Saturday, March 2, 2013

Working off the clock

“Why aren’t you getting this?” would be a question I’d sometimes think, but not say out loud when training newer TV directors. At times, I’d get frustrated with those would kept making the same mistakes over and over. And then I realized something one day: I was measuring the employee based on what I expected of myself. Looking at the situation objectively, the newer directors were actually doing quite well. And it was unfair for me to judge them based on an unrealistic standard.

Granted, I was the Operations Manager and (this won’t sound very humble, I fear, but alas. . .) a darn good TV director. I’d been told by others I had a talent—a gift even. Before I left TV, the directors I worked with were very good—significantly better than most of the directors I’d worked with over the years.

When I left TV (in order to be able to keep commitments to my family) and started working in banking, I faced this same attitude from the other direction. However, my managers and leaders weren’t more skilled, per se, as much as completely “devoted” to their job. (Meaning that they had very little in the way of a life outside of work.) I’d learned that a work / life balance is not only important, but necessary.

Often it is the people who live for work that get promoted. In turn, they fall into the trap as I did as an Operations Manager—they expect everyone to be like them. The irony is that the average worker is often better at their job because they have balance; it lets them be more productive while they are working.

One way these out-of-balance managers manifest their addicted to work behavior is to ask / force their hourly employees to work off the clock. I saw this first hand when I worked at Albertson’s while in college. It happened at Cablevision when I worked there. (I never asked my employees to do that.) I’ve read stories about lawsuits against WalMart for the same practice. In each case, the company was sued, and lost.

I recall a time when I was on a conference call while working at a bank. Our leader asked us managers what we were doing to have our employees hit their sales goals. One manager said she told her employees they had to wear their name badges when they went to lunch and hand out at least three business cards. The leader praised her for the idea and said he wanted all of us to do the same. He even wanted us to track how many business card each employee was handing out each day during their lunch.

Unafraid to speak up when I feel something is wrong, I made it clear I thought it was a bad idea because the employees were off the clock during their lunch and we couldn’t, legally, require them to wear their name badge and hand out business cards. I got all sorts of “push back” (a term they used a lot at that job) because this was a great way for the employees to exceed their goals and make a bonus.

I didn’t budge. There are lines that shouldn’t be crossed. In the end, because I refused to do it, other managers joined with me and we stopped it from happening.

So when I read the reports from the WalMart spokespeople who state, “Only a small percentage of employees have ever been told to work off the clock. We can provide dozens of people who will testify they’ve never been told that.” My response? “Congratulations. However, telling even one person to work off the clock is one person too many.”

1 comment:

  1. Good for you. I think it's a part of our culture to expect this kind of thing out of employees, but it isn't right.