No Ingrese Su Tarjeta

No Ingrese Su Tarjeta

The happiness of people doesn’t necessarily lead to improvement of their work.

After we landed in Buenos Aires we went through immigration, picked up our luggage from the baggage belt, flung everything through the giant security machines, and went straight to the two cash machines of the first bank we saw in the arrivals hall, to withdraw ourselves a pile of pesos. Unfortunately, the first machine we tried didn’t work, and the second one was broken. There were three machines from another bank around the corner, of which the first was out of order, the second had a personality problem, and the third thought it was a statue in loving memory of times gone by, when people were able to get cash.

It turned out that all cash machines at the airport in Argentina refused to give us any money. One would think a high priority in any country would be to ensure that tourists are able to transport foreign money into the country. But not in Argentina. The rich diversity of error messages and dysfunctional behaviors of cash machines Raoul and I encountered during our 10-day trip could turn any software maintenance person into a technical paleontologist. It turned us into gamblers, because the complete randomness of pay-outs made the cash machines seem more like slot machines.

We encountered a few more problems on our trip in Argentina. The first oficina de cambio (exchange office) we visited in the city center didn’t have any pesos. Figuring out where to buy a bus ticket in Bariloche took us 15 minutes of asking around various kiosks within a 100 meter radius around the bus stop. Returning a rental car usually takes us five minutes, but in Bariloche it took half an hour. Getting into an airport lounge anywhere in the world requires little more than offering a boarding pass to the receptionist; in Buenos Aires it took five minutes of browsing through a stack of papers, checking numbers, and filling out passenger data, by hand. And the priority queue for frequent flyers at check-in and boarding probably exist somewhere, but you’ll have to ask around. (Or just create your own, like we did.) This all doesn’t seem to bother the Argentinians that much, because the research says Argentinians are reasonably happy. And they love dancing.

Our experiences confirm the hypothesis that happiness of people doesn’t necessarily lead to improvement of their work. Some writers claim that organizations should focus more on the happiness and well-being of their workers, because happiness leads to higher productivity and better performance. This might be true, but there is evidence that a much stronger correlation exists the other way around. When organizations perform better this usually leads to more happiness and well-being of workers!

Raoul and I very much enjoyed the sun, chorizo steaks, ice creams, tango, wine, and the beautiful scenery in and around Buenos Aires and San Carlos de Bariloche. In terms of enjoyment we might rate our vacation as a 9 out of 10. It could have been a 10 out of 10 if the coffee house we found in San Martin de los Andes during the eight-hour road trip on our last day was accompanied by a coffee machine that actually worked.

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  • Patricio Del Boca

    Argentina is quite a strange place. You’re right, a lot of of the things you describe doesn’t bother us (at least they aren’t our top concerns). You can say that Argentina is a “relationship oriented” country. For us is more important our relationships with friends, family and co-workers than how things actually works. “El Mate” (our most important tradition) is a proof of how sharing and communicating with others is what we value the most.

    That’s why Agile Methodologies are very welcome in Argentina, we found a work paradigm that fits our cultural priorities. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools. It is natural for us to be more concerned about how we interact with others than the processes and tools we use.

    Interesting topic to discuss! And I’m glad you enjoyed your trip regardless those broken ATM!

    Regards, Patricio Del Boca.

    • jurgenappelo

      Yes, from a cultural perspective it is fascinating. In my country (Holland) things usually simply work, including all cash machines, which is great. But there’s nobody dancing in the streets, which is a pity. 🙂

  • sery0ga

    I assume you are making too many assumptions in this article :).

    You assume that organizations perform better when their customers’ satisfaction is higher. But is it so for Argentinians? Or, narrowing the scope, for Argentinians’ banks?

    You assume that the happiness of Argentinians doesn’t lead to the improvement of their work. How do you know what Argentinians or the management of Argentinians banks mean by the improvement of the work?

    • jurgenappelo

      Good questions! I don’t know.

  • Gerardo Barcia

    as Venezuelan (and we have a lot of things in common with Argentine people) I believe that happiness does not produce effective work. In our countries Happiness is above all that.We have to deal with bad government and poor institutions, and still you can see people dancing in the street, while cash machines don’t work. A little big difference. Perhaps the happiness can lead people to do better work. But definitely the happiness can be above all that.

    • jurgenappelo

      Insightful input, thanks!

  • Kim Đong Un

    Why would you use ATMs in Argentina where capital controls are in place and currency exchange is rigged by government? The ATMs are in perfect condition regarding as much as they are needed and useful. If you brought with you a stack of greenbacks you could easily exchange them around the corner for a 50% premium over official rate. 😉

    • jurgenappelo

      We have no greenbacks in Europe. 🙂

      • Kim Đong Un

        Of course we do. I am from Europe and Its not long time ago since i bought some at local european bank before traveling to Venezuela where they happen to pay 500% premium around the corner over the ATMs rate. 🙂

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