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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Pride In Your Work

Let's talk about pride in your work for a second.

Recently on the Adam Carolla show, they were talking about how so many people are doing mediocre jobs, or sometimes no job at all. There was a nurse who called in, saying she had lost friends because she had to discipline her underlings, because they weren't doing the work they were being paid for. A patient would press on the call button and the nurses would go for coffee. She said there are so many who are just waiting for the end of their 12-hour shift so they can get a paycheck.

Adam, whose penchant for asking the obvious and yet not-obvious question makes me a forever-fan, asks, "why don't they s-can these nurses, if they're not doing their job?" She mentions a nursing shortage, but I don't buy that answer. Any hospital in their right mind would rather pick up a new hire than have a patient-neglect lawsuit on their hands.

I myself was the victim of some of this. Well, not me technically, but my wife. On the second day of my wife's hospitalization for her C-section. They asked us if they minded if we had a student nurse come in and help (with a supervisory nurse). She looked like she was college-age, and had tattoos on her wrists, and her overall attitude was that of an apathetic teenager. She said she was going to "yank" the catheter out of my wife's body (fortunately the supervisory nurse corrected her and humored the situation). She couldn't answer our questions (basic stuff like how low and high should the baby's temp be before we start worrying), and looked like she couldn't be bothered to find the answers. Her overall attitude reminded me of when I was in college, and constantly looking at the clock and waiting for class to be over. I remember thinking "this girl isn't going to make it in this career". Thank god the supervisory nurse was there, or I don't know what we'd have done.

I don't think it's that people don't take pride in their work anymore, it's that no one does anymore than a yeoman's job. And they certainly don't project an attitude that they care. I do it myself. Even the place I work at is big on business incentive programs (because they make them), and they practice what they preach. But at the end of the day, I know that it's always going to be the project managers and salespeople who get the most love, because they're the ones facing the client. They don't actually make what the client wants, like me. And I refuse to believe their job is more important than mine. Without us, they'd be selling snake oil.

For example, take the company's incentive program. They award points that you can exchange for merchandise, either through a "random drawing" or by managers for good work on a project. But this is like being given monopoly money. The "random drawing" winners are always the PMs (if I recognize their names). And only the managers, who I don't work with, can give awards. There are no peer-to-peer awards, or awards from anyone I actually work with day-to-day. I've been here 6 months and only gotten 240 award points, and that was from a "special" project - special meaning its existence is an exception to the rule, and quite frankly, wouldn't have existed unless there was no normal work for me. With my 240 points, I can get such useful products as a comforter set, a clock radio, and golf shoes. But no cash, oh no, that's not as motivating.

And the thing about these incentives is it's not like I can try to get them. I wasn't working towards them at the time, I just got handed them at the end of the project. If I don't know when or where they're coming from , how can they motivate me to work harder? I'm not going to work overtime because I _might_ get award points.

Commercials talk a lot about "drive" and "skills" and "motivation", and really, I don't have any. Nobody's giving me any, besides money. Nobody seems to care whether I'm there or not, or about the applied knowledge I have. One minute I get points, the next I'm being moved to another department, like Milton. I'm put on a special project, but only because there's no work for me. We have substandard equipment, like phones with no speaker option. On my first day here, nothing was set up for me - I didn't have access to anything, and my supervisor wasn't even here. There was no training plan, and the one I got after a week was outdated by years. And why should I have any company loyalty when I'm at constant risk of being laid off. I've been laid off before, because the idiot, crazy-dog-lady supervisor hired too many people for the position, and needed to cut back. Even my own father, a man close to retirement, has been under threat of unemployment for going on five years now. The only reason they don't is because they can't find anyone to do his job (since he works with outdated technology, for a company too cheap to replace its outdated technology).

Do you see what I mean? I'm not motivated because the employers barely know I exist, and they don't regard me with the respect they give others. Oh, the people who've been here five and ten years, they love them. What motivation do I have to take pride in my work, when they won't take pride in me?

But this article isn't about motivating people to work, it's about the people that aren't doing their job and still get kept on (and I feel hypocritical writing this, because I was sort of guilty of it at one time, and did get shitcanned, but that wasn't because I didn't do my job). It's about people like the nurse I had. Or the IT guy who doesn't replace the guy's computer because it's locking up and making loud whirring noises. No, he doesn't replace it automatically, he needs to hear it. Because, you know, he might be lying. But these people don't get fired. Why? Probably because its hard to hire people. It's not uncommon for people to have five to six jobs in their life. I'm already on number three, I expect that number to double at least. If you don't do your job, you do need to be fired.
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