1. “Free” college. Almost a decade ago, the federal government stepped in and allowed people to refinance their mortgages during the housing crisis – but only if you let your payments fall behind. If you took your word as your bond and paid on time even though it was hard, well fuck you sucker. That’s why it took me $30,000 out of pocket to close the sale on my Tennessee house. I played by the rules and got properly fucked for the trouble. Now Senator Warren comes along and wants to push student loan “forgiveness” as the brave new way ahead. If she gets away with it, once more I’m a sucker for playing by the rules, doing the hard work, and being responsible for paying my own debts. I really do despise the 21st century.
2. Morale. Apparently as a moral boosting endeavor we’ve installed a wall-sized mural with my organization’s name blazed across 30-feet of graphics and some fancy new signage in our bit of cubicle hell. I’m sure someone thought it would be a good idea and that everyone was sure to find it inspirational. I’m just not one of them. I’m probably too jaded and cynical at this point to ever be bought off by new signage. That’s just the kind of guy I am. Want to improve my morale? Throw me a step increase in recognition of the work I’ve done. Hit me with a time off award – that one is my personal favorite. Order up some office chairs that aren’t low bidder junk or computers that aren’t crippled right out of the box. If you’re going to spend the money, spend it on something that matters… because new wallpaper doesn’t get it done.
3. 5PM. Being a creature of habit, there’s not much I value more on any given weekday than leaving the office on time. I value arriving on time, too… because getting to work on time is a reasonable employer expectation. The converse should also be true – leaving on time should be a reasonable employee expectation. Except the average office is full of subtle signs and symbols that it isn’t the case. No one will come right out and say it, but you’re supposed to just understand and not mention that someone at echelons higher than reality has scheduled a meeting to start an hour or two after you’re supposed to have departed the area for the day – and that’s assuming that the meeting will accidentally start on time, which of course it won’t… The not so subtle message being that anything you have outside the office walls couldn’t possibly be as important as what’s happening inside them. Then again, this is often driven by the same people who think they can fix morale problems with wallpaper, so it’s whatever I guess.
I worked through lunch today trying desperately to un-cluster a fuck that need not have been clustered to begin with. The cluster in question was entirely self inflicted – as are most of our most damaging wounds, really. Truly we have met the enemy…
See, the problem is that we’ve got a really dumb habit of rewarding bad behavior. See, how I always, naively, thought it should work was that you provide ample lead time, sufficient instruction, and a deadline. Then, being reasonably close approximations of adult human beings, we can get that assignment done. What really happens, of course, is you provide the lead time, instructions, and deadline and everyone waits patiently until the deadline expires to begin screaming about not having the time, the people, or the money to get it done. All the pitfalls are things that could have been rectified early in the process if only people paid just a little bit of attention.
They don’t do that, of course. It’s far easier to blow off a deadline and expect someone else to jump through their ass to bail you out than doing the thing to begin with would have been. Hoping that there might be some level of accountability – that “because you didn’t do X, you cannot now do Y” – is a pipe dream at best. It’s one of those words we like to talk about, but not do a thing to enforce because it means someone is going to have to have an awkward conversation.
Day in and day out we reward bad behavior and then wonder why every single goddamned thing turns into a world-class cluster fuck.
1. Side effects. We all know I’m a fan of better living through chemistry. The problem, of course is that in addition to what various chemicals do to keep you alive, they all come with some kind of side effect – an unintended consequence if you will. The side effect of Flexeril, apparently, is that it it keeps my eyes from focusing on fine details (such as words typed on a computer screen) and leaves me feeling in a constant state of “about to fall asleep.” Neither of these things lead to a happy or productive Jeff, and that’s not a recipe for better living. Still it’s a step up from some of the side effects I’ve read about like anal seepage, stroke, and death. Clearly with these things there’s a very, very fine line between medicine and poison.
2. The reward for good work. I’ve never understood why the reward for doing good work is getting the opportunity to do more work. Wouldn’t it make more sense to say something like “Hey, you did a bang up job on that last thing, so go ahead and take a knee and we’ll let some other schlub carry the water this time.” Of course that’s not how it works at all. It’s easier to find a good horse, ride it until it falters, and then beat it because it stopped. I might not have attended a big fancy ivy covered school of business, but I learned enough from my studies to know that personnel management model is rarely successful in the long run.
3. Guilt. I make a point not to bring the work home with me. Eight hours a day is bad enough without letting it bleed over into the rest of the day. By extension, I try to offer the job the same respect by keeping my personal issues at home. There’s some inevitable bleed over, though. Like today, for instance, when I feel an unreasonable sense of guilt for sitting here with the heating pad on and my feet up at a time of day when I would usually be at the office. Intellectually I get that I wouldn’t really be doing anyone any good sitting at my desk today when I can’t concentrate on anything that requires more than four or five consecutive minutes of thought. I’d be lying if I said I was going to enjoy this time off, but I’ll be doing my level best to get past the idea of feeling guilty for burning off my sick leave on a day when I’m not hacking and sneezing all over the room.