I had an interesting encounter with a co-worker on ethics today. He had started a few months after I was hired, so he is very new. He was working away, trying to complete all of his tasks, and was becoming more and more frustrated that for a the last two days he was not able to finish his work, leaving work leftover for another team to do. His frustration led him to an emotional sense of helplessness, not about his job, but towards himself in that he was not getting the help, and time, he needed, and was given so much more work to do than normal. I sat down with him, and gave him my speech that I wished someone had given me when I first started.
The frustration started when worker’s hours are being cut back–a normal practice that employers do during tight economic times. With these cut-backs, work loads creep upwards, leaving the existing labour challenged to take on more effort to complete the job that is routinely done. In my co-worker’s case, this was too much, as he was use to completing his day’s work, and leaving his department in an ideal state for the sales crew to work in. As each day marched on going into the fall season, the man power that we normally have is slowly cut back, but spurts of inventory sometimes get bottlenecked, and a flood of goods pile in that has to be man-handled right away. This sense of overwhelmness drifts in, and workers feel negative about it. Some blame themselves.
So I told him what I learned at this work. I said, you have only two hands, one back, and a set of feet (brains are optional). There is only so much humanly possible that a man can do in one day. Given the tools, time and tasks, you are not only govern by physics, but by human forces around you that you have no control of. If the boss says do this, and all of these forces prevent you from completing that, then whose the hypocrite? If you did an honest day’s work, and showed integrity in your duties, then you should feel complete. Thankfully, here at our work, our boss understands this, and knows that you only have two hands, one back, and a set of feet (brains are optional).