Sunday, December 06, 2009

Is less prestigious job not worthy of respect?

Citizen Reader left a comment on my last post that I’ve been thinking about all week, she writes:

"But just because a certain job might be less prestigious or less well-paid, does that make it unworthy of respect? I never thought so."

First a couple of misconceptions about less prestigious employment:

- It’s a fallacy to think employees who perform “grunt work” don’t work as hard or put in as many hours as employees who have more prestigious positions. It has been my experience that these employees are sometimes the hardest working and most conscientious employees in the company.

-In spite of working and getting paid for part-time work, some part-time employees are still expected to complete a full-time work load. They take work home to complete after their kids are asleep while also being accessible through email and via phone throughout the day.

-This is despite my company’s HR Director’s belief that employees who work long hours do so because they don’t manage their time well.

The first person I thought of upon reading CR's comment was Donna my company’s Accounts Payable Clerk (she is also the employee responsible for completing our company’s 1099’s). She is by far one of the most diligent employees in our company with an incredible attention to detail. In her seven years of employment, I doubt if she’s made even five mistakes. She is also pleasant with employees and vendors and much more patient with them I could ever be. One of our company owners feels she is the best employee our company has.

Too bad she doesn’t think so:
Donna regrets not earning her four year degree and hates that she is a clerical worker. So much so, she refused to attend her high school reunion not wanting her former classmates to know she was just an Accounts Payable Clerk. We have offered to change her title to Accounts Payable Associate, but she doesn’t like that either. Unfortunately, she is also one of our lowest paid employees and is aware of this through her payroll responsibilities. I have also noticed our HR Director treats her with disrespect, but she is not alone our HR Director treats all of our clerical employees with disrespect.*

I think it’s important to realize not everyone can be the CFO, if everyone aspired to do so there wouldn’t be anyone available to do the work. There is a lot to be said about having a stable job you enjoy and in which you can be the expert. Too bad not everyone including the employees themselves feel this way. All jobs including the less prestigious and the lowest paid should be worthy of respect.

*Note our HR employee gave herself the title of HR Director.

If you would like to read more about Donna I also wrote about her here.


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  2. "All jobs including the less prestigious and the lowest paid should be worthy of respect" so true but unfortunately I think we tend to let "position" detemine ours and others value.

  3. Savvy,
    I'm honored that you were struck by what I wrote. Although I've had educational advantages and luck, I always gravitate toward the grunt work jobs (or at least whatever jobs I could find that balanced, at least partially, some kind of health insurance benefits and decent pay with low prestige and power). It's really kind of dumb, but that's the work I enjoy. I also grew up on a farm, in a time when farmers were derided for being "dumb," and I knew that not to be true, as my Dad knows more about running a business, healing animals, raising food, and keeping machinery in working order than does 99 percent of the population. At some point I just made my peace with being low on the prestige and money scales and trying to forge a not-expensive lifestyle.

    I am distressed by a country that simultaneously derides both its "elites" and its grunt workers. What exactly do we want?

    Thanks for the post. I've really enjoyed thinking about this.

  4. By the way--I am glad you seem to have respect for Donna and her work, and I'm sure Donna appreciates it. Sometimes even just the respect of a co-worker is all it takes to increase your self-respect.

  5. CR-
    It is hard working in an environment where this so called HR Director has been allowed to take so much power. The way she treats her HR assistant, who also works for me, is down right criminal. I along with one of the other managers asked our owners rein her in, but nothing has changed, so I doubt they did so. My boss also recommended she be one of the employees laid-off in our company’s last round of cut-backs. Unfortunately, based on his recent comments I think he was almost fired himself for doing so. Someone really needs to confront her and say leave everyone alone you big bully, but to date no one including myself has had the courage to do so. Instead, everyone just tip-toes around her in hopes of staying clear of her venom. Sad, very sad.

    On a positive note, I gave my employee’s their performance reviews shortly after I read Now, Discover Your Strengths, by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton. During the reviews I made an extra effort to highlight their strengths and discuss how they could further utilize them in their current positions and in positions outside the company if need be. They seemed to appreciate my efforts and I hope I made a difference. I also try to remind them of their strengths on a regular basis.