The Real World?

Perhaps a few readers can help me out.  Lately I keep hearing about a “real world” of which I was unaware.  For one thing, I thought I was living in the real world.  I go to work every day, work hard, wrangle reluctant teenagers into reading and writing, settle disputes, teach manners, collaborate with colleagues, often take work home with me, stopping by the grocery store first and taking care of other domestic duties.  While the particulars of my work duties look a bit different from people in other jobs, the rest of this looks so much to me like the lives of people in the “real world” that I mistook our worlds for being the same.

At any rate, apparently in the real world, this is what happens all the time:  Supervisor Samantha goes to Worker Wendy for a conversation.

SS:  Hey, Wendy.  It’s a new year, and we’re implementing a new evaluation system.  Here’s the rubric.  Now, I’m going to come watch you do your job for an hour sometime this year and decide whether or not you’re doing all of these things so I can determine whether you do a good job.

WW (looking at the rather daunting rubric):  Okay, well, I do all of these things quite often, but I don’t do all of them every hour.  What if you miss some of them in the hour you’re there?

SS:  You’ll have to dig through all the stuff you’ve been doing all year and find proof.

WW: A lot of this has to be observed to be proven.  Can I at least have an evaluator who has seen me work a lot and will know that, even if I don’t do some of these in the particular hour she’s watching me, I do routinely do them?

SS: No.  I’ll be evaluating you this year.  It’s too bad I’ve never observed you before.  I’ve worked with Worker William across the hall for years.  He’ll probably get a better evaluation just because I’ve seen him working more and I know what he does.

WW: This seems kind of messed up.  Have you had a lot of training in how to use this?

SS:  Not really.  Look, we know this has a lot of problems.  It’s new this year, and we’re trying to work out some of the things you’re mentioning here.  Don’t worry.  This won’t actually be used to determine your pay yet.  Maybe next year if we can get the bugs worked out.

WW: So all this proof I have to provide, if I’m really busy actually doing a good job, is it any big deal if I don’t go digging through all my work for documentation?  I mean, if I’m willing to settle for being rated “effective” instead of “highly effective” so I can concentrate on getting my real work done, will it hurt me?

SS: No, no.  Like I said, the guys at the top know this has a lot of problems.  You’ll really be helping us work through them this year.  I promise, we won’t tie pay to it until we’ve all had training in how to use it equally and we refine it.

WW: Okay.

One year later…

SS:  Just kidding, Worker Wendy.  Turns out Worker William is going to get paid more than you.

WW:  Because he’s better than me?

SS: I don’t really know.  I just know him better because we’ve worked together longer.  Remember?  We talked about this a year ago.

WW: But you said it wouldn’t affect my pay.  If I’d known it would, I would have gotten you all that proof you said I didn’t really have to get you.  Can I get it to you now?

SS:  It’s too late now.  I guess it just kinda sucks to be you.

WW (smiling and shaking her head ruefully): Yeah, I guess so.

Then Worker Wendy goes back to work, more than willing to continue to work just as hard as Worker William for less money for no other reason than Supervisor Samantha knew William better and had wrongfully told Wendy that she didn’t need to provide evidence on her own behalf.  The next year, Wendy takes frequent breaks from doing her job to gather evidence (other than the job being done) to prove she did her job.

Also, a test is given once a year to all the people the next tier down in the office, including ones she has no role in supervising.  The test does not affect the people taking it in any way, and they may miss work routinely, have drug problems, health problems, inadequate nutrition, or only have started working at the office a week before the test is given.  The collective scores of these workers becomes part of her evaluation.

Can someone in the real world tell me why they do things this way, or at least clarify for me whether some people describing the “real world” are just blowing smoke?


Judging from some of my Facebook comments, much of the corporate world is exactly this fucked up.  So here’s my next question: Which is in greater need of reform, education or corporate culture?

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Paula is an author of historical fiction as well as a wife, mom, and teacher.
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2 Responses to The Real World?

  1. Irene says:

    Perhaps teachers don’t spend all their time in the “real world”. Perhaps they spend time in a “better world” they try to make with their students every single day.

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