Monday, November 3, 2008

By the time you need it, it's too late

I've read the above comment, or the gist of it anyway, in more than one place.  I think I might have read it in books by Stephen Covey and Lois Frankel.  It's a great concept to keep in mind--regardless of what field you're in--and regardless of what the task is.

A few things have reminded me of this lately. I thought back this weekend over the layoffs at DA, and I realized they'd been going on for pretty much the whole year.  In January, we fired a cranky office manager (and hired Ethel's husband to be our 32-hour-a-week office manager), and we laid off a spec writer (who had no specs to write because we had no projects) and a not-very-efficient admin person.  A few months later, we got rid of a few other under-performing people, and a little after than we got rid of a few more underperformers.  Here and there in the months in between, we've let this or that person go, and some folks have left of their own accord, and we just didn't replace them.  Finally about a month ago, we had a big layoff that included 11 people in all (I had thought it was 10 originally).  What I realized is that all the layoffs up until September involved people who had, for the most part, performance and attitude issues.  Even with the round in September, many of the people in that group were quite productive but had some issues: Some managers and even a consultant or two had complained about Ethel; and Sarge, for even as talented, brilliant, and helpful as he was, had some definite attitude issues with some of the harder-to-get-along-with folks in the office.  It was the last round in which many of the folks who went were considered really, really good people with no complaints about them. 

Which brings me ever so slowly to my point.  The time to save your job is not when things get bad; it's all the time.  It's when things are good, things are fair, things are easy, things are tough.  If you're consistently a hard worker, a good worker, and an easy-to-work-with worker, you make it harder to lay you off or fire you.  I'm not lucky; I'm smart.  And maybe I'm gloating, and maybe it's easy for me to gloat while I'm still employed.  Fine.  The point is, I've consistently shown my employers that I'm a good value.  I'm a steal at twice the price (though yes, I know I'm underpaid and that DA underpays because it includes really cheap medical care and a good bonus structure), and I do excellent work consistently.  I've only had one owner call about my performance (that I know of), and he was concerned that I cared too much and worked too hard because I looked stressed out in a meeting.  

The point is (how many points do I have here?  this isn't the clearest post I've ever done, but I wanted to get it down), excellence is a habit, not a quick-painted-on-veneer skill.  I can have dessert on a regular basis because my workout habit and my eating-well-most-of-the-time habit keeps me fit.  I can splurge now and then on a massage or a nice skin serum because my financial habits leave me in a good place money-wise.  And I can be cautious without being super-anxious at work though I don't have a lot to do because I've done so much good work for so long.  By the time you need to save your job, it's too late.  By the time you need to save your cholesterol level, it's too late.  By the time you need to save your relationship, it's too late.  By the time you need to save you money, it's too late.

There are exceptions to every rule, including this one.  But having been mulling this over and over for a bit, I think that for the most part it stands true.


ms. kitty said...

What good wisdom, Pixie!

Miss Kitty said...

You're so right. So, SO right.

Xtine said...

This is so very, very true.

If you wanted to sum it up even more concisely: responsibility is a habit - fiscal, physical, professional, sexual...all of it.

Of course, no one said it's easy to be consistently responsible in all the ways that matter, or that people realize the value of this.*

*: A coworker got fired after bitching at me on a Saturday for ten minutes, when I was about three minutes late. Her spiel the entire time? "I have places to be and you're being rude!"

The problem wasn't her saying something to me. It was the vitriol with which she said it all. Someone, and I still don't know who, since the place was almost completely empty, reported her because of how hateful she was being. Of course, this is one of those stories that brings the same thought to my head: "How hard is it to be nice/why aren't more people nice to others?"

Ok, done rambling. For now.

Miss Kitty said...

Xtine, that is the most awesome story I've ever heard. If only some people *I* know would get fired because they're so nasty to others! :-)