do your work

This is the new cover for the binders with daily, weekly, and monthly maintenance tasks in my department at work.  There’s one for each job description, four total, and this meme is on the front of all of them.  I was so awed by its offensiveness that I had to preserve it for posterity with my cell phone.  And I’m the autistic employee; implied content isn’t exactly my specialty.  But I would venture to say that this isn’t really implied offensiveness.  It’s more the overt, in-your-face kind.  I don’t know who thought this was cute or funny or whatever, but, um, fail.

At the moment, these binders are hidden behind the printer in our phone/break room. Actually, I’m the one who hid them there, in an attempt to put off the inevitable surge of ill will that will ensue once the rest of the crew gets a look at them.  (I’m considering changing them before this post goes public, since if I suggest changing them in an email, which has been impressed upon me as the “correct” way to register such complaints, it’s been my experience that nothing will get done. The only way to engender change at this place is to take action.  Emails don’t get you squat.)

This blows past the already barely tolerable standards of respectfulness currently maintained at my workplace, setting a new record for denigration and demoralization. As I’m sure must be obvious to those who’ve been reading my recent posts, my coworkers and I do not exactly futz around on our smartphones waiting for someone to tell us what to do.  We are busy as s**t.  Second order tasks get done when opportunities to do so present themselves, but, due to the nature of a surgical department serving other departments in addition to its own scheduled appointments and procedures, that isn’t often and, more important, isn’t predictable.

If our supervisors feel that not enough of these second-order tasks are getting done, then they’re the ones who need to take actions to fix it, and those actions decidedly do not include binders mocking our supposed indolence.  We’re already performing near full capacity; some of these tasks take more than the few minutes we can scrape out here and there to do them, and we can’t put more time in the day.  Perhaps if they were willing to shell out for a little dedicated overtime, or block out a spot in our schedules once a month (and spring for lunch while they’re at it) just for maintenance, we would be able, and motivated, to get all this stuff done. But instead, they put the onus on us, demonstrating a disheartening lack of understanding and appreciation for what does get done while insinuating that we’re a bunch of slackers.  Yeah.  Great.

And it’s yet another example of how clueless our supervisors are when it comes to motivation and morale, which is getting to be a regular thing here, right up there with the sticker thing.

What sticker thing?

Oh, did I not rant about the sticker thing yet? Please allow me to do so now.

Someone up the human resources chain decided it would be a good idea to set up a sticker reward system.  Yes, you read that correctly.  It probably doesn’t need to be said, but the last time I was excited about getting a sticker for anything was when I was a kid taking piano lessons.   Be that as it may, this is their latest brilliant plan to acknowledge employees who go above and beyond to help patients and clients; i.e., if you see someone doing something special, you put a cute little gold star paw print sticker on a cute little cartoon picture with their name on it on the wall. Every month, the person with the most stickers on their picture gets a gift card.

By the way, I am not making this up.

The unavoidable implication that people would not otherwise go out of their way for clients and fellow employees should have been enough to kill this idea long before someone started cutting out paper cartoons with people’s names on them.  Notwithstanding, it’s pretty clear that whomever came up with this idiotic craft project has no training in how to motivate adults in an employment setting whatsoever.  Although even that’s a pretty flimsy excuse, since I have no such training, am in fact psychologically disabled, and nonetheless perceived immediately that it would do nothing but foster competition and resentment.

First off, the employees are the ones giving the stickers to each other.  Speaking of things that should have shut this down at the pre-embryonic phase, I would say that right there more than qualifies, as the most conscientious employees are most likely to give them, not get them.  Second, there aren’t any enforceable guidelines as to what merits a sticker; each individual employee decides for him or herself when and why to give them. Some people pass them out just because they feel like it, or to anyone who asks, or just to their friends; others adhere to specific parameters known only to themselves; still others think the whole thing is a joke and refuse to give them for anything; and everyone else is somewhere amongst and between.  Third, amounts and types of interaction with other employees vary widely across jobs and departments, such that opportunities to receive stickers are largely dictated by one’s job description irrespective of one’s helpfulness to their co-workers and the clientele.

As a result, this ill-conceived undertaking has only served to shore up any undercurrents of unfairness that already existed.  Many helpful acts deserving of stickers under this framework are missed, underlining the fact that things people were already doing every day that go above and beyond their job descriptions weren’t, and aren’t, being perceived by the higher-ups or anyone else.  Any employee undoubtedly feels from time to time that appreciation for one’s work is unevenly distributed.  This captures those transient feelings, transforms them into visible and palpable realities, and immortalizes them on the wall for all to enjoy throughout their work day.  As a result, the whole operation has been breeding disgruntlement like pools of water breed mosquitos.

There have been reports of people “cheating” (putting stickers on their own pictures), complaints about certain people never giving stickers for anything, and resentments about the aforementioned fact that different jobs present more or fewer opportunities to receive these tokens of envy.  For instance, the person who handles our department’s interface with clients is stationed in a cube somewhere else in the hospital; she probably deserves a jillion of these stickers a day, but since she generally works out of sight of the rest of the department she rarely receives any at all.

When this inanity was first introduced, several months ago, I thought for sure it would quickly crumble under the weight of its own ludicrosity. But I was mistaken; it’s still going strong, even though a few departments seem be putting up pictures that rarely get gold stars paw prints from anyone.  Upon closer examination, I’ve determined that this lack of stickering is not a metric for how invested a department is in this charade, but rather of that department’s morale. Departments with fewer stickers per employee coincide with those with higher staff turnover. So I guess, in a sense, the endeavor has been useful in that has provided some data unlikely to be inferred directly. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the point and appears to have been overlooked by whomever concocted this lunacy to begin with.

The only possible explanation I can come up with for this and other such misguided enterprises is that they are cooked up by people who have no idea what they’re doing. Only someone or someones thoroughly disconnected from the experience of being a staff person at this establishment could be so blind as to the effect such ill-advised attempts at motivation would have on people already performing at an extremely high level and not feeling noticed or appreciated for it.

They seem to have forgotten that people do things for others because they want to, because it feels good to help people.  Asking them to reward others for doing so is the exact wrong way to support that inclination, because, as I alluded to before, those who are more inclined to do such things are also more likely to give stickers, while those less inclined to do so are also less likely to acknowledge their co-workers for doing so.  In addition to this baked-in imbalance, this system also favors people who only do favors when people are watching over those who do them as part of their normal behavior.  Not to mention that there will always be some intensely competitive people who go out of their way to acquire stickers at the expense of doing their jobs.  It’s a mess, and every month I keep hoping it will go away, to no avail.

It would be so much better if the supervisors from each department nominated someone to get a gift card every month, with a brief explanation as to their reasoning, so that an impartial third party could decide who’s been the most helpful. God forbid someone in human resources should invest some time into actually looking at what the humans are doing here on the floor rather than relying on school yard politics to make those determinations for them.  Oh, so you had my job ten years ago?  Well, I’m sure it hasn’t changed at all, even though we have different leadership now and have been bought out by three different corporations each imposing their own frameworks since that time.  I mean, why would that make any difference?

Since I don’t think it was someone’s intention to bring out everyone’s worse selves here, I can only hope that this project was fomented without knowledge, research, or thoughtful discussion as to how it might feel to be on the other end of it, because any of those three would have exposed it as a train wreck that could have, and should have, been avoided.  Not to mention the secondary effect of lending credence and weight to the natural feeling in any hierarchical system that those above have no idea what those below are actually doing.

So, here’s an idea from the bottom up: How about assuming the best and acknowledging us directly?  How about trying to find out what’s behind our actions instead of trying to force us to act in some predetermined fashion that would represent a different reality?  How about trying to understand why people feel underappreciated and addressing it head-on instead of wasting time with moronic schemes and memes that only serve to demoralize the staff and delegitimize the supervisors?

Like, maybe, do your job and not play games.  Yeah, that’d be great.

About SeeMorrigan

I'm a woman in her early forties who was beset in October of 2013 with a nerve entrapment due to an abnormal conformation of my shoulder blades. I was in constant, unrelieved pain for fifteen months, until, after countless misdiagnoses and mistreatments, a surgeon correctly diagnosed the issue and performed two surgeries to remove pieces of my shoulder blades. Along the way, I also discovered I am high-functioning autistic. I started this blog in March of 2014 as a way to try to process what was happening to me. It is my hope that by sharing it with you, we can both gain something, or at least learn something, from my experience.
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