Thursday, May 1, 2014

In which Becky walks off the job

You guys, I have usually worked with professionals who take pride in what they do. Sure, we all complain about the boss and about the CEO and the CEO's wife, who has decided that a Fortune 100's main charity should be something completely unrelated to the company's business -

I won't give you the real company and the real stupid charity because that would be stupid of me, but let's say that the company made steel and the charity was Feed the Kitties in Finland. Not that I am against feeding the kitties - I am not - I love the kitties -  but what on earth does feeding kitties have to do with making steel? A company's charitable enterprises still should support the overall mission of the company. They are not supposed to be the whim of someone who does not even work at the company.

So yeah I have worked with people who do the normal griping about the things that normal people gripe about, but when it comes down to it, we have all done our jobs and done them well. We don't blow things off so our co-workers are stuck with them. We try to work together even when we don't like each other very much. We do what needs to be done because 1. we are not working as a hobby and 2. we take pride in doing good work.

One thing we do not do is say, "That's not my job." I hate hearing that. When I was a clerk at Macy's, I heard other clerks saying that. "That's not my job," even when it was a customer asking something reasonable. Your job is to help the customer and to do what it takes to increase sales, as long as it is moral, legal, and ethical. You might not like picking prom dresses up off the dressing room floor, but yes, that is your job.

I now work with an interesting bunch. A few super people and then a few with the "it's not my job" attitude.

How can it not be your job to think of better ways to do your job? How can it not be your job to help prepare documents for your replacement? How can it not be your job to share what is happening with your customers with the rest of the group?

My boss is the highest-ranking person in my office, but he is not the boss of anyone else but me. Still, he is doing what he can to improve office operations and morale. He has implemented a weekly meeting for the entire office. The first few times, half the people sat there with their arms folded. Didn't have anything to say when my boss asked them what was going on in their areas. Two of the people didn't even sit at the table - they sat against the wall.

My boss and I talked about it. I think he's doing the right thing - we have to do something to improve morale and operations - but it will take time. I told him half the office hated the meetings. He didn't believe me.

"When Sergio was here, he asked if people wanted to have a weekly meeting and they said yes!" he exclaimed.

I shook my head. "Nobody dares contradict Sergio to his face," I said. "Haven't you noticed how they sit there with their arms folded?"

Nope. He hadn't. Bless his heart my boss is really good at what he does, but he is not a reader of people and is just not interested. Primo is the same way. We were walking through the airport here once - plain midwestern city airport - and among the jeans and sweatshirted and mulleted I spied two Buddhist monks in saffron robes.

"Omigosh!" I said to Primo when I caught up to him. "Did you see the monks?"

"The what?" he asked.

"The monks! The two Buddhist monks!"

"Nope," he said.


He shrugged. "I don't pay attention to anything but my goal."

(Note that intense focus disappears when we are at home and he has the distractions of facebook and the cats and potato chips.)

My boss doesn't notice things like that. I suggested that he insist that everyone sit at the table. "You cannot have everyone at the table - you cannot have everyone agree - if some of the team literally is not at the table," I said.

Notice how I used "literally" in its literal sense. Do you like how I did that?

He agreed and the next meeting, everyone was at the table. And today, I asked one woman, one of the folded-arms group, to tell us about what she has been complaining about. She said it was nothing but I said that nope, it was a valid issue and we should all hear it.

So this is the climate - people who do not want to think.

Which leads to the bigger question: Why not? Are we hiring non-thinking it's not my job-ers?? Or do we hire thinkers and then convert them to non-thinking it's not my job-ers?

Last week, Becky resigned. Gave her two weeks' notice. Today, she had only a few days left. I thought we would probably have a lunch for her on her last day.

She was cranky, though. Her boss wanted her to put together a process manual for her replacement (who has yet to be hired, but a temp is coming in tomorrow to be trained). Becky was complaining that writing a process manual was not her job, it was her boss' job.

Of course, her boss probably does not know how to do Becky's job. A manager does not have to know how to do everything her subordinates do.

When I got back from lunch, I learned that Becky had walked out. Just quit. Left her badge. Did not serve out her notice period.

Just. Quit.

I have not been in that situation before - where someone just walked out.

One co-worker mused that maybe Becky was just like that. I asked if she had suspected it when they hired Becky. Nope, the co-worker said. She had interviewed Becky and liked her.

So the question is again: is my company hiring the wrong people, the people with the bad, unprofessional attitude? Or is it hiring good people and turning them bad?