Among the many strange things I have been led to do by my curiosity and frustration with the worst of my co-workers is to keep track of how many patrons I help versus how many patrons my co-worker helps. I have only ever done this with the really terrible co-workers, but I have found it soothing and informative.
Analysis ground rules:
Since we work in pairs at the front desk things are pretty simple here. I merely count our respective patron interactions. I give my co-worker the benefit of the doubt and if they come up on a big transaction (registering library cards for a family of four, for instance) I will pad their points a bit (though not my own, I'll just work a little faster). If things slow down and they want to go and shelve a few requests I wont count that time. Finally, I try to keep the count for a long enough time to account for all the variability in difficulties in interactions.
Roughly 3 to 1, that is if one of my co-workers is so bad (there are currently four of them) that I am driven to keep track of our clerking speeds, I have so far found that I will be helping 3 visitors for every 1 they help. The lowest differential I have encountered is just under 2.5 to 1, the highest a bit under 3.5 to 1.
This would not mean much if I were a brusk, unhelpful automaton churning through the public while my co-worker was friendly, thorough, kind and helpful. But I am chatty and meticulous and able to go as deep as you need to go on almost any issue. I will refer you on to someone else only if all of the following are true, you are needing me to do something exceptionally annoying, it is extremely time consuming, and it is not my job. Ultimately I am far more likely to do more for you than I am supposed to.
What it all means:
Remember my blogposts on touring my city's clerks? Well, I haven't written part 2 yet, but remember part 1? I don't too well either, but here's the thing: It can be hard, even for a professional, to judge a clerk by its cover. Did that crisp, professionally dressed clerk in a kind, friendly way tell you helpful information? That information may turn out to be useless, partial, or inaccurate when and if it comes time to apply it. Did that clerk no problem take care of that little issue on your account? You may be taking care of that issue again. Was that clerk super kind and thorough? They may be why you waited in line for 7 minutes instead of 2 and also need to go now to the reference desk to complete your business. And on the other hand, what about that ever so slightly scruffy clerk (actually I am dressed super nice today so this is like a hypothetical person!) who doesn't necessarily seem very industrious but looks like he or she is having a good time? His or her line might move strangely fast for all their casualness, and you might be surprised what all gets done there and doesn't need to be done again.