KEW Episode 69: People Suck at Their Jobs

At the risk of sounding pessimistic or negative I am sharing my thoughts about a topic near and dear to me. More often than no, I believe people suck at their jobs. I don’t think this suckage is always intentional and I do not believe people WANT to suck at their jobs. I am not here to blame individuals for their suckage nor to suggest this is necessarily related to the individuals.

My point here is to suggest that there is a problem with the SYSTEM of employment, work, the market, whatever. The arena ‘out there’ we participate in from multiple sides. We are simultaneously the consumer, the client, the employed, and the employer. We are the consumer and the consumed. We are supply and demand. We are it and it is us. And so the irritatingly slow service we get at a restaurant is as much our fault as anyone involved.

With THAT out of the way let me list a few examples from my personal life that have happened over the past couple of weeks whereI encountered someone sucking at their job:

-the employee at Home Depot who didn’t feel like finding the ‘customer needing assistance in plumbing’ and either didn’t respond to the request or was going to take an hour to reach me

-the drive thru attendant at McDonalds who thought it was appropriate to share their life story (inappropriate level of detail) with me rather than give me my credit card back

-the general contractor who thought it was cool to tell me, repeatedly, he was emailing me a quote but never intended (apparently) to do so even after multiple conversations and texts

-the electrician who thinks ‘next week’ means ‘whenever he feels like it but much longer than two weeks’

-the state employees who contradict each other about the steps to take to renew a passport and where said steps are to occur

-the bank employee who thinks ‘direct deposit’ means ‘mail a check’

-the bank teller who can’t look up my account from my id (standard procedure and preferred), but requires my account number (normal way I do it)

I could go on.

And a lot of these might be related to incompetence. Often the employees’ misbehavior is a result of simply being disgruntled. And mostly I can empathize and even agree with these sentiments. Many of these jobs suck, convey suckage, and perpetuate that message to the client/customer/consumer. I get that.

And sometimes staff are more afraid of their bosses’ reaction than a customers. I get that, too. While I have seen customers be rude, I have seen more bosses to tyrannical. Again, I sympathize.

And more than anything I get that the work conditions, pay rate, hours, and commute inherent to many of these jobs (especially the hourly pay rate) SUCK so bad that it is nearly impossible to convey positivity to the customer.

I get all that – it’s not that I don’t understand WHY the behavior is occurring. No, what amazes me is that it is allowed to perpetuate. I don’t blame the EMPLOYEE, I blame the SYSTEM.

Call me naive, because I am, but I fundamentally believe there is a solution to this, and really almost any, problem. And if you have listened to my Accountability (Episode 68) episode you know where I stand on this issue. So what gets me, when I see an employee act questionably, is why they persist in the SYSTEM.

Because, checks and balances. Adaptive management. RIGHT? Don’t we HAVE these things? Aren’t we sophisticated human beings that put taxpayers in SPACE and drive around with smart phones?

So when I see misbehavior in the market place, I conclude that the SYSTEM is screwed somewhere FAR upstream from the problem I am observing. And I’m right about that. We SEE the symptoms, not the problem.

And SOLUTIONS to these problems also lie upstream. For a start, how about the whole shareholder model? When businesses exist to profit for shareholders, I don’t see solutions to problems related to employees and customers – because THAT’S NOT WHAT THE BUSINESS DOES.

Seriously.

Full podcast audio direct download here: https://pdcn.co/e/https://chtbl.com/track/CGDA9D/www.buzzsprout.com/530563/9430016-kew-episode-69-people-suck-at-their-jobs.mp3?download=true

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Link to YouTube video here: https://youtu.be/ybbj9l_ncrM

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FLASHBACK! KEW Episode 32: Work/Life Balance.

We only get so much time on Earth, and it seems to be the most limiting resource there is – except when it doesn’t. At times we’re bored and can’t wait to ‘get there’ or for ‘this to be over’ (I’m talking to you, COVID). And other times we just can’t get enough time in the day to do the things we want and need to do.

Work, career, a J. O. B. These things take out HUGE chunks of this limited time, and often fall into the ‘get this over with’ category. The lucky ones love their jobs and benefit from the appearance of having more time, since they enjoy the 40+ hours spent earning a living.

Usually, we don’t have enough time for the things that bring us joy. And that’s a shame. It’s like it’s backwards. We spend MORE time working and LESS time living.

This episode is an attempt to help us figure out how to make sure our lives our balanced in a way that lets us live a little while we spin around the sun.

Original post here: https://chrisburcher.com/2020/12/04/kew-episode-32-work-life-balance/

Preview video here: https://fb.watch/5duqidECki/

FLASHBACK! KEW Episode 31: Parenting

I was just talking with my good friend, Paul Gadola, who you may know from KEW Curiosity Interview Series 1, about kids. He and his wife have chosen not to have any and are very happy they don’t, whereas I have four kids. It’s usually difficult for me to relate to non-parents to at least some degree, but with Paul it is not hard at all.

The differences reflect life choices, but a foundation of empathy connects us.

The point I want to make is that this episode is not just for people that have kids. It is valuable to understand all points of view in order to feel more connected to each other.

Parenting is the toughest job I have ever had. But that may just be me. After being a stay-at-home parent for several years, and generally speaking the primary caregiver for nearly 20 years, I now look at having a job as having a hobby that pays you money.

Now, some jobs SUCK hard, and that’s a little different. But many people enjoy their work, just like many people really love parenting.

But parenting is harder, again, in my opinion. It has more challenges and fewer rewards. And even though you may find it difficult to talk to your demanding and angry boss, at least he or she can communicate using grown up words.

The point of this episode wasn’t to knock parenting, or not having kids, or any of it. Rather, it is my attempt to balance the playing field so that we all understand one another, and can, like Paul and myself, be more understanding and empathetic to decisions we make.

And maybe that’s a model for everyone to consider about all issues.

Interestingly, and out of pure coincidence, I just did a guest interview on the Impactful Parent Podcast:

www.facebook.com/theimpactfulparent

www.instagram.com/theimpactfulparent

www.linkedin.com/company/theimpactfulparent

https://theimpactfulparent.com/youtube

Here’s a direct link to my interview: https://theimpactfulparent.com/parenting-podcast/

about bullying! One of the elements that certainly makes parenting (and being a kid) challenging. Check out Kristina’s website and what she is doing to help parents.

Episode 31 original blog post with full audio and video links here: https://chrisburcher.com/2020/11/27/kew-episode-31-parenting/

Video preview here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=3664478870329032

KEW Episode 45: Career vs. Family

In Episode 32: Work/Life Balance I shared my thoughts about how to find time to meet all the various needs we have. In this episode I want to focus specifically on balancing time spent working toward our careers with time spent with our families. And for those of you without spouses or kids, your family can be your parents, siblings, friends, coworkers or any other people you value and spend time with.

The main career/family issue I see in nearly all of the Americans I know is the stress associated with spending too much time ‘working’ and not enough time with ‘family’. Now these categories are pretty broad and can be broken down into the values associated with each. ‘Career’ generally means earning enough money to ‘be happy’ or to pay our bills, not have to worry about having food on the table, and making sure all family members have most of what they need within reason. The ‘Family’ category usually means being able to spend time with loved ones so that we don’t miss out on important moments (first steps, birthdays, sunsets) nor feel guilty about missing these moments. So work is really full of other values like safety, protection, health, wealth, and feeling valued. Similar, family is comprised of things like love, safety, comfort, and joy.

I think the problem arises from two basic issues: 1) work, or career, demands too much of our time, and 2) we feel guilty, sad, or devalued when we feel like we don’t have enough time for love. I have talked at length about both of these issues in other episodes, but in short the American career ideal does, indeed, demand too much of our time which I think is most of the problem. Couple that with the idea that, the higher your salary the higher the expectations of time dedicated to work then we have a huge problem for those earning a comfortable living. The wealthier you are, the more likely that the working member of the household will miss out on family time.

The good news is, by identifying your values – especially those associated with career and family – you can identify mechanisms for adjustment. Something as simple as reexamining your budget can reveal how much money your family really needs to be content. And maybe you don’t need to earn $200k a year and work 70 hours a week. Maybe changing careers is a viable solution.Similarly, maybe your spouse feels unsafe without a large retirement savings. Maybe you agree to work as hard as possible for a few years and THEN make a change.

The hardest thing to change with respect to all of these values (money, safety, time spent with family, love, etc.) is your job. Your employer will almost always dictate how much time you will spend working both in the office and at home on your phone or computer. This is hard to change because you could lose your job. BUT, you could become an entrepreneur and work for yourself (although sometimes this is worse with respect to time). You could change careers. You could split time with your spouse and both work part time, though sometimes insurance is difficult in this situation. The point is, your employer will largely dictate your work situation, though there is some flexibility if you are willing to take risks.

The rest of the values can be manipulated. If you work too much and are missing family time, you can develop and schedule time to spend together and make this a CRITICAL secondary priority. You can learn to accept your career time commitments and ‘work with what you have’. You can thoroughly examine the time you spend working at home and think about creative ways to minimize this. Do you really need to answer emails at 9 PM? Can some things wait until the morning or office time?

I don’t think we spend enough time micro-managing our time and looking at the small ways to shift career time to family time. We believe we are helpless victims of our employers. I believe career constraints can be boiled down to a list of absolutes, maybes, and potential nos. This processes can free up small bits of time that add up to being able to have lunch with your spouse once a week to check in, to take your kids to school, or other opportunities. We just forget we have more control than we think.

I hope this episode reminds you of the power you have to control your time and to find small ways to improve your career/family balance. Please share your ideas below.

Podcast audio download here: https://pdcn.co/e/https://chtbl.com/track/CGDA9D/www.buzzsprout.com/530563/8295306-kew-episode-45-career-vs-family.mp3?blob_id=37637385&download=true

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Preview KEW Episode 45: Career vs. Family

Many of us struggle with the amount of time we spend working on our career vs. time we spend with our family. For those pursuing demanding careers we fear we are missing out at home, and some of us who spend most of our time at home long to have a purpose beyond our families. Whether are assumptions are accurate, or our guilt is warranted remains largely unseen because career demands seem to trump our other needs (see Episode 32 Work/Life Balance for more general information about this topic). Regardless, MANY of us wish we could spend less time at work to free up more time to spend with the people that we love. And NOT being able to do this creates a lot of stress.

Careers are extremely demanding, and it seems like the higher the salary, the higher the demands on our time. We believe we have to earn these high salaries to provide for our families and many of us have the best intentions when choosing to work more than we’d like. But we question whether it is all ‘worth it’ in the end. As we age the value of all the work and all the money often comes into question and we miss more and more life events in the pursuit of wealth.

But what do we do? How do we ‘balance’ career/money with family/happiness?

This week I ponder that specific subset of the work/life balance question.

Preview video here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=774110389886463

Full episode this Friday.

FLASHBACK! KEW Episode 27: The NEW American Dream

After WWII Americans made some major advances in the pursuit of happiness. The 40-hour workweek. Worker protections via unions. Inexpensive plastic goods and TVs in every room. We purchased homes, went to college, and earned pensions for healthy retirements. We had picket fences, 2.3 kids, and stayed married (but not always happily). Our grandparents passed these ideals on to their children, and to each successive generation, changing very little with respect to goals and ideals. Depending on your age, you are the second, third, or fourth generation to come after that era that started nearly 80 years ago.

That dream worked out well for our ancestors, and maybe for their kids. But things have changed. Guaranteed pensions became incredibly volatile 401ks. Health care became more expensive and less helpful. College expenses multiplied by a factor of 10 or more, far outpacing inflation. We had kids later, and though we spent more time with them, they learned less about life because we protected them from it. The jobs our parents had changed dramatically for the worse, and by the time we got our degrees the jobs we wanted looked nothing like what we expected.

In short, living our ancestors’ dreams didn’t work out so well.

When we are born we make these and other silent agreements with our families, societies, religions, peers, employers, and other people and groups we may never meet. We obey the rules, norms, and laws of the countries we live in. We accept our familial beliefs. We learn the rules from the schools we attend. A lot of these rules are good. They keep us safe and peaceful. But some of these rules are just plain dumb, and it’s time we pushed back on the things that aren’t working out for most of us. It’s time for a NEW dream.

This episode is related to a bigger project I’m currently working on starting with Episode 43: Diversity and Uniqueness and Episode 44: Unnatural Selection.

Preview video here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2782869541968025

Original post with audio and video links here: https://chrisburcher.com/2020/10/30/kew-episode-27-the-new-american-dream/

Preview KEW Episode 32: Work/Life Balance

Since I was a kid I have been obsessed with how to make room for the things I want in my life and the things I have to do to get them. At thirteen I got a paper route and realized part of my life did not belong to me. I was taught (as most of us are) that I would have to trade some of my time working to earn the time to use for myself. It sounds silly when you say it that way, but most of us made these same agreements whether we realize it or not.

I continue to struggle trying to balance my work with my life. Some have suggested I make my life my work; to follow my passion. That sounds nice. Others have said to learn how to suck it up and concede to losing 40 hours a week of my life to a soul sucking cubicle job. That sounds really crappy (and it is, I’ve done it). Heck, I even tried to follow the ‘American Dream’, got a PhD, and my ‘dream job’ (spoiler alert, that didn’t work, either).

This week I share my perspective, as well as other peoples’ views on work, life, and trying to get just the right amount of each.

Video preview here: https://business.facebook.com/kpluseiswise/videos/190643142729229/

Full episode coming Friday.