Work Snafus Halt Vacation

Jim Luff
Posted on June 14, 2011
When systems start collapsing at the office, it is time to get back early.
One of the benefits of me being an operator and a writer is the ability to share my perspective of life in the transportation business from the trenches. Before beginning my writing career with another industry magazine, I always felt that writers could not possibly write about the daily life we live because they have never lived it. We all know this business of providing service 24/7 with last minute changes, last minute orders, and the demands of corporate travelers and bossy bride-zillas can take a toll on even the most seasoned pros.
It is this lifestyle that made me recently advocate in this space how important it is for you to take that time to vacation. Make that time! It clears your head, gives you fresh new ideas, and allows you to disconnect and enjoy life a little. I advised you to find a senior chauffeur, a family member, or trusted office staff person to run the business for you for just a few days. I take a lot of mini-vacations throughout the year and my staff is usually fully capable of handling anything thrown their way. However, this vacation was scheduled to be a whopping 10 days. It sounded glorious. I had dotted all my I’s and crossed all my T’s. I had checked, double checked, and triple checked with everyone on what my expectations were and made checklists for each day. I had carefully selected one person to be clearly in charge as the final authority on any major decisions.
It seems the old adage applies: When the boss is away, people will play. On Tuesday and Thursday, an office staff member called in sick. This was the beginning of the collapse as one girl tried to cover my work, the work of her sick co-worker, and her own work. Obviously this wasn’t a good situation. The best thing the covering employee could have done is called in a night dispatcher or two to help in the office during the day. Instead, she attempted to be super woman and cover it all.
Frustrated dispatchers reported to her that a handful of chauffeurs decided they wouldn’t take assignment calls or return messages left to call back for an assignment. That left the acting boss calling some of our corporate clients with last-minute rides to inform them that we could not fulfill them. Because so many orders come in electronically, checking e-mails and logging into networks such as Afnet and to check for new orders is imperative and a major part of her normal job. She attempted to delete all junk mail as it arrived so that only pertinent information that required service was left to process. She started getting e-mails with subject lines saying, “Second Request” and “Overdue Response,” and soon she realized more than 80 messages were waiting for service. Panic set in.
Add this on top of the fact that our office closed for Memorial Day weekend, so the paperwork from trips completed on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday all needed to be closed out. Affiliates needed final charges to bill their own clients. Corporate clients needed to be billed so we could get the money in the pipeline and credit cards needed to be settled for retail clients for each of those days. This was the job of the sick staff member, but absolutely needed to be done. It turned into a nightmare for her trying to accomplish the closings, answer incoming phone calls, monitor radio traffic to oversee dispatch, and take care of her own duties. By the time she called me to tell me this, there was no advice I could give her. The only option was to immediately return home and get back to the office first thing in the morning. It was disappointing but there really was no other way to handle it. It will not stop me from taking further vacations. It made me create a new plan of completing more cross-training, teaching night dispatchers how to close paperwork, and assist when needed. I already have taught her to delegate other personnel to handle customer service if needed so this never happens again.

-- Martin Romjue, LCT editor

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