9.19.2013

A "Good" Point

One of my friends made a good point today. She said there are good things and bad things about every job. Actually, she didn't say it so much as link me to an Oatmeal cartoon that said it. I think I agree with that.

I do bitch about my job a lot, but honestly the job itself is not so bad. It's actually ridiculously easy (because I am good at what I do) and they pay me a ridiculous amount of money to do it (because management would be lost at sea without me and my team).

That's positive. That's a good thing. I am very happy about that.

The main negative is the people. Many of the people, maybe even a majority of them, are decent, intelligent, and competent. My team is driven and excellent and easy to work with. Some of our internal clients are nice to work with and follow the rules and do the right things to get the job done and make everyone's life easier. These "good" clients comprise about 20% of the customer base.

Then there are the buffoons and incompetents, who make up the remaining 80% of the people we have to work with. These people cause 80% of our aggravation and usurp 80% of our available resources, and yield only about 20% of our total output (80/20 rule) because they slow things down so much.

This is highly unfair to our "good" clients, who only get 20% of our available time and effort, due to the "bad" clients. Granted, we produce 80% of our output for these "good"customers. But they are being shortchanged by the "bad" customers.

In business, it is well known that 20% of customers (big spenders) result in 80% of sales. The remaining 80% of customers yield only 20% sales and cause 80% of the problems.

In sales, therefore, it is good practice to eliminate bad and troublesome customers who are either always dissatisfied or refuse to follow the rules and pay their bills. Following the 80/20 rule, this is about 80% of the customer base that it is just not worth it to work with. The other 20% of customers range from OK to excellent to work with, and they yield most of the profitable sales. Everyone wins when you work with "good" customers. Everyone loses when you work with "bad" customers.

I want to follow the same strategy at work that retail businesses follow. I want to disenfranchise the 80% of "bad" customers and only work with the good customers. But when you are employed by a company, you don't have that luxury. You have to take all customers no matter how "bad" they are, and no one is policing the incompetence and aggravation caused by these people, who are draining the company of money, pure overhead.

So that is the main negative of my job, the people, and specifically the "bad" people. I know who they are, and it is actually probably closer to 60% of the total pool of engineers we have to work with. So to the extent that the expectation is 80% "bad" clients and the reality is only 60%, I should be happy, based on the following formula:

HAPPINESS = REALITY - EXPECTATION

If expectation surpasses reality, happiness becomes a negative number. If reality is better than expectation, happiness value is positive. When working with "good" customers, happiness is positive. They go above the call of duty to expedite things and remove obstacles. It's a joy to work with them.

On the other hand, those 60% of our "bad" customers still cause 80% of our grief and that makes it harder to service our "good" clients, who are actually more deserving of our time and effort. The "good" clients still only get 20% of our time and effort, even though we still produce 80% of our output for them. But we could give them 100% if we did not have to deal with the "bad" customers. The "bad" customers hold things up and slow things down and that's why we only end up putting out about 20% of output for them. If they are not willfully creating obstacles and grief, they are at the very least doing NOTHING to alleviate it and then complaining, which further sucks our will to live.

So I am working on ways to disenfranchise the "bad" customers. Mostly, this is just pushing back when they try to skirt the rules or be lazy or become abusive or simply whine, complain, and cause drama. Sometimes it is just avoidance until they are done having a tantrum and get back to work.

My goodness, if some of these people spent as much time working (20%) as they did complaining (80%), they might even become "good" clients. Until then, they must surely fugoff.


When "bad" customers throw up random obstacles, I don't get worked up anymore. I point out the obstacle(s) and let them know quite plainly that they will see results when the obstacles are removed. I have no ability to remove the obstacles and it is "not my department," as a woman I used to work with many years ago used to say (I still use that saying to this day). 

I know my job description, I know how to do my job amazingly well, and I know what I am responsible for and what I am not. If obstacles prevent me from doing my job, it is up to management to remove the obstacles. However, management is a lot closer to 80% buffoons and douchebags. They should be able to pick out the "bad" customers and either re-train them or get rid of them, but they seldom do.

So I could get worked up about the "bad" apples at work. Or, I can use them as a resource and benefit from them. When the ball is in the court of a "bad" customer, it results in lots of delays and problems. But they are not my delays and problems. I am basically freed up when the ball is in a "bad" customers court. I can go have a bite, come back, and they still might be flailing about in self induced misery.

I need to learn to embrace "bad" coworkers as a benefit. They create free time for me. I think I get frustrated because I want to do my work and get it out the door as efficiently and quickly as possible. The "bad" clients obstruct me from doing this. But why should I care? I don't own the product. I am just a service provider. If I am blocked from providing my service, I am going to go do something fun.

I should be careful what I wish for. If the "bad" customers were all summarily fired tomorrow, I would become a lot busier, because I'd only be working with "good" customers who can turn things around as fast as I do. This is much better, what I have now.

Plus I love my team and my inner circle of smart, competent work peeps. See, my job is really not all that bad. I am going to ride it and milk it and not worry too much about the suckwads.

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