most of Arizona.

I'm originally from
Cincinnati, in the Eastern Time Zone, as well, but in a state that fully observes Daylight Saving Time. I spent fully half of my life switching back and forth in summer and fall, and dealing with the time change as an excuse for being late to school or work (whether I was the one giving the excuse or receiving it, it was always a hard excuse to refute). Having lived the past six years in Indiana -- in the large chunk of the state that doesn't fall back or spring forward, I've grown comfortable with the practice of bucking the norm and staying on the same time year long. Local network affiliates actually delay broadcasts in the summer one hour to prevent the confusion of "nine/eight central" from causing Hoosiers to miss their favorite shows.

Throughout the debate, I've been an opponent of
Daylight Saving Time in Indiana, even though I did vote for Governor Daniels last fall. It seems to me a silly thing to keep switching our clocks back and forth year after year, especially when there is no truly valid reason to change our clocks back and forth anymore.

Daylight Saving Time began in the United States during World War I as a means to save fuel for the war effort by adjusting the hours of daylight to coincide with when most people were awake and active. While some areas continued to change their clocks after the War, it did not become observed nationally again until World War II. The practice became permanent with the passing of the Uniform Time Act of 1966.

Daylight Saving Time is now observed by most of the modern world, though the actual date of falling back or springing forward varies from country to country. My question is, why do we still change our clocks? Some say it's for the farmers, though most farmers are opposed to it having to rise with the sun regardless what time the clock says it is. Others say it's to reduce heating costs in the winter, though the result is increased energy consumption in the summer to run our air conditioners. And another big question: how is it that most of the world cannot agree on religion, democracy, or even a language, but somehow they manage to agree on something so senseless as changing our clocks back and forth twice a year.

As I said, I was long an opponent of
Daylight Saving Time. This morning, at 6:15 AM Eastern Standard Time (that's Chicago Time, which is actually Central Daylight Time), the sun was high in the sky over Anytown, Indiana, waking me, my son, and my Pug, who let me know he was ready to go outside with his incessant early morning yapping. I pulled myself out of bed and trudged out in the cold spring air and dewy wet grass. At the same time, which was 7:15 Eastern Daylight Time, the rest of the Eastern Time Zone was brewing coffee and getting ready for breakfast after having slept one full hour longer than I. This morning, I decided that maybe we should observe Daylight Saving Time. But I'm not a complete convert. I don't agree with this crazy falling back and springing forward. I say, let's spring forward once and for wall, never to fall back again.

And if all of this isn't enough confusion for you, how about reports that lawmakers in the House Energy and Commerce Committee in
Washington are busily crafting legislation that would extend Daylight Saving Time by two months. If passed into law, the entire country would spring forward a month earlier and fall back a month later. I guess it's a little closer to my new dream of never falling back again, but I still think it needs a little work.

What do you think?


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