South Park Self

the cactus where my heart should be

There are many advantages to living in Africa. The weather. The landscape. The food. The rugged independence of the locals. The South African constitution. Rugby as a national sport instead of baseball. Being chased by lion. However, under the heading of Disadvantages I find myself skipping blithely over the crime, the lack of broadband, the marginalisation of my research interests and my incredible distance from ComicCon to focus firmly on the biggest negative of them all: Colonial Guilt.

We rejoiced for many years in the possession of the Perfect Gardener. Jackson was a lovely man, with quite the nicest broad grin I have ever seen; he was an experienced gardener who knew a lot more about it than I did, and quietly got on with things with efficiency and skill. I hired him more or less at random: he stopped outside our gate one day, where I'd just emerged from my car to stand ankle-deep in dead leaves and dead grass, and asked, with a commendable absence of pointed looks, if we needed a gardener. I liked his face and his references were good, so we gave him a trial, revealing that we'd lucked out big time. However, Wonder!Jackson retired at the end of last year, returning to the Transkei to be with his wife and his mealie crop. In his place he arranged to leave us his son.

I have no problem with the idea of giving JacksonSon a trial as a gardener; Jackson deserved that much. I have an enormous problem with the discovery that said son is not, as Jackson assured me he was, trained as a gardener. He's not only completely inexperienced and basically useless for anything more than tidying up, he's also bloody lazy and doesn't learn because he doesn't want to be a gardener. While I commend his ambition, I do not enjoy having to tell him to do things multiple times and still have them undone; nor do I enjoy having him rip up the grass while raking too hard, or "dig in" compost by putting it on top of the impacted earth and giving it a few ineffectual prods with a spade. Finally, he's pushy: he perpetually wants more work, more money, a maid's job for his wife, my attention to listen to his rambling stories of his plans to be anything other than a gardener, with a heavy subtext that I should be helping him achieve them.

He's not a gardener. I can't make him into a gardener, because I work full time, and besides, I resent being dragged into that expectation without my consent. I doubt he has any idea I'm not happy with his work, his self-satisfaction is ineffable. However, I am basically afraid to tell him to pull his socks up if he wants to keep his job, because he's in our house unsupervised one day a week: we have to leave it unlocked for him because we don't have an outside toilet. I don't like or trust him enough to leave him with that access under threat of firing, I think there's a small but real chance he'd rip us off and bugger off. So I'm left with two options: bite the bullet, or fire him out of a clear blue sky (although with, I have to add, at least a month's wages as severance package, the EL is generous that way).

I've vacillated about this for several months. JacksonSon is not as advertised, he does a poor job, he's lazy and slow, he deserves to be fired. However, in firing him I will be materially disadvantaging his attempts to better himself, as well as creating hardship for him and his wife. He is unlikely, in this economic climate, with our unemployment levels and with his skills, to find a replacement job, particularly since I won't be able to give him glowing references to support him. It's also a betrayal, on some level, of Jackson's excellent service. But against all this I place an inadequately-tended garden, bits of dying and unweeded lawn, a sense that I'm being exploited, and an irritation factor in the high altitudes once a week. I am also keeping out of a legitimate job a large number of actual qualified gardeners who need it just as desperately.

I think we're going to fire him, but I hate myself.
  • Current Mood: annoyed aargh
  • Current Music: Magnetic Fields
I wouldn't beat yourself up too much about adding to the unemployed. If he only works for you one day a week, he must have other clients to support him...

That said, I feel your pain, we usually employ people through agencies specifically so we don't have to fire them ourselves, just ask agency for a replacement. Spineless, I know.
I dunno, it's worse than the usual employer/employee because of all the disparities of social and economic class, plus the race issue, plus plus plus... as I said, colonial guilt. You end up feeling responsible, which is nonsense, but happens very easily.
Employers and employees
We have had several issues like this with maids/chars/house cleaners. The first one we had came with the house, but was inept. The second one was awesome until she stole half a bottle of Jack Daniels. The current one doesn't float my boat but it's Philip's call to fire her as he pays her.

I take the view that you are the employer and he/she is the employee. As long as all shortcomings are pointed out and you've given them a decent chance to fix them/live up to your expectations then you have every right to fire them. We went with the "paying off" approach as well, I wouldn't trust a fired person in my house alone.

Also, there are lots of other ppl out there looking for work, who would do a better job. It's not your fault JacksonSon is a lazy slacker, you are not a charity. People have to _want_ to be helped and they have to _want_ to better themselves. There's definitely a culture amongst the younger black community that white people "owe" them something. Fuck that shit. Everyone has to work for what they want.

White guilt, do not want and do not believe in it.
Re: Employers and employees
Yes, there's a marked and severe difference between Jackson and his son in terms of work ethic, expectations, etc. I very much feel that JacksonSon feels entitled, and it's one of the things that's really pissing me off. But it still doesn't mitigate the fact that it'll do horrible things to his life when we fire him, and that he won't easily find a replacement job.
the immortal bard
ahem, "<"summons best Thom Yorke impression">"

you do it to yourself, you do
and that's why it really hurts...


OK, so it probably doesn't help; given the nature of guilt I don't expect it to. Having had my fair share of employer/employee relationships on both sides of the fence and with varying degrees of interest and engagement on the part of the employee my distilled experience suggests: your employer is not responsible for your happiness or motivation to do a job. As an adult your are responsible for your own stuff in this area.

And while I respect that JacksonSon has probably had limited opportunity given his history and circumstances, I don't think it is your responsibility to continue to subsidise his lack of motivation.

In fact, by continuing to pay him to be a bad gardener, you are probably making it more difficult for him to find the job he can hope to get given his resources. (Wait, didn't mean to add more guilt)

My experience suggests that it is usually best for all concerned that you part ways. Him to hopefully find the kind of job he really wants to do, and you to find the gardener of your dreams.
Re: the immortal bard
Awww, Radiohead serenades, so sweet. Even reproachful ones.

Point is well taken about subsidising his lack of motivation, but I think his general sense of entitlement will cause him to blame me for firing him, rather than causing him to realise he needs to work harder.

Bleah. Hate this.