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Crucial Accountability QA

Respecting Part-time Coworkers

Dear Crucial Skills,

I am a middle-aged, part-time worker by choice and work very hard while I am at work. I have a great attendance record, I’m dedicated, meticulous, and take initiative without drawing attention to myself. I try to do everything I can to make my coworkers’ jobs easier. Per my supervisor and coworkers, I am a “great team player.” However, I am still bothered by some comments along the lines of “she’s just a part-timer,” and I don’t get the same treatment as full-time employees regarding things like perks, raises, etc.

What can I do to help my employer and coworkers understand that I am part of the team and contribute just as much as they do without causing hard feelings?

Signed,
Part-time Worker

Dear Part-time,

There are three different levels of crucial conversations that can be addressed. They are: content (a specific problem or issue), pattern (a repeating problem), and relationship (the way we work together, or the way we relate to each other). Issues of respect, like the one you raise, are relationship issues. Instead of solving a single problem, you want to change aspects of your relationship with your coworkers. These are especially difficult conversations that often involve roles, responsibilities, emotions, and perspectives.

The key to your situation seems to be developing a mutual understanding with your coworkers about your role and contribution. I would recommend starting with your supervisor. Begin a conversation with your supervisor by factually describing the things that are happening and being said which you believe show disrespect.

Share your example, then tentatively share your interpretation of the behavior. Finally, ask for your supervisor’s view so you can understand his or her perception. For example, you might begin as follows.

“Yesterday Robert, referring to me, said, ‘She’s just a part-timer.’ He seemed to be implying that I wasn’t really a member of the team. Is that how you see things? I’d really like to understand your view.”

Now is the time to listen. Perhaps your boss agrees with your coworker. This would be important information for you to know. Perhaps your boss is unaware of how you feel and why. Knowing the boss’s perspective is critical to knowing what task awaits you. If the boss is surprised, you may want to share additional examples of disrespect or unequal treatment such as perks and raises. If the boss knows what’s happening and believes that your role is second class or that you are a “quasi” team member, you may want to renegotiate your role. Explain how you have contributed, how you want to contribute, and how you want to be treated. Change usually begins with awareness. As you both become aware of each other’s views and assumptions, misunderstandings can be addressed, attitudes can be changed, and expectations can be negotiated.

Once you and your supervisor are in agreement, you are in a good position to talk to your coworkers and have your supervisor support you. Now, use the same approach to address the issue with your coworkers. This time, compare what’s happening with what you expect or desire to happen. You might say, “Robert, yesterday you said I was just a ‘part-timer’ as if you don’t think I’m really a member of the team. I would prefer to be treated as a team member who adds value and helps the team be successful. How do you see me as a member of the team?”

You now have a chance to understand your coworker’s view and influence it, either through creating mutual understanding and setting new expectations, or by changing perception through consistent performance over time. Never let the way others treat you be an undiscussable. Skillfully and respectfully address the issues in your relationships and create better relationships and better results.

Best wishes,
Ron

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Ron McMillan

Ron McMillan is a New York Times bestselling author, keynote speaker, and leading social scientist for organizational change. For thirty years, Ron has delivered engaging keynotes at major conferences including the American Society of Training and Development and the Society for Human Resource Management. Ron’s work has been translated into twenty-eight languages, is available in thirty-six countries, and has generated results for three hundred of the Fortune 500. read more

7 thoughts on “Respecting Part-time Coworkers”

  1. Dear Part Time Worker,
    You said, “I am part of the team and contribute just as much as they do…”. There may be hard feelings because of this attitude. It is possible that we value you and your work greatly but you have a disproportionate sense of your own worth. The fact is you do not contribute just as much. If you work 20 hours and we work 40 hours, (not withstanding knowledge, skills and abilities) you contribute half as much. We don’t hold that against you. You get paid less as well. We understand that. But if you think you contribute the same but are here half as much, you do not. And you are not supposed to. And there are some ways this makes things difficult. We can’t hold team meetings at certain times because you are not here. Customers and clients cannot be referred to you when you are not here so we have to do that work. We have to spend time catching you up on everything you missed. Frankly, working with you can be limiting. The reasons for you working part-time may be your choice or the company’s. But the results are the same for your co-workers.

  2. I have a similar situation but from the other side. I have many employees who are part time employees that are the glue of how our team functions. What I am running in to is true by in from these part time employees. Our part time employees at are a stage in their life where they dont know if they want to make this a career or if it is a stepping stone to their next job when they are finished with school. We are struggling with buy in from them. It is like pulling teeth to get them to even attempt to go after the team goals. As a leadership team we have been reading the book Gung Ho by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles that basically says turn your goals over to your employees and they will get the work done if you paint the right picture. My concern is what if you paint the right picture and help them see the value in the work but there is no action from these employees that are not bought in to what we are doing.

  3. Let’s be blunt! A part-time worker, from management’s perspective, is a stop gap measure intended to satisfy a certain business need. The part-timer is a resource who may have limited skills, flexibility and/or use. The duration of stay depends on the extra value the resource offers to the business. The extra value the resource provides is the raise (perks and raises, etc.) the individual gets, i.e. the resource remains employed longer. A part-time worker by choice is somewhat akin to a mercenary. The mercenary is there to do a job…when they are there and as long as required. They do work, they get paid, they go home. They are used for their skill in the project or company, have ownership in the project or company through their quality of work and do have a great deal of pride in what they do. They do perform well, likely equal, possibly better than other full-time workers…while there. For that, the company and the team members have respect for their contribution. They tend not to be bound by the all of the demands of the company (like working Saturdays) because they are part-time. They are like an oarsman on a 4-person sculling team who only rows for 500m of the 1000m race and then jumps out of the boat. If the race or organization requires you to bail out after 500m, you are a full member of the team. When you choose to bail out after 500m you are not. This isn’t little league where everyone gets a medal for participating in the tournament; this is the big league where there are winners and losers. Players who join a team part way through the season and then get traded or sent back to the minors don’t get their name on the World Series trophy. Make a full time commitment to the team and the team will make a full time, equal commitment to you.

    1. Dear Mike,

      I am a part-timer, due to my role as an academic running a key program at the university whilst still wanting to be an active person in my profession. I think you completely misunderstand the potential that a part timer can provide for a business. Flexibility may be greater with a part-timer who can potentially have days on site which match demand whilst not commanding a wage when the need is not there. Skills may be equal or better. I can easily maintain a pleasant demeanour and respond kindly to my colleagues during the two days (often up to 20 hours) of work that I provide for our organisation. It is a very stressful place to work and I suspect that full-time would make me less able to curb my frustrations with poor processes. Instead, I return each week, having carefully considered what steps I want to take to assist the organisation to become safe and pass accreditation. Far from being unskilled, I am the only person with any significant experience in our field working there. My role in the two days is to assist with skills development for our team, see the most complex of clients and counsel those team members who are having a difficult time with the organisational problems that exist. I am always available for support whilst at my other role, but it is also important that the team learn confidence and autonomy as they will need to improve their decision making and scope of practice to best serve the organisation.

      I can see the point of the mercenary analogy, but your attitude to part-timers is very unlikely to instil in them any sense of belonging to the team and you are likely to lose out on discretionary effort in the long run. People know when they are being looked down upon. Master your own story – is it simply a chip on your shoulder about the demands of weekend work that is the problem? Or are you jealous of those who might put family first in their value system ahead of financial gain?

      I wish you well in your corporate endeavours, but hope you can reflect on the positive values a part-timer might bring on their days on board, whilst helping all your workers to form a true team.

      Kathy

      1. Hi Kathy:
        Thanks for your feedback. You make some interesting points. I will open with a response to the “Jealous” comment and the challenge to my values. In this way I can be more objective to your other comments. I find that comment most judgmental, condescending and uncalled for. Over 25 years ago I took a $60,000 a year cut so I could be with my wife and family thus taking me off the fast-track up the corporate ladder. I will never achieve the success I was heading towards nor will I forget the time we all had together up to my wife’s passing 15 years ago. Recently, due to the decision of a drunk driver, I am now raising my 3 year old grandson and I eat breakfast and supper with him every day. I wonder if your comment towards me was really intended to make you feel better.
        We are medium sized engineering firm and the nature of our work requires me to have 80% of my team as 40-hour and less than 30-hour part-timers. It has been this way for the past 20 years. We don’t have the resources to keep them all and remain competitive. The scope of the work results in fluctuating needs of these part-timers i.e. length of project and skill set. Because I am hiring part-timers they often have other jobs and thus tend not to be as flexible as you suggest. I typically hear “Hire me on full time and I will give you that level of flexibility.” I have hired and rehired dozens of part-time project folks and I have 1 permanent staff member who is a part-timer, and has been for the past 12 years. When she approached me because she wanted more time with her family, I worked it out so she could become a .6 employee: the company’s first. She is a talented engineer I don’t want to lose and so I have gone to the wall on many occasions so she could remain a .6 employee. During our 2009 base staff reduction program, I was able to keep her and 1 other part-timer. Explain that to a full-timer.
        I have found the main issue with dissatisfied and underappreciated part-timers or full-timers, is unshared expectations. I believe every relationships breaks down for that very reason. During my interview process I ask each potential full-time or part-time candidate what expectations of me and the company they might have. I share my expectations with them. I give both of us a chance to rebut and then we make a decision regarding employment. Most find this discussion awkward; all have acknowledged they were treated the way they had expected to be treated. Because of this practice, in 38 years of work, I have only let 2 people go. Unshared expectations.
        We are all part-timers even if we work 40+ hours a week. As I, and others like me, near retirement, I understand this more than any less-than-40-hour-per-week part-timer. And you will too. Therefore, as a part-timer, my self-esteem comes from those things I did which I believed to be esteeming: no accolade required. My pride shows through in the quality of work I produce: no perk required. And I have always taken full ownership and responsibility for my own happiness: a choice. I believe in coaching, mentoring and humor with the intention of removing the blocks preventing anyone from being the greatest they can be. After I leave, it is my expectation this company will continue to grow, prosper and flourish because all owners and employees will know and understand the expectations of all parties and live up to them. Not because I was here.
        Part-timers are valuable. Full-timers are valuable. Everyone is valuable. Recognize your own value. Don’t base your value on other peoples’ comments. Don’t base you value on perks and accolades. My grandson’s hug lets me know this is true.
        Regards,
        Mike

  4. I’m a part-time employee fortunate to be very appreciated by my team and superiors. Knowing I have limited time I push very dedicatedly to complete work before being off the next day, and in the process produce work timely and effeciently. I’m also well rested arriving at work having a good work-life balance. I realize not everyone has the liberty to have reduced hours, and co-workers in the past have shared they are actually jealous. It would be nice to see shorter work weeks, i.e. 4 days. However, I suspect the reverse is happening where people often need more than one job when wages are low, jobs are outsourced, and benefits not offered.

  5. While I agree with Ron as to the steps to take, one must also be aware that there will be certain people whose attitude won’t change. One can try to change the culture but there are some people that will not change. One can talk to these people but in the end they will keep the same opinion. It does not reflect a true team environment when one member is looked down upon because of their
    perceived “part time” contribution to the team effort.

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