Some employees balk at 'quality team' roleMore and more...

WORKPLACE & CAREERS

June 25, 1993|By Kim Clark | Kim Clark,Staff Writer/Knight-Ridder News Service contributed to this column.

Some employees balk at 'quality team' role

More and more employers are turning to labor-management "quality teams" to solve productivity problems. But some workers are rebelling against taking on managerial responsibilities.

Doris Murray, who works in the billing department of the University of Maryland Medical Center was "invited" this year to be part of the hospital's new "Service Quality Management."

But Ms. Murray, who had received excellent evaluations and merit raises until the assignment, declined.

"It bothered me," she said. "There have been no promotions in this department for years, and bonuses have been delayed." Yet the hospital wanted to give her more responsibility, she says, without adding to her pay.

She was stunned, she says, when her boss ordered her to join the group. She says she refused again and was given a written evaluation warning that failing to participate would hurt her career and raises.

Now, she wants the criticism removed from her evaluation.

Denis Orthaus of the hospital's human resources department says the confrontation with Ms. Murray has made managers more determined than ever to make the quality program mandatory. The hospital needs front-line people with expertise to contribute to the teams and is going to write team participation into new job descriptions, he says.

Ms. Murray says she wouldn't mind participating if she were paid for her effort. But Mr. Orthaus says the hospital doesn't have extra money to reward people for teamwork. Instead, he says, it's following quality consultants' advice to reward contributors with extra recognition.

Deborah Gay, a quality expert with Andersen Consulting in Washington, isn't familiar with the UM Medical Center situation, but says that rebellions like Ms. Murray's will be more common as quality programs grow. A recent study found that 80 percent of all Fortune 1000 companies espouse "total quality" systems.

She predicts that a tough response like the hospital's will kill a quality program. "I don't think you can force it," because quality teams depend on people's enthusiasm and creativity, she said.

"You always find resistance to change," she said, but employers have a variety of monetary and nonmonetary incentives.

Overrating yourself is healthy, survey says

Stop being so realistic!

A University of Rochester researcher finds that people who overrate their work performance are better employees than those who are more self-critical.

Barbara Ilardi surveyed shoe factory workers and checked their opinions of themselves with supervisors' ratings.

Her finding: "If you look at yourself as [being] just a little bit better than you really are, the outcomes for your mental and physical health are better than people who have a realistic view or who underrate themselves."

Study says solvent linked to miscarriages

The final version of a study by Johns Hopkins University researchers has reaffirmed a potential high-tech health hazard.

School of Public Health Professor Ronald Gray says his group's research linked a common cleaning solvent -- containing ethylene glycol ether -- to reproductive problems. The study, published in June, found that women who used the solvent to clean computer chips suffered a higher rate of miscarriages than co-workers in the same room.

The professors studied female employees at two IBM Corp. plants where women wore protective clothing, worked in "clean rooms" and were exposed to solvent levels below the maximum set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Nevertheless, the women suffered 2.8 times more miscarriages than women in the same room who didn't use the solvent.

"This is only an inference based on toxicology data," said Dr. Gray, who is trying to obtain backing for more detailed studies. Preliminary results of his study, released last fall, outlined the potential problem.

The results should be of concern to women in all kinds of manufacturing jobs. The class of chemicals is used in printing, paint manufacturing and other manufacturing processes.

Dr. Gray says IBM, which paid for the study, has been phasing out the suspect chemicals. Meanwhile, he says, OSHA is considering lowering its permissible standard for the chemical.

Value of housework put at $7.64 hourly

Finally, somebody has put a dollar value on housewives' work.

A Cornell University study says a married woman's housework is worth $7.64 an hour before taxes, or $5.50 after deductions.

Less hair is better, Anaheim Arena rules

Employees at the new Anaheim Arena in California won't have that shaggy dog look.

Following standards set by the Walt Disney Co., the arena's main tenant, male workers can't sport beards or mustaches. Hair must be cut above the ears, not touching the collar in back.

For women: No eye liner or eye shadow; no frosted hair.

For everyone: No visible tattoos. Only one ring per hand.

The dress code, part of an agreement that brought Disney's Mighty Ducks hockey team to Anaheim, applies to employees of Ogden Facility Management.

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