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June 18, 2007

Expect Help at 3 p.m. on Friday? Are You Crazy?


“D.F., have you tried to access the network this afternoon?”


This question was certainly not intended to kick off idle chit-chat. Uh oh. What was wrong with the network?


I checked. Apparently it was gone. “Network Not Found” said my computer.


“That’s what everyone’s getting, D.F. I think we have a problem.”


Well. Yes we did. It was time to call the IT people. Now, usually we dealt with Jason, who had some sort of ornament in his pierced lip, spiked bleach white hair and a tattoo reading “All Your Base Are Belong To Us.”


In other words, exactly the kind of guy you want fixing your network. But the CEO of the IT company had recently told me that his long-time administrative assistant, Jilly, was being asked to serve as a dispatcher of sorts. From now on, if we needed help, we should just call Jilly and everything would be handled in a prompt manner.


I had never associated Jilly with promptness, but these were the directions and so I would follow them. I called Jilly.


“Our network appears to have completely crashed,” I explained. “We need someone out here right away.”


Jilly demurred.


“Hmm. Well, I’ll see if anyone’s still available at this point.”


At this point? What was that supposed to mean?


“D.F., it’s 3:00 on a Friday.”


Yes? And?


I kept waiting for Jilly to complete the thought so as to reveal its relevance, but apparently she considered it to be self-evident. Ya know! It’s almost the weekend! People stop thinking about work and start thinking about going camping, mowing the lawn, getting drunk or attempting all three at the same time!


Apparently no one is still around at work, let alone actually focused on it, at 3:00 on Friday. And silly me for not thinking of this before I called.


We seem to have reached an age when all time off work begets the expectation of more time off work. We’re not quite France, where they expect 40 hours’ pay for 35 hours’ work as a matter of course, but we’re getting there.


The last time there was a three-day holiday weekend, how many of your employees felt it was necessary to make it four? You give everyone Christmas and New Year’s Day, of course, but do they expect you to throw in Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve as a given? It’s one day off! Might as well make it two!


I think this all started with Thanksgiving, a single holiday on a Thursday that got turned into a four-day weekend by virtue of the logistical nightmare of getting people back to work on Friday. Everyone travels to see family. They eat too much turkey and get sleepy from the tryptophan. They eat too much pie and watch football all day. If they are Detroit Lions fans, they are hungover from whatever they used to dull the pain.


They would be worthless at work anyway, even if you could get them back from wherever they went. So Thanksgiving sort of has to be that way. It’s a four-day weekend because it can’t be anything else, and once a year is not such a big hit on the nation’s productivity.


But now, the expectation of time off is so great that people can’t even concentrate until 5 p.m. on Friday – so much so that if you actually call a service provider for help at 3 p.m. on Friday, they act like you are out of your mind.


Now, granted, everyone may not be like Jilly. And, granted, I am out of my mind. But it seems to me that trends like these reveal the true nature of your people. The ones who regularly lose their focus as the weekend looms may not be the mission-driven people you want to count on when the chips are down. And if someone is telling your customers they’re expecting too much, when all they’re expecting is for you to be available during normal business hours, maybe there’s a part-time job for that person that involves no customer interaction but lots of four-day weekends!


Or maybe you’d be better off giving her weekends of the seven-day variety. Pretty soon she’ll probably be expecting them anyway.


© 2007 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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