By: Revanche

Response to Americans at Work

April 23, 2008

Meg’s post on the American work ethic and who would benefit from working in an environment where they were only paid for what they produced for a period of time, and the comments, really resonated with me today.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been doing a lot of managerial work for the past 18 months, and that includes training the employees I helped select, and directing them in their work. When they have a semi-slow day like today, they’re at loose ends, and aren’t familiar enough with the routine tasks that are often pushed to the side during deadlines. Their automatic response is: “I could go home. At 10 am.” My automatic response is: “Get your notepad and sit down. I’m going to train you on something new. There’s always something to do, or something to learn.”

The reason I’m the one in this seat of responsibility is because of that attitude. The reason no one wants my position is because no one else has my work ethic.

Here’s the dichotomy: It’s good in that, based on my work record, I can command a much higher salary in this field than I’d get elsewhere at my age and three years of experience. But, the recognition and smoother work relationships that ought to have developed thanks my decision making and efforts have not. Considering my tripled workload, I should have been promoted and received more raises than I have, by now. So, it’d be one thing if this job translated into the kind of progress that Miguel’s made:

To the point of the post, there is no doubt that people treat their work very differently when they have accountability – either positive (pay tied to results) or negative (keeping job tied to results). I’ve always sought situations where accountability is taken to the extreme because this is usually where the maximum pay-off resides. And it has served me well.

But because this path has become stagnant, I’ve realized that I’ve allowed the job, because of my work ethic, to consume my life for an unworthy goal. It didn’t start out that way, but that’s what it’s become, possibly due to external influences on our office.

That was starkly evident at our Christmas dinner. We went around the table, at Big Boss’s behest, to say something about everyone. The general theme was everyone’s personalities and how they interacted with one another. C1 and C3 are the gigglers, they laugh at anything and everything. They catch every pop culture reference known to man or beast. C2 often exists in her own universe, and when she emerges, is either the smartest or funniest person in the room.

The theme of my roast? Little Boss: How I could do better. Everyone else: How hard I work. How my life revolves around this office. My knowledge. My function as a reference for every question. My working like I was an indentured servant, or like I was profit-sharing.

It’d be flattering, I suppose, if I didn’t realize that it’s also a sign that I’m fast becoming the cautionary tale, or the precautionary tale of the dark side of this moon. Little Boss is already the cautionary tale of someone who rose in the ranks based on this kind of work ethic, and continues to sacrifice his family for a place that doesn’t appreciate him nearly enough. That’s what I could become in ten years if I were foolish enough to stick around that long. And you know something? If Little Boss was half as interested in growing me as an employee as I am in growing my team, I’m pretty certain that I’d be the perfect employee: willing to bust my butt for as many hours as it took to get the jobs done, and feeling appreciated.

There’s a fine line between being a great employee and a sucker. While I don’t regret putting my best effort forward because I always want to be proud of my work, and I can always learn skills to take home, there’s no need to remain married to this job if it’s evident that there’s no room for growth. That’d be a sucker’s move.

6 Responses to “Response to Americans at Work”

  1. I agree.. I’m feeling that now, hence why I’m geddin’ out at the end of the year once I get this project done and over with

  2. ~FB~ I didn’t know you had plans to move on from your company as well as move locations, I think I just assumed you were going to move out to a separate home. Good luck with your new prospects! Are you already hunting, or just networking?

  3. SavingDiva says:

    It sounds like you have a really solid work ethic. I’m sorry that it’s under appreciated.

  4. ~saving diva~ Thanks, I’m just going to take my work ethic and go play somewhere else since they don’t appreciate me 🙂

  5. I soooo agree!!!
    I have just left a job where this was the case, I’m hoping in my new job things improve!!
    I think historically it was called Protestant Work Ethic

    Hope things improve for you!

  6. ~Notes From The Frugal Trenches~ Thanks for the good wishes, and best of luck in your new job as well!

    My history teacher liked to point out that the Protestant Work Ethic wasn’t always the best solution for the Protestants, and is a poor tactic if that’s all you’re bringing to the table. I think he’s right ….

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