Monday, August 17, 2009

Why work?

Why do we work? Not the most earth-shattering topic but the one in my head at the moment.

We work because we need the income to pay for stuff we want and/or need. In rare situations, the work is done because either the process or the goal are considered something worthwhile and the end result is desirable (either because it is lofty or because ultimate performance will avoid the worker's getting fired).

OK, what about summer workers who don't 'need' the money? I ran into that recently. i was stressing to summer employees how important speed was. A worker said "well...we get paid by the hour so we don't really rush." Great. I tried to explain that the work had to be done by a deadline but by that time he was busy playing Tetris.

But why did I expect otherwise? Either we pay by the hour, and since he has nothing invested in the final work-product, he might as well slack off in each hour so that he can guarantee future hours, or we pay on a set salary, and in that case, as he has nothing invested in the end work-product, he would do whatever he does when he feels like it.

I know this isn't fair but the only way to resolve this is to make summer work matter by making payment contingent on reaching an end result by deadline. These workers are contract workers working on a project. The should get their money based on presenting a completed project on schedule. Sure, that means that a worker will be working for weeks only on the promise of payment, but at least I could walk in and say "hurry up" and the worker might listen.

Other downsides? If I bring in a new worker, that eats away at the profit any other worker makes because more people have to share in the ultimate pot of payment unless I go back, count the hours and pay them a fixed per/hour based on time cards afterwards. A worker who leaves mid-project or misses days due to unforeseen problems is dependent on others' performance to get his share. If they don't finish, he gets nothing.

I don't know; it isn't perfect and it isn't fair. But the work has to get done and sometimes I feel like I'm the only one who cares.

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