Life Lesson

July 2017

Yesterday I made a parts run from my shop to Abilene.  One of the other managers needed me to make a stop for him also, so I swung into a small business to take care of that after I completed my stop.  

It appeared to be a small family run business.  A husband and wife team with one middle aged female employee and a young man of maybe 16 years old.  The young man was obviously very new to the job.  By his demeanor I would not be surprised if it was his first job ever and with school out for the summer it may be a “summer job” for him.  

The young man had his back to me working at a back counter and the woman boss was “working” with him to complete his task.  I was immediately uncomfortable and it was very obvious that the other female employee was as well as she helped me.  

Inexperience and nervousness is to be expected of a young or new employee.  Mistakes will happen, things will be over looked occasionally, and the exact protocol may not be followed, but the way the woman was talking to him was completely uncalled for.  She acted like the end of the world was going to take place if he didn’t do it just like she demanded.  She asked rhetorical questions in a derogatory tone of voice and answered the questions before he could answer.  

I understand that most jobs have a “method to their madness” and it was obvious this was the case.  But the young man was still trying to learn the method and was not completing the steps exactly the way the boss wanted them done.  The boss may have been having a rough day, and the young employee may have messed up numerous times, but the demeanor and tone of voice being used was not necessary.

I was promptly helped by the other woman while the man was completing a transaction with another customer.  I needed the same thing as the project the young man was working on.  The woman helping me used a second machine located on the back counter.  When my transaction was complete a few minutes later I paid and exited quickly.  

I felt bad for that young man.  He was trying to please a boss that could not be pleased unless everything was perfect.  I manage 5 people in my role as a shop manager.   And my shop is part of a monthly multi-million dollar operation.  There can be a lot of stress at times and there are times that my guys don’t do the job exactly like I would.  But as long as the job is completed in a timely manner, safely, and correctly, I am happy.  I try not to micro manage my people, but at the same time, if I know how to complete the task more efficiently I will pass my knowledge on to them. I don’t talk down to my employees like they are beneath me because I was once in their very shoes.  

What I witnessed in that store yesterday made me sad.  I was saddened because he did not need to be treated like that in front of customers.  He very well may have been told a dozen times what to do, but she was obviously trying to embarrass him.  I was also saddened because that young man may succeed in his work to become a manager.  And he very well might treat those under him like he was treated because that is what he was taught to do.  

I grew up on a farm or around farming in my youth.  We worked as kids.  I knew how to work hard at a young age.  My first paying job was working for my Uncle Dick on his farm as a sophomore in high school.  Working the fields and feeding cows in Iowa.  Occasionally, I messed up.  I would hit something with a farm implement or not work a field quite the way he wanted it.   While we were rushing through the spring planting I ran the John Deere 4020 I was operating out of fuel and had to walk to get help.  Uncle Dick was not pleased, and I could tell, but he was patient and helped get me going again, even though he had to stop planting and assist me.  

I learned much more than how to work hard from my father and uncle.  I learned how to treat people.  I learned how to manage people.  I learned that if I show my employees I genuinely care about them they will genuinely care about doing their job well.  

I screw up occasionally.  And not everyone can get along no matter how hard they try.  There are a few co-workers I don’t particularly get along with.  And occasionally I have bad days.  But I try not to let that affect the way I interact with those I manage, even when they make a mistake.  And when I make a mistake, I admit it and correct the issue immediately.  

At this point you are probably wondering what earth shattering task the young man in the store in Abilene was trying to complete yesterday?  He was simply trying to copy some keys for a customer.

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