In today’s workplace what’s a better skill set, wearing the perceived labels of a knowledgeable and hardworking individual or truly inhabiting them?
Even though I work in a major metropolitan city with a diverse population, most of my coworkers are white. But while working in a non-diverse environment is a problem, it’s not my biggest problem. I take greater issue with the quality of people in my office, especially when I know how long it took to source and recruit them. Do they have the right education and on-the-job experience? Are they a culture fit? Those are the questions we’re told are at the forefront of every candidate vetting process.
But what about a strong work ethic? What about a genuine caring for others and an absence of pettiness that reeks of jealousy? Unfortunately, some of my close cohorts fall short of these standards.
A Case Study in Mediocrity and Privilege
There’s this woman. She’s 26 years old and rose slightly through the ranks to presently sitting a couple ladder rungs beneath a management role.
Six months ago, she excepted a position at my company. Our in-house recruiters pursued her heavily. They even rewrote the job description to match her qualifications. After all, someone of her job experience and thus caliber wouldn’t and couldn’t be satisfied with the position as written. They felt she deserved more money so much that they gave it to her before she even asked.
Excited to have a new member on the team, I welcomed the person with open arms. Yet, sadly I had to disengage my embrace when she took off her mask. The truth? She barely works.
I noticed it first when she was assigned the desk next to me and we were both contributing to the same project with the same deadline. After a few days, I was making major advancements and headway while she was still in the early researching stages.
What was keeping her from her workplace duties? Sad to say it’s nothing groundbreaking nor original. It’s texting and Facebook. She’s doing the same thing that every teenager in America is doing. Wait, but she’s adult. She’s getting paid to be here. So if she’s not really working, isn’t it like stealing. To that, I say: “Hell, yes!”
Her lack of work ethic isn’t a secret. As she tells me how much of a hard worker I am, she turns the conversation to herself, saying she’s never been good at staying focused and not procrastinating. And on a later occasion, she told most of our coworkers (those not in leadership positions, of course) that she only works 60 percent of the time. And since people aren’t completely honest, I bet that estimation is quite lower.
The woman is not just mediocre, she’s public out about it. Since learning this I’ve been watching, and every time I take a glance her way, her head is down texting her friends who are undoubtedly supposed to be working too. On other occasions, she has her Facebook window positioned strategically so that her body blocks the view from her boss.
The Financial Impact of Mediocrity
Let’s go back to the notion of her stealing from the workplace. If she truly works at most 60 percent of time, let’s see how much she is stealing from the company.
60% x 40 hours = 24 hours
Translation, out of a 40-hour work week, she is only working 24 hours, just slightly above half.
Let’s dive further: If she makes a salary of $50,000 a year, that comes to $24.04 per hour. Each paycheck before taxes she is making $1,923.08. But out of that 80- hour pay cycle she’s only worked 48 hours, which means she only deserves $1,153.92. She is stealing $769.16 out of each paycheck and with 24 pay cycles a year that’s $18,459.84 a year.
If it were that alone, it would be bad enough. Yet, she thinks the job is beneath her, which is one of the reasons she’s not motivated to work hard, she says. Her other offenses? She plays the victim card every chance she gets, saying people are out to get her by ruining her meetings by offering countering opinions and checking her work. Lately, she’s been seen crying around the office for various reasons that all add up to her lack of emotional immaturity.
Snobbery, laziness and a rude attitude toward most coworkers is not a culture fit if you ask me. But no one does, and if I stick my hand in the air and bring this to the leadership’s attention, looking at a black girl like me—they might not take me seriously. That’s what I fear. After all, it’s not my job to keep track of her performance.
But it bothers me. So I’ve found the only solution that I can bare. Rather than just telling myself that I’m better or a harder worker, each time I notice her mediocrity, I’m going to prove it to myself. I’m going to complete my tasks faster and of a better quality.
I’m going to seek out areas of improvement and take courses and classes to gain a larger skill set. I’m going to set meetings with leadership and show them how I’ve improved and ask for promotions. And then I’ll sit and wait and see if anyone takes action. As a black girl working in a society of white privilege, that’s all I can do.