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Why are my bosses so ignorant??

Old 05-13-2013, 06:25 AM
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I'm gonna try and keep this as simple as I can. The railroad has a habit of hiring people to be supervisors that have no affiliation with railroading and turn them loose to make pretty serious decisions. These people are usually in their mid 20's and develop a chip on their shoulder and get power hungry and start being dicks. They will not listen to anything you tell them. I've been on the railroad for nine years and have been an engineer for the last six of them. I know what I'm talking about and I always do my best no matter what train I'm on. Here's the story..Saturday night I reported for work at 11:00pm on a 105 car coal train. My conductor hands me my tonnage profile, and with the units given, we ARE over tonnage. We used to move 100 cars with five locomotives and now we move 105 with four locomotives. The newer engines have alternating current traction motors and have more horsepower. They gave me two new engines for my lead and the pusher got two old conventional engines that are 10+ years old. We have nine grades to pull and they are all 2%. I explain to the train master that we cannot move this kind of tonnage with what we have as power and I suggested a fifth engine. It had just got through raining and calling for more. Rain is a deal breaker on a tonnage train. He says he'll get back to me, well he calls my conductor and tells him that I'm being insubordinate and that I have no idea what I'm talking about. Now that got to me because I am not trying to screw anyone, I just want to get down the road without any problems. So we go with his plan. Well we leave the yard and we have a 2% grade leaving Roanoke. We're pulling this grade at 10 mph, we get about a mile then the pusher engineer starts hollering at me over the radio. "I just lost an engine!! It's shooting fire and oil out the exhaust stack!!" We'll we stop, if I'd try to keep going, I'd pull the train in two. This train master we had spoken with earlier was monitoring the channel and came over said, dude I'm sorry, I should have listened. I tell him I wouldn't lie and only want to do my job and go home. The pusher has to cut off and get new engines, well they give him another pos that's running on its last leg. He couples back up and we finally get moving ( had to back down the hill to get a running start). We are now pulling the hill at 8mph and I told the conductor we have to stop and set off some cars to reduce tonnage. I stop once we get over the hill and notify the dispatcher about what we have to do. The Chief Dispatcher comes over the radio and gives me a ration of crap about how we're supposedly good for the tonnage. We argue back and forth over the radio and he finally agrees to let us set out five cars. Not much but it's better than nothing. We do all of this, still barely get over the hills and get relieved halfway down the road by another crew. Wouldn't it have made since to listen to me in the beginning? This company pays us to be professional employees and that's exactly what I'm doing. I'm not gonna fabricate some bs story and jeopardize my job. These bosses are know it all pricks most of the time and will not listen to you, I'm just trying to help and make things run more efficiently. This company is so wasteful. I'm sorry for writing a book today but I don't know what to do. It's hard for me to just sit back and say screw it, I just can't stand ignorance especially when the solution is staring you in the face.
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Old 05-13-2013, 06:35 AM
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Old 05-13-2013, 06:38 AM
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The only good thing about beating your head against a wall is that it feels
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Old 05-13-2013, 06:43 AM
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I work on a passenger RR myself and know what you mean about waste. Best I canoffer you is make sure all radio transmissions are recorded so that you can prove yourself right in case something goes wrong, be sure tomfollow you train orders to the T and don't go over any work rights you may have, in addition any time an FRA rule comes into question follow it as you will be the scape goat if the shit ever hits the fan.
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Old 05-13-2013, 06:49 AM
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You cant fix stupid....usually it will fix itself, sometimes it will take a little while but someone of authority will take notice of the incompetent.
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Old 05-13-2013, 07:05 AM
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Originally Posted by NSengnr28 View Post
The railroad has a habit of hiring people to be supervisors that have no affiliation with railroading and turn them loose to make pretty serious decisions. These people are usually in their mid 20's and develop a chip on their shoulder and get power hungry and start being dicks. They will not listen to anything you tell them.
I have a cousin in-law if that's what you want to call it that works for NS exactly as you described. I'd hate to know I had to work for him. And no, he's not from the area you area you are from in your sig.
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Old 05-13-2013, 07:21 AM
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Over tonnage... Were laws broken?
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Old 05-13-2013, 07:22 AM
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What "training" do these guys have to be a "supervisor" without any actual experience?

Sounds dangerous to me. Literally, A train wreck waiting to happen.
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Old 05-13-2013, 07:22 AM
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Originally Posted by 08087 View Post
I work on a passenger RR myself and know what you mean about waste. Best I canoffer you is make sure all radio transmissions are recorded so that you can prove yourself right in case something goes wrong, be sure tomfollow you train orders to the T and don't go over any work rights you may have, in addition any time an FRA rule comes into question follow it as you will be the scape goat if the shit ever hits the fan.
Oh yeah, I definitely dot my I's and cross my T's. My immediate train master and road foreman on my district know me well and how I work. They haven't questioned my judgment but the crony's in the terminal and dispatcher's office have no experience and call the shots.
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Old 05-13-2013, 07:23 AM
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Read up on
"Hostile work environment"

Something is very wrong if what you are saying is true.
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Old 05-13-2013, 07:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Seefood Man View Post
What "training" do these guys have to be a "supervisor" without any actual experience?

Sounds dangerous to me. Literally, A train wreck waiting to happen.
They give them a crash course on railroading and I think they train for about year at different locations but it's all on rules and how to use them against labor employees.
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Old 05-13-2013, 07:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Classic25 View Post
Over tonnage... Were laws broken?
I'm not sure on this one. We run over tonnage a lot and I'll have to find an FRA source and look. But I feel as if it were illegal they wouldn't do it so much. We are only over tonnage on account of our heavy grades. If you go from Roanoke to Norfolk, the largest grade is less than 1%. Two high adhesion locomotives can move 180 loads of coal there and pull the hills at 25 mph. Us, not so much. We have a lot of curves as well and that really binds up the cars. Weight+curves+grades+wore out engines=bad things.
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Old 05-13-2013, 07:33 AM
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Originally Posted by NSengnr28 View Post
They give them a crash course on railroading and I think they train for about year at different locations but it's all on rules and how to use them against labor employees.
From the sounds of it, that is what it is.

Isn't there protocol for tonnage?
Like X tons + weather + grades + speed = required horsepower
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Old 05-13-2013, 07:39 AM
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Originally Posted by 08087 View Post
I work on a passenger RR myself and know what you mean about waste. Best I canoffer you is make sure all radio transmissions are recorded so that you can prove yourself right in case something goes wrong, be sure tomfollow you train orders to the T and don't go over any work rights you may have, in addition any time an FRA rule comes into question follow it as you will be the scape goat if the shit ever hits the fan.
This is the best advice yet. (27years railroad service)
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Old 05-13-2013, 07:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Cracker View Post
You cant fix stupid....usually it will fix itself, sometimes it will take a little while but someone of authority will take notice of the incompetent.
This maybe true, however they will most certainly put someone more incompetent in place.
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Old 05-13-2013, 07:49 AM
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They are ignorant for the same reason you are. Wait what? Hear me out. This is fixable.

You have two groups of employees - those who do the work (known as workers or individual contributors) and the managers. Workers don't make good managers and managers don't make good workers.

I'll switch industries so it hopefully helps to take some of the emotion out of it. You have a bunch of computer programmers, reporting to manager x. Everyone is happy for a number of years, until manager x leaves. The company, trying to promote from within, figures that since Joey the programmer is a really good programmer, he'll make an excellent manager of programmers. Within four months, things are going downhill. Why, because when the only tool you own is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. Joey doesn't know the first thing about project management, or how to keep everyone's ego in check. Projects start getting delivered over budget, past deadline, and out of scope. Joey blames the other programmers and they blame him. He fails to see the bigger picture, and is too set in his ways.

Scenario 2, manger x leaves and instead of promoting Joey, they bring in manager y. He's 22 years old, has his MBA, but doesn't know shiit about programming. This won't go well either. He can grasp the concept of the bigger picture, but fails miserably on the day to day stuff.

The right answer is to find someone in the middle, the guy whose knowledge is a mile wide and a foot deep. He knows enough to understand the issue, but he wants people under him that know more than he does about their specific subject matter. This type of manager is difficult to find, as most fall into one of the previous two categories. Over time, either one can learn what he or she needs to become a better manager, but it's not an overnight thing.

You need to develop a better relationship with your manager before you need it. Gain his confidence, so he knows you know what you're talking about. Tell him things that will help him, as opposed to trying to tell him how to do his job. If he trusts you first, and then you tell him "this isn't going to work", he'll be much more likely to listen to you.

You need to learn how to manage up. Often those with the right answer fail from "right message wrong method". Telling your boss "What are you stupid? There's no way we'll be able to pull that!" might get the message across, but he's not going to take your advice. Saying "we can do that, but it's very likely that we'll have a breakdown." will stand a better chance of getting his attention.

You want to get the train to where it needs to go. He wants to keep costs down. These two items are often at odds.
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Old 05-13-2013, 07:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Seefood Man View Post
From the sounds of it, that is what it is.

Isn't there protocol for tonnage?
Like X tons + weather + grades + speed = required horsepower
Railroads have tonnage ratings for engines just like we have horsepower ratings for our boats. You have groups 1-6, #1 being smaller, low horsepower, four axle engines. #6 being high adhesion, high horsepower, six axle engines. Group six is rated for 3,780 tons. If you have four of them, you are good for 15,120 tons. That puts us under the limit, I've ran trains with this set up and it works flawlessly. But we hardly ever get group 6 engines on both ends.
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Old 05-13-2013, 08:02 AM
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Originally Posted by jobowker View Post
They are ignorant for the same reason you are. Wait what? Hear me out. This is fixable.

You have two groups of employees - those who do the work (known as workers or individual contributors) and the managers. Workers don't make good managers and managers don't make good workers.

I'll switch industries so it hopefully helps to take some of the emotion out of it. You have a bunch of computer programmers, reporting to manager x. Everyone is happy for a number of years, until manager x leaves. The company, trying to promote from within, figures that since Joey the programmer is a really good programmer, he'll make an excellent manager of programmers. Within four months, things are going downhill. Why, because when the only tool you own is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. Joey doesn't know the first thing about project management, or how to keep everyone's ego in check. Projects start getting delivered over budget, past deadline, and out of scope. Joey blames the other programmers and they blame him. He fails to see the bigger picture, and is too set in his ways.

Scenario 2, manger x leaves and instead of promoting Joey, they bring in manager y. He's 22 years old, has his MBA, but doesn't know shiit about programming. This won't go well either. He can grasp the concept of the bigger picture, but fails miserably on the day to day stuff.

The right answer is to find someone in the middle, the guy whose knowledge is a mile wide and a foot deep. He knows enough to understand the issue, but he wants people under him that know more than he does about their specific subject matter. This type of manager is difficult to find, as most fall into one of the previous two categories. Over time, either one can learn what he or she needs to become a better manager, but it's not an overnight thing.

You need to develop a better relationship with your manager before you need it. Gain his confidence, so he knows you know what you're talking about. Tell him things that will help him, as opposed to trying to tell him how to do his job. If he trusts you first, and then you tell him "this isn't going to work", he'll be much more likely to listen to you.

You need to learn how to manage up. Often those with the right answer fail from "right message wrong method". Telling your boss "What are you stupid? There's no way we'll be able to pull that!" might get the message across, but he's not going to take your advice. Saying "we can do that, but it's very likely that we'll have a breakdown." will stand a better chance of getting his attention.

You want to get the train to where it needs to go. He wants to keep costs down. These two items are often at odds.
I agree totally with what you are saying and I handle these situations as you described. I do not talk down to them but calmly and kindly explain why this will not work. Some take my word for it, some don't.
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Old 05-13-2013, 08:15 AM
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Kind of like following the rules to a tee when you have hot wheels on a train and are told not to move off the trestle!



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Old 05-13-2013, 08:39 AM
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Like was said earlier, no sense in beating your head against the wall. My rule of thumb is not to make someone else's problem my problem. You have offered advice before, they will not listen. Take the train out, when you get stuck let them know right away, forget again about advsing them on how they should handle it, and then wait for them to provide a solution.

Life is too short to get worked up about other's incompetence.
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