The Daily Grind: Working 3 to 9 to 5

At the present time, I work in sales. One downside of the job is that sometimes things are just out of your control; you can do your job spectacularly, but because of factors that you have no say in, things might not turn out well. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a downside, actually – some people love the pressure, and get a thrill from working in a job that has an inherent threat of the bottom falling out. Even for these people, though, there’s always at least a little anxiety about the job.

On the flip side, what I most appreciate about sales is that there’s always something you can do. There’s never a dull moment. Certainly you always have bare minimums you need to meet, but it isn’t as if the work will ever run out; you’re not someone sitting around waiting for the next project to be tasked. There is an infinite number of opportunities out there, all potentially willing to buy whatever it is you’re selling; it’s on you how many you of those get to sell to. As I mentioned before, converting those opportunities into bookings isn’t always in your control. Your effort, however, certainly is.

I bring this up because of a recent conversation I had with a colleague of mine. He and I were discussing, or rather arguing about, the legitimacy of requiring our employees to come to work in the office, and doing so for the full 9 hours of the work day. My friend was maintaining that, as long as you fill your quota, there’s no difference between grinding out 10 hours a day at your desk, and waltzing in an hour and a half late, hungover, and leaving early once everything you needed to do was finished. As long as you accomplish what’s asked of you, he argued, why does it matter whether a person is there or not?

I certainly see the angle that he’s coming from, but I absolutely disagree with it. Surely it’s much better to get 100% accomplished putting in 50% effort rather than the other way around. But the attitude of the former situation is complete bullshit.

A tiny part of this feeling of mine has to do with punctuality. As a result of my father’s health when I was growing up, every process took twice as long, and thus we were required to prepare and leave for things much earlier than everyone else. I think this imbued in me an anxiety over making sure I get to places on time. Outside of that, I think it’s downright unprofessional to show up inside of work hours; in my mind, that’s part of why I get paid a salary, so arriving even a minute late doesn’t cut it.

Another reason I’m so against this is that it tells me you think the rules don’t apply to you, that you’re above everyone else. Yes, you might be a rockstar at your job, but that doesn’t mean that you can ignore the constraints everyone must abide by. It’s like how Michael Jordan, back when he played for the Chicago Bulls, was given leeway by his coaches when he missed practice, and by the police when he’d drive on the sidewalk to circumnavigate traffic. Yes, you’re better than everyone else at that one thing, but that doesn’t mean you get special privileges everywhere else in life. It’s just plain disrespectful to us laymen.

These are not the (hor)cruxes of the issue, though. For example, there are companies out there that don’t set standard work hours, and thus there would be no literal “on-time” to show up for. What so irks me about this half-assed attitude is what I discussed at the top of this Blogcat: that there’s always more work that can be done. To not do so, when you easily could, means you failed to reach your potential. Essentially, you left money on the table.

This reminds me of the feelings Bill Simmons expresses toward Shaquille O’Neal in The Book of Basketball. Shaq was one of the 20 greatest players ever. He won 4 championships and an MVP award, made hundreds of millions of dollars, wrote Kobe Bryant a love song, and had a ton of fun along the way. You’d be incorrect to say that he didn’t have success.

However, something about Shaq’s career left a bitter taste in your mouth. Despite being over 7 feet tall and weighing 395 pounds, all while being gifted with the finesse of a man half his size, he never led the league in rebounding; he just didn’t care enough. He once waited to have surgery on his toe until right before the season started, forcing him to miss a healthy number of games, instead of having the operation at the start of the off-season; he famously rationalized his actions by explaining, “I got hurt on company time, so I’ll rehab on company time.” On occasion, he would get motivated, pull it all together, and put on a display of true domination. But these moments were rarer than they needed to be, and left fans thinking that, while Shaq’s career was truly great, it could have been so much more. He left money on the table. Showing up late to work and leaving early, when it would be easy to put in some extra hustle, seems like the exact same thing to me.

Here’s a question: what do you get paid for? Do salespeople get paid to bring in X amount of business? Or do they get paid to do the best job they possibly can. Employers certainly hire you hoping you do the latter, even though if your best doesn’t bring in X amount of business they won’t be your employer anymore.

I guess what it comes down to is what kind of person you are. Do you play down to your competition, or do you do your best every time? Do you do only what is asked of you, or do you perform as well as you can no matter what your expectations are?

One reason socialism didn’t really work is there was no reward for doing more than what was asked of you; there was no extra payout for being better than expectations. That’s a great thing about capitalism, and sales in particular – you do benefit from going above and beyond. Seeing people who could go above and beyond, but don’t, seems disrespectful to all those people who don’t have and are jealous of that ability. In reality, though, the choice, as always, is yours to make. Nobody gives a shit whether I’m disrespected by or disappointed in him.

However, the choice should only be yours as long as it doesn’t affect anyone else. If I’m on your team, putting in subpar effort is unacceptable. If I were a Laker fan (praise Science I’m not), I’d love and resent Shaq; he won them 3 championships, but his apathy (and territorial insecurities) lost them the opportunity for more. When you behave that way, and other people are invested, it’s no longer just your money on the table, but someone else’s as well. That, to me, is by no means Best Practice.

As my friend and DKE Brother Michael Rupolo would say, “Be a man. Do the right thing.”

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