I usually try not to state the obvious, but I heard something today that reminded me of something I already knew, but was still like a cold slap in the face with a wet hand: I hate bean counters.
I’m not naive enough to think that the economic bottom line isn’t important, but it seems to me that the numbers game is emphasized more in the workplace today than at any time I can remember, and it’s driving me batshit crazy!
For decades I worked in the newspaper business, and of course we had our share of numbers that we had to deal with. We had budgets, circulation figures, news-hole calculations, and even the ticking numbers of the deadline clock on the wall which were, in a way, all about the bottom line. But still, there always seemed to be at least some focus on quality over quantity, though certainly in the latter stages of my career, that emphasis started to shift.
But nothing I encountered in my journalism career prepared me for what I’m experiencing now in my little part-time job with Big Orange, where my boss told us today that even though our team is operating at 95 percent efficiency, we could improve that number if only we’d stop unconsciously extending our OSHA-mandated work breaks by an extra 5 minutes.
I don’t blame my boss, not really, because I’m sure he’s getting it from his boss, and so it goes right on up the Big Orange Ladder. But still, it’s galling.
You might point out that it’s just life in the real world, and that this is the first decidedly blue-collar job I’ve ever had. You’re right on both counts. I’d never actually punched a clock before working for Big Orange. The differences are pretty stark. For instance:
- I’ve been admonished for clocking back in from a lunch break ONE MINUTE TOO EARLY.
- I’ve been admonished for helping a customer AFTER I’d already punched out.
- I’ve been told to ignore screwed-up things I encounter unless specifically instructed to fix them because our team wouldn’t get credit, and that would hurt our numbers.
- I’ve been told that if I do too good a job, it will actually make us “less successful” because it will drag down our team’s numbers.
- I’ve been told by my co-workers that I think too much, and the sooner I stop, the less it will hurt. And I know they’re right!
Now maybe you’re tempted to think it’s just me, but I assure you that my co-workers have received the same admonishments, to the point that we just look at one another and laugh. And I’m convinced it’s not just Big Orange either. From what I hear and read, the same bean-counter symptoms are prevalent everywhere.
You know, I consider myself lucky because I’m just marking time with this lousy little job until I can officially retire, so for me, it’s MY bottom line that’s most important. I decided long ago that I was just going to keep doing my job the way I think it should be done, and not put much stock in “reasonable expectancies” and all that other metrics-driven crap. Why? Because I have some small degree of pride left; I care more about doing the job right than about some bean counters’ artificial numbers.
It actually seems ludicrous to speak about Big Orange and pride in the same sentence, but yeah, I do take some small degree of pride in what I do, even if it’s menial work. The way I see it, if I gotta punch a clock, then I’ll punch a clock, but I was raised differently than to refuse to help a customer because the bean counters say I shouldn’t because I’d already punched out. By the way, I was told the reason for that was because if I’d happened to get injured during that time, it would have been problematic for the bean counters with the insurance company. But seriously, what was I supposed to say, “Screw you, pal, I’m off duty!”
Nope. Can’t do it. Won’t do it. Goes against my grain!
As crazy as it is, what really ticked me off during today’s “95-percent speech” was when my thoughts turned to the poor schmucks who aren’t in the same position I’m in, and who maybe can’t afford to just laugh it off. How many people like that do you encounter every day in crappy little numbers-driven jobs like mine? Most of them are probably doing the very best they can, but most are also face down in a muddy ditch full of numbers, with no hope of ever climbing out.
What does it say about our society when nobody cares about the quality of work you do? What does it say about corporate America when they’re always trying to squeeze another one half of one percent out of a beleaguered workforce?
It’s all about the numbers these days, and how much is being raked in by the bloodsucking shareholders. I wish we could afford to just screw these corporate bean-counting jackals before they drive us all batshit crazy.