Workplace Woes, Part 2: "Stupid" Colleagues

Is convincing colleagues of your point of view always in your best interest?

Posted Mar 04, 2018

The following question comes to me from a reader interested in convincing her colleagues of her point of view. It follows Workplace Woes Part 1, in which another reader asked about how to best socialize at work as an introvert. The question is edited for clarity and published with permission:

Stockpic/Pexels CC0
Source: Stockpic/Pexels CC0

Dear Mariana,

     I am currently in a temp data entry job where I have to meet a "productivity suggestion" of 150 new data entries per day. My contract is three weeks long and gets renewed a few times per year, but if the team of temps finish early, we only get paid for the time we've worked, not the full three weeks. My problem is that some of the temps go way beyond the productivity suggestions, doing 1000 new entries per day. On top of doing more work with no reward, they even brag about it! How can anyone be so stupid? Don't they want to get paid for the full time we're here? I've tried explaining this to the temps who sit around me so they can slow down so we can get paid for all of the days in our contract, but they just laugh and say "it's like we're working ourselves out of a job!" and then CONTINUE! I don't understand how they can be that stupid, seriously. It makes no logical sense. I want to know if there is anything I can do to get them to slow down so we can get paid for the full amount of time we are here.

     Thanks in advance,

     Jane*

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Dear Jane,

Thanks for writing in. What you've done by trying to encourage those around you to work only to the suggested targets instead of beyond them in order to reap the financial rewards is based on an economic principle known as collusion. Collusion generally occurs when two or more parties act in their greatest interest by making agreements to stabilize the marketplace in a way that most benefits them. In your case, getting everyone to input less data would ensure that everyone is paid for the full three weeks, acting in what you presume to be the best interest for all of the temporary workers. 

I wonder, however, in terms of your personal well being, how constructive it is to see your colleagues as stupid, and assume that what they value through this job is what you value. By that I mean to say, much of the focus in your email is centered around being paid for the full time allotted, and you derive anger from potentially not being paid for your contracted term. You then direct this anger towards your colleagues. As a running theme, this suggests to me that you value your pay over the work itself: Have you ever considered that perhaps your colleagues value doing as well as they can in their role more than being paid for the full three weeks? Perhaps they feel the productivity suggestion is a goal which they take pride in surpassing, because they enjoy their work and find purpose in it. While getting paid in full is in your best interest, doing well seems to be in theirs. This may be especially true for people who score high on the personality dimension known as conscientiousness, who are extremely hardworking, highly orderly, and actually feel negative emotions if they are not working to the best of their ability. 

In terms of encouraging your colleagues to work more slowly, there are certainly ways in which you can persuade people by appealing to their wants and needs, but the real question you should consider asking is whether doing so is really worth the strategizing, stress and strain that ultimately affects your mental wellness. I think, instead of focusing your energy on impressing your pay-related values upon your colleagues in hopes of changing them - something which you've already discovered does not work - the person who would get the greatest benefit from changing, as cliché as it sounds, is you: Finding more meaningful work, which is hopefully more attuned to your capabilities and can take some of the financial pressure off, with goals that are challenging and thus can feel rewarding to overcome, might be better suited for you. 

     Good luck!

     Mariana

* Name changed to protect privacy.