Friday, September 9, 2016
All good things must
I was working on the check in machine at my library. Up next for me was a stint at the phone station. And I was pleased to know that, because I was following one of our industrious substitutes, I would have an easy time of it when I got there. These industrious substitute workers come in and simply work steadily for the whole time they're here. They don't pace themselves, nurse grudges, or get other side projects done. They don't have side projects. They don't have ages to go before their next weekend. And they don't have a fully developed sense of self-righteousness. They are great to follow, especially on the phones. So imagine my grave disappointment when I got to the phones and found that the industrious sub was no longer industrious. She had gotten almost nothing done, and my new spot came ready made with unavoidable, backed up work!
Oh, right, this sub has been here awhile.
Let me check her expiration date. Yep, she'd expired.
A small number of new workers are never competent and never industrious, and they never will be. They shouldn't be hired and shouldn't be allowed to stay, but they are. They can be fun to write blog posts about and surely have other virtues, none of which I will ever remember for the rest of my life. Another very small group of new workers are industrious and will forever remain industrious despite other limitations that tend to go with that. We are not here to talk about them either right now. But the great majority of new workers start out on their best behavior. They need guidance, help, and information. They want to make a decent impression in this strange new environment and the best thing they have to offer is a good application to the grunt work, to doing thoroughly the things they know. They shelve, they empty, they process, and they stay where they're supposed to be.
They cannot solve complicated problems independently. They do not keep things running smoothly under the surface. They are not secretly laying the tracks to keep the library running on a quiet, unseen efficiency. They cannot do it all without fuss or notice. But they can shelve more than average and they can keep working all the time they're scheduled to keep working.
This period of application and industry lasts even longer with substitutes. They work fewer hours and so stay new longer.
But eventually there comes a time where these new people know everyone. They understand how most things work. They attain a small level of comfortable familiarity. And they start to compare. They start to ask "Why am I working all the time? None of these other people are." And then they spend fifteen minutes on their Facebook page, they shoot the breeze with someone they've come to like, they finish their work and don't look for something new to do, they look for something not to do. This is a revelation to them. The world doesn't end.
And the rest of us say "Oh crap."
If they are good, these no longer new workers, they will take up their share of the secret work. If they are not good, they won't.
But the above average grunt work is over. "Oh crap." We say. "And welcome to the club."