Thursday, April 21, 2011

April A to Z Challenge: R is for ...

    Back when I was in my late twenties and early thirties, I worked as a bookkeeper at a local unit of a restaurant chain. Part of my job entailed keeping employee records--payroll, absences, vacations, etc.

    One afternoon, one of our high school employees, a young lady--oh, let's call her Paris-- didn't show up for work. Paris's direct supervisor, thinking that Paris may have just forgotten, called her house.  Paris's mother answered the phone and said that Paris couldn't come in to work because she wanted to go to the football game. When the supervisor said that it was company policy to find a replacement if a day off was wanted, Paris's mother replied, "What's the big deal? It's only a part-time job."  One of the biggest disservices a parent can do to a child, is to fail to teach them today's "R" word--responsibility.

    Unfortunately, many children make it to the teen years without having learned this concept. Over the years, I have worked with many adults who also missed that important lesson. They expect employers to cater to them. I have dealt with many people who talk to their employers something like this: "I'm going to be two hours late on Thursday because it's my husband's niece's daughter's first birthday, and I need to have off all day Friday because my friend is in town. I can't work on Tuesday because that's the day my sister decided that we're going shopping."  They would much rather tell a boss "no" than someone, anyone, else. What happened to, "Sorry, I can't go shopping because I have to work that day"?

     Although I hated it at the time, my father stressed the importance of being responsible. Many times he would get to the phone before I did and would tell my employer, on my behalf, "Sure! She'll be right there."  He would get off the phone and say, "Grab your work uniform. You just got called in." No matter what I had planned, my dad always insisted that my job took precedence. Yet for many people, a job is just a luxury.

     A young girl who worked for me at a store I managed exemplified this. I explained that her job duties entailed working in front of the sales counter, so her job would be greeting customers, providing them with our product, stocking inventory and keeping the area clean. When she heard that part of her job would involve vacuuming, and watering the outdoor plants, she rebelled. " I'm not watering plants. Do you think I'm so stupid that it's all I know how to do? And what about vacuuming? I do enough of that at home. I'm not coming to work and vacuuming too!" Needless to say, we didn't keep her around long. I wanted her to be able to work in a place where she would only have to do what she wanted to do. I heard she got fired from her next job too.

    Too often, people would "inform" me instead of "ask" me. I was taught to ask my employer if I needed a (rare) day off. Yet many times I would have employees who would say, "I won't be here next week because my family is going on vacation."  Oh. Thanks for letting me know.

    Gradually, I learned to be very specific when explaining "rules" to new hires.  Believe it or not, because of experience I had to actually put the following in writing : 
    "Visible hickeys are not acceptable."
    "Clothing must be free of holes and stains."
    "Belly shirts are not to be worn and the midriff must not be exposed."
    "Customers must not be able to see your underwear, including when you bend over."
    "Employee is expected to be honest when filling in timesheets."  [I had to include that because during a termination dispute a judge asked me why I never told the employee that she was not allowed to lie on her time card.]
    "Employees are expected to be on time for their shifts."   ("I don't see what the big deal is if I am late. It's not like we live in a big town.")
    I have had acquaintances who have managed employees and many of them have the same issues. They are dumbfounded that people seem to have no clue how to be responsible at  their jobs.  People want to be paid for surfing the internet (" I don't have time to shop online at home so the only time I get to do my shopping is when I'm at work.") People want to be paid for their cigarette breaks. ( "I can't go more than an hour without a cig.")  People want to be able to set their own hours without regard for what is best for the business. ("I can only work from 8:00 until noon, and then I have a 12:30 class, so I can come back at 2:00 and work for a bit but then I have another class at 4:00, and I need at least 20 hours per week. You can't meet the hours I want? Fine, then I'll go work for someone who wants good workers.") Good luck with that.

    I have been very lucky in that most of the people I have worked with have been the responsible sort. They work hard. They understand that if someone pays you to do a job, you don't get to come to work and play Farmville. They sometimes (*gasp*) do things without pay, just because it's the right thing to do. They're always on time. They don't complain incessantly that the boss won't let them make personal calls at work. And guess what? They're the ones that the irresponsible people complain about. "That brown-noser! She got promoted again! I'm going to file a complaint."



  1. Excellent post and thoughts! My husband has been at his job for 13 years and he has only called in ONE time. I worked for a physician for 8 years and can count how many times I called in and I was truly ill. You are so right how Parents need to teach their children responsibility. The work ethic is down the toilet. Believe my husband sees it all the time, they just don't show! Have a great weekend.

  2. As kids, we often don't see the things we're being taught by parents. Good habits, and bad habits.

  3. Totally agree. I'm a "mean" mom and make my kids do things for themselves, clean up after themselves, take responsibility. It's hard - but it pays off in the end.

  4. Debbie: One time? That is amazing! People like you and your husband are an employer's dream. I agree with you--the work ethic is down the toilet. Especially in this economy, I can't understand why people even "think" about being irresponsible. When an employer has to choose who to keep and who to let go, he'll keep people like you every time. You have a good weekend too!

    Auntie M: Yes, we truly don't appreciate our parents until we have kids of our own sometimes. I look back now and wonder how my mom ever survived being a working mom. I am grateful to my dad for all the times he made us work,work,work, and for how he made us miss football games, parties, and extended family visits, because we had jobs.

    Jill: I am so glad you are a "mean" mom. :) You're right; it is hard. Sometimes it is so much easier to do their chores for them, but it does pay off. My daughter's boys have been folding and putting away their own clothes since they were two, in addition to other chores. Three cheers for mean moms!

  5. I was a manager for years and you would NOT believe some of the things I've heard.

    It would never have occurred to me to to tell a superior that something was beneath me. I would have shined their boots when I was trying to make a name for myself, if that's what they needed me to do.

  6. Life 101: Oh you will have to tell us some of your management horror stories! I know what you mean about doing things that your superiors asked. When the girl rebelled about watering plants and vacuuming, I told her, "I clean the toilets here. Would you like to trade?"
    Thanks for stopping by and commenting1

  7. it's also hard when you're the only one doing it! Either in your house, or in public.
    Trying to have my kids clean up after themselves at a library or other venue when others don't, is frustrating.
    Making them follow rules when others aren't, is hard. They say "but those kids are going under the rope!" and I have to say "I'm sorry, but the rules say you aren't supposed to do it, and we follow the rules" while standing next to the parents who are letting their kids do whatever they want.

  8. Jill: So true! When Weston was little and we ate our picnic lunches under the pavillion, I always made him pick up all his trash--paper cups, napkins, plates, baggies, etc. His argument was always, "But everyone else just leaves their stuff here." But it does pay off, when your kids get older and they do all these things without question. The other day, our school was having an art show. After school got out, Weston and I were walking toward the car when he stopped suddenly and said, "Mom, those teachers are in there setting up for our art show by themselves. I think I'll stay and help them." Warmed my little heart, I tell ya. You are teaching them common courtesy, Jill, as well as responsibility, and I think you're great.

  9. It does worry me when I see how many of the younger generation are irresponsible, careless, and disrespectful. I try to get my kids to understand that they need to be responsible as a way to be good to others too. Great post Randi!

  10. septembermom: Thank you, Kelly! You are so right--being responsible is a great way to be good to others. It's really just all about respecting others. You're such a great mom.


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