When I was younger, around the age of 8, I helped my dad on the construction site. He owned his own company and he hired me for the weekends. I thought I was raking in the dough while earning my $1.50/hour. And in the mid 70’s for someone just under 10, it was some serious money. I worked hard for it though.
I found that a 4’ x 8’ sheet of sheetrock was a little more than a 75lb boy could handle on his own. I remember it embarrassing to have to ask help to move them. I remember not being able to unload them from the truck and making my dad stop what he was doing to help me. Sometimes he would just do it by himself as if it was easier and faster that way. I hated it.
When he was not watching, I would place my hand just right in the middle of the sheet, like he would, and lift it up from its position of being leaned against the wall. Eventually, I could lift and carry sheets from the back of the truck and into the
job sites by myself. If my dad helped, it was only so we could both be done quicker.
Years later when I was 14, I worked at a mining operation. And again, I was the only one who couldn’t do a task. This time is was lifting a barrel of fuel from laying on its side up to a standing position. I was 100-nothing pounds and a barrel of gasoline weighs about 330 pounds, diesel fuel another 50 pounds or so. That didn’t matter. I needed to do the task without asking for help. It was embarrassing to me to be the runt. Even if I was the only kid in camp. I worked at it until I could do it. For me. For my own pride. To not be the one who slowed the team by always needing help to do my job. I worked on it until my muscles learned how to do it.
Today I look over my team at work. And although we are not moving sheetrock or tipping fuel barrels, it’s obvious that we have some weak members that lag behind the others in work productivity. Everybody sees and knows it and has to compensate for it. The lesser productivity doesn’t bother me as much as the apparent apathy. The weaker members don’t care. To be carried by the others is not an obvious issue for them. I think, maybe they’re just embarrassed and emoting a façade of not caring but there’s never any sign of improving, no clues of trying harder or differently. As a manager, I’m left to wonder why? Why don’t they want to improve? Why do they believe that that their meager efforts should be accepted?
I’m told I’m wired differently. And I’m glad I am. I find it hard to comprehend the acceptance at being the weak link, to know that everyone disrespects my work efforts. I don’t understand the reluctance to find another gear or to try to improve, to feel responsible to lighten the load of those around you by pushing yourself to be better. I have never lost anything by trying harder.
I’m not sure how to help someone when they don’t want to be helped or not think that they should be.
I’m not sure what future awaits these people. Eventually you have to step up to the plate and take a full-hearted swing.
I fear for those who never do.