I was picking up mulch that was on sale at Home Depot last weekend and a gray haired man approached my truck for my order. I told him forty bags and I asked him, “So where are the youngsters?” He was obviously older and generally they have a cadre of young men who load mulch during these sale events. He responded, “They don’t know how to work. They are around here somewhere. You get me instead.” I got out of my truck and helped him load my truck.
As I considered his comments, I thought about our current societal view of work. Unfortunately, I truly believe we no longer honor hard work.
We celebrate the folks who game the system.
We most admire those who work less and get paid more.
We look at those who work hard as weak or stupid.
My work experience started on the construction site. It was hard work- hot, dirty, and physically demanding. I worked around other guys that were much older than me and had been in the trades for many years. There were always personalities and characters on the crews. Lots of laughter, stories and practical jokes. These guys knew how to do a tough job and still have fun. And the fun made the time go quickly. They also cared about me. They took me under their wing and taught me how to do the work with quality and efficiency.
As years went by I began to supervise the new generation of workers. Much of the laughter went away. They questioned everything. They did not want to learn or share their experience. They saw the work as temporary. They were on their way to something more important, this was just for now. Clock watchers were everywhere, counting down the time to go home. Work was not really fun working with these guys.
So how do we bring the fun back? How can we bring honor back for hard work? Here are some ideas:
Teach your kids how to work! The worst thing you can do for your kids is to do everything for them. Teach them to work. My father taught me about work at a very young age. I am so grateful for this lesson. I learned how to push my body and how to accomplish something that looks impossible. The worst thing you can do for your kids is to put them on a pedestal. Make them work. Give them responsibilities. Hold them accountable. If you model laziness for them, whining, and complaining, well, you know what you will get!
Recognize hard work! When you see someone who is working exceptionally hard and doing a great job, make sure that you thank them for their efforts. Nothing is more deflating then to bust your butt and not feel appreciated. Take the time to thank or recognition someone for doing a quality job. Send them note of appreciation. Comment about their hard work in front of their friends, family or coworkers.
Reward the extra effort! Give the person who works hard an extra reward. This is crucial in creating an environment that promotes hard work. Give them a bonus, special privileges, award, or extra status. Unfortunately, we often fail to provide incentives, which, has the effect of lowering output to the minimum requirement. What you are doing is racing downward to the lowest common denominator. Don’t be afraid to single someone out as a superior worker. We have become a society that is obsessed with fairness. I welcome the opportunity to tell anyone why I singled out a particularly great worker. Don’t fear the conflict. Celebrate the extra effort!
Compensate based on production! Base pay on output whenever it is possible. Any time you can get away from basing payment on time you will benefit. Clearly making time the measure for compensation, automatically, creates a clock watcher. Add incentives for production. Let top producers leave early or have added flexibility so they rewarded for extra effort.
Dump the dead wood! If you have workers who are skating along, have a bad attitude and putting forth a poor effort, send them home. They are a cancer to a hard working crew. They will pull everyone down. You may be fooling yourself thinking that they will get better. You cannot risk damaging your entire group due to one person’s lack of work ethic.
Have fun! Work does not have to be a bad thing. Seek out creative ways to have fun at work or ways to bind your team closer together. Small things can have a big impact. I get reminded of fun, team building things that we have done at work years later that I have long since forgotten. Foster an environment of fun at work. We get too serious sometimes. Break up the monotony with fun activities.
We need to honor hard work and model it for those around us. Hard work is what built this country and will continue to elevate our standard of living. Celebrate the hard workers and the craftsmen that make things made in this country the best in the world.
Coming home dirty and tired is not being stupid. You are honoring your work. You are a producer and contributor. You are my hero!