Friday, February 10, 2012

Why it's Sometimes Better to Work Alone

Those who follow this blog know that we've struggled as a family around work, especially housework.

A lot.

Maybe if I had trained better at this age. . .
It led to Family Rehab last summer.  The deal was we paid more allowance, they did more work around the house without complaining.  We definitely paid more allowance, but their end of the bargain?  Not so much.

And to make matters worse, not only did I not get a clean kitchen every night after shopping for ingredients and cooking a healthy, nutritious and delicious dinner, I got to hear and mediate a lot of squabbling, mostly about who wasn't doing their fair share of cleaning.

So this week we tried a new strategy.  Every kid gets two nights/week to clean the kitchen and they have to clean everything on their own--dishes, counters, table, floors--all of it.

For 3 nights, it worked like a dream.  Ling cleaned Monday, Kai cleaned Tuesday, and Ren (with Scott's help) cleaned Wednesday.  It took each of them less time because instead of shrieking "___'s doing nothing!  ___'s reading!  ____'s useless!"  They were actually cleaning.

You would think it'd be better to work hard, work together and get it all done.  The more the merrier, many hands make light work, etc. etc.  But clearly not in our family.

All this makes me wonder what my kids are learning about teamwork.  And what I actually believe about teamwork myself.  Recently I read a study that people's best work happens alone, and that if you want your employees to be efficient, making them spend their best time alone is the best solution.

This goes against what I thought I believed, yet it's also what we've been experiencing as a family.   Most often, when the kids have group projects, they turn into nightmares.  We just experienced one of these projects, a project that was 20% of the grade, and where my kid's partner said she couldn't work all day the Sunday before the project was due.  My child ended up working all day and all night on the project, finished it, but didn't study for a math test which then was flunked.  The other child did not flunk the math test and the cynic in me thinks this child was studying for math all day Sunday.

There's not an academic group project I've done from elementary through grad school where I did not perceive that I did the vast majority of the work--mostly because I was NOT going to let my partner(s) affect my GPA.  

Yet in ministry it's been so different.  Yes, there are projects where I feel like I pulled most of the weight, but there are plenty of other projects where someone else did.  And there's not a single project that would have come out as well if I had worked alone.  Not a talk.  Not a training.  Not a retreat.  Not a missions project.  Nothing.

When you work with a bunch of highly motivated colleagues who're willing to work hard and well, there's no comparison!  No single person can put out that level of excellence or create the joy of synergy.  And because my work involves trying to reach a diverse graduate population of students and faculty, we need our differences, our gender, ethnic, Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, age and perspective differences.  

Our fall retreat tradition has been to have a male and a female preacher preach together Sunday morning. It takes about 500% more work to write a great sermon with someone else, but having the two voices, the two perspectives has been priceless.

But add a person or two who doesn't work, who whines, who criticizes others work while neglecting to do their own, and the whole equation changes.

In other words, our family system.

Last night we hit a snag.  I thought I'd been clear about who was supposed to clean but a big argument ensued and because Scott couldn't stand the noise, he insisted on cleaning the kitchen instead.

Time for a sign up list, but 3 cheers for kids cleaning alone!

How do you manage household cleaning? 
How do you get kids (or anyone) to work as a team?
Do you think it's better to work alone or in groups?