Caring About Your Work

Two tragedies in Israel this week highlight a deep-rooted problem.

A couple of days ago, a gas technician was called to an apartment in Jerusalem after residents complained about a gas leak. The technician says he checked the leak and closed the mains. A few hours later a huge explosion rocked the building, killing a family of three. And today, again in Jerusalem, a family of six was exposed to poisonous substances after their house was fumigated. Two sisters, aged 4 and 1.5, died and their siblings are in a serious condition.

Officials and the press are demanding these cases be investigated, that those responsible be punished, that procedures be refreshed, that regulations be stricter, etc. etc. The focus is on the procedural and legal aspects of these incidents.

Of course there should be strict procedures and regulations, and the law should spell out punishments for those who disregard them. But nobody is talking about a much deeper problem: the general attitude in our society to getting the job done properly. If people cared, really cared, about the work they do; if they took pains to do their best; if they made sure to provide service properly and not just get away with the bare minimum required by law – things would be different. It’s a question of ethics, of education, of attitude.

Here is a paragraph from a post I wrote almost ten years ago, about how people go about their jobs in Japan. If only we would learn something from the Japanese…

Then there’s the work discipline and the running around. Are you familiar with this scene: you walk up to an information desk and the girl there is on the phone chatting away with her friend, too busy to deign you with a glance? You will almost never catch a service provider here speaking on the phone or smoking a cigarette or indeed just staring idly into space. He or she will always be focused on the customer, attentive to his every need. It is not rare to see delivery men running to and from their truck, even if they are not in a rush. It is simply the way they carry out their jobs: in the best possible way. Walking instead of running means less customers served and hence a job badly done.


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