Wednesday, May 15, 2013
When Barely Enough Isn't Nearly Enough
Trust the Germans to have come up with a concept for something that has been bothering me for years. They did, after all, come up with the word schadenfruede to nut out that guilty, unspoken and mostly unacknowledged shameful feeling of joy you get when things go pear-shaped for someone else either because you feel, for whatever reprehensible reason, they're getting their comeuppance, or because phew! the bad thing isn't happening to you.
Anyway, I've always been, depending on the context, fascinated/enraged/bewildered by the type of people I usually call Low Energy Users. These are individuals with a strange mindset who only put the bare minimum amount of effort that they can get away with into their everyday tasks, jobs, and sometimes even their personal lives. They cruise at sub speed, are happy to palm stuff off on others either overtly or covertly, don't question discrepancies lest the answers produce more work, don't correct things as they go, and in organisations, are happy to hide in structural niches and use their co-workers to cover up their own lack of initiative and responsibility. They NEVER go even that extra inch, so forget about that extra mile that is sometimes needed to sort things out or to prevent a mistake that will just get messier down the line. And when things do go wrong, they usually fade into the woodwork and leave the cleanup to others.
Such people drive me potty.
I suppose I'm especially angry about LEUs today because I wasted a whole lot of time in a hospital yesterday - not my usual hospital where everybody knows my name, but another one where contempt for patients seemed to be part of their clinic's medical motto - and ended up finally getting in 3.5 hours after my scheduled appointment. Others were also delayed by many hours. Making it worse, a certain nurse got up a four times and loudly declared the situation was the fault of seven new patients scheduled for the day who were holding up the queues with their newbie questions and demands for attention - it was a deplorable, divisive tactic that had a well-worn feeling about it, and my investigations soon revealed it was patently untrue. Gathering information, I discovered that all 4 of we patients still waiting after many hours in the almost empty room by the end of the clinic were new patients, which, given simple arithmetic, would mean that just 3 of our newbie comrades held up over twenty people for 2-3 hours?
I think not, which turned out to be the case. I discovered that I, and presumably the many others inconvenienced that day, had been booted a number of times because of reshufflings made by the nurses to cater for squeaky wheel people. I also discovered that they'd known about these delays the day before and that someone could have, with a series of simple phone calls then, told me and the others not to come so early (I got up at 4.30 to catch an early train!). Obviously they couldn't be bothered doing their job properly. Or didn't care. Instead of heading off a known problem and adjusting the schedule to save a lot of people a lot of aggro, they let a roomful of ill people waste hours seething and frothing at the mouth safe in the knowledge that they wouldn't be held accountable for the stuff up. I'm not suggesting people give up their tea breaks or put in unpaid labour or such, but just five minutes spent leaving messages would have cut down on the problem and demonstrated some real empathy for others. And I still can't get over the ploy to deflect blame from themselves by repeatedly blaming of sick people for a problem created by lazy staff members.
So yeah, reading this post this morning which mentions der innere Schweinehund, or 'the inner swine-dog', resonated with me. As explained there, it's a fantastic German metaphor for the part of ourselves that prefers laziness over productivity, comfort over challenge, and routine over achievement. Apparently, they even have a statue of the creature in Bonn.
In my present state of mind, I'm assuming that the Low Energy Users are in fact people, like the medical staff yesterday, who even while on the job are in thrall to their innere Schweinehund, cutting corners whenever they can and never straying into the energy-burning areas that just might make the world run a little more smoothly, and in the process make it a happier, less stressful place.
Not that there isn't a time and a place for heeding the puppy dog eyes of der innere Schweinehund, such as when an exciting, must-see box set or a fabulous new book is calling for one's attention :) As long as the lazy beastie doesn't cause others grief and inconvenience, by all means feel free to indulge it.