Conditions of employment

October 5th, 2015 by John Morris

During a one year span, I hired 33 new people for about ten positions.  The jobs offered good starting wages and had few requirements.  At each interview, I stressed being at the work stations at 7:00 a.m.  I also stressed how badly our production is affected when an employee chooses not to work one day or leaves early.  These two items and getting along with others was the core of the interview speech.

It didn’t take long for most new hirees to take exit themselves.  These were the major transgressions:

  1. Late for work or leaving early.
  2. Taking excessive breaks – mostly to smoke or to make calls.
  3. Needing others to keep them working.
  4. Hung over, stoned or fatigued.

The bad workers would not make the thirty day mark.  The ones who did would expect a raise.  If they were good workers, it happened. Good workers with troubling work habits got only mentoring.  Note: the success rate here was still slim.

I began to notice each employee had particular features we, the employers, had to accept to keep them.

I’ll use item #1: Late for work or leaving early as an example.  There were a slew of workers who could never make it to the time clock, let alone their stations, by 7:00 a.m.  Each day provided a new excuse.  We would tell them excuses don’t mattter; results do.

I learned these employees were extracting a “condition of employment” from the company.  They were saying – without saying – if you want me here you need to accept my transgressions.  There were times when we did accept these terms but when conditions changed so did the employees.

As the personnel director,  I noted the employees’ “conditions of employment”.  If there was just one, we worked to keep it that way and to make darned sure the other employees didn’t make hay by pointing out the faults of others.  Many believed they could have theirs and the others too.

The events I’m citing today happened two decades ago.  Has it changed much?  From my view as a part time hardware worker, I still see “conditions of employment”.  I also see how this stacks the deck against long term employment.  Businesses must run on an unaffected flow established by their owners.

The other thing I learned is unless an employee goes all-in with their new company, their tenure will be short.  This comes from reading hundreds of job applications.  Ten jobs in three years is common.

We can lament the dimishing American work ethic or just chalk it up to everyone for themselves, i.e., “I’m going to take what I can when I can.”

How do we cure this?  Will it be cured?



The old boy writing this blog wears many hats: Vietnam Veteran, husband & father, salesman and techno-dude. After my service with the Army Security Agency, I operated a sign company for nineteen years, The sign industry changed after CAD/CAM machines made the task easy enough for the non-talented. I sold my company and never looked back.

Life has granted me a life partner better than I deserve. My wife, Lyn is a transplanted Kansas gal. Her bliss is teaching kindergarten and first grade.

I am the most proud of my children. My son, Adam lives an international life teaching English and living in Sozhou, China. He is married to one of life's truly lovely women, Yuri Kim. My daughter, Beth grew up in a small town and found her way in life means working and living in major cities like Chicago and New York. She and her life partner, Julie Sterling married in LaJolla, California in 2010.

I like getting the newest gadgets, but also I like to use things until they are useless, i.e., my last personal car was an 88 Honda Prelude Si.

I wrote a Vietnam Veteran newsletter for nine years. During this journey, I learned I like to write. It is a harmless exercise that rewards honest effort while tolerating failure gracefully. I been away from it for too long. My son gave me the blog, and it was a lifeline back to writing.

My best advice is to show the world what you can do but to accept only your opinion of who and what you are.

Update: In August 2008, my job became one of the half-million jobs that went away that month. I took the following year getting the home ready for my official retirement.

In October 2009, I took a part-time job as a saleman at the vaulted Maxwell's Hardware.

On November 29, 2011, I reached my 66th birthday, and I officially started Social Security. I intend to stay with Maxwell's as long as I can contribute.