Work Ethic: Just Doing My Job

I grew up with the understanding that whatever my job, I should do my very best at it.  Anything less would be unethical.  If each person does his very best at his job, we are a country of greatness.  If some slack off, we are only as strong as our weakest link.

I work in an office.  It’s not particularly interesting to the general public and there are no puppies or kittens involved.  I don’t get to save lives.  Still, once in awhile, I appreciate when someone notices I do good work and thanks me for it.  I do my job because I am being paid to do it but a little recognition when I’ve gone the extra mile feels good.

If you work in a shelter, your job is to protect the pets in your care from harm.  Although the work itself may be tedious or challenging at times, there are some added bonuses:  the public is interested in your work, there are puppies and kittens, and you get to save lives.  Pretty sweet built-in bonuses if you ask me.  And I can imagine that like me, you appreciate someone recognizing your hard work from time to time and saying thanks.

But here’s the thing.  Protecting animals from harm and saving their lives is your job.  You signed up for the work.  You get paid for it.  In that sense, it’s no different than the work I do at my office or the work most anyone does anywhere.  It’s a job where you have to meet certain deadlines, quotas, etc.  You punch in, you earn your paycheck, you punch out.  Like other caring pet advocates, you might volunteer to do more on your own time, using your own money.  That’s extra work that you choose to take on and it is appreciated.  Or maybe you choose to do no extra work for shelter pets.  Maybe you do the required work at the shelter and then leave.  That’s your choice and no one is knocking you for it.

Due to a number of factors which have resulted in a broken chain of weak links within our nation’s shelter system, there are many shelter workers who are failing to do their jobs.  Worse yet, they are not only failing to protect animals from harm and save their lives, some are literally harming the pets in their care and killing them.  The harm may be in the form of neglect or it might be actual physical abuse.  The killing is usually sanctioned by those in charge – the very people who have the authority to force them to do their jobs but instead, allow them to harm and kill pets.

As if this bass-ackward situation could be any more screwed up, there is the perception among some that, on the rare occasions when you actually do your job at a shelter, you should be praised and hailed as a hero.  Any little crumb that you toss out – anything that rises above the level of inflicting harm and killing puppies – we are supposed to reward you with flowery speeches and positive vibes.  Click and treat, as if we are training you to perform behaviors consistent with doing your job and hoping you will want more clicks and treats and so will offer more crumbs.

But no.  No because, if we were actually training you to do your job by thanking you for your crumbs, you’d damn well be doing it by now.  No because, of all the shelters whose directors and staff I admire, none of them instituted reform by tossing out occasional crumbs while continuing to harm and kill pets.  No because, I see that it is actually you who is training us to tow the line, to remain silent about the horrors you perpetrate against animals and to sing your praises in exchange for a crumb now and then.  Click, crumb.

I know of no other job in this country where you can fail so completely, behave so cruelly and still get a paycheck.  The public is interested in your job because most people believe you are kind-hearted workers who help animals in need.  Many are unaware of the neglect, abuse and needless killing that goes on behind closed doors, paid for with their tax dollars.  But every day, more people are learning the truth.  And more people are refusing to sit down, shut up and accept your crumbs.  More people are demanding that you do your job – not for any special thanks or recognition, just because it’s your job.  I am one of those people and that makes me unpopular with those fighting to preserve the status quo and those who’ve been successfully trained under your click and crumb system.  But it’s an issue of practicing a strong work ethic for the greater good, not a popularity contest.

Do your job, and do the very best you can at it.  I have as much right to say that as any employer does to any employee because I am a taxpayer and a concerned citizen.  I pay your salary.  You work for me and like most people, I don’t want you to hurt or kill animals.

Do your job.  If you go the extra mile from time to time, I will surely recognize and thank you for your efforts.  I appreciate good work.  But just protecting animals from harm and saving their lives 5 days a week – heck, that’s just your job.  That’s the minimum I expect from you.  Granted, it’s a damn fine line of work to be in and I admire you for the work you do but it is your job.

Do your job.  And if you dig in your heels, resist meaningful change and refuse to implement proven lifesaving programs, I’m going to call you out on every little thing I see.  And every big thing.  Every.  Thing.  Because to do anything less is to give tacit approval to the harm and death you bring to shelter pets.  And I won’t do that.  You couldn’t pay me to do that.

10 thoughts on “Work Ethic: Just Doing My Job

  1. So eloquently stated, Shirley; I absolutely agree with every word, and will stand behind you and defend your right to say it.

    You’re also right about the fact that these …people (who, in my mind, I have begun to equate to guards and workers at the Nazi Death Camps–because that is what MAS is, for animals) are actually PUBLIC SERVANTS, and we are paying their salaries! So to allow them to continue to do without trying to stop them makes us complicit in their crimes against nature. We. Must. Never. Stop. Fighting.

    Eventually, as in all such holocausts, the world will become aware and less able to tolerate what is happening, and then there will be a reckoning.

    I only wonder how many innocent puppies, kitties, mother dogs mourning their lost babies, and other poor souls will have to be tortured to death before the world (and citizens of Memphis) wake up.

  2. I absolutely agree with both of you, Lorraine and Shirley. I have never seen such blatant disregard for policies and procedures. It is the job of shelter workers to care for the animals and to be humane towards them. We do pay for their salaries in many instances. IF they were being managed properly, given proper performance reviews, etc. then I know the people that are abusing the animals would be fired. I still say the corruption starts with the Mayor or higher and is trickling down to the employees at the shelter. It has to or something would be done about the employees we see at MAS (and other shelters) who are abusing the animals and blatantly doing so. What manager is allowing employees like these to remain employed? What mayor is allowing a shelter like this to be run this way? It completely goes against common sense, ethical business practices and moral obligation to the animals.

  3. “I know of no other job in this country where you can fail so completely, behave so cruelly and still get a paycheck.”
    Sadly, the Mobile Crisis Center at 135 N. Pauline in Memphis falls under this description. Abuse of patients is a daily occurrence. Our tax money goes to fund the Crisis Center. It’s disgusting to think that our tax money is used to abuse animals and people. You are right, Tammy, this goes much higher than just MAS or the Mobile Crisis Center. When laws are enforced, then illegal activity is ended as soon as it starts.

  4. No business could survive such incompetence. Why should we allow shelters which function so poorly continue to receive taxpayer money?

  5. You put this beautifully, Shirley, and I agree, too. There just is no other area of public service in which employees and supervisors perform so poorly, complain so much about criticism, so often avoid working to a known standard, and so often lie or stonewall to defend themselves.

    They get away with this behavior because our system allows them to withhold information and operate in a secretive manner; it is still a relatively new thing for animal shelters to be under scrutiny. Local government officials also defend them and the regressive part of the rescue community gives them cover. That has taught shelter directors, and those they manage, that they are somehow exempt from the rules that govern other forms of public service. We would never put up with police and fire departments that operate this way. Lives are at stake.

  6. Even low wage no benefit jobs have to do their job and follow the rules if they don’t they go. What makes the shelter worker that doesn’t do their work and follow the rules think he is so special that he/she doesn’t have to. Of course the Boss/ Supervisor. When all is said and done it is because the person responsible for all is the one that lets this go on!

  7. My favorite illustration of work ethic is the New York cabbie who kept his cab clean, a newspaper available to his customers, was exceedingly polite – working above and beyond the base expectation because he valued himself as well as his customers.
    All shelters need to value the public, their volunteers, their paid employees and their mission – which is to save lives. When lives are not valued, situations persist like that of MAS – and how can it persist if the voters have a say? I don’t understand at all. It all boils down to leadership – “corporately” and personally – like that blond ACO who has been seen actually caring for dogs.

  8. Yet another eloquent post, putting into words what so many of us think and feel. My nemisis once told someone that no one knows about all the good she does at her facility. Uh, well, that’s probably because they’re afraid to think about what happens there, let alone go there alone or with their children. And I have heard over and over again how she does so much better than other locations in our fine state. Shall we give her a medal or an award for only destroying 66 percent as opposed to 80 percent? Alert the media. Or not.

    Nathan once wrote in a blog about accountability. About how police and fire departments hold themselves up to those in other locations in an effort to become the very best they can be. While, at the same time, those who run municipal shelters and who refuse to embrace change cling to the “best of the worst” comparison and expect to be rewarded for being less deadly.

    I think people forget that they foot the bill for their local kill shelter. Yes, these people work for us but as long as we remain silent, we are complicit in the kiling. Or so it seems to me.

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