Thursday, December 31, 2015

"These kids today"

Every generation seems to have its time to complain about the younger generation. They have too many things. They don't have to deal with the problems the older generation had to deal with. They don't respect the older generation. They don't work as hard as the older generation. And on and on. I guess this is only natural. But it can also be unsettling to the younger generation and allows the older generation to miss things they aren't paying attention to. The latest one I've been hearing is that the kids starting to work now don't take correction well. They get too upset when they are told they are wrong. If they are reprimanded, they just shut down or quit. Or worse, they go to their parents to get them to "make it all right."

Let me tell you - this has been going on forever. No one likes to be told they are wrong. No one likes to be humiliated in front of other people. No one likes to be made a fool of. It is always (and has always been) a matter of how the correction is communicated.

If I walk up to someone and yell in their face that they are doing it wrong, they react negatively. If I walk up to someone and explain the problem and how the way they are doing it could be changed for the better, I get a better reaction. Even better, if I listen to their explanation of why they are doing it the way they are doing it, I may learn something. Maybe they are seeing a circumstance I hadn't considered. Maybe I am looking at the "result" in the wrong way and it isn't the result I thought. If you are a supervisor and you think your job is to toughen up your workers, then you are wrong. Your job is to make the company more productive and to help your workers do a better job. Leave the toughening up to the Marines.

If we really are seeing more young people shut down or quit, maybe it's because the older generation has forgotten how to give guidance. Perhaps the older generation has forgotten the good training they received when they were first starting out. I had both good and bad supervision as I was growing up and learning to work. I chose to emulate the good supervisors and not behave like the bad supervisors. You are doing wrong when you say, "I had to deal with bad bosses when I started out and these kids need to learn to deal with that, too." No they don't. They need to be shown the right way to do things. Period.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A bribe in Paris

I read the blog of Earl Pomerantz just about every day. Well, he only publishes on week-days so I read his blog, Just Thinking..., every week-day. Over the last three days, he has written a story about trying to set up an arrangement at a resort in Hawaii to get the folks who set out the chairs and towels for the guests to set his family's chairs and towel out every morning without his needing to wait in line. It involved an arrangement where he "took care of" the attendants at the beginning of his stay. The "taking care of" was a kind of bribe, I guess. Reading his story reminded me of something that happened to me back in 1987 when I was working for the US Geological Survey. We had been working on a research vessel off the coast of Africa. To get back home, we had to fly from Abidjan, Ivory Coast to Paris and spend the night (no one complained) to get the connecting flight the next morning. The whole group of us, about six or seven people, were traveling together.

We all went to a restaurant that was packed. We waited and waited for a table and there was no place to sit. I was trying to get one of the women of our group to notice me and thought I'd be a big shot and get us a table. I was shaking and nervous because I'd never done it before but my desire for this woman to notice me was greater than my fear. My French was horrible and the Maitre D' didn't speak English very well. I handed him a large Franc note and tried to explain why I was giving him money. I thought he'd been through this before but the look on his face made me even more afraid. It was a mixture of shock and anger. Maybe I insulted him or maybe I had been too obvious and he was afraid the owner had seen it. He looked like he was going to pass out. I didn't know what to do and tried to explain some more but I think I was just making it worse. And I wasn't sure that maybe, in my broken French, I was asking him to give my dog a bath or something.

He kept holding the money in his hand so I just grabbed it back and slunk back to my friends. I remember that the woman I was trying to impress had seen the whole thing and thought it was funny. So, in the end end, she did notice me and we talked a good bit that evening but mostly about how inept I was. Nothing much ever came of our conversation that evening and I never tried to bribe anyone again.

I suggest reading Earl Pomerantz's posts. They can be found in three parts, Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. They are better written, more insightful and funnier (he is a comedy writer after all). They are just better, OK?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A little thing that happened that didn't get bigger

I was out shopping by myself this week-end and heading home. There is a place on the road where you have to get in the left lane to make a left-hand turn and I was in the right lane. Of course, on a four-lane highway, you are supposed to travel in the right lane and only use the left lane to pass or, in this case, make a left-hand turn. So, I checked the other traffic. There were people traveling in the left lane but that's expected anymore. Fewer and fewer people follow the rules but we are all used to that. The important thing is to watch the traffic and drive safely in the circumstances whether the other people are driving correctly or not.

I checked ahead and behind. There was a gap in the left lane with the car in front and the car behind leaving a gap of at least four or five car lengths. So, I put on my left turn signal (or as it's called in Massachusetts, my blinkah) before I started moving left and then, after a few seconds, started to move left. As I watched my mirrors, I saw that the car in front was keeping steady but the car behind (a big Cadillac) was moving up. It was closing up the gap a little but it looked like there was still enough room to make it. When I was half-way into the left lane, I could see the Cadillac was accelerating! This guy was trying to keep me out of the left lane for some reason. He had been going along at a steady pace for a long time but my needing to get into the lane ahead of him had caused him to act. His Cadillac didn't have the acceleration to close the gap enough to make it dangerous for me to continue and I ended up in the left lane. But as I kept my eye on the rear-view mirror, I saw him continue to close the gap until he was right on my tail. I saw him gesture at me (guess which finger he showed me) and his mouth was moving a lot and I assume he wasn't complimenting me.

If I hadn't checked that he was going at a steady pace before I started moving or if there hadn't been enough room, I could see his anger. If the guy in front in that lane had been moving along so that the rest of the people in the left lane could be passing I would understand his anger. But no. It seemed he wanted to get upset. It seemed he thought I was wrong for pulling into his lane. I don't know why he was so ready to cause a problem that wasn't there but I'm glad I kept my head and didn't do anything to make it worse. You never know what kind of a day someone else has had. I won't lie and say I wasn't mad at him for being mad at me - for no reason (I think). It's just a reminder to me to try to keep things from escalating. Maybe he had a gun. Maybe he had just stolen the car and didn't care about whether he got in a wreck. Maybe he had a mental problem and it looked like I had done something I didn't. I'm just glad it didn't go farther.

A minute later, I turned to the left to get off the road. He zoomed past me but had to slow down again when he got closer to the guy who had been in front of me in the left lane. Now, that guy shouldn't have been staying in the left lane if he wasn't passing or turning left. I'm so mad!