How to Deal With the Temp's Worst Problems
There are problems common to temporary employment. You will probably run into them in your first three months as a temp. It is up to you to deal with these problems in a positive and rational way.
Problem 1: The "Just-a-Temp" Attitude
When a temp arrives at an assignment, he or she is often asked to do tasks that employers may hesitate to ask a permanent employee to do. The "just-a-temp" attitude survives despite the most dazzling temp performances. Why? As a temp you are viewed as someone with no attachments to your coworkers or the company; therefore, they may dismiss you as unimportant or someone regular employees don't have to worry about. This attitude isn't everywhere, but it exists at enough assignments to be a legitimate gripe. It also seems to exist in offices more than in industrial, health-care, and technical areas.
Temps have been around for a long time. The old image of the flaky free spirit or the inept, nail-filing temp haunts many offices. It is hard to lay these ghosts to rest, but the more skilled the temporary workforce becomes, the more the mass perception of temps will change. The temps we spoke with have become resigned to this attitude and say they simply stick out the situation.
There is a general understanding of the need for them to demonstrate their abilities and show that they are competent, intelligent people. "It used to make me so mad," said one temp on the West Coast. "I would let them get to me, and it showed in my work. Then I realized I was contributing to their perception when my work was off*. Now I go in as some sort of super temp. I get offers for permanent employment all the time. When someone says, 'Why are you temping?' I say, 'Why not?' I tell them there are lots of temps out there like me."
We do caution you not to fall into the trap of assuming the just-a-temp attitude yourself. It takes a positive self-image not to let others make you doubt your abilities. Temps have to work harder than permanent employees to prove themselves. If you want to be treated seriously, then you are going to have to take temping seriously, too.
Problem 2: The Lack of Benefits
This is a frequent and valid complaint of temporary employees.
Bruce Peyton, playwright and former temp, noted, "If you are temping to support yourself and are doing it a long time, especially if you are at one assignment for three months or more, you start to feel like a full-time employee and may resent the lack of benefits." Judie Collard-our office temp from Wisconsin in the last chapter-agreed and brought out another important point:
When I’m ready for an assignment, there may not be one for me. I’m listed with three services, and some of them offer benefits based on the cumulative number of hours you work for them. So if I move around from service to service (which some temps needs to do to earn a living), I can never accumulate enough hours to get the benefits they offer
If medical coverage, vacation, and other perks are important to you, shop carefully for a service. Understand that you may have to make sacrifices to get the benefits. For example, we know of a service that offers a great benefits package to their temps, but their hourly rates are known to be the lowest in the area. Some loyal, long-time temps work out a deal with their service that allows them to pay a monthly premium (or a portion of it) in order to be covered on the health plan offered to the service's own permanent staff members.
We were amazed at the number of temps who simply do not have health insurance coverage. Many say it is too costly to pay on an individual basis, and they are willing to take the risk. The best solution is a purely personal one. Only you will know how important health-care and other benefits are to you and your family.