Workplace Bullying

As a young graduate engineer trying to gain experience in the real and practical world after 5 years of theoritical exploitation, I have experienced workplace bullying, that is, if you call it that way.

My first experience with workplace bullying was in a Sugar Mill/Refinery.

I was from another region, I don't speak or understand a bit the dialect being spoken in the factory. I believed, I was the only one who could understand myself. It was good, the Philippines got a national language spoken and understood by 90% of Filipinos. That was my only way of communicating with my peers who were already as old as my father.

My peers were old timers. They have been working in the company for two (2) decades or more. The factory was there life. A new comer like me is a threat to their job security. With their attitude, I could not rely on them to teach or train me. All I needed to do was to be self-reliant by reading equipment manuals. Sometimes, these old timers even hide the manuals so that nobody will be able to learn what they knew and it will always be their ace at work.

The old timers, despite being very proficient in their current trade were not keen on learning new technologies. They were very good in trouble shooting the good old electro-mechanical relays control panels. These control panel measured about 2 meters in height by 3 meters long and weighs about half a ton. These were very noisy and considerably hot during operation.

A can bug crawl between their contacts and can disable the whole equipment. Thus the modern term "BUG" in software technology. Finding the bug in these control panel is physically looking for the bug itself.

My chance to be recognized begun when a new control panel came as part of a new equipment. It was PLC based. It was tiny and light compared to the good old electro-mechanical relay.

The equipment was installed and commissioned by the vendor technicians. After a couple of weeks of testing, no actual testing was done, only functional and simulated testing as interface equipment were not yet ready to provide raw materials to the newly installed equipment. The simulation was all okay so a big tick mark was given and customer acceptance was completed.

When the all interfaces was completed, actual testing begun. The result, the equipment was not functioning as expected. Motor breaking was so quick that discharge gate of the centrifuge flies off its frame causing loud noise as it bangs to the equipment frame.

The boss was not happy. The Vendor was called but the technicians were only available in about 3 weeks time. Leaving the new equipment non-operational for another 3 weeks was unacceptable. The company will be losing money.

As this new equipment was PLC based, the old timers were not keen on learning how to fix the problem. As it was my chance to prove myself, I volunteered to try and fix the problem. This is my first time dealing with a PLC but not with programming. My previous job in a semiconductor company, I was always dealing with equipment programming. I want to give this a try.

After a couple of days of digging into the technical manuals, I was able to trace the cause of the problem. It was a timer for the dynamic braking of the drive motor. After several trials, I was able to get the correct setting. The new equipment is now fully functional ready for production. I got brownie ('pogi') points from the boss.

That was the start for the old timers to accept me into their circle. I proved myself once more when I fixed a blown fuse problem of a DC drive. This problem was recurring for several months already. The fuse costs about PhP 2000 each but production cost stoppage due to breakdown of the DC drive cost more than PhP 100K per hour.

My experience with workplace bullying was due to the old timers feeling of insecurity and the new comers inability to perform the expected task. Bottom line, it was competition one way or another.

About the Author

Ver Pangonilo
A Filipino Engineer, Registered Professional Engineer of Queensland (RPEQ) - Australia and Professional Electrical Engineer (PEE) - Philippines with extensive experience in concept select, front-end engineering, HV & LV detail design, construction and commissioning of Hazardous and Non-Hazardous Area electrical installations in water and waste water pipeline and pumping facilities, offshore platforms, hydrocarbon process plants and pipelines including related facilities. Hazardous area classification and design certification (UEENEEM015B, UEENEEM016B, UEENEEM017B).
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