American Idle

At work, at home, I am around people who embody the worst of the new American work ethic. Where I work is fundamentally a call center. Unlike many call centers we are internal and have other departments of people who are not call reps. But our sales reps are telephone sales people. They don’t think so, however. They apparently think they are special in many ways. We implemented a new phone system that is capable of tracking the work of each rep and each area, each department. Of course everyone hates this new system becuase it is demonstrating the extent to which they spend work time time . . . not working. The reps don’t like this because . . . now they have to work. All those extra cigarette breaks, not so much. All that time on the cell phone, not so much. All the extra time spent not on the phone, not so much. It is strange to me that people come to work expecting not to work. If you are working, who cares if the phone tracks how much you work, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about. Idle or entitled? So after a hard day of listening to the employees complain about having to work for their paychecks, I come home. And I find my father’s caregiver in the familiar spot . . . the sofa in front of the television. When I am getting ready for work there is always a push on the first arrival to clean up whatever dishes my teenager has left in the sink from the night before. After that come long hours of nothing as my dad doesn’t get up until 10 or 11 most days. Cigarettes and television mostly I think. Then maybe a trip to the bank, my dad’s tennis lesson, the post office. Back to more cigarettes and tv. I laid out the job when I hired everyone. Told them I had expectations beyond watching my dad watch tv since there was so little to do. Then I made the occasional suggestion. Sometimes followed sometimes not. Then I made a list, put it on a little whiteboard. Mostly ignored. Its not all bad. It is more a matter of doing what the person likes and nothing else, and a matter of not doing things well. But after all, how hard is it to wipe the cabinets down? Or wash a toilet or run a damp mop over a bare floor? The highlights are the time I spend every day putting things back where they belong (how long do you have to be aorund til you know where things go?) or when it seems an imposition to request that the tv volume be lowered or that we might be able to use our sofa. But these are my expectations, not my dad’s. He is fine with all of it as long as they leave him alone, drive him where he wants to go and clean up after him; and it is ultimately his call but… who expects to be paid for a full day of tv watching? Idle or entitled?

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2 Responses to “American Idle”

  1. Anon Says:

    It sounds as if your problem at home may be that you have hired a “caregiver” when what you really want/need is a housekeeper/companion. This is actually good news, since your chances of finding a committed housekeeper/companion are a lot higher than they are of finding a competent caregiver.

    It also helps if you are extremely clear about your expectations, and assert yourself, pleasantly, from the start. If you’re letting your teen-ager leave dirty dishes in the sink, it seems likely that you’re letting others run over you, too. If that’s the case, your caregiver will do the same.

    Someone who comes in as a housekeeper/companion is a lot more likely to WANT to do the housekeeping tasks and have an interest in them. Someone treats you with the respect you also offer, beginning as early as the interview, is less likely to need a checklist, and more likely to follow one if it’s implemented.

    The profession of “caregiver” has become a dumping ground for people who, only a few years ago, were grudgingly pushing mops around hospitals. Yes, good people do caregiving, but the proportion of bad to good caregivers is about 9-1, and even that may be generous.

    As your father seems to need a companion more than an actual “caregiver”, you may find that you are much happier with that housekeeper/companion.

    • trienahg Says:

      Fundamentally the people we have hired are housekeeper companions and the expectations were extremely clear. Unfortunately one of them came from a nursing home setting where apparently not much “companionship” or housekeeping was required. But he likes her because he can boss her around and she’s athletic and ultimately, its his call. It is very hard to find people who are good and caring in this job, as you say.


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