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Thread: Is it that difficult? A question about trying.

  1. #1
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    Is it that difficult? A question about trying.

    Please don't misunderstand this post. I am not claiming abilities beyond the norm nor am I trying to imply I'm above average intelligence.

    In my job I've been baffled lately. There seems to be an almost intentional lack of effort and most certainly a lack of learning on the part of... people. I won't go into details but when, time and time again, there is a clear pattern of ineptitude one would think *learning* would take place. There then would be adjustment for new information followed by something looking like follow-up.

    It is frustrating. I get paid to be good at what I do. And I am. What baffles me is that people get paid to be mediocre. People with permanent positions. People that don't have to drive 6 hours from home to pay the bills. They are inept and willfully so.

    I know this happens everywhere. But here it is just so obvious - so few layers to dig through to see the problems. And the resolutions are so simple.

    Vent over.

  2. #2
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    Not as an excuse, but realistically, the difference between a human and a robot is that we have more complex motivations. Robots are never deliberately mediocre. But we are animals that strive to survive, of course, but we do so in groups, and our behavior also intensely involves issues of obedience, resistance, and stuff like that.
    As above, so below

  3. #3
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    for some people, just being good enough to get a paycheck is good enough for them. they go to work because they have to, and do just enough to be able to keep the job at their current level of pay.
    right now, i'm in one of those phases- but a couple of weeks ago, i was trying to learn as much as i could about my job.. of course, a couple of weeks ago, i was on track to be the night shift supervisor and they were going to hire more people to work under me.
    now, since there is no night shift and they aren't looking to hire any more people any time soon, i'm just another face on day shift.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by LotusExcelle View Post
    ... What baffles me is that people get paid to be mediocre. People with permanent positions. ...
    Tell me about it.

    And those are almost always the people who do the most complaining, expect the best pay, refuse to do overtime, and want the most vacation and time off.

    The people who really enjoy their work and are good at it are usually different.

    As a publisher of scientific literature, I deal with university professors on a daily basis. You'd be surprised how much blatant and openly bleeding, obstinate, unreflected, and undifferentiated stupidy can bear academic titulature.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kleindoofy View Post
    Tell me about it.

    And those are almost always the people who do the most complaining, expect the best pay, refuse to do overtime, and want the most vacation and time off.

    The people who really enjoy their work and are good at it are usually different.

    As a publisher of scientific literature, I deal with university professors on a daily basis. You'd be surprised how much blatant and openly bleeding, obstinate, unreflected, and undifferentiated stupidy can bear academic titulature.
    The ratio of complaining vs. pay is an interesting one - and I'm glad you brought it up. I do get paid quite a bit more than most people in my position. But to be honest the people I'm speaking of get paid at least 30% more than they *should*. And though that may be a biased statement I can honestly say I've never seen people with so few skills get paid so much. Motivation aside - skills should pay, I feel. And for sure skills coupled with motivation should pay even more. I know that isn't how life works but it is frustrating at times.

    I am glad to see I'm not the only one that deals with... issues... at work.

    I think of one word when this stuff gets to me: entitlement. I'm not asking for these things - I'm going out and getting them for myself. But when people expect money and greatness for no effort...

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    Quote Originally Posted by novaderrik View Post
    for some people, just being good enough to get a paycheck is good enough for them. they go to work because they have to, and do just enough to be able to keep the job at their current level of pay.
    right now, i'm in one of those phases- but a couple of weeks ago, i was trying to learn as much as i could about my job.. of course, a couple of weeks ago, i was on track to be the night shift supervisor and they were going to hire more people to work under me.
    now, since there is no night shift and they aren't looking to hire any more people any time soon, i'm just another face on day shift.

    Hang in there. And if you do differentiate yourself you will be noticed. Maybe not by who you think or when you think. But it does happen. And it helps you (me) sleep at night knowing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LotusExcelle View Post
    It is frustrating. I get paid to be good at what I do. And I am. What baffles me is that people get paid to be mediocre. People with permanent positions. People that don't have to drive 6 hours from home to pay the bills. They are inept and willfully so
    The flip side doesn't win you any friends.

    After my time at CERN, I switched jobs, and spent a decade assembling teams of hugely driven and able individuals, who then spent twelve to fifteen hours a day trying to make every single aspect of their work better, every day. I picked the best I could find from around the world, and trained them to never accept that the current way was the best.

    Every system was examined, all of our numerical and organisational skills were brought to bear. We learned new programming languages when we needed to, taught ourselves new and interesting mathematics, and generally developed every skill that we needed as quickly as we could.

    The rare mistakes were noted, analysed, and systems put in place to avoid them happening again. No mistake ever happened twice. When we dealt with clients the phone was answered every single time, and if someone ever had to be passed to another desk we gave them our name and number first, and told them to call us back if they did not get what they needed.

    Every day, in every aspect of work, perfection was demanded. We became the best in the world at what we did, and our small group of seven people ended up making several hundred million pounds a year, every year, because people knew that if they called us they'd never need to call everyone else.

    As a result, our company was keen to keep us, and gave us a share of the profits.

    You'd imagine that this sort of over-the-top attention to detail, drive, and commitment would have people saying "what a good example, working like that for so long, good on them, we should run our factory/school/lab like that", but, of course, that is not even vaguely what the message is. What we are actually asked is

    "Why on earth should you earn more than I do?"

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    Quote Originally Posted by kleindoofy View Post
    You'd be surprised how much blatant and openly bleeding, obstinate, unreflected, and undifferentiated stupidy can bear academic titulature.
    Back when I was a lab tech, I showed one of the students a fairly obvious software trick [maybe I should say technique, as "trick" has got a bad press recently ] for using bit patterns in 2D graphics. Takes about 30 seconds. Student says "cool" and gets on with the project. Her professor comes along and asks how it works. I spend several hours going over it with him and he just doesn't get it. Keeps coming back to ask more questions.

  9. #9
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    Not to be prying, but that sounds a bit like what an investment banker might say. Am I close, or way off?
    As above, so below

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    One thing I've picked up from my education classes (multiple vectors) is that everybody has three inherent needs: survival (food and water), security (physical, social, and emotional), and acceptance. When any of these things are missing, a whole host of biological instincts come into play. None of these instincts promote complex judgment, learning, creativity, morale, or altruism.

    Someone who is hungry or thirsty will spend most of their energy seeking food and water, or at least thinking about seeking food and water.

    Someone who perceives their environment as "not secure" in either a physical or emotional sense will be engaging in threat detection, threat avoidance, and/or "fight-or-flight" reactions.

    Someone who feels unaccepted will either fort up emotionally or engage in active attention-seeking or passive-aggressive behavior.

    LotusExcelle, what you're seeing are symptoms of an unhealthy work environment. There's a problem, somewhere, that may have little to do with their competence or even their performance. It might be something in the group dynamic, it might be a trust issue with management. Workplace environmental issues sap performance in the long run.
    "Words that make questions may not be questions at all."
    - Neil deGrasse Tyson, answering loaded question in ten words or less
    at a 2010 talk MCed by Stephen Colbert.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Moose View Post
    LotusExcelle, what you're seeing are symptoms of an unhealthy work environment. There's a problem, somewhere, that may have little to do with their competence or even their performance. It might be something in the group dynamic, it might be a trust issue with management. Workplace environmental issues sap performance in the long run.
    A bad system will defeat a good person over time, every time. (paraphrase of Dr. Edwards Deming) Management is responsible for the system.

    My job is performance improvement. I work with the full spectrum of roles, from file clerks, supervisors, managers, directors & senior executives.

    My most challenging environment to help improve is not where there's conflict, but where there's apathy. Getting people engaged again and helping them to risk caring about their work....and yes, it is a risk that in most cases didn't pay off for them in the past.

    "That they are inept and willfully so"

    While often thought to be due to a lack of consequence, is often found to be due to the lack of acknowledgment. If the performance doesn't matter, it squelches the drive for excellence. It's tough to turn around, but it can be done...and it's great to see it when it happens. I'm working with several groups, one in particular was badly broken. Within 90 days, they've transformed themselves with a change in leadership's management style. There are still plenty of issues, but they know how to approach work and issues differently. Former rivals are now fist-bumping in the halls. The C- employee is now considered an A- employee who will soon become an A+ employee. This isn't an anomaly, it's a transition I have the joy of seeing over and over again.

    Everyone has skin in the game, but leadership is responsible for creating the environment: and knowing and managing the system in which people are working - including acknowledgment and accountability for performance.

  12. #12
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    Thinking takes work. A lot of people are just lazy.

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    That's an important aspect, laziness is definitely out there. I'm sometimes guilty of it.

    And that stupidy is bad stuff.

    Another aspect is accountability. If it's very hard to fire people, many will do as little as possible. That's what my wife has found for decades in her federal government (USA) position. And when you get an incompetent manager who can't be fired, you can even get in trouble for trying to improve things. She stays for the pension, and because somebody has to do the work.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kleindoofy View Post
    You'd be surprised how much blatant and openly bleeding, obstinate, unreflected, and undifferentiated stupidy can bear academic titulature.
    No, not after over 25 years in some form of academia, I wouldn't, not any more...

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    Two words. Peter Principle.

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    Most of my experience is in private industry in the US. Frequently, employees are laid off less because of competence or productivity issues than for the non-work related aspects of the performance, like where they graduated school, or whether or not they play golf. This won't protect a blatantly horrid employee, but it will make a difference on the margin.

    Also, a lot of workers simply don't care because they know that there is absolutely no meaningful positive reinforcement. Why work hard when you don't get a raise because the company's not doing well enough, but at the same time the CEO gets a bonus that's larger than the GNP of a small country for his great performance?
    Information about American English usage here. Floating point issues? Please read this before posting.

    How do things fly? This explains it all.

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  17. #17
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    Some people just need a good swift kick to the backside. An employer does not pay people to slack nor be mediocre. Those same folks would be "entirely different" if the shoe were on the other foot and they were the employer. Everyone deserves their money's worth: Including paying others' wages.
    Dip me in ink and toss me to the Poets.

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    Quote Originally Posted by eric_marsh View Post
    Thinking takes work. A lot of people are just lazy.
    I'm lazy enough to spend vast amounts of time thinking about ways of making my work more efficient so I have to do less work.
    __________________________________________________
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    Chase after the truth like all hell and you'll free yourself, even though you never touch its coat tails. Clarence Darrow
    A person who won't read has no advantage over one who can't read. Mark Twain

  19. #19
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    Laziness is one of the Three Virtues of System Administration. It's the virtue that drives a SysAdmin to write and test a two hundred line script to keep from having to type a sixteen character command every day.
    "Words that make questions may not be questions at all."
    - Neil deGrasse Tyson, answering loaded question in ten words or less
    at a 2010 talk MCed by Stephen Colbert.

  20. #20
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    There are very good reasons why I chose to own and run my own business.

    Many of them have been addressed in this thread.

  21. #21
    Until last July I was one of those who just wanted to go to work and get a pay check. For me it come mostly as a reflection of my thoughts of the supervisors there. They just wanted to show up nine to five and have weekends off. They worried about what the higher ups thought of them and cared little about the rest of the employees. One example was a bathroom light that took almost a year to get replaced, or a latch on a door in the same bathroom that still probably has not been fixed. Plus there were always rumours that it was going to closed down sooner or later.
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    The ratio of complaining vs. pay is an interesting one - and I'm glad you brought it up. I do get paid quite a bit more than most people in my position. But to be honest the people I'm speaking of get paid at least 30% more than they *should*. And though that may be a biased statement I can honestly say I've never seen people with so few skills get paid so much. Motivation aside - skills should pay, I feel. And for sure skills coupled with motivation should pay even more. I know that isn't how life works but it is frustrating at times.

    There can be other factors involved. For example, the number of skills a person brings to a job isn't necessarily as important as the market demand and profitability of those skills. My wife is a nurse. Many years ago, she worked for two of the top periodontists in town. Her primary responsibility was giving IV sedations but she did a lot more. At the time, she was making about $16 an hour. In the same practice, there were dental hygenists who were making $45 an hour. She thought that unfair until I pointed out to her the fundamental difference: she was an overhead expense while the hygenists were a profit center. The practice charged $75 for a cleaning that usually took an hour or less and paid the hygenists $45 an hour, so those hygenists made money. To the practice, they were worth more.

    It's possible those other workers you're upset about have skills that bring in money to the business, perhaps more than your contribution. Or they may just be slugs. Since I don't know you or your coworkers, I don't know one way or the other.

    I'm lazy enough to spend vast amounts of time thinking about ways of making my work more efficient so I have to do less work.

    I have 3 "Larry's Laws"

    1. Laziness is the foundation of efficiency.
    2. Anything is possible if you lower your standards far enough.
    3. Fashion is for suckers.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Jacks View Post
    2. Anything is possible if you lower your standards far enough.
    I tend to replace that one with:
    2. With the exception of parachuting, stubbornness can substitute for training and talent.

    You'll get it done in the end if you're willing to repeat doing it until it's done right.
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    Sounds like we have the classic Theory X vs Theory Y....and Theory X is ahead in this thread.

    Theory X, which stated that workers inherently dislike and avoid work and must be driven to it
    Theory Y, which stated that work is natural and can be a source of satisfaction when aimed at higher order human psychological needs...or
    Theory Z an offshoot of Theory Y and the Japanese mgmt movement from the 80's. While there's not a letter assigned to it, I have my own Theory GG, which is a variant of Theory Y.

    I've found repeatedly that when:
    management sets clear and unambiguous expectations, supports workers by acknowledging their output and listening to them....and respects their workforce by holding bad apples accountable, (up to and including dismissal)
    AND
    workers are both empowered AND accountable

    productivity & quality soars, turnover drops, job satisfaction improves, costs stabilize or improve. It's not magic, but it requires tremendous self-discipline on the part of management.

    Employees deserve to know their value to the company and their direct or indirect contribution to the bottom line. But that requires a greater level of transparency on the part of the organization than is comfortable for most U.S. companies. I'm in a support function, 100% overhead, and I know it. It keeps me on my toes.....and my fellow overheaders crisp in our functions; but we know how the company is doing....and how we're doing.

    We don't feel like we have the Sword of Damocles over our heads....anymore than anyone else, but we do feel a strong sense of responsibility to contribute and give our best. It's a great part of our corporate culture.
    Last edited by GalaxyGal; 2010-Feb-24 at 02:03 AM. Reason: typo

  25. #25
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    Man alive these are some fantastic posts in here. I really like the different perspectives you've all brought it. I'd like to try to address many of the different posts at once here:

    Jens - if you were asking if I'm an investment banker (not sure who you were asking) the answer is no. I'm a master/senior diesel technician.

    Moose - it is indeed an unhealthy work environment. In this case its a chicken or the egg kind of thing. The fault now, in my opinion, lies not with either group but rather with both. And it the issue is systemic within the company not just the one location I'm referring to in my OP. When a C grade tech gets A tech pay and doesn't perform C level work to par - there are issues. And they are ignored systemically.

    A friend and coworker of mine once said to me that a genius can hit a target no one else can see. And in a sense that is what is going on here. We are so far beyond the capability of even upper management that they are unaware that there is even a difference at all. They can't see it. And while I'm not claiming genius status I am saying that my abilities, in this case, are orders of magnitude beyond anyone I've come across on my travels to different locations.

    Its a complicated problem to resolve but it must start with management demanding more from their workers and backing that up with actions to support that requirement. Even if its brutal. There are a few people that are understandably worn down. I get that. Some have resorted to sabotage even.

    I really resist going into details but for various reasons it is near impossible to let the underperforming or even dangerous (let me tell you about the time my Toughbook took a 300A hit through the USB port) workers go.

  26. #26
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    Sounds like your management needs a wake-up call. Not uncommon to take the path of least resistance and let the poor (and potentially dangerous) employee slide. But they pay for it dearly in the performance of the dept, absenteeism, employee injuries and the retention of the top contributors.

    I've had managers stunned to learn that their staff would rather work short-handed than work with an incompetent and/or slacker. Not knowing their own business well enough to recognize your exceptional capabilities is unfortunately, not uncommon. They're missing out on developing your full capacity and leveraging your individual potential to raise the bar for everyone.

    Human Resources needs to back the manager when they make the tough call to discipline or dismiss a bad employee.....at every level.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by LotusExcelle View Post
    Jens - if you were asking if I'm an investment banker (not sure who you were asking) the answer is no. I'm a master/senior diesel technician.
    Sorry, it wasn't clear. I was asking NorthernBoy. I thought my message would be right after the message I was responding to, but Henna got his message in first. I should have quoted.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    Not to be prying, but that sounds a bit like what an investment banker might say. Am I close, or way off?
    I work for a bank, yes, but I am not paid to gamble. I sell tailored solutions to companies who want to reduce their risks, and so am not involved in "playing with" customers money, and my company pays me the minimum that they think that they can get away with.

    One of the things that makes me enjoy finance so much is that each person is expected to contribute, and that it is never acceptable to just turn up, go through the motions, and expect to progress.

    This is maybe drifting away from my point a little, though, which was that if you take two people, one of whom seeks every day to do the job better, always looks to improve, and puts in whatever it takes to get there, and one who watches the clock, resents the people who work harder, and does as little as they can get away with, then they don't have very good grounds for complaint when they fall behind, but that they will still complain anyway.

    It would drive me crazy if reward in any career became dissociated from effort and results, but I think that in some places it has.

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by HenrikOlsen View Post
    I'm lazy enough to spend vast amounts of time thinking about ways of making my work more efficient so I have to do less work.
    But that's not really laziness.

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    Originally Posted by Larry Jacks
    2. Anything is possible if you lower your standards far enough.

    I tend to replace that one with:
    2. With the exception of parachuting, stubbornness can substitute for training and talent.

    You'll get it done in the end if you're willing to repeat doing it until it's done right.


    My Law #2 is based on years of observation. It's cynical but accurate, IMO. Lower the standards far enough and you can declare anything a success. I've seen this many times in my experience in academia, the military, and as a defense contractor.

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