Today, I cleaned out my documents folder. You know, the one we all have (at least for those still working within the hard copy paper era) for our bank statements, bills, receipts and other paper paraphernalia. In the far back, within a compartment simply labelled ‘Documents’, I found a performance review from a summer job back in 2001. That was 15 years ago and I was 21 years old.
It told an interesting story and I’m grateful to the supervisor who completed it at the time. It helps me to keep perspective on the work ethics of others, especially those in their late teens and early 20s.
Let me tell you a story about a préposée à la clientèle des parcs (parks monitor) in Montréal with aucun enthousiasme (no enthusiasm at all).
The job in question was created by the government of Québec to generate work for students. It consisted of riding a bike around an assigned group of parks to check for needles/condoms, verify that water fountains were working and basically just monitor that park users were aware of park policies. This was accomplished in pairs and I was paired up with a young woman of 17 years.
Halfway through the summer, we sat down to receive a performance review, which I do not recall in the least. I know it took place only because I came across this document. In general, my review was mediocre. I apparently did not require any monitoring and was seen as having superior ability to make logical decisions.However, the majority of my abilities were marked as average (learning, taking initiative, quality of work, leadership, emotional stability).
The one exceptional multiple choice item that stood out was my enthusiasm for the job, in which aucun enthousiasme (no enthusiasm at all) was selected. This stands out for me today because, if you know me, you know that I am a person who is enthusiastic, passionate about my work and driven. So… Aucun? Like, none at all? To understand this statement better, I turn to the comments at the end of the review. They are rather illuminating.
Points faibles (weaknesses)
- Bonita est un peu réservée face au reste de l’équipe de préposées
- Bonita is a bit reserved in interactions with the other monitors
- elle semblait de plus en plus fatiguée et quelque peu désintéressée au fil des semaines
- she seemed increasingly tired and disinterested as the weeks went on
Yes, this is truly what was happening here. I was disengaging. The other monitors were mostly younger than me with different priorities in life, such as using their pay for shopping instead of rent. For example, I overheard gleeful admissions of non-work-related activities during work hours: bringing extra clothes to wander the downtown as civilians, slipping into movie theatres for a 2-hour break and sitting in one park hanging out with the drummers for the entire day. I would never have done these things. I don’t have the tendency or willingness to buck authority. This despite the fact that I recall becoming increasingly disillusioned with the job. We felt more like a forgotten government initiative than an essential spoke in the gears of the city of Montréal.
I see the person I am today more in the comments on my strengths.
Points forts (strengths)
- remplit les tâches reliées à ce poste avec beaucoup de maturité
- completes work tasks with much maturity
- son ouverture d’esprit la rend plus efficace pour ce travail
- her open-mindedness makes her more efficient in this work
- semble vouloir en faire plus
- seems to want to do more
- possède un certain caractère “travailleuse sociale” face aux gens problématiques
- possesses a certain “social worker” approach to working with difficult people
I believe the above points really illustrate better why I may have appeared to have no enthusiasm towards my work. I knew what I needed to do and I did it efficiently. I wanted to do more. In other words, I was completely and utterly bored! I remember feeling that I could have learned more and done more in a different job that summer. The city created a job that was not really needed, certainly not on a daily basis. In looking for other things to do, I began noticing and reflecting further on the customer service aspects of the job. This was particularly challenging in the inner city where our “customers” included people with no fixed address, sex workers and outcast wanderers.
If you work with individuals who do not appear to be engaged in their work, remember this young park employee who was bored. It clearly was not the right job for me nor was I given a clear purpose. That disinterested employee may just need to feel that their work is valued and valuable. Ask deeper questions and take observational notes. If my supervisor had simply stopped at the multiple choice aptitude items, the full story of a young employee who wished to make a difference in the world would have been completely missed.