Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Social Experiment at Work

There is a frequently shared meme on social media that tells that the United States Department of Agriculture proudly reports that they provide free meals and food stamps to over 45 million Americans annually. Then it points out that the National Park Service posts signs in parks that say "Please don't feed the animals". When asked the reason, Rangers will tell you that the wildlife will become dependent upon the handouts and will cease trying to take care of themselves, and will learn to attack people in pursuit of food.

While most reasonable people will admit that people will respond in the same way, some liberals dismiss this as mere nonsense. Recently, however, I realized that I have witnessed this principle in action at my workplace.

I am a member of the maintenance team at a large distribution center (DC). The DC has several miles of conveyor that are separated by area and function, each system has its own computer system to control it. When I hired in three years ago, I spent two weeks with the senior technician on the early shift so that he could teach me about the systems. When we discussed one of the areas, he told me flat out, "we don't reset that system, it's the responsibility of (our logistics contractor)."

After my two weeks of training, I was moved to the day shift, where I spent half my day with the early shift, and half my day with the late shift. I was surprised to see that the two technicians on the late shift frequently reset that system! When I asked about it, their reply was "well, it's not our responsibility, but we do it so that the system stays running and we get through with the day's work earlier."

About a year later, both of those men were gone, and I was moved to the late shift. Agreeing with their logic (and wanting to leave as early as possible), I reset the system whenever I noticed that it was jammed. After all, it was helping me in the long run.

I honestly don't remember the last time that anyone from our logistics contractor un-jammed and reset the system. They simply wait for us to do it. Last week, however, was a startling experience. One of the contractor employees got on the radio and called for someone from maintenance. When I responded, they very rudely and arrogantly informed me that I needed to come reset their system so that they could keep working!

Only the indwelling of the Holy Spirit kept me from pushing the reset button with their face... Imagine! I had been doing them a favor for a LONG time, something that was not my duty, not my responsibility but a simply act of charity. But it was now not only my job to do, but I was a failure at my job for not doing their job fast enough!

Whether it is a bird or a person, if you provide a free service with no strings or shame, it will be accepted. Even by people who do not need it. It will soon be expected. And it will ultimately be demanded.

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