On the Necessity of Breaking Eggs to Make an Omelet:
Values and Work
I used to work for a large public accounting firm where the socialization process for new hires focused primarily on identifying reliable performers from everyone else. Later on I became part of this identification process, which classified people into two distinct groups of employees: 'Nine to Fivers' and 'Go Getters.'
Nine to Fivers arrived to work each day at exactly 9 am, and they left work promptly at 5pm. They were intensely concerned with enjoying their full lunch break, and their primary efforts were focused on various strategies to fully utilize all personal and sick days prior to expiration. Vacation plans, parties, and winning the lottery consumed their thoughts. This group was low-status and they were looked down upon by more senior people.
Go-getters did whatever was required to get the job done. Their primary efforts were focused on the work itself, and on completing it as promised. They also tried whenever possible to learn from their work and become better at what they did. This group had provisionally higher status, but junior members needed to work very hard indeed to maintain membership.
It is not the case that certain social groups performed better than others. I personally witnessed many young mothers with children to care for who made radical and painful adjustments to their schedules in order to get work done in a diligent and effective manner. I also witnessed young single men whose personal lives revolved around hitting bars right after work, and whose number one priority was finding the date and time of the next big party.
The socialization process was fairly accurate in assigning people to the correct group, and in treating them appropriately. Go-getters clearly understood that as is true in the military, so is true in civilian life: discipline under ideal conditions is useless; discipline is priceless during a crisis. Given situations where one isn't in the mood to perform, doesn't feel like it, it's inconvenient or an imposition, there was one right answer at this firm - do it anyway. ‘Nine-to-fivers’ detested this value and the language used to communicate it while go-getters wouldn’t have it any other way.
If people were harsher and more demanding of themselves and less harsh and less demanding of others, the world might be a better place. This happy outcome occurs because discipline is internalized and arises from within, instead of being imposed from the outside by force, threat, or persuasion. Employees who accepted this value reached the “metamorphosis stage” at this firm where they knew what to do and how to do it. Ultimately, what makes the world work are people who are committed to the value of work, with promises kept, contracts fulfilled, services rendered, and projects completed on time and on budget. This was a core value taught at this firm and people who wished to remain long term employees learned and practiced it.
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