Saturday, March 2, 2013

Thoughts on Being a Plugger

During my years in the working world, I've found that there are five basic types of people one encounters in the workplace: Climbers, Pluggers, Time Servers, Goldbrickers, and Bitter Enders.

Climbers are Type A personalities whose every move is calculated to be noticed and rewarded by superiors.  They are ambitious and highly focused, though not necessarily always hard-working.  Many make the calculus that schmoozing the boss has a greater effect in terms of climbing the ladder than producing results.

Pluggers are very hard-working individuals who pour a great deal of dedication and personal commitment into their work.  They often take greater pride in their profession than in their position, and while ambitious, do not do much to push themselves forward to their superiors.  Most pluggers figure that their hard work and good results alone will get them noticed by higher-ups.

Most folks in the workplace are time servers.  They do the job they are supposed to do, but with little sense that they are giving a part of themselves over to their jobs.  They do their work, go home, and try to forget about it.  Many climbers and pluggers who get burnt out become time servers.

As their name implies, goldbrickers are out to game the system.  They want to do their job with as little time and effort possible, and will go to great lengths to dodge work and responsibility.  During my time in academia I was appalled at the number of these types I encountered, from a visitor who merely read from the textbook to his class as his "lecture" to a tenure-track prof in the humanities who did all Scantron tests, all the time. Every office or department has someone like this.

The bitter enders are a special type.  These are usually former pluggers who have become completely disillusioned after years of working hard without any reward.  At work they are relentlessly negative, critical of any and all initiatives, and they react to the most innocent inquiries of their bosses as if they were an interrogation before HUAC.  They are usually far along enough in their careers to have both made themselves indispensable and to have a well-established fiefdom.  Any attempts to get them to retire backfire because there is nothing that satisfies their lust for spite more than sticking around when their superiors want them gone.

As much as the bitter enders scare me with their intense anger and resentment, I empathize with their outlook.  As a plugger myself, I know that hard work and good results do not lead to promotion.  There is a game that has to be played beyond doing one's work if one wants to get ahead.  I am bad at schmoozing and playing that type of game, so I elect not to.  Of course, this means that I don't get ahead, that I am stuck lower on the hierarchy than where I want to be.  Everywhere I've worked people have praised my performance, yet I'm always left in positions without power or influence.  Perhaps my expertise threatens others, but it's more likely that plugging away can only get you so far.  My parents were both pluggers in their jobs, and faced the same conundrum: they didn't want to schmooze and kiss ass, but over the years they both developed a great deal of resentment towards their employers for not recognizing their decades of hard work.  I need to either start learning to play the game, or find inner peace that I have decided to trade integrity for status.

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