Dear Mr. Molloy:
I’m a 37-year-old woman and a software engineer with 10 years experience. I took off five years and had two children. Seven years ago my mother moved in with us which enabled me to go back to work. I have just been put in charge of a team of six software engineers, and 22 support people,. Our job is to support the research and development people. When they come up with a new app or a new method of handling a particular problem our job is to find flaws in the software they have developed. We also at times become directly involved in research and development when the primary team discovers that they are being overworked. I simplified my units duties, we are also a training ground for future research and development people but it is not necessary for you to know every detail of what we do to answer my question.
This is my first management job so I am understandably moving cautiously. The one thing I discovered the first week was that the young people coming in today do not have the work ethic of people who entered the workforce 15 years ago as I did. It’s not that all of them are lazy but when they arrived they all seem to have the same attitude “mediocrity is good enough.” At first I thought it was me. As a woman I did not think I had the ability to motivate young men but I discovered, the man who held this position before me, had the same problem. I think I partially solved the problem when I notified everyone working for me that I was dividing the people who work in this unit into winners and losers. The winners would get raises and bonuses as well as a recommendation for positions in research and development. The losers would be sent to sales, customer support and a number of other positions where their education would be useful but they wouldn’t be doing R&D.
My question is how can I avoid hiring losers. Everyone in my unit had top grades in school and most of them went to good schools, which means they had to work in school. Are their any other indicators
that someone will be a good worker.
Name and address withheld
Dear Woman Engineer:
Believe it or not it is a common problem and I think I may have the answer but I’m not sure. Companies today are finding it more difficult to find motivated young people. I’ve been getting letters from client corporations for about four years on the subject. Although I no longer have an interactive relationship with client corporations, a year and a half ago I did. As a result, when a letter came in it was read by people in a dozen corporations. The reason I did this was it allowed my client corporations and individuals in them to voice their opinion about a variety of problems. This was one that literally opened a Pandora’s box. A number of companies faced the same problem but they handled it very differently and of course each was convinced that their way was the right way.
Most solved the problem by insisting that their people become competitive. When possible they divided these new employees into teams and gave a variety of incentives to work diligently on team projects. They also rewarded hard work and productivity on the part of individuals and as you did punished those who did not live up to the company standards.
However. one gentleman asked himself the same question that you asked me. The reason the question occurred to him is that his son played on the soccer team and was given a trophy for showing up. When he asked his son what he thought about it he said it was as good as the winners trophies. This gentleman was an executive in a high-powered high-tech company and his sons comments shocked him. He explained to me that just a year earlier his boy was very competitive and wanted nothing more than winning and would settle for nothing less.
When he asked around he found two women who worked for the school league had introduced the idea of participation trophies several years ago. He complained to the league official but was ignored. A month later he went to the school board meeting and explained in some detail why giving out trophies for participation was a poor idea and taking the winning trophies away from the winners was even worse. He said they were teaching their children that losing was as good as winning and in this world it is not. In short they were training the kids to accept defeat and in the real world that would make them losers.
I agree with him and if you do to, you should take steps to see if your child is in such a program that the program is changed. You will undoubtedly be attacked by the politically correct or as I refer to them politically corrupt. Don’t be intimidated although they are loud, in most communities they are a minority.
Good luck and happy Thanksgiving.