Thursday, December 15, 2011

Herpin' derps

This morning, when I got into work ,I found myself alone in the office (not unusual when I usually arrive for work at the ungodly hour of 6.45am). On my way to the desk I saw a poster on the wall I hadn't noticed before...and it pissed me off quite badly.

It was something straight out of 'Office Space'. Emblazoned across the top were the words "Can you give an extra 1%?"...then it answered for you with: 'Absolutely'.

I'll spare you the details, but I'll give you the gist. It basically said that if everyone works just that little bit harder and makes just one more phonecall a day or schedules one more visit, when you multiply that by the number of employees in the company and then multiply that by the number of work days a year, that one extra call means millions more for the company.

This poster was drawn up by someone who has never worked in a cubicle.

You see, if I go to work and just do my job, I get paid at the end of the month. If I go into work, slog my guts out, 'go the extra mile', work through my lunch hour and be the best goddamn employee the world has ever seen...I make exactly the same amount. Worse yet, as anyone who's ever worked in a cubicle will tell you, if you up your game and start Herping 20 Derps a day instead of 10, your boss makes 20 Herps the new baseline and starts asking you to do 30.

If you translate that poster out of bullshit management speak, it really says: Work harder and make a ton more money...for someone else.

You see, if you're a department head, and your department out performs all the others, you get a bonus check and a promotion. If you work in a cubicle, you just get asked to do better next year.

In my last job before I moved to the states, I had this exact conversation with someone pretty damn high up in the company I was working for at the time (being in a position where you're moving in a couple of weeks and don't need the job or the reference any more does wonders for your honesty), and she said:

"Well, yes, but what's good for the company is good for all its employees. After all the company pays your wages and if it under performs and goes bust, you could lose your job"

Now, time have changed a bit, but I called bullshit then and I call bullshit now. If you're a high-level suit earning £80,000 a year with a company car and expense account, you're damn sure you've got a vested interest in your business doing well. If you're earning minimum wage to do all the bitch work in a cubicle, if things go wrong and the business folds...well, let's just say there's no shortage of other shitty jobs.

The other thing she said was that if you work hard you'll 'get noticed' and then you'll be the one with the flash car and expense account...which makes sense, except for the fact that this was the same woman who once told me: "Oh, we'd love to promote you, but you're irepplacable in the role you're in now." In other words, you're too good at your job and no one else is willing to put up with the same shit you put up with for seven quid an hour.

Basically, you can't motivate me with 'team spirit' or 'breaking records' or 'providing world class service', because I don't see the company as a team that I belong to. I see it as the place I have to go to every day in order to pay my bills.

Now, this may seem really cynical and mercenary to a lot of people, but here's the thing: Put me in a job where I'm well paid and well treated and you can be damn sure I'll work my ass off to keep that job.

There's truth to the saying: Pay peanuts and you'll get monkeys. Minimum wage means I can work the same number of hours literally anywhere else and I'll earn the same or better.

Now, the thing is, I don't want to give anyone the impression that I'm a 'bare minimum' kind of guy. I work hard and when something needs to be done, I make damn well sure it gets done...but if you want me to 'go the extra mile', the only way you're going to motivate me to do that is to pay me for it, because like everyone else at my level in your company, I want to go to work, make enough money to pay my bills and go the fuck home.

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