Sunday, March 15, 2015
All workers should pull their weight
February was a good month for jobs. The U.S. reported that 295,000 jobs were added that month, and the national unemployment rate fell to 5.5 percent. That's the lowest it's been since the economic downturn hit in 2008.
But while more people continue to be added to payrolls, wages don't seem to be increasing quite as well. In February, wages rose just 0.1 percent, less than the 0.5 percent they'd risen in January. Many workers still find themselves challenged to make ends meet on salaries that might not have caught up to where they were before the economic downturn began.
One of these workers is a reader in California. The professional firm where she works suffered greatly during the recession, cutting roughly 75 percent of its staff. The reader considers herself one of "the lucky ones" who survived, but notes that she and other remaining staff suffered major cuts to their salaries and benefits.
She's grateful that things seem to be on the upswing now, with her company hiring three new employees recently. However, salaries and benefits have not been restored to their pre-recession levels.
The reader is working hard for less money, as are many of her colleagues -- except for one "junior" employee who also survived the layoffs but is now "slacking off," she claims. He seems "to be having a hard time getting back into production mode. ... Every time I pass his desk, he has his eyes down on his smart phone."
The problem became even more apparent when the reader and her low-performing colleague were assigned to work on a project together.
"His non-participation negatively affected my work load and my patience," she writes. She alerted the worker's supervisor, who talked to him, but nothing has changed.
"He continues to waste hours every day looking down at that phone," the reader wrote.
She figures that the less efficient they are on the project adversely impacts the bottom line. And the less money the company makes, the longer it will take for salaries to be restored.
"I'm tired of making less than I was when he was in diapers," she writes. "Should I talk to him myself? Write him an email expressing my opinion? Take it to Human Resources, or speak to his supervisor again?"
If the reader's colleague is not pulling his wait, the right thing is to let his supervisor know. The reader might have tried talking to the employee before she reported him, but if he doesn't report to her, then she was right to go to his supervisor first. If his performance is still affecting her own work, she'd be right to talk to the supervisor again.
It's one thing to turn a blind eye to coworkers who occasionally check personal email or social media on work time. But when those workers' actions result in loss of productivity for everyone, the right thing is for coworkers to make clear that theirs is a culture that does not accept such behavior. If the slacker feels slighted by the criticism, he should find work elsewhere. Until then, he should do his job.
Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business and The Good, the Bad, and Your Business: Choosing Right When Ethical Dilemmas Pull You Apart, is a lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School.
Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin
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