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What to do when your work doesn't matter
Old 08-21-2018, 03:31 PM   #1
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What to do when your work doesn't matter

Any advice for the following situation? I just feel so stuck…

I work for unionized state government.

The amount of work I do doesn’t matter. At all. Just so long as I’m not too much of an outlier on the bottom side of productivity.

Every 2 weeks I get an updated list of how many work units I did and how many hours I worked the last 2 weeks. I also get to see how everybody else did. I run towards the top third, purposely. I could be number 1 or 2 or 3 on a consistent basis if I wanted to. I’ve mastered the job that much, but I receive nothing for that extra work. The most productive worker receives the same raise at the end of the year as the worst. I have 10 years until retirement (pension) and in the 20 years I’ve been working for government I have never seen anybody terminated for lack of productivity, and some have really tested the system. I’m also in one of the highest paying state jobs, at least for not being in a management position, which I don’t want.

I purposed to my management the possibility of an incentives based productivity reward system to help give people a reason to be productive and to help reward those who are. I was eaten alive with “why should we reward anybody for doing their job” and “you should work as hard as you can every day because we pay you” and on and on, for 40 minutes. I realized I’m up against too big a machine and too stubborn a mindset to ever see anything change.

I do have a question for those government workers who have come before me: How did you get through the last few years? How did you ever come to terms with the realization that just showing up to work and going through the motions is enough, and that there will never be more (promotions in my state government are rare, and managers are treated so bad the extra pay isn’t worth it, especially since I make extra money outside of work that I do have full control of).

Thanks for your ideas.
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Old 08-21-2018, 03:35 PM   #2
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I worked for the state of California as a student intern for 5 years. I went to work in the private sector, and ironically, am now a contractor to the Federal government. I have no idea how to help you get through the last decade, except to realize what you realize, and maybe find some distractions along the way. Find ways to improve yourself, and act on them!
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Old 08-21-2018, 03:52 PM   #3
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It's just a matter of self-pride. Knowing at the end of the day you did your best. And yes, I worked in the public sector. I never let knowing that others made more than me for less work stand in my way. I just couldn't. That's just not how I'm wired. Did it bother me - you bet it did, but I still produced at 100% of my ability. I just couldn't live with myself otherwise. It would not have felt right to me. I'm out now. I know I earned my pension. I'm satisfied.
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Old 08-21-2018, 04:08 PM   #4
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MJ - not much to offer other than empathy. My last assignment in the army was working in an office of largely civilian co-w*rkers. I won't repeat what I said about them on an earlier post (got the attention of a moderator for my comments).

Suffice to say that after many years of being a hard charging warrior, going in each day and pretending to work just sucked. My biggest task each month was to provide a very embellished report of my underwhelming accomplishments. Then, our director would compile those reports. We did a moon landing while reversing the rotational direction of the earth Every Damn Month.

Any chance to compartmentalize your day? Do your work work in whatever time it takes, but invest the rest in yourself? Learn a language, a new skill for self enrichment, or anything that interests you. My last two years were feast - famine in monthly buckets. During famine cycles, I brushed up on my minor and rusty German language skills. Gonna use them next month!
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Old 08-21-2018, 04:19 PM   #5
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I worked for DoD (still do, part time) and never did I think for one minute that my work didn't matter. Because it did, and does.

So I can't help you there, especially since I don't know what function you perform.

As far as getting through the last few years, I actually took on more work, although I was careful to avoid management, of which I'd had my fill at that point. I kept so busy that there was no chance to be bored. I also got a lot of satisfaction out of mentoring new people; more a matter of explaining the weirditities of workplace culture to them, than actually showing them what to do (often, they were able to show me new things). I never tried to undermine what management was telling them. Just explained why things went down the way they did, and encouraged them to consider ways they might one day improve the things which didn't make sense to them.

Since you are unionized, I don't know if those options (taking on more and different work, mentoring new employees) are available to you. But that's how I dealt with it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matthew J View Post
Any advice for the following situation? I just feel so stuck…

I work for unionized state government.

The amount of work I do doesn’t matter. At all. Just so long as I’m not too much of an outlier on the bottom side of productivity.

Every 2 weeks I get an updated list of how many work units I did and how many hours I worked the last 2 weeks. I also get to see how everybody else did. I run towards the top third, purposely. I could be number 1 or 2 or 3 on a consistent basis if I wanted to. I’ve mastered the job that much, but I receive nothing for that extra work. The most productive worker receives the same raise at the end of the year as the worst. I have 10 years until retirement (pension) and in the 20 years I’ve been working for government I have never seen anybody terminated for lack of productivity, and some have really tested the system. I’m also in one of the highest paying state jobs, at least for not being in a management position, which I don’t want.

I purposed to my management the possibility of an incentives based productivity reward system to help give people a reason to be productive and to help reward those who are. I was eaten alive with “why should we reward anybody for doing their job” and “you should work as hard as you can every day because we pay you” and on and on, for 40 minutes. I realized I’m up against too big a machine and too stubborn a mindset to ever see anything change.

I do have a question for those government workers who have come before me: How did you get through the last few years? How did you ever come to terms with the realization that just showing up to work and going through the motions is enough, and that there will never be more (promotions in my state government are rare, and managers are treated so bad the extra pay isn’t worth it, especially since I make extra money outside of work that I do have full control of).

Thanks for your ideas.
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Old 08-21-2018, 06:43 PM   #6
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Start a hobby-better yet, start an online business. If you are not allowed to access the company computers for personal use, can't use a smart phone, or you don't want big brother to snoop on your online time, bring a laptop and a "hot spot".

I had a job a few years ago where I had about 4 hours of work each day but was required to be on site for 7 hours. I brought my laptop and hot spot (called a jet pack back then) and played with my hobby (buying/selling online) during the down time. Others most likely thought I was "working". The time would fly by, and I had less stress (not having to "stay busy").

BTW, before someone accuses me of not caring, not being proud of my work, poor ethics, etc., let me say that there were 6-7 of us doing the same thing each day (I was the only one who did not complain of the boredom). All of my work was satisfactory, it was a day to day contract and I had as many days as I wanted.
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Old 08-21-2018, 06:53 PM   #7
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I suppose this echoes what others have said. Develop your mind, find a way to incorporate a hobby, join a committee to plan the next holiday party - whatever is possible and might be fun.

I had the unfortunate luck to do a job that was formerly filled by state employees, but had been "privatized" so as to pay less for the same work. But the work mattered, a lot. I would have liked the higher pay, better benefits, and pension, but I was doing work that I cared about, with great colleagues, and it was a challenge every day.

So actually I was lucky. I got older, it got more stressful, and I have now semi-retired to Vermont. But a couple of times a month, I'm back in Massachusetts doing the same sort of work, paid on a consulting basis. I miss my colleagues, lots.
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Old 08-27-2018, 05:21 PM   #8
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Thanks for all the replies. I guess I had to get over a hump. Maybe I'm in a bit of a mid-career crisis? I may have to develop a few ways to develop my mind at work. I used to have a tradition of spending every other Monday studying something meaningful to myself, a couple people suggested the same thing.
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Old 08-27-2018, 06:58 PM   #9
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Toward the end, I'd been doing my job at MegaCorp long enough that it certainly didn't require 100% effort any more. I did feel a little guilty about that a time or two.

But at some point I realized that with my knowledge, I could save the company much more than my daily salary with one 5-minute phone call, or a few taps on a keyboard. I was doing things that would take a new hire years to figure out. I was easily worth what they were paying me, even when I goofed off a bit. Or a lot.
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Old 08-27-2018, 07:24 PM   #10
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I understand where your are coming from Matthew. I was in a job where I felt that way for many years. I learned about investing as well as kept my mind active by doing other things. I also picked up extra duties to stay occupied. Like the others have mentioned...do things to help yourself progress in some way not related to that place you have to work at. Work may confine you...but not define you.
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