In my last piece, we spent some time looking at what an employer owes his employees, especially in the event of necessary downsizing. However, the employer-employee relationship has to be a two way street in order to work. Therefore, it is time we look at what an employee owes his employer.
First and foremost is the obvious, in return for his paycheck an employee owes his employer a solid day’s work performed to whatever the relevant standards are. What exactly that means definitely varies though from one kind of job to the next.
For those in manual labor jobs, that means that you keep at it for eight hours (or however long), turning the wrench, shoveling the dirt, or moving the boxes. In a call center, you keep answering the phone and dealing with customer issues as concisely and cheerfully as possible. Should you be working at an information desk, in addition to handling problems as they come, you have to dress professionally in order represent the business well.
You might notice that I am focusing on lower paying and entry level jobs, rather than the jobs that let you make six figures a year. That’s because most people either start at or stay in those kinds of jobs. The entry level is where we first learn to put whatever ideas we might have about the value of work (especially our own work) to the test. Not that the basic principles change as you move up the ladder, but how they are applied varies greatly. For example, I was recently speaking with a music analyst. Her work is largely self-directed and can be mentally exhausting. As such, breaks are expected and encouraged. Other jobs, such as an operator at a power plant can inherently involve a lot of downtime. So long as everything is operating smoothly, there isn’t usually a lot to do.
In those cases, your job is primarily to be available in the event that something goes wrong. However, one is still expected to keep an eye on the equipment and maintain a knowledge of how the various systems work.
All of this covers minimal expectations though, the basics that should be expected in return for a paycheck. There are of course other things as well. Such as don’t lie about the work done, don’t take credit for other people’s work, don’t abuse the sick policy, etc. Essentially you owe your employer the same level of honesty and decency that you would owe to anyone.
Beyond that, your thoughts on the subject will largely be determined by how you were brought up and how old you are. For my parents and grandparents, loyalty to a company was taken for granted. Once you started working for a company, it was expected that you would move up the ranks within the company in question unless it shut down or you were fired. These days, it is assumed that you will not only change employers but careers multiple times in your life. Still, no matter where you are employed or for how long, you are obligated to perform well.
What about going beyond the basic obligations? What do you do when you have free time? When there is something that could be improved? I would argue that where possible free time should be used to try and find ways to improve the work as much as possible. To use your creativity and find a better way to get the job done, whatever that job is. This kind of thing need not be covered by your actual job description, it could be something beyond your immediate competence. Nor need these things be anything big that will change the company. The kind of improvements we are talking about could be something as simple as a light in a stairwell where none was before, or improved directions to help new trainees. The possibilities are endless.
If this seems like too much, asking for an effort without a guarantee of a reward, remember the person who signs your check took a chance on you, made sure the effort was spent to train you, without the guaranteed of a reward for that investment.
We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.
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