Work Ethic

Posted: August 11, 2006 in Uncategorized

I want my co-worker’s hours.

Let’s call her Sheila (the names have been changed to protect the guilty). The setup: Sheila’s boss was only physically at work on Tuesday this week.

Me, that doesn’t really change anything for my working habits. But, then, I’ve been working in an office for over 20 years now, and I’ve learned a few things in that time.

Sheila’s young, practically fresh from school. She was on vacation last week, and never made it in on Monday this week. I’ve been delayed before, so I didn’t think much of it. Then Tuesday rolled around. Sheila’s boss was already in by the time I showed up, then Sheila rolled in a couple hours later. Then she left about two minutes after her boss left at 4 By my reckoning, about 6 hours, tops, assuming she didn’t take lunch. Wednesday was a 10-4 day for Sheila, and Thursday was 9-4. To her credit, she was still there when I left for the day today, but that’s still well under 30 hours for this week, and the times I’ve accidentally seen her timecard after a week of spotty attendance like this, she always claimed 8 hours each day, every day.

So, why does this bother me? Is it any of my business? No, not really. Which is why I don’t bother her boss with this. If her boss is happy with her work, why should I care? Generally, I don’t. But in order for me to do my job on time, there are some things I need Sheila to do in a timely manner. And the last 3 times we’ve been in this situation, Sheila’s fallen down on the job and left me to pick up the slack so the project doesn’t fail.

That is what bothers me.

See, it’s that pesky work ethic that I learned very early in my career getting in my way, and Sheila just doesn’t seem to have it. The first month she worked there, I kept catching her playing games on her computer. And I don’t mean Solitaire, I mean Need for Speed. That’s not a casual, “I’m bored,” kind of game. You have to install it — and it takes up a lot of hard disk space. (BTW, another co-worker who worked with Sheila in the past reported that she played quite a few games on work time in her previous job.)

Now, games are kind of a sore spot for me. It was my first job, 20 years ago….

There were four of us in development, and we played computer golf at lunchtime in the electrical engineer’s office, because he was the only one with a door. This went on for a couple months, we all bonded, got to know each other better, etc. Good times

One of the guys was big and well-built. Used to load boxes for UPS before he looked around the projects where he grew up and realized that he had to make the decision to get out of there — nobody was going to hand him a new life of prosperity — and went to night school. This job was his first white-collar job (and he was one of the best co-workers I’ve ever had!), and his mouth could turn a bit salty at times. This was one of those times. He made a bad shot, said the F-bomb just a little too loudly, and…

…all four of us realized at that instant that the EE’s office door behind us had just clicked open.

The big guy said the S-bomb under his breath, and we all turned to see our boss, purple-faced and dressed up in a suit and tie (very rare for him), toting a potential customer. “And this is our engineering staff,” he said in the deadly silence, turned on his heel and walked out, closing the door behind him.

I have never allowed a game on my work system since then.

The moral? I’m not sure there is one. I just love telling the computer golf story. 😀

But incidents like that did serve to instill in me a strict work ethic. They pay me to do a job; I do it while I’m on the clock. When I was leading projects, we figured on 60% productive time from any given coder; my personal goal is 95% (you still have to take a break now and then; if nothing else, just to clear your head). I aim for the company to net a profit on the cost of my employment, through either additional income or savings.

Oddly, it’s the same work ethic that writers have to follow in order to be successful. You’d be amazed how many would-be (and even established) writers complain about someone else somehow preventing them from publishing. Kris Rusch and Dean Smith had excellent advice in this arena: You are in charge of your own career.

As a writer, I’ve been Sheila-ing recently. I guess that’s at the root of why Sheila’s lax attitude towards her hours bother me. I’m looking at Sheila-the-coder and subconsciously realizing she’s just a reflection of me-the-writer.

It’s time to stop being Sheila, and time to start being me again.

  1. outtamyskull says:

    you’re lady wife said you wouldn’t mind me adding you to my friend list.
    And yes i’ve had coworkers like that. This is why i state there are two types of people collecting pay checks in any place: Workers and Employees.

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