Pretty much everyone who read my last post expressed dismay at the hiring situation I described. Since I have been sick ever since last week, and basically have not left the house or had any interesting experiences whatsoever, I will take this week's blog post to explain, how my work works, sort of.
(Don't be too worried. I am gradually getting better. It's kind of hard to tell, but my weak, pathetic sick-person croak of a voice has gotten a little stronger by the end of this week; I've stopped feeling feverish; and I can breathe a little easier with each passing day. I did see a doctor, who examined me in around 0.5 seconds (ear, ear, throat, two deep breaths, done) and decreed that there is no need for antibiotics, now close your germ-hole and get the hell out of my office. So I guess I'm just waiting for my immune system to fight the good fight in its own time.)
Right. So, it's like this. My workplace is a business that caters to professionals (I won't say what type, but picture lawyers, or dentists, or engineers maybe) who each have a private practice within the facility, and pay monthly overhead fees (a percentage of their earnings) for rent on their offices and support staff. Therefore, they are our customers. At the same time, their customers are our customers. Technically I have no authority over the professionals. Even my bosses, at the top level of the organization, have no authority over them.
It's a tricky dance to work under these circumstances. The professionals have a governing organization that they're answerable to. If they are misbehaving, we have the option of informing the governing body, but that has not had the greatest results in the past. Firstly, the governing body, like all such organizations, is a mixed blessing. It does some good and necessary work, and is also filled with busy-body bureaucrats who like to come around with their proverbial white gloves on, hoping to find problems, and sometimes making up problems if they can't find any. If we invite them to pay attention to our organization, we might seriously regret opening that can of worms. Exactly the same can be said of the Ministry of Labour, which governs all workplaces in Ontario. We've learned the hard way that asking such organizations to police our professionals causes as many problems as it solves.
When it comes to policing them ourselves, that's also a losing game. Asking for cooperation works to a point, but if they decide that they don't give a damn, what can we do? There are plenty of other, similar businesses which they could move to, where the management is much less concerned with being fair, safe, and legal. If we're not the best of the bunch, we're right up there, from what I've heard.
With regards to the particularly demanding, agist old fellow that I was working with last week, it's hard enough getting him to accept that he has to pay his assistant for statutory holidays, for example. Or allow her to have regular breaks. In fact, if I can find anyone who can put up with him, and who he will accept by his perfectionist standards, it's a dang miracle. In the rest of the organization, I assure you that I have hired all ages, both genders, and many ethnicities. On the balance, my workplace is as equal-opportunity as I can make it. If this particular old grumpus demands a youthful face, then I'll find one for him. I have to pick my battles with him.
The grumpus is one of the highest-grossing professionals in our company. That means that his overheads subsidize the pay of more workers than just his own assistant, including at least two 60-year-olds I work with. If we gave him an ultimatum and he went to work somewhere else, more than one person might lose their job besides his assistant. I haven't seen the exact numbers, but this is what I've been told.
So, that's the big picture. Now you know why we put up with him. It's not just the money; he actually is extremely good at what he does. And when it comes to his clients, he's super-nice and helpful. He'll do more for them than some of his more outwardly charming colleagues. He holds himself to the same crazy, workaholic, no-break standards as his assistants. He's a bit of a nut, but if you met him you'd probably end up liking him, despite yourself. I know I do, at least half of the time.