Holding Others to a High StandardDec 27th, 2013 | By Editorial Staff | Category: Nick Kemper's Blog
I can be kind of a jerk at work. That’s the conventional thinking, anyway — the guy who takes work seriously, who doesn’t mind holding you accountable for your actual work responsibilities. I have fears about how I communicate with people in other parts of my life, but at work, I generally have no fear. It’s business, after all. Ironically, I probably take work apathy more personally than I do non-work apathy. It’s your job, so do it. Don’t make me do your job, and don’t make me make you do your job.
Even if you work alone you depend on other people. Somehow, you will need someone else to do his or her job so that you can do yours. I was laughing with a colleague the other night about tow truck hijinks, and I remembered when I stopped to help a fellow driver who was having trouble with a lockout, and I felt obligated to toss in an aside: “I didn’t normally stop to help other drivers.” My colleague gave me the long sarcastic, “Noooooooo.” I just don’t remember calling for another driver’s help, unless it was warranted, meaning that we were going to charge for their service so they could collect commission for their effort.
Another time a fellow driver was having trouble maneuvering a motorcycle so he could impound it, and I’m not even sure that he asked for help, but a dispatcher asked me to go help him. I was in route to another call, so I refused. Later, after he dropped the bike on its side, I got chewed out for not helping him. I could see myself trying to move a bike by myself and not asking for help and damaging it. Never happened to me, though.
In my job now, I depend a lot more on other people, but usually what I’m asking for, above all else, is accurate and timely communication. If there’s going to be a delay in receiving inventory, or if an order for a customer is going to delayed, I ask for accurate and timely communication so I can communicate accurate information in a timely manner to our customers. That’s all I want. You can take two days to ship something out of your warehouse — just let me know that’s how long it’s going to take. You can tell me you’re out of something and your lead time is 30 days — just don’t take three days to answer my email with that information.
I get a lot of emails every day and rarely do I let one go unanswered that needs to be answered. Usually I respond within a couple of hours. I don’t have someone monitoring my work, either. I think I just dread the thought of falling short. It’s the person who is waiting for me that motivates my need to get my work done.
Over Christmas we dug out some mementos of my childhood from my mom’s possessions, including creative writing assignments from grade school. One of the comical things that my daughter pointed out was how I spread my words out on some of the assignments to take up more space on the paper. I was s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g, probably to meet a minimum space requirement. I also would do things like repeat adjectives — “a very, very, very old man.” I also included a lot of full dates — month, date, year — and repeated phrases with slight alterations. The funny thing is, I don’t remember doing that, or being called out on it by my teachers. And I was an A student, so I don’t think it was an issue. I do remember always being afraid of what would happen if I didn’t complete my schoolwork/homework on time, according to the expectations given, with high-quality work. The thought of letting my teacher think that I was off my game was terrifying to me.
Probably not the best reason for caring about my work. But maybe I was really more afraid of letting myself down, of compromising my own standards. I suppose I liked the positive approval I received from teachers, who, after all, should be mentors for you. I just can’t help thinking, when I’m dealing with a business associate who won’t get me information in a timely manner, that I would never feel comfortable just dropping the ball or not caring about the quality of my work, whatever it was. Actually, it’s probably healthier to sometimes not care, to let perspective filter in. After all, it’s only work, and work is not the most important thing in life.
I don’t feel the need to justify holding others to a high standard, and I don’t mind if they say or think bad things about me as a result, and I actually don’t mind if they are going to settle for a lower standard. Accounting, preparing, and allowing for the apathy are just more steps in the process.
Have a safe and profitable week.