At the moment, I’m a part-time graduate student. I’m FAR past my 40th birthday and grad. school was suppose to’ve been very much in my rear view mirror by now…….but I digress. I have a stable job, and except for a brief period a good while back, my employment situation has mostly been pretty stable as an adult. Anyway, a bunch of my coursework is built around Human Resources-related topics…….and right now, we’re talking about something known as ‘Need’ theory and ‘Expectancy’ theory……..these are old, stalwart parts of the world of human resources. So, I’ve been thinking about stuff like why we work and (you guessed it) what we hope or expect to get out of work, yada-yada-yada. It’s funny how, in big parts of our lives, we hope for ‘stable’ work and/or a ‘steady’ paycheck……that is, of course, a big thing for most people. I’ve been laughing, lately though, about how shortly after I get that very thing, I tend to gripe about how bored I am. Work is just so DARNED BORING sometimes. Weirder still, I’m not sure I’d even want the stress of a so-called ‘exciting’ job! I just rarely ever feel ANYTHING that I’d describe as exciting at work. It’s just a grind…….and for what?! I wouldn’t say I’m feeling depressed right now…..just laconic, really.
While reading a WSJ article today about Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf defending the corporations’ actions in recent days, I was struck by a comment left by a reader at the end of the article:
“The legal, safety, environmental and quality control departments in corporations spend a lot of time making sure that high level executives are insulated from the undocumented pressure they put on lower level management to achieve revenue goals by any means. As long as branch managers (low-level scapegoats) get fired instead of people like Stumpf having charges brought against him, the implausible explanations for rampant consumer fraud will continue.
PS: The windows on many older GM SUVs shatter spontaneously (even while parked). Its not a common problem but known in the auto glass industry. GM knows about it. No recall………. I guess they will wait until a kid in the back seat bleeds to death. I am sure the VP’s and CEO know nothing about the issue.”
Now, that little post-script rant….I’m not sure about that…..but I will say that the first part is VERY MUCH in keeping with my experiences (short-lived as they were) in corporate America are TOTALLY in keeping with that explanation. Everybody is ‘spinning’ to everybody else.
….to my last post. I wrote briefly about failure (or, more correctly……life’s struggles AND failure)……
So, last night I was listening to ‘Planet Money’…..a great podcast put out by NPR. The topic was top-level web domains…..and how that field has widened. That field has REALLY widened! You can give the episode a listen to learn more, but this stuck out:
A young woman who said she is a tech contractor and works ‘in the basement’ at the Pentagon had an idea to start a top level web domain named ‘.wed’……of course, it would be for people about to get married, or planning their weddings etc. She was smart and sounded gritty and determined. To get ICANN to grant her that top-level domain, she had to fill out loads of paperwork and pay them (take a deep breath): $185,000. This was somewhere around 2012 (roughly). She scraped the money together and did it.
In the interview with her……(she charges $70 for the first year, $70 for the second year and $30,000 for the third year)…..she said she’s only sold about 75 domain names…..my calculator tells me that comes to $5250. That means she’s got about $179,000 left to JUST MAKE HER MONEY BACK!!! I’m not laughing at her bad fortune, far from it actually. If you (like me) tend to think that EVERYONE IS TRIPPING OVER BIG BAGS OF MONEY and you’re not…..I offer this woman as an example. She took a risk and it isn’t working out so great!
Measurement is a big part of the grown-up working world. Companies measure profit vs. loss. Hospitals measure ‘bed days’ and ‘labor expenses’ etc. In some way, accounting has been an integral of ALL organized societies for gazillions of centuries. I worked in the for-profit healthcare area for a long time (and still do, in a moonlighting capacity, but for a MUCH smaller agency than I did in the old days). Back then ‘managing labor’ was HUGE. Admittedly, NOTHING IN THE WORLD can bleed money like a nursing facility or an assisted living center if you don’t keep an eye on staffing-to-patient ratios…..but I digress.
I find most forms of measurement interesting. Statistics is one of the few arenas of mathematics that has (pretty much) always made sense to me. News outlets manipulate statistics all the time…..they’re good at it. I read a bit on the VA-scheduling scandal earlier today and thought I’d put a clip up here:
“In some cases, the system encouraged manipulation even without explicit instruction from supervisors. A manager in West Palm Beach, Fla., sent out laudatory emails touting the shorter wait times the system showed. Schedulers in Harlingen, Texas, reported being berated by supervisors when they booked appointments showing longer wait times for veterans. (It was “not pretty,” one employee said.)” —USA Today
From a young age, I picked up on how people could be ‘praised’ obliquely…….we say ‘good job’ about this-that-and-the-other all the time…..so human logic figures out quickly that whatever falls outside that is ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’. Although I’m a veteran, I’ve never sought 10 seconds-worth of medical care from VA (although I may have to one day). That said, I’m certainly no expert on federalized-healthcare, either. I will say, though, that SYSTEMS develop their own system of values and mores. School teachers know this, they learn it quickly in college. ‘I like how Austin has his books stacked neatly, and is sitting quietly at his desk.’ They learn quickly to praise the desirable behavior…..and it works! So, when the boss sends out e-mails that say: ‘Whoa, no wait times! You guys are awesome!’, what do you think will happen?!
Companies, hospitals, whomever, whatever, wherever: we have to fall in love with TRUTH, no matter the potential outcomes….and everyone knows….often, the truth hurts!
This post has been a long time coming!! I’m tired and busy right now, so I need to make it brief. I’ve spent too much time thinking my life is ‘small’……..many mechanisms of modern life can contribute to that type of mindset. There’s been a lot of dialogue about that very thing lately; ‘Everyone’s life is great and mine isn’t……..just look at Facebook and you’ll see!” Poppycock, I say.
I have a great life. I have two amazing kids. I have a (fairly) loving wife. I have a good job and a good home in a good neighborhood. I have a smart brain and a good education. I help others who have a hard time helping themselves.
I can exert very little control over what mean people do to nice people who own a pizzeria in Indiana. I can do very little to impact human trafficking in Cambodia. I doubt that I can do a lot this week to effect polar ice caps or radiation leakage somewhere. Nope I don’t own anything that floats. But, I can do something and I do do MANY things to help the world while living a full life. No, my life isn’t amazing. It isn’t filled with supermodels and high performance motorcycles (and whatever other stupid material thing that wont come to mind right now!) But I have good people and good co-workers and good neighbors and good fellow church-members in my life…..and that’s good. My life is good and I want to keep giving GOOD back to the world. I’m OK….I’m really, really OK…..and that’s great. Heck, that’s a long way from a ‘small life’!
Remember all the good in your life. Entropy resides all around us. Drink in today’s good stuff….because it won’t last forever!
Found this article over at CNN Money today:
Read the article if you’d like to, but I was especially struck by a comment following the article….find it below:
“At age 67, I’m still employed and earning a comfortable salary. I also have plenty of freelance clients (I’m a high-tech marketing copywriter and editor). My situation is the consequence of younger employees’ lack of solid language skills. They are almost universally unable to write clear, engaging, properly formulated business content. They are not merely ungrammatical writers; they can’t even sequence concepts coherently. True, many do not speak English as a first language; they get a pass. However even those born to English-speaking families are appalling writers and can’t punctuate their way out of a paper bag. Executive management keeps me aboard to avoid being embarrassed by howlers on the web site or by incomprehensible brochures packed with meandering sentences and wince-worthy syntax.”
……an interesting take, hmmmm?