Some say that he has two left hands, and his nose can tell when it will rain. All we know is that he's called DFM.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Hank Hill Wants You... To Be The Tough Boss

Recently I read a hilarious article on The Onion's website entitled Incompetent Staff Feels Underappreciated. The gist of this article is that a group of office staffers who are chronic under performers, spend a large amount of their time complaining about how the company does not thank them for how hard they work to make up for all the time they wasted. When the "journalist" questions their employer, the president responds "I wish I could just fire the entire staff for being so incompetent, but between going on vacation and running around trying to buy a second home, I'm really only in the office a couple of days a year." Despite The Onion being a "fake news" source, there is more than a shred of truth to this joke.

I recently "retired" from my part-time job this month because I am moving. While at the job I was constantly amazed at how the company continued to perform as well as it did. The staff was underpaid and there was no incentive program to speak of. So why then were there few instances of employees wasting large amounts of time? Answer: Constant management and supervision. The two managers on staff frequently checked up on employees to ensure that the were on task and performing their jobs properly. The effect of this was that everyone felt the job was somehow important, even though the wages did not reflect it.

In a seemingly unrelated incident, I was having a conversation recently with a high school student, who happened to be my coworker, about an assignment that each of us had completed (obviously not in the same class or at the same time). The assignment was to keep a food journal - a description of everything you've eaten over a period of time. I was shocked to hear that she felt the exercise was a waste of time, since I felt it was one of the single most important assignments I had ever completed (i.e., I learned a great deal from completing it). Upon further questioning I realized a key difference in the assignments.

Whereas I was required to record the foods that I ate, their caloric content, the amount of fat, protein, and carbohydrates they contained, the amount of fibre they contained, the amount of vitamin A and C they contained and compare this to my RDI (Recommended Daily Intake), my coworker was merely required to write down the foods she ate for each meal. Perhaps then it is no surprise that she felt the assignment held no real value and started to make up foods rather than actually record what she ate. She felt the exercise lacked value, because she was given an assignment that required little to no effort to complete. Consequently she was not willing to put the work into completing it properly. Teachers, parents, and supervisors constantly try to combat poor moral by lessening expectations and it just does not work. High expectations make the recipients of demands feel as though their time is valued.

We are living in a world in which discipline is viewed as something evil. Many parents don't want to scold their children because it makes them feel "mean." Many teachers don't want to fail their students because then the student's feelings will be hurt (plus they'll feel "mean"). Passengers on a bus don't want to scold teenagers for being loud and obnoxious because the teenagers might laugh at them. The list goes on and on. All of these fears are perhaps natural, but not at all conducive to attaining positive results. Like my managers, sometimes the people who are responsible need to yell and scream and otherwise get in the faces of those who aren't. You might be called a "horrible oppressor" if you try this, but as Hank Hill says "you're the boss, you have to do whatever it takes to get the job done."

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