We have a rule where I work: No New Work On "Fridays." We'll do paperwork, fix up things that aren't working, clean up the shop, etc. The quotes around the Friday are because we're talking about any day before a vacation or long weekend --whatever.
This also applies to contractors. We will hold them on site until we get our paperwork and documentation. We will inspect their work thoroughly, and they'll know this ahead of time.
What we're trying to avoid is exactly the kind of shoddy work that we're all lamenting. I've seen enough of it for many lifetimes and I am indeed thankful that nobody has ever been hurt on jobs where I've been involved. Sometimes, it is only dumb luck that has saved me.
This reminds me of a time I visited my sister in California. She lived in an older house. She asked about her kitchen light changing brightness. Looking into it I noticed that when the refrigitor turned on the light got 'brighter'. I asked to see here breaker panel. I found it warm and upon removing the cover, the incoming neutral connection was fried to a crisp. It was quite a job to replace that bar and connection. To top it off, the panel was located inside the master bedroom closet!
I've worked for a government organization. It's full of managers writing requirements telling how things should be done, with no option for initiative. Two thirds of the time it works, the rest of the time either the instructions are insufficient or common sense provides the better solution. The more open minded question authority, the rest are "pot-plants" and follow the rules.
If I can just add one more thought - the one cultural attitude I found hard to accept was the tendency for some of the more ambitious Kenyans to work hard until they had an office and a secretary. Suddenly they would begin treating their own staff far worse than any colonial official ever did and they would never be willing to get stuck in to real work any more. All they wanted to do was tell other people what to do and go for long lunch breaks... But it was all a long time ago and Kenya has moved on, though the recent electoral upsets and violence don't bode well for the future.
Thank you for the additional insights, akili. It seems much was at work below the surface insofar as how problem-solving was approached. I think we often make unfair assumptions when interacting with other cultures or even within our own - I admire how you sought to look beyond the surface and tried to understand where these attitudes came from. You just can't expect folks to want to have initiative and go the extra mile when they are struggling to survive and have been treated poorly...I think one thing is universal and you hit it right on the head. No one wants to be physically or verbally abused - kindness goes a long way. When I worked at a major semiconductor company, I would often have some type of assembly task that we would give to the ladies that worked on the line. Whenever I asked one of the ladies to do some work, I would first inquire as to how she and her family were doing. I would then explain why we needed this particular job done (engineers typically never explained why, just what) and I acknowledged how busy she must be and how much I appreciated her work. My work typically got done very quickly and correctly...a little kindness goes a long way.
This story has touched on some deep matters, Nancy. You are correct that there were cultural and even political attitudes at work. At the time it was just seven years since Kenya had gained independence and I was one of a younger generation of engineers working with and training the "locals", backed by British aid. We got along fine with most of the younger well educated trainee engineers but some of the older operators had experienced decades of colonial government and the scars of the struggle for independence were still raw. You must also realise that many of the local staff might work with modern technology during the day but would go back home to a single room shack with an oil lamp for lighting and a charcoal stove for cooking. So when things went wrong some of them tended to adopt a sullen attitude and assume that we, the wazungu (white men), would blame them or ridicule them anyway, so why bother to think at all. It wasn't all bad and I enjoyed the work, even switching to teaching and staying on in Kenya for several more years, but you needed to be aware of the cultural differences and work very tactfully to cultivate good work attitudes. The old colonial method of abusing and shouting loudly at the wananchi (locals) just fuelled the resentment. Similar attitudes were explored very powerfully in the 1967 film "In the Heat of the Night". Hopefully we have ALL moved on since those days.
Nancy, you have certainly described the deffect in a few cultures. Of course there are thoise that will defend them as "just diufferent, not deffective", but demanding that nobody think is what that culture is all about. Sort of a different kind of slavery, the slavery to ignorance, instead of some other kind. JUst as bad as the slavery that we know about, but a bit different.
The typical beurocrat is not willing to think, but only to follow a script. That is a terrible fault, capable of destroying a whole nation if it is allowed to go unheeded and uncorrected.
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