Basing your level of effort on what other people do

I was watching a new “Restaurant Impossible” on Saturday, and the episode was about a family owned restaurant with the Mom the owner and all her kids worked there. And of course the restaurant was going downhill which is why it was on the show. During the show, one of the kids said “Nobody else cares, why should I care?” And I thought “Why does what other people do affect how you work?”

I’ve seen that attitude before - “They don’t care, why should I care?” and I don’t understand that. Shouldn’t a person do the best job they can, regardless of what other people are doing? Why would a person based their attitude or work ethic on other people’s attitude or work ethic? I don’t get that.

If all your appendages are plugging the holes in the dam but the other twenty people can’t be bothered, it doesn’t matter how much effort you put in.

It matters when you go home and think “I did my job to the best of my ability today”

I agree… I am almost in the same situation as you OP.

I am GM of a pizzeria. The son of the owner is my “second in command”. He checked out a few months ago work ethic wise.

I could go on, but I won’t. But I will leave you with this thought.

IMHO…LACK of work ethic is the main root of our problems in the USA.

again, just my opinion.

Those are the words of a sucker, IMO.

I have one particular employer who does not deserve the best of my ability, and so they do not get it.

This employer will cut my hours on a whim, often giving me only a few hours notice that I am no longer going to be working this week. They will do this regardless of how it affects their client: they do not like to pay overtime, and I am in a business that routinely works 10-14 hour days for a week or more at a time.

This employer will plan poorly and then expect me to sort out their mess on my own, even tho that isn’t part of the work I am contracted to do.

And the last time I tried to help this employer enforce their contract’s scope of work, I was singled out to the client as a whistleblower and then the client was given the okay to perform the work which they should not have been doing.

These are in concert with a host of contractual problems and pay problems that I have and have had with them over the past couple of decades. Unless a client is exceptional and/or someone I’ve known for a long time, when I show up to work for this employer I am pretty much neck-down.

Ask yourself: why should I work as hard as possible for this employer when they aren’t paying me as much as they possibly could? When they aren’t treating me as well as they possibly could? Why am I helping other people get rich and suffering for it?

Fuck that.

ETA: If you want to get ahead, if you want to go far in your career, my advice is to drink and be comfortable in bars. Who you know is waaaaaay more important than what you know, IME and drinking socially is still the most acceptable way to bond with other adults.

Now conversely, I have an old employer who did pay me about as well as he could and he was right there with me doing all the dirty, nasty work we had to do. When I started working with him, I could see that I was gonna have to work harder than I was used to in order to keep up with him and his other guys. He frequently got my best effort because he earned it.

So yeah, I will base my effort on what other people do.

Doing something you are paid to do to the best of your ability are the words of a sucker? I don’t understand that.

Aren’t you getting paid to do a job? Shouldn’t you do the job you are being paid for the best you can?

I drink and smoke with the owner of my company any chance I get. Of course, she knows I do my best when I’m actually working, so that helps too.

I have a different view on the employer/employee relationship than you, I guess. Prolly vastly different experiences, too. If you won’t accept my point of view, even after I explain it to you, why should I accept yours?

I am getting paid to do a job. No, I don’t necessarily have to do it “the best I can”. For lots of what I do, there is no distinction between “best ever” and “merely adequate” except what I decide it to be. And if there is no reward for me, why put forth the effort?

I don’t drink and don’t smoke and even if I did, it’s unlikely that the owner of the huge, international company I’m talking about would agree to hang out with me. Besides, I wouldn’t want to hang out with them; it’s doubtful they know anything about the things that interest me and I ddamned sure don’t know or care about golf, investment strategies, raising children, etc.

Are you there to do a job well or to be friends? When I go to work, I’m there to do a job. I have friends; I made them myself.

I didn’t say I don’t accept it. I said I don’t understand. That’s pretty much why I started this thread, because I don’t understand.

That’s fine. But my question was, do you lesson your effort at your job based on what others in your job do?

I’m there to do a job. I’m not at work to make friends. And when I do a job, even if I’m not getting paid, I do the best job I can. Why other people don’t do that is the basis of my question.

How do you know what the job you were hired to do even is? To some degree, we figure out the expectations of our work by what those around us do. So if there’s a culture that encourages innovation and creative problem solving, I am going to follow suit–but if innovation and creative problem solving just get ignored at best and undone at worst, I am going to understand that to mean that my job isn’t to think, my job is just to meet expectations.

I will also say this: I’ve been inspired by fantastic co-workers to work harder than I thought I could. In periods like that, work becomes a hobby, too, because I find it very satisfying to be so productive: I double down, when I know that my efforts are going towards something greater than I could do alone, and when I know my contributions are noticed and valued and will be built on. When that goes away, I work less hard. I still do a Good Job by any reasonable standard, but I don’t give any extra. Can you relate to that at all?

The least I’ll give anything is an honest effort; I just don’t coast very well. The right place and time I hit the extraordinary effort level. But caring one way or another which it is or when? Work isn’t something I get emotionally wrapped up in very often. Sometimes but very rarely.

I think it’s more complex than that, and that part of the problem is poor management/management “by the book.” At my current job we work by quota and a frequent gripe is that you can be over quota 50 times, but the one off day you have, mgmt wants a word. On the one hand, it doesn’t bug me - you have to miss quota a lot to get fired, and it’s not so onerous that you’ll miss it putting in honest effort consistently. And I get that it’s policy, because if you do start missing all the time they need documentation to take action without legal trouble.

But on the other hand, that all stick/no carrot attitude upsets people and hurts morale. Too often, being good at your job seems to mean nothing to employers, and reluctance to deal with problem people means being poor at it has no consequences, so things erode. A frequent complaint by management is that towards the end of a shift when everyone’s made quote, most people slow down. Why wouldn’t they?

That said, I was brought up to believe the Golden Rule applied to work as well - I get 100% of my pay, so I do 100% of the job. And I’ve had numerous conversations in the last 40 years with co-workers about how I’m a chump for various unrelated reasons: the bosses don’t appreciate it, the customers don’t appreciate it, so-and-so makes more than me, other places pay more for the same job, someone’s nephew/niece/baby-mama has a job but is on the phone all day, everyone else is slacking, etc. And like the Zen monk, the only reply is “So?”

At the end of the day, basing what you do on what other people are doing is a bad idea because most people are idiots. You’ll see proof of that every day on the ride in.

Okay, well, maybe think a little more about what it is you want to know. Because this question:

isn’t the same thing you asked in the OP:

Your new question barely makes sense for me because I am pretty much always the only person doing what I do. As I said, the only real metric I have is of my own making. No, I don’t choose to set that bar very high, or even kinda high, often. My “merely adequate” is higher than most people’s high bar; that prolly helps.

When you open a door, do you always “do it to the best of your ability”? :dubious:

Why is that one your “old” employer? I would’ve preferred to stay with him.

When you pay back a loan, do you pay back more than is expected of you?

I’ll presume your answer to that is no, and the same logic can be applied to working a job for pay: you should do the job that is expected of you. If you want to do more because it makes you happy - either as a personal point of pride, or because you feel personally invested in the success of the business enterprise - that’s fine. But some people don’t anchor their sense of self-esteem on their job performance, and some people aren’t emotionally invested in the success/growth of the place that they work.

Having said that, when the economy sours, employees who exceed performance requirements are more likely to be retained, and employees who just toe the line are more likely to be let go. Every employee sets their own standards for how secure they feel about their financial situation, and how hard they want to work to achieve a greater sense of security.

And then there’s the employee who doesn’t meet the minimum standards of job performance, which is a whole different category. In the restaurant you described in your OP, it sounds like the kids were like this - in which case Mom should have let them go and hired new employees who were more interested in excelling.

Comedian Roy Wood, Jr. spoke of a shitty job he once had, and offered this: “I don’t know what y’all do when you’re getting paid minimum wage. But when I’m getting paid minimum wage, I do the minimum.” :smiley:

Totally depends on what kind of work we’re talking about.

If I’m in a helping profession, where my job revolves around life-and-death issues of my clients, I’m going to work my hardest no matter what. Even if management is incompetent and my coworkers are lazy slobs.

But if all I’m doing is dropping fries at McD’s, then I’m not going to work any harder than I have to. With “have to” defined as whatever the ambient work effort is. If there’s an opportunity to make more money or transfer to a better position by stepping up potato-frying my game, then I’ll step up my potato-frying game. But my life purpose isn’t french fries.

I’m reminded of Patsy in “Twelve Years a Slave”. She was the best cotton-picker on the plantation. Indeed, her high performance was such that everyone else’s was judged subpar in comparison, and they were punished for it. Now Patsy got a psychological reward out of killing it in the cotton field, but I don’t her excellence was particularly noble or praise-worthy. I think it makes perfect sense for a slave to only put in much effort as everyone else and not try to be “super slave”. Because in the end, you’re still going to be a slave no matter what you do.


Sure, you should do your work to the best of your abilities.

However, you must not forget that your job is a business agreement, not a moral imperative. Ignoring this fact places the worker in a subservient position to the employer, when they should be peers engaging in a business transaction.

Let’s say I’m working in a warehouse, and get paid $15/hr. I’m expected to pack and wrap 2 pallets of stuff in an hour, or 16 pallets per day. The fact that I figured out how to pack and wrap 20 pallets per day is irrelevant, I’m paid to do 16.

If I wasn’t some pallet jockey, but was a ‘respectable’ business owner who provided packing and wrapping services, I’d be giving you 16 pallets per day for my daily fee, and nobody in business would expect me to provide 20 per day for the same fee. But, since I’m just a worker and not a business owner, the expectation is different. I’m supposed to have ‘work ethic’ and do the best I can do, work the hardest I can for my pay, regardless of what the arrangement (written or unwritten) is with the employer.

I don’t think I can think of a single job I’ve held in which I worked “to the best of my abilities.” Nor can I think of a job I’ve had - at least since college - where I wasn’t in the top 25% of producers (generally much higher) by any measure. Nor can I think of a job I held where increased effort would’ve been acknowledged in the form of commensurate pay/promotion.

I’ve consistently been in positions where I am paid salary for what is essentially piecework. And TPTB aren’t interested in my ideas for improving the processes. The employer and I struck a bargain - they will pay me X, for me to produce Y amount of work of Z quality. If my abilities would allow me to produce 2Y amounts of work of Z+1 quality, why should I, unless my pay is increased?

I was in one job with approximately 25 similarly situated workers, and I was doing 14% of the output. My work was as high quality as anyone else’s by any measure. Yet I was taking long lunches, surfing the net, never staying late… As far as I could tell, the SOLE reward for doing more work was being assigned more work. All the while (as noted above) being called on the carpet for any fleeting shortcoming or transgression. So the OP might feel best if he produced 20% of the group’s output? 25%?

Me, I woulda felt like a sap, and wouldn’t have respected myself. I remember having a discussion w/ my boss, when she told me my doing a lot of good work would not get me a promotion. I asked her why I should do a single piece of work more than the average of my co-workers + 1. She said, “Respect.” I responded that there was the kind of respect that folds and you can put it in your wallet.

The OP’s mind apparently works differently than mine (and others). Not sure why he is unable to understand that.

For the OP - are there any limits? Do you work through your breaks/lunches/leave time? Do you volunteer to work late and come in weekends? I mean, you COULD, if you wanted to “do the best job you can.”

The typical experience I’ve had in my professional career is that my definition of quality work is way, way higher than my employer’s definition of quality. When this happens - in my experience - the part that exceeds the boss’s definition of quality is simply ignored and not valued or rewarded. At best. At worst, they start taking me for granted. Some actual examples:

There was the place where I was a senior level software engineer and part of my job was tier 2 customer support. If a customer had an issue that our customer service team couldn’t handle, it was passed over to me to solve. The manager of the customer service team had a “falling out” with the director so he backed off to bare minimum work and let his team do the same. The management team at this place was so conflict avoidant that they didn’t fire people, which became clear to everyone. Instead of disciplining the customer service team, retraining or whatever it took to get them to do their jobs correctly, me and my fellow tier 2 engineers started having to do tier 1 customer support as well as tier 2 and our normal project work. That went on for years - I left that place before the customer service team did.

Then there is the issue of performance reviews, and I’ve had this experience at a few jobs. I’m a good worker and get consistently “exceeds expectations” ratings, except perhaps the first year when I’m learning the job. Despite that track record, I’ve never been promoted, not even minor rank promotions like Engineer 3 to Engineer 4. In performance review meetings, I’ve heard the following things out my manager’s mouths that are motivation killers:

“You really exceeded expectations again, but we’re only allowed to have one person at that ranking each year and since you got it the last two years I had to give it to someone else this time.”

“Your performance has been outstanding but I’m not allowed to rank people higher than a four (on a scale of 1 to 5).”

“Your performance has been outstanding! Congratulations, you’re getting a 2% raise!”

So in summary, it’s entirely dependent on the company culture and the management style as to whether I give my best performance or not.

If everyone else in the warehouse gets away with only packing 15 pallets per day, would you change to only pack 15 pallets per day, or would you continue to pack 16 pallets, knowing that is what they are paying you for?