When are you going to get a real job?

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One of my Facebook friends, whom I knew long before the Internet, responded to my new job as a school bus driver with “Now I know you are old.” Very funny. Ha Ha. She should watch me doing pushups.

It did start me thinking about our perception of people in certain jobs. There is not much doubt that all of us stereotype at least some of the time. We talk about “ditch diggers” or “garbage collectors” as if those jobs, however they are defined, are the lowest of the low. I wonder though.

One time many years ago, I showed up at a Galveston, Texas temporary labor office only to be sent to be a small Gulf oil rig tender as a deck-man while the boat was in harbor. It was described as a job in which “you must be willing to do what average and ordinary people are not willing to do.” That was an understatement. Picture a typical high school boy’s bedroom and multiply that by 50 or so bunked in one section and add the large shower area. Then just imagine a tornado going through just before you walk in to clean.

The obvious point is that real people actually do this kind of stuff. Mike Rowe does many of them on the Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs” and it is clear that he is always relieved that each particular episode is finished. Even if we who sit in air conditioned offices or jet from city-to-city in our vocations think we are not that bad off, what in the world would do without those workers?

One of my fellow school bus drivers admitted that his family bugged him all the time to get a “real” job. I wonder if any of them were a parent standing with their kindergarten girl or boy, entrusting that child to to the driver on the yellow bus, would they dare say it was not a significant role in the life of the young people.

I really don’t mind my friends making fun of me. I give it back in spades. Meanwhile, next time you see a person in a job that you think is probably beneath you, remember, first of all, that is a real person at work and, secondly, who would do it for you if they didn’t?

When the managers are humane

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Some of my random jobs are assignments from a temporary staffing company. I began one yesterday and it was a very pleasant experience. The duties are almost identical to those of a position I recently quit in frustration after a whole year of indecision. So why the emotional difference? It is because, clearly, everyone I met treated me and each other as professionals working as a team. That means they gave me credit for knowing what I was doing and if I was on the wrong path, they were kind in their instruction.

This first day was training with the person I am relieving for a week. It turns out that she also had a long term frustration with a previous position. Normally, she would have never started a griping session but by the afternoon we seemed to trust each other and were comparing  our two past unhappy work experiences. Guess what the common factor was. The ones for whom we worked were extremely controlling and were dehumanizing in the process.

Trying to relieve the pressure in those days, I often asked of my coworkers “What management seminar taught that kind of supervision?” In other words, how could anyone expect to get professional results by treating the workers like peons? Those bosses will love it in the future when they only have computerized robots to program any way they want.

On the other hand, gathering untroubled, fairly intelligent people of good will and giving them reasonable expectations makes a lot more sense. Then as the tasks become complicated, ask the employee for suggestions, listen instead of having your mind made up. As trite as it might sound, treat them how you would like others to treat you.

In short, be humane. How hard is that?

How hard can being a boss really be?

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While driving  around in my Senior Advocate duties for my congregation, I heard a couple of radio comedians talking about “not having a boss” and what that meant for a creative person. Then they talked about program directors always second guessing the on air personality. Most of us however, can’t really get away with not having a boss but wouldn’t we all be more creative were the so-called bosses more human?

Writing for Inc.com, Geoffrey James recently discussed this very thing. In this article, 8 Signs of an Extraordinary Boss, James makes simple but essential points about managing others. For example, these five were personally closest to home:

  • A company is a community, not a machine.
  • Management is service, not control.
  • My employees are my peers, not my children.
  • Motivation comes from vision, not from fear
  • Work should be fun, not mere toil

Now if you are a boss or if you are wondering why the misery of working for one, you will want to read the article. He is getting at something that would make a huge difference for companies. Simply put, it sounds just like the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  As the paragraphs above hint, you can’t be the traditional task master and expect for things to work most efficiently.

When I begin writing these posts a couple of years ago, I had quite a bit of this information handy on this topic but about 99% was from the downside. I am sad to say that over the last year I have collected more negative anecdotes than a good month of Dilbert cartoons.

What if each supervisor or manager decided, starting this coming Monday, to simply treat each person with whom they come in contact like a valuable, competent, colleague instead of an underling? I wager that it would take very few days of the work week to change the whole aggravating culture that is so common in the workplace.

James contrasts what he calls the “average boss” vs the “extraordinary boss” Where do you appear in that scenario?

Oh yeah, and isn’t really time to banish the word “boss”? That would be start.

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