Sometimes Busy Work Is More Than Busy Work

, , , , | Working | April 7, 2021

A new guy starts on a machine that I know has an important task included. Every tenth part gets recorded on a chart. This is massively important as it is a customer and regulatory requirement. Don’t do it and at the end of year there is no evidence to show the customer. They can refuse the parts or claim tens of thousands in costs, or worse, the regulatory body can stop the entire production line down.

Something that seems like a meaningless task has massive consequences. As the manager responsible, I speak to the new guy to introduce myself. Then, I go into detail on the chart.

Me: “Did someone go through the chart with you?”

New Guy: “Oh, yeah. I don’t see the point, though.”

Me: “It is really important for the customer and company.”

I give him a brief explanation and he rolls eyes at me.

New Guy: “Yeah, sure, whatever you say.”

I’m pretty sure he thinks I am yet another manager giving him unimportant work. So many people assume managers are some evil bunch of people that exist to make your life harder, without thinking there might be other reasons for what they ask of you.

I give him a few days and cast an eye over the chart; he hasn’t even started it. I catch him when he returns from his break.

Me: “Listen. We spoke about these charts and I explained why we need to do them.”

New Guy: “Oh, yeah. I forgot.”

Me: “Okay, well, please try to remember, any missing data is an issue. Do you understand how to complete the charts? Are you okay filling them in?”

New Guy: “What? Yeah, obviously.”

Me: “Okay, I’ll leave you to it.”

A week passes before I get a chance to check again, and it looks like he did it on the day I reminded him but then gave up. I again catch up with him.

Me: “These charts must be done; it’s part of the job. I think I have given you plenty of reminders and will escalate this if I catch it not being done again.”

New Guy: “If it’s so important, why don’t you do it?”

Me: “Apart from working across multiple sites, you want me to come down and do your job for you?! No, get it done.”

New Guy: “What’s the point? A bit of paper no one even looks at.”

Me: “It’s a five-minute job, once a day. Look. I’ve already explained why it’s important. I think we’re done here. I will let your boss explain.”

His boss chewed him out in front of everyone, again explaining the importance of the task and of listening to instructions given by me. He seemed to get it, and for a few months, did it without fail.

At the end of the year, the customer was due to fly in within a few days. I grabbed all the paperwork, evidence, and charts. I cast my eye over them and started seeing patterns — the same number in every column, mistakes, and massive gaps.

I couldn’t present these to the customer; they were essentially forged documents. I gave the line manager a call. 

With no other option, he put the new guy in the factory where he had to open up hundreds of boxes and recheck every part, fill in each chart, and repack them. He complained the whole way through and then walked off the site without cause. They brought him back to finish his work and then fired him the next day.

Sometimes things are not what they seem, and companies don’t take it lightly when your laziness threatens a multi-million-pound contract.

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