We all yearn for the simple life that seems ever elusive. Owning responsibility for doing your job would help.
A statement like this may appear extraneous at a time of job descriptions, key performance indicators, chains of command and performance review. However, all too often those stretching the boundaries of acceptability seem to get away with it, while others are left to carry the burden of responsibility for management inaction (not responsible for doing the job).
Take the case of Karen, a theatre sister working shifts in a major hospital. For over a decade, Karen and other co-workers were hassled by a lazy co-worker who did not do his job and was serially abusive to his colleagues, making the workplace toxic. Unacceptable behaviour continued because he knew he could get away with it. Though reported repeatedly to the manager, no action was taken. His run ended when the manager was replaced and he was sacked.
Similarly I had first-hand experience of a bureaucrat who did the same, quite vindictively destroying people, careers, valuable projects and reputations. Not only did she not do her own job, she actively hindered the productivity of others doing theirs. Complaints about her piled high in the grievance unit without action being taken despite all the so-called checks and balances. One worker had to take legal action to protect his career and financial future from her malevolence. Eventually it did end when an outsider took charge and facilitated her speedy exit.
A relationship between a high-end hairdresser and her employee ended unpleasantly when the employee failed to do the agreed job of servicing existing clients well and fostering new ones. The employee left to take a position with lower expectations, rather than step up in the interests of her career and that of the business.
Similar stories abound – from family, business, government and bureaucracy. Most parents try to do the right thing disciplining their children so that they might eventually be productive, contributing citizens. Doesn’t it rankle when ill-disciplined children run riot, without regard for person or property, without manners or respect. Dare to say something and you are likely to be attacked by a parent who does not own responsibility for the authority vested in him/her. Like the workplace examples above, the expectation is that others are willing to bear the brunt any harm that might occur.
As I write, a news story appears about 100 or so youths of African appearance disrupting a train service, terrorizing passengers and others as they took over the station and a nearby park. It has been reported that 12 police cars turned up. No one was arrested or charged. The pattern has been repeated in many other incidents involving home invasion, car stealing, personal violence, burglary of homes and business, trashing of public and private property. The youths now openly flout both the law and the law-abiding public with claims of being untouchable while slinging insults towards ‘white trash’. Policing is a tough gig and I am full of admiration and gratitude for those who put themselves on the line to protect people. It is almost certain that the ‘go slow’ on African youth is an order from above. The Victorian public is entitled to ask ‘Is the government doing its job to protect citizens and property?’
The work of a consultant can also be fraught, depending, as it does, on common understandings being reached between the parties about the scope of work and responsibilities of each. Stories abound about the difficulties that emerge when one or other of the parties fails to do their job. In some instances it may be the well-established consultant being too cavalier about affording due respect, time, effort and attention to the job in hand.
On the other hand, it may be the client who fails to abide by the terms and conditions of the contract, either in attending to their end of the deal in a timely way or in failing to pay – on time, or not at all. Consequently, unless the consultant is on the ball, client failure to do their job hinders progress towards meeting the client’s needs. Contracts with government can fall into this category. Authority of the bureaucracy often fails the responsibility challenge, largely because of the said lack of respect and understanding of business – a reason rather than an excuse. Not doing their job has a flow on effect on the service provider. In keeping with my Maturity Model, serial failures result in immaturity of the parties, fragmentation of the individuals and high social and financial costs.
The Royal Commissions into financial institutions has exposed the latent greed inherent in the banking and insurance industries, largely devoid of good practice or consideration for what that meant for customers. Most of all it has revealed how highly paid executives in both business and the regulating agencies, APRA and ASIC, did not do the job they were paid handsomely to do. As a result, many people lost their properties, their savings and their wellbeing. No shame! The criminal charges likely to be laid will not bring back prosperity and trust lost.
While exhorting readers just to do their job to make life simpler and easier to be able move on in peace and harmony, caution is urged not to do too much. Doing too much can also be a trap that enables others to avoid their responsibilities. One of my mother’s sayings was, “all you have to do is act dumb and someone will do it for you”. Some people are quite accomplished at ‘acting dumb’ to win attention, service and conspicuous compassion. Repetition of their ‘story’ of need or helplessness builds a psychological barrier that prevents them from ever becoming a contributor.
In this complicated world, in order to keep our lives as simple as possible, it is best not to enter into a pattern of doing the work of others that will lead to our own fragmentation, although it is okay to help out. A message for many elderly who are accustomed to giving service is that their main priority in later years is to care for themselves. Doing so challenges others to grow up, if they have not already done so.