Human nature seems to be built upon some very basic principles like survival for food and shelter, natural selection and achieving the most for less under any circumstances, to mention a few. You will have those who by chance stumbled upon great wealth, or managed to screw enough people so that they are now the dominate forces in their societies. On the other hand you will have those who tried but never found their American Dream, and could never have had the “luck” to reach their dreams. To add some theory to this, I turn to the work of Email Durkheim and Robert K. Merton, who came up with the idea that when you have a breakdown of social norms, and when your personal control and environment breaks down, people then go into a state of “normlessness,” where they exhibit anyone of the following categories called modes of adaptation: conforming, innovation, ritualism, retreatism and rebellion (Williams & McShane: 2004).
When I first heard that we were going to start our annual inventory early this year, I was not the least bit worried because we now have the smaller work force (since the recession started), and our inventories are so little compared to this time 2008 that counting on our part would take less than an afternoon. We were given about one weeks notice to prepare and start out counts. I had posted the information and started personally telling each worker as they came in what was going to be required of them for this year’s inventory count. A series of emails were sent, and some of the higher volume technicians were given phone calls to aid them with there procedures. With a lot less to count and fewer categories of inventory as compared to last year, I figured that this was going to be a flawless count.
As the numbers started roll in on Friday, I started making calls to the employees who I had already foreseen as being problematic and assisted them – like a mother wiping a child’s bib, holding their hands, reiterating what was needed from them, reassure them – just to get the job done. But no matter how much one tries, or prepares, there are going to be those who just can’t get it on the right track, and they continually fall by the wayside.
The majority of the employees are in the category of conforming. They know that these events take place and they offer their full unquestioned obedience to get the job done. Next are the innovation people who see this as an opportunity to do maintenance and clean-ups, while they sort out their equipment and inventory. They see that they have time offered to them for this and they take on a multitasking approach to it. Then we have a couple of workers who are the ritualist’s, who see this as a another job routine, and they blindly go through the motion of counting and sorting, but only putting in the minimum effort and time to get through it. Lastly, there are the dreaded rebellious types who, although they only represent less than two percent of the workforce, they cause ninety percent of the headaches.
Make no mistake that I am comparing criminological theory to the workplace. There are just too many similarities among these two groups to let this go unnoticed.
The inventory was completed, and done on time, but I ended up spending an eleven hour day trying to keep everything together, but still, I had to do some of it from home due to some stragglers being so late, and one not submitting until midnight. The last four hour stretch of Friday was spent talking on the phone, endlessly going over the inventory procedure until I notice that I was loosing my voice.
Williams & McShane (2004). Criminological theory. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.