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Posts Tagged ‘work’

THE DIGNITY OF WORK

Posted by Tim Bryce on May 3, 2010

I had a friend who used to be very class conscious when it came to work. He wouldn’t socialize with other people he deemed below him and was very choosy when it came to where he lived. If the wrong class of workers were in the neighborhood, he wouldn’t visit the area (let alone move into it). It had nothing to do with race or religion, only the types of jobs people had. In his mind, there was a clear delineation between people based strictly on their livelihood; e.g., blue collar labor, technical people, middle management, professional people, and executives. I guess we are all a little class conscious about how people make a living, a kind of one-upmanship, but I never saw it quite this vividly before.

This bothered me because I believe in the dignity and honor of any job, regardless how mundane it may seem. This caused me to do some soul-searching as to why I felt this way and I suppose it is because I am acutely aware of my family’s history; e.g., how we came to this country from Scotland, which certainly wasn’t in a luxury liner, how we struggled to get a foothold here, how we survived the Great Depression, and how we prospered following World War II.

Like many of you, I can recall the menial jobs both my grandfather and father performed to help the family survive. Interestingly, they never complained about it but, rather, always spoke with pride of how well they did their jobs. For instance, my grandfather used to be employed by the Wickwire Steel Company in Buffalo, New York where he ran a machine to make the rebar mesh used in such things as concrete sidewalks. It was certainly not a glamorous job. In fact, it was rather difficult as the machines would frequently break down. Instead of waiting for the machine to be fixed by someone else, as his union wanted him to do, he learned how to fix the machine himself. He figured he couldn’t get paid if the machine was idle, so he devoted his own personal time to learn as much about it as he could. His knowledge of the machines grew to the point where he eventually became the head of maintenance. Whereas he could have done nothing, instead he elected to take a proactive approach.

To my grandfather’s way of thinking, his job was no better or worse than anyone else’s. He was just thankful he had one and did it to the best of his ability. This taught me you should not look down your nose at anyone for the job they have, but rather how well they perform it. I have much more respect for the common uneducated laborer who knows what he is doing as opposed to a well educated professional who is a derelict.

It is fundamental to the human spirit that we all believe we are leading a worthy and honorable life. Since work is an inherent part of our life, how meaningful our job is depends on what we make of it. If we take a defeatist attitude and treat it as a triviality, we will suffer from low self-esteem and become jealous of others. However, if we adopt a professional attitude towards our job, regardless of its magnitude, we will have a more positive sense of self worth.

With this said, I don’t understand the obsession a lot of High School Guidance Counselors have in pushing students towards a college education. Not everyone is predisposed to attending college, some are better served by going into a trade school or the military. Yet, many guidance counselors pooh-pooh such institutions thereby creating a snobbish attitude towards them. Believe me, there is nothing dishonorable about learning mechanics, auto repair, plumbing, carpentry, or serving in the military. Imagine where we would be without such professions.

One of the main reasons I have enjoyed my time in the Masons is that we are taught regardless of your station in life, everyone serves on the level. In other words, everyone has an equal say regardless of who they are, thereby taking ego out of the formula and creating a sense of cooperation.

I do not know how well we are passing this lesson of work dignity to our young people, but I fear we are creating a generation of people who are more class conscious than the last, and never satisfied with the job they have, regardless what it is. From a psychological point of view, this should have profound long term effects on our productivity and our culture.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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HUMOR IN THE WORK PLACE

Posted by Tim Bryce on September 11, 2009

I have been a fan of NBC’s popular sitcom “The Office” for quite some time. More than anything, the secret to the show’s success is its ability to develop a humorous parody of true life office situations, such as boring meetings, an irrational boss, office politics, competition, even romance. One of the areas the writers work on is humor in the work place. Two situations in particular come to mind: Michael Scott’s (the boss) inane ability to tell jokes to his staff, which nobody appreciates, and Jim Halpert’s barrage of practical jokes on his nemesis at work, Dwight Schrute (moving Dwight’s desk into the men’s room was my personal favorite).

In Scott’s case, as manager he simply wants to lighten things up in the workplace. Although he genuinely believes he is being witty, he is oblivious to the fact his delivery is not only bad, but his comments are embarrassingly crude and politically incorrect. Although he has the best intentions, his staff is simply shocked by what comes out of his mouth. In other words, instead of easing the tensions in the office, he compounds it.

In Halpert’s case, there is considerable tension between Schrute and himself, but because of Dwight’s offbeat persona, he makes an easy target for Jim who gets satisfaction watching his foil react to his pranks. This greatly relieves the stress of work, at least for Jim and Pam. However, Jim can become distraught if his practical jokes backfire.

The lesson from both scenarios is there is a fine line between adding levity to the workplace and making matters worse.

There is a trend in management today to promote humor in the workplace in the hopes it will relieve the tedium of work. Although this sounds all well and good, there are also pitfalls. First, not everyone shares the same sense of humor. What one person considers funny may be considered obnoxious or distasteful to another. Second, it is very easy to go over the line and tell a politically incorrect joke, thereby paving the way for a reprimand or, even worse, a lawsuit to be filed against the person, the company, or both.

Sarcasm is perhaps the most common form of humor found in the workplace, but this can get old quickly if done excessively and perceived in a negative context. Imitations of people can be comical, but it also reveals your true feelings about someone, plus, if your target finds out about it, you might earn their wrath or turn a friend into an enemy. To me, imitations of people in the office are the first hint that someone has their foot on a banana peel.

Practical jokes are still around, but not to the degree as exemplified in “The Office.” The biggest danger here is if the joke is manifested in front of a prospective or existing customer, thereby affecting business. Company newbies, particularly recent college graduates, beware: be wary of sophomoric hijinks in the workplace. Humor in the office is vastly different than what you experienced in college.

Is there room for humor in the workplace anymore? Yes, the prime intent is to relieve stress, engage the brain, and reinvigorate your coworkers. You should be cognizant though of the fine line between silliness and getting in the way of accomplishing productive work. Like any comedian, you should know your audience and tailor your humor accordingly. No, we no longer live in an era where crude jokes can be openly told in the workplace. We must be careful not to offend, but aside from this, there is nothing wrong with a little levity to liven things up.

And for God’s sake, don’t try some of Jim’s practical jokes at work.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For a listing of Tim’s Pet Peeves, click HERE.

Download Tim’s new eBook (PDF), “Bryce’s Pet Peeve Anthology – Volume I” (free) DOWNLOAD).

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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