MAILING IT IN
For some employees there are reasons, beneÀts to not giving it their all
Nolan Quinn says he first realized he wasn’t giving his usual 100 percent at the office when his boss suggested he spend some time with a co-worker to “pick up on some of what he’s doing” for a few new strategies on landing clients.
“He suggested a guy who was about 10 years younger than me and half as good,” Quinn says. “I did the ‘smile-and-nod’ thing and then I took off for lunch and didn’t come back until the next day.”
Quinn, who was working for an office-leasing firm in Chicago, said he took “a hard look in the mirror” that night and realized something he knew but could never admit. “I was becoming a hack,” he says. “I was just going through the motions.”
The 47-year-old Tinley Park resident says he knew he could do just enough to get by, so that’s what he did. Although Quinn says he realized later that his actions were obvious, his intentions were not. “I was reacting to two straight years of no bonuses,” he says. “The firm was under new management and they upped our bonus goals to these ridiculous numbers, so I didn’t even try. I just kept doing what I was doing.”
The thing is, Quinn says, is that whatever he was doing was enough. “I stayed there for another five years and watched everyone around me make a little more money for a lot more work,” he says. “I felt pretty good about that.”
Getting their money’s worth
While she says she would never advise her clients to work less than their peers, Suzanne Belle, a career coach in Charlotte, North Carolina, says she can understand why certain situations at work can cause employees to feel less motivated. “It’s pretty obvious — flat raises, cut bonuses, expected, unpaid overtime — what causes employees to begin to take their responsibilities at work less seriously,” says Belle. “When you begin to feel like you’re no longer valued, you change your approach to the job. You just do it — and to most people, it’s still good enough. Unless you do something really dramatic, if it’s not enough to get you fired.”
Linda Salinski says she went through a similar spell at her job a few years ago when she was passed over for a promotion. “It was something I really thought I deserved but my boss and his boss did not, so they brought in someone else,” says Salinski, a recently retired office manager in Akron, Ohio. “I went about my business and did my job, which was running a small data-entry team, but I stopped going to company events and I certainly stopped coming in early and leaving late. They offered me the job after six months when she crashed and burned but I didn’t take it. I was fine where I was.”
Salinski says she decided to work to the level that they deemed my value. “Either you’re worth the money and the raise, or you’re not,” she says. “It’s hard to change perceptions so I didn’t bother. I made decent money and I had a lowstress job. Why change it?”
Rebecca Morris says her tradeoff came when she decided that she could be a working mother who continued to dazzle everyone in the office. “Not only do you have to do consistently great work, especially if you’re a woman, you have to dress the part every day. You can’t complain when you’re tired and you can’t tell people when you’re stressed. It’s an unfair standard,” says Morris, who left a “high-level job in marketing with one of the best retail stores in the country” to work at a small, marketing firm in suburban Denver.
Belle says that Morris followed a pattern that many consider acceptable for a woman, but less than ideal for a man. “That’s starting to die down a little but it’s still a common misconception,” Belle says. “Parenthood is an acceptable tradeoff for women, but not so much for men.”
Belle also says she thinks people judge women more harshly than men when it comes to stress. “They want to blame a woman’s kids if she’s stressed. They want to make that the issue,” she says.
Morris agrees. “I’m as stressed-out as the next mom,” says the mother of three. “But I knew that I couldn’t keep that level up with my job and my family. And I had no desire to ‘have it all,’ whatever that means, so I chose a job that had less drama and less stress. I don’t know if that’s a tradeoff, but if it is, it’s worth it.”
Flat raises, cut bonuses, expected, unpaid overtime — what causes employees to begin to take their responsibilities at work less seriously?