Imagine you had an employee that consistently misfiled papers. Instead of the right-hand cabinet, they used the left. Concerned, you placed prominent signs on each cabinet to specify “Papers here” and “No papers here,” but still, the employee dumps papers where they do not belong. You’d fire that person, wouldn’t you?
Piero Benavidez certainly would.
Each day he’s frustrated by federal public servants who fail to read signs, thereby misfiling and misdirecting papers. Unfortunately, Mr. Benavidez is a janitor, and the cabinets in question are the Government of Canada’s PaperSave recycling bins and garbage bins.
The PaperSave program purports to collect approximately 10,000 metric tonnes of waste paper each year from government offices in the National Capital Region. From Benavidez’s perspective, it seems like at least a tonne of paper each year is needlessly thrown away by the employees in his building.
“Are they careless? Are they stupid?” Benavidez wonders. “I know they can read. Most of them have Masters degrees in History and English Literature.”
Benavidez has experimented with a variety of interventions−locations of signs, relative placement of each bin−to no avail.
“I don’t understand. The recycling bin looks like a recycling bin; the garbage bin looks like a garbage bin,” Benavidez laments. “If any managers reading this are looking for a hard-working, literate, engaged employee, brimming with common sense, and who knows how and where to file, please call me.”