“Strong Work Ethic” Club

I totally get that renovations are a metaphor for life; I’ve written something to this effect five days in a row. I understand how surprises lurk behind every wall you open and around every corner; I’ve lived this already.

Today’s gripe is about work ethic.

When I’m hired to do a project, whether it was as an advertising executive or as a writer or as an artist, I strive to complete the project not only according to my perfectionist standards but also above and beyond the clients’ expectations. I come prepared to be spontaneous or flexible as long as the end result is getting the job done – and done well.

At one point today in my apartment, I had a contractor, four plumbers, two flooring guys, and two guys hauling flooring, which my husband and I ripped up ourselves and filled into rolling carts and one box for their easy disposal.

I watched these eight men working around me and all I could think is, “I would work harder and faster and better than this.” Getting started was problem one. Instead of a “challenge accepted” or “let’s sell this house today” attitude, we got sighs followed by excuses. Accountability was crickets; workmen just point fingers and tell you to talk to their boss, which we did over a dozen times today. If it’s not Home Depot or the bank, it’s Lumber Liquidators and Bob, the hot-headed floor layer.

When I worked at the donut shop throughout my teenage years, Dottie, my favorite waitress, the buxom redhead who became a grandmother at 35, used to get frustrated by the lazy teenagers who worked with us. “They have two speeds,” she would snap her gum and shake her head, “slow and none.”

Just like I can’t judge how other people live their life or what makes them happy, I can’t command how hard a person is going to work. I do expect, however, when someone gives me an estimate, it will be relatively close to the mark. If a person gives me a contract with a list of what I paid for in full, I expect to receive that service. If they say it will take two days to do something, I’m surprised if it takes a week.

I’m not sure if you’re born with work ethic or if you learn from your parents. As immigrants, my family came to this country already with an uphill climb. My parents had a language barrier, an education barrier, and social barriers but none of those deterred my parents. They came here to work hard and make a life for themselves and for us. They came to America because rumor had it this is where dreams came true if you worked hard enough to make them happen. Build a business, build a life.

Strong work integrity and delivering what you promise should be the default of good business. Standing behind your product and your service shouldn’t be a bonus, that should be the minimum. It sucks to have to be the ever-present boss telling them what they didn’t do right. I shouldn’t have to be a bad guy; I paid to receive a product or a service and not have to work. I paid for peace of mind and ease and instead I have aggravation, frustration, and arguments. All home improvement workers should come with a specified warning label: may cause irritation, maddening confusion and inexplicable conflict. At the least I could be prepared for the brand of renovation torture I will be put through.

4 thoughts on ““Strong Work Ethic” Club

  1. I notice the same thing you do, and was just talking to a friend of mine last night about it. The work ethic of a lot of immigrants often puts others to shame, because we do have so many barriers to overcome when we come to a new country.

  2. You took the words right out of my mouth!!! Maybe it’s because you and I came from the same place, cut from the same European fabric and we are always moving and shaking. I do think you learn this behaviour, but it’s also in our DNA.

    My whole life, I have noticed that I work harder, more honest, and try not to fuck people over. If we could all just do the same, we would have a better place. People get a business, they start making money, then they get greedy, screw over their workers, pay less for less experienced people and it spirals out of control.

    Here is Maine, it’s the worst I have ever seen. I think our country is mostly to blame (after the parents). The area is very rural and we have NO transportation system other than big ass cars. The kids can’t afford cars, their parents are in jail or on drugs and their lives SUCK. Do you know who gives a shit? No one, especially the rich people on their massively huge yachts and human waste.

    These kids grow up without an example, without culture, and without consideration for other people. Again, it’s not ALL their fault. You are where you come from and who you surround yourself with.

    Even if people want to bike around these beautiful parts, bicyclists will get run off the road because people don’t care. They have their big truck and fat ass and don’t understand using another form of transportation. They have never seen it.

    Even with the invention of the interweb and all the information we could possibly want at our fingertips, kids use narcissistic social media to WASTE their time, rather than learning or figuring out a way to fix their lives.

    The problem is, they don’t give a fuck. Just like their parents and especially the government we pay to take care of us.

  3. I can sympathize. I’ve written similar complaints about sub contractors when we were building a house, like “Sparky”, the electrician who put us off over and over and then asked if he could please be paid “immediately”!

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