Friday, May 13, 2011

Working Well With Others

My children are working on a collaborative construction project, in their respective classes. The class is divided up into working groups of students, each of whom has been assigned one or several roles in the assignment: to design and construct a load-bearing bridge with toothpicks. The assignment sounds like a lot of fun, and a chance to work with a real-life construction project on a small scale and with a hypothetical budget. Once the projects are complete, there will be a contest between the classes, for best- and greatest-load-bearing design.

My daughter was complaining to me that the child on her team who is supposed to be engaged in management and oversight, in addition to make sure that the “job site” is clean and “safe” has been shirking these responsibilities. Normally, my daughter would just shrug and make sure things were handled, but in this case, two other team members have been out. So, in essence, my daughter feels she has been carrying the project, and she told me it seemed unfair.

She said that she had tried to communicate to the person in question, only to be put off or growled at.

I had to laugh.

How frequently do we find, in our lives, in our lives, that gate keepers, managers, people entrusted with the work of oversight and management seldom live up to their job descriptions or pay?

How often do we try to keep it all going, on our own?

How much stress does this add to our daily lives?

Does this affect our love of work?

Cooperative effort requires team players. Teachers in our schools work hard to teach our children to work together in problem solving. What do we adults model? Do we model best practices in the areas of cooperation? Or will it be marked on our life report card: “doesn’t work well with others?”

I suggested that my daughter speak to a higher authority about her grievances, namely to her teacher. I even advised seeking arbitration.

“Well, I don’t want her to get in trouble; then she’ll really get mad at me.”

I then suggested that I would make some small signs, to put into the hands of some action figures. The plan would be post the action figures around “the job site,” as if there was a strike picket line. The signs would proclaim:

                  “MANAGEMENT UNFAIR TO LABOR!”

My daughter was appalled. “Oh, MOM! That is not going to stop her!”

I said, well, perhaps not, but it would bring public attention to a situation that really comes up in the world of work. Such events can even delay or shut down projects.

“You just want to embarrass me!”

“No, I want to embarrass her into doing what she is supposed to do,” I replied.

“Ah, mom.”  She dismissed this entire notion as being ridiculous.

“If you don’t talk to your teacher tomorrow, the action figures hit the picket line on Friday!”

“Mom, you have no respect for me!”

“I have every respect for you, and your best interests at heart—you are a laborer and you are being oppressed by management!”

“Hmph,” she said, “well, maybe you should have a little less respect for me…”

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