Sam, a supervisor, was dumbfounded as he watched Bill diligently dig holes while Chuck, after waiting a short interval, filled them. When he demanded an explanation, Bill was indignant: “Chuck and I have been doing this job for more than 10 years. What’s your problem?”
“Are you telling me that for 10 years you’ve been digging and filling empty holes?” Sam replied.
“Well, not exactly,” Bill said. “Until a few months ago, another fellow put a bush in the hole before Chuck filled it. But he retired and was never replaced.”
“Why didn’t you tell somebody?” Sam sputtered.
“My gosh,” Bill answered, “You’re management. We figured you knew.”
While management is ultimately to blame when employees systematically waste time and money in thoughtless, unproductive activity, we can’t let Bill and Chuck off the hook. Sure, it’s easy to hide behind the assumption that the stupidity of management has no bounds, but responsibility is a personal burden everyone carries for himself or herself.
Too many organizations are weighed down by practices equivalent to digging and filling holes because too many workers and managers engage in or ignore inefficient and ineffective activities.
Whether unaccountability is fed by laziness, ignorance, or fear, employees who surrender to the negative momentum of the workplace not only demean the value of their work, but they increase the likelihood that they will someday be out of work.
We can avoid our responsibilities, but we can’t avoid the consequences of avoiding our responsibilities. All of us are accountable for what we allow as well as what we do. If we want to make our lives more meaningful, we should be sure our work is meaningful.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.