It’s Just a Job

I saw someone post on Facebook the other day…People at work are not your friends. It’s just a job. Do your job. Go home. I also hear people say ” It’s just a job.” far too often. While I get that we are always told not to bring our work home with us and to make sure that we have healthy work and life balance, I am not sure that that is what that statement really means. For the majority of folks, if you were to ask them about their current employment, they might respond with a somewhat dismissive, “It’s just a job.” I think that this response it somewhat a metaphor for the troubles with work ethic and even life ethic that seem to plague us. As an employer( and an employee), when someone says it’s just a job, here is what I hear. ” It’s just a job. I don’t actually care that much. At least I am only somewhat responsible during my shift, which I hate showing up to and then I am free as a bird after that. I can always dump what I didn’t finish on the next person. It is a means to make some money, but that is it..and even knowing that, I don’t really appreciate the fact that it is helping me pay my bills and be able to live. I don’t really care that I am lucky to have a job and lots of other people don’t. I have no sense of true commitment or loyalty to my boss and I have no ties to my work colleagues. And finally, I literally never even think about my job or what I am responsible for when I am away from it and if I forget something, oh well.”

Ok I get it, that is adding a lot of weight to one sentence, but I really think that it is applicable. I think some of us have lost our sense of value and ethics when it comes to work. On top of that, inflation aside, we expect to get more pay for doing less because we are somehow owed. I get that not all jobs have the same level of objectively measured importance, but they are still important for different reasons. Each and every job has an associated goal that requires completion for the rest of the steps to continue. Even a ditch digger has to complete the required depth and width to be able to accommodate whatever object is to be buried and if they don’t the rest of the project cannot continue. True, it is possible that no one’s life in particular will be significantly affected by it, but it is still important nonetheless. I cannot think of any job that is not interconnected to another one in some way or that wouldn’t be improved by some real investment on the part of it’s employees. In my office, this is particularly true. I am a physician and I also practice aesthetics. My job is essentially runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is never a time when I am not responsible for the lives of my patients. I get that. I embrace it AND.. I knew what I was signing up for so I tend not to complain. To me, it is a sacred honor and privilege to be able to care for people and I reremind myself of this every day, even on the worst days. I am that weirdo in the operating room that takes an additional pause after the surgical pause to reflect on how lucky we are to be able to be here for this patient, for this procedure. I worked hard to get here and I am not leaving any time soon. I know that I am never really “off the hook” when it comes to patients. I don’t ever really leave the office even when I leave it physically. But, it’s ok. I love what I do. I am grateful for what I do. I will always be grateful for what I do. I take care of my employees and patients like family. I would do anything for them. I keep working whether I get paid or not so that I can take care of my employees. Do I expect my employees to be on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week like I do? No. Do I expect them to be there as late as I am all the time? No. Do I expect them to have the same crazy level of work ethic that I do? No. Their level of responsibility is not the same, but they are responsible nonetheless. I do expect them to complete their jobs to the fullest. I do expect them to go through some checks and balances each day BEFORE they leave to make sure that all tasks are completed, all referrals are in, all labs are called, all scripts were sent, etc. I expect them to not directly refuse tasks or passive-aggressively avoid them and think I won’t notice. I expect them to have a team mentality and realize that we are all incredibly important in providing the best care for our patients. Even though the only cog in the wheel that really can’t be replaced is myself, they need to understand that I will value each and every one of them and treat them with respect. Having said that, I also hope that they realize that respect is a mutually earned commodity and it has to be given and returned in kind.

I hear stories from employees from an older generation about incredible abuse they suffered in the workplace that went on for years and years and how they kept coming back for more because ” that’s what you did in those days.” I hear about how they were insulted, made fun of, worked with no breaks, had to cover for their boss’ alcoholism and had to make excuses for them if they failed to show up for procedures, etc. Compare that to nowadays when employees quit over proverbial hangnails and there is no comparison. I have to admit, when I first hear those stories, I find myself thinking oh I wish I could even get a fraction of that loyalty. Then, I catch myself because I realize that those situations were not about loyalty. They were just about frank abuse and I don’t want any part of that. I am not converting myself into an asshole to get people to do what I want. It’s just not me. I feel like we should be able to meet somewhere in the middle. I have no idea why employees of yore put up with such terrible things to keep their jobs. I suspect that it is at least partially a reflection of our former extremely patriarchal society. I am not sorry that some of that has gone the way of the dodo, but I feel like we have gone too far in dropping our level of work ethic. Now employees feel like they can quit with no notice, no show no call for work, talk back and refuse to complete tasks. How did we get so far off track? I don’t really have the answer but I have some theories. I think that our culture has slowly transformed into one of ever-decreasing actualization of responsibility in everything that we do. If something doesn’t work out? Oh well. If a child is acting must be his or her parent’s fault. If someone does something wrong, incomplete, or incorrect, we cannot even attempt to guide them without being misinterpreted as belittling or chastising and get written up. We are dealing with an overall decreased actualization of responsibility without the tools to deal with it because the potential repercussions of trying to deal with it are sometimes worse than whatever went wrong in the first place! How exhausting is that crap?

For myself, I keep plugging away hoping that my work ethic somehow becomes infectious and spreads to those around me. I offer uncapped incentives for hard work, on top of salaries. I am truly a believer in the phrase,” you get out what you put in” and I want to make that true for my employees. The ones that work harder will get rewarded with raises and incentives, but I do not want to, nor can I afford to, give it away. I desperately want them to be invested in their work and this is the most clever way I can think of to try to make that happen, by having something in it for them besides just work pride. I cannot really chastise people for wanting more money. I mean, who doesn’t want more money? That is a pretty normal human want. I am just hopeful that they see that they have all the tools to be successful financially and at the work place, as long as they put in the effort it takes to be so. It is a potential win win for everybody…the patients, themselves and for the longevity of our practice. Well, those are my thoughts. Have a fantastic day everyone!

Dr. Katz

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