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losing the weekend August 7, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Observations.
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groundedWhen you were a kid, odds are good you got one of four types of punishment when you misbehaved:

  • corporal (ie: spanking)
  • grounding (ie: limited to your room/house for a period of time)
  • removal (ie: privileges or toys taken away)
  • nothing (ie: no punishment whatsoever)

As we matured, however, we realized that discipline grew more and more lax as we were exhorted to grow up and take responsibility for our actions. At school, we got detentions or suspensions (that is, when teachers were allowed to discipline us, but that’s another rant for another time), but once we got to college, we were our own masters. And we were expected to be: as adults, we were expected to have the self-discipline to do our assignments, study for our tests, show up for our classes, and learn. The only reinforcement was our grades, and if we failed… well, our parents would still take us in and let us live at home until we got jobs, right?

Then we entered the world of work. In the beginning, we were worried sick about getting fired, so we tried to do everything right. Unfortunately, we learned from our co-workers that there was no accountability; we could slack off a little — just the right amount — and not get in trouble. We could delegate our assigned responsibilities to other people. We could do crappy work and someone else would fix it for us.

Those learned behaviors never went away. And now we have people like Rickie, who can’t retain what she needs to know, or our layout/mockup team, most of whom don’t give a damn until they’re directly affected, or Wally, who has driven many people crazy on countless occasions. And we have people like me, who take it upon ourselves to make it right because if we don’t, we’ll get in trouble for not fixing other people’s mistakes.

The problem is that there was so much laxity in the past that now these people don’t comprehend true accountability. Exhorting them to do their jobs right because they should care about the product isn’t enough, and that’s the only thing anyone does. No one gets written up or fired, and no one ever has gotten fired around here for doing their job half-assedly. We need a little discipline, and since this isn’t Singapore, we need to take away the only thing people truly value: their time off. That is: we need to make people work weekends as a punishment.

Think about it: you miss out on time with your family, you miss out on doing things you can only do on weekends, and you kind of get a little bonus because you’re off on a Tuesday or Wednesday and can go to the doctor or run errands without taking time off. When I worked Tuesday-to-Saturday, I relished Mondays by myself because I got so much done. But then, I’d worked weekends for most of my life, so I was used to it. People working in the same position for a decade, people not used to coming in on weekends except on rare occasions, I think will be very chastised by having to come in on said weekend — and it can be even more of a punishment by giving them Tuesday and Wednesday off in return, so they’ll have to work basically eight days in a row (Monday-to-Monday).

Oh, and if they balk, just say “I can write you up instead. Three of those and you could get fired. Which would you prefer?”

I’m fairly certain this will work, especially if someone is made an example of. Scare everyone by making an example of someone, and work will get better. People will start remembering how to do simple things correctly… like proofreading their work, one of my personal pet peeves. Just like when we were kids: if someone grounds us, we’ll avoid doing whatever we did so we don’t get grounded again.

Although around here I’m firmly convinced that nothing short of caning or termination will truly have the effect I’m looking for. And caning is a much more visceral threat.

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