Friday, May 14, 2010

Good For The Soul

I mention no names or places here, to protect myself from any chance legal liability. On the other hand, I hope the point is clear that the only person who comes out of this looking bad is me.

The best supervisors at a place of business are those who not only support those under them positively, but those who are quite willing to hand them their ass when necessary. The other night, I had my ass handed to me, on a silver platter. I want to take a moment to thank my supervisor for doing this. It is significant that this was the last chance this person had to do this for me, and it was done clearly, professionally, and even thoughtfully. My only regret is I won't have the opportunity to prove that I can, indeed, change for the better.

I've worked at the same place for about three and a half years. While hardly a world-changing, life-changing job, it is a job. The past two years, however, the job has become progressively more physically demanding. Always physically stressful, the changes I have gone through moving from just-turn-41 to 44 are taking their toll. Because of that, I have, over time, cut little corners here, there, and elsewhere in the performance of my duties, always with one eye on some parts of my job, but another eye - far more jaundiced - turned askance at it.

Suffice it to say I was called out on my performance the other night. The accumulation of grievances became the subject of a heated exchange between me and my supervisor. While not granting every single accusation made as accurate, suffice it to say that, in sum, the diagnosis of the issue was spot on. Significantly, it was toward the end of a dressing down both long-needed and much deserved, in what seemed like a throw-away line at the time, that I realized where my error lay. I was told, "Sure, you aren't a surgeon or a lawyer, but you should still do your job as best you can," or words to that effect.

In other words, I was getting a lecture in work-place ethics in which it was being made clear that mine were found wanting. And for precisely the reasons set out, too. Because the work isn't "significant", or "important", or some other socially-acceptable bit of employment, I consoled my own decreasing lack of performance over time in the understanding that it didn't really matter all that much.

Except, of course, it does. It's a matter of character. A matter of ensuring that, no matter the job or task, is done with dedication and thoroughness. What I feel most ashamed of is not the details of my failure which are, in fact, relatively easily remediable. A bit of a slower pace, a bit more attention to detail, a bit of thought and concentration on the task at hand - that's all that is required. It is the ethical failure, the realization that on an issue as important as how one views and conducts oneself as a worker - regardless of the work in question - I had been found wanting, that troubles me. For this, I am heartily sorry; I hope that I can show others, in the near future, that this is a situation I understand, and will change.

I have been fortunate in my time at this particular place because I have been surrounded by people who, working under all kinds of stresses and limitations, manage to do incredible amounts of work - physically taxing if not precisely intellectually stimulating - not only with dedication, but with a sense of fun. All of that flowed down from a one particular person who will no longer have the position of supervisor come our next work week, through no fault of this person's own. I guess I want to take a moment to say, "Thank you," because I really have learned so much from this person. I'm just sorry it took so long, that I was too thick to allow the lesson to penetrate until the last possible moment.

A little confession is good for the soul, so they say (hence the title). A little penitence, at least in this case in the form of a conscious effort to make some ever-so-slight adjustments in my own work habits, will also do me good. I hope, for my own sake, that the words have not come too late. I also hope this person understands how grateful I am and have been to be able to work with someone who understands far better than I do what it means to work ethically.

Virtual Tin Cup

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