Pulling Your Fair Share

Everybody gets pissed when a co-worker isn’t carrying their own weight. But the ways people determine what a fair share is seems to differ.

The region I live in has a history of blue collar industry and white collar “professional” work. [1] (There’s also a healthy mix of “green collar” military and “tweed collar” academia.) The way people determine a fair share seems to be determined by whether they were raised with a blue collar or white collar work ethic, regardless of the industry they’re in now.

I can pull examples from two hourly employees of a company I’ve worked with. The company, like many, is experiencing some belt-tightening, so employees are encouraged to leave early (thus reducing payroll costs) if the day’s work is completed.

Employee A almost never leaves early. She will always be clocked in – though not always actively performing work. She will also complain bitterly about her co-workers (“slackers”) who volunteer to leave early because “they’re trying to get out of work”. Her first job was in an automobile factory.

Employee B will frequently leave early. She will actively volunteer to go home early whenever work is completed, or can be handled by the remaining staff. She will also complain bitterly about her co-workers (whom she also calls “slackers”) who will “sit around on the clock and not do any work.” Her first job was being an assistant manager of a service-sector franchise.

It’s striking that the language each of these women [2] uses is so similar as they describe each other – but for completely different behaviors.

My suspicion [3] is that these are cultural artifacts, even though both employees are now in a white collar job. This is something especially important to people in the Midwest and Rust Belt as we shift our focus away from industry towards information.

As our economy continues to change, this kind of cultural clash will happen more frequently.

We can either let it continue and destroy morale and productivity – or we can start figuring out how to get everyone on the same sheet of music right now.

[1] These are huge generalizations. Huge. I’m well aware of that.
[2] You realize that I’ve changed details, right? If you think I’m talking about you, you’re probably wrong. But enjoy that shoe; it fits on your foot so nicely.
[3] No, I’ve not done a research study. If you have, let me know!

Featured Photo by Alex Kotliarskyi on Unsplash