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Employees, Stooges & Catholics

After I wrote an article a couple of weeks ago about how angry I was with nitwits, a few people expressed surprise and concern at the way I reacted toward other peoples’ behavior.  I think they were surprised by my comment that I wanted to slap a seemingly worthless employee upside the head with her cell phone.

As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s in a family of 17 children – 9 boys and 8 girls.  When a dispute arose between the boys, we would usually punch first and ask questions later.   My mom thought she could solve the violence by prohibiting us from watching The Three Stooges and All Star Wrestling.  Since we did have a tendency to beat up on each other when we watched one of those shows, mom’s solution helped, but it didn’t solve the problem.  Whenever we got into an argument, we would still end up pounding on each other all over again.

In addition to a handful of the television shows that glorified anger and violence, we found ourselves living in the midst of the golden age of boxing.  My brothers and I always looked forward to the heavyweight championship boxing matches that featured the great fighters of the day – Smokin Joe Fraiser, George Foreman, and of course, the greatest boxer of all time, Mohamed Ali.  As a bonus, with each fight we also got to hear the greatest ringside announcer of all time, Howard Cosell.

So while I would never do harm to some nitwit behind the counter of a fast food restaurant, the thought does still periodically flash through my mind when I get angry.  My anger always seems worse when the other person happens to be an employee or a Catholic.

Why an employee or Catholic?  I’ll start with the employee.  As a result of running my own business for 28 years, I’ve had my share of rotten employees.  I’ll give you an example.

Six years ago I had to fire a very smart, experienced, and charming employee, who had a lot of potential, but ended up causing me an enormous amount of problems.  In order to protect her identity, I’ll call her Jane (not her real name).

Instead of getting rid of Jane when I should have, I gave her the benefit of the doubt and kept her around long enough for her to manipulate and encourage 3 of my younger employees to quit.  Prior to Jane’s arrival, the 3 employees were very productive and appreciative of their jobs.  Over a period of 11 months, Jane planted numerous doubts in their heads about me and my office manager, and ended up convincing them that they needed to seek out other employment where they would be “appreciated.” 

Jane was one of those employees who took a tour of the office two or three times a day.  While on tour, she would visit with other employees.  When she wasn’t touring, Jane would sometimes do her job, and other times she would exchange emails with her fellow employees concerning important topics, such as what was being planned for dinner and the unfairness of the boss and office manager.

At one point, I talked to Jane and told her that I wanted her to keep her conversations with other employees to a minimum and that she needed to use her break time, lunch time, or time after work to talk to the other employees (about matters that were not work related to work).  For a short period of time, she was careful about interrupting her fellow coworkers, but she eventually returned to her old routine of taking regular tours throughout the office.

I finally met with Jane in my office and explained to her that she was costing me over $500 per month by interrupting and taking up the time of my other employees.  Here’s what I told her:

I know for a fact that you’re taking up at least 40 minutes of your own time every day by interrupting and talking to other people in the office about things that are not related to your own work.  If you visit with one or more people each day for a total of 40 minutes, you not only use up 40 minutes of your time, but you also use up 40 minutes of their time.  That’s a total of 80 minutes per day.  If you multiply 80 minutes by 5 days, you end up with a total of 400 minutes per week.  If you multiply 400 minutes by 4 weeks, you get a total of 1600 minutes for a short month (28 days).  That translates into 16.66 hours per month of wasted time (1600 minutes divided by 60).

Now, if you take into consideration the hourly wages that I pay, along with benefits, taxes and insurance, each employee costs me a minimum of $20 per hour.  Multiply the $20 per hour times the monthly total of 16.66 hours and you get $533.20.  That’s how much it costs me each month for the time you spend visiting.  If you divide 20 days into the monthly cost of $533.20 (4 work weeks), you get $26.66.  That’s how much it’s costing me each day – $26.66.

Let’s say I have 3 stacks of cash on my desk – a stack of $20’s, a stack of $5’s, and a stack of $1’s.  The value of the 80 minutes per day that you’re using up by visiting with others is the equivalent of you walking into my office every day and stealing money from each of the three stacks of bills – a $20 dollar bill, a $5 dollar bill and a $1 dollar bill.  How long do you think I would wait before I stopped you from stealing money off of my desk every day?  How long do you think I should allow you to continue to use up the time of my employees – time that I’m paying for?

After I gave my little speech, Jane became defiant and told me that she thought it was unreasonable for me to expect her to refrain from talking to other people in the office.  I reminded her that everyone in the office was allowed a 15 minute (paid) break in the morning and a 15 minute (paid) break in the afternoon.  I told her I didn’t mind her having a brief conversation with someone in passing, but if she wanted to carry on an extended conversation, she would have to do it during a break, over lunch, or after work.  She then assured me that she would change her behavior.

She kept her promise for 2 weeks and then reverted back to interrupting and visiting with the other people in the office.  The only difference in her behavior was that she became a lot sneakier about it.  Of course, I had to do what I should have done 10 months earlier.  I let her go and she filed for unemployment compensation the following day.

Shortly after I got rid of Jane, I hired a guy who was the exact opposite of Jane.  He would stay out until 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. in the morning, come into work at 8:30 a.m., and then close his door so he could hibernate.  Most days, around mid-morning, he would sit back in his chair and take a nap.  Over a period of about 8 months, he ruined three computers, all of which became severely infected with viruses and spyware because of a habit he had of accessing less than desirable websites.  I fired him after he trashed the third computer.

I could share other horror stories about bad employees, but I’m sure you get my point. 

Besides the outright theft of both time and money that a large percentage of employees engage in, what irritates me most is that their behavior has become an acceptable norm in our society.  Am I the only person who is outraged by this type of behavior?  Now I’ll admit that my reaction to such behavior is sometimes over the top (because of my own personal experiences), but at what point are people going to start demanding a return to the higher standard of behavior that once existed among workers?

Unfortunately, a large number of people have not only changed (and justified) the way they behave as employees, but they’ve also changed (and justified) the way they behave as Christians.  We are seeing this in all faiths, including the Catholic faith.  The Catholics of 50 years ago wouldn’t recognize or tolerate the Catholics of today, just as employers from 50 years ago wouldn’t recognize or tolerate the behavior of today’s employees.   Why don’t more people get angry about this?  Unfortunately, too many people  just go on with our lives acting as though none of it pertains to them.

Yes, I do need to watch my temper, but every once in awhile I still feel like slapping some nitwit upside the head (like Moe used to do to Curly on The Three Stooges), or body slamming some guy who is behaving like a moron (like they used to do on All Star Wrestling).

Although we don’t have much of a say on how other people behave, we can still hold ourselves and our children to a higher standard of behavior than what is common today.  This is something worth considering over the next 2 weeks as you contemplate our Lord’s birth and the high standards He later established and expected of all of His followers.

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2 Responses to “Employees, Stooges & Catholics”

  1. Ann Confort Says:

    Right on!It’s too bad more people don’t realize that it is just as important for an employee to give a good day’s work as it is for the employer to pay a fair wage.

  2. Marguerite K. Trad Says:

    Dear Harry;

    Hi; I don’t see ANYTHING wrong with last week’s letter…
    It just goes to show You that your’re human ! KEEP UP the great work !


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