Boy, the reality of adulthood can sure be a kick in the teeth. One minute you’re finessing backhands over the net in a varsity tennis championship, and the next you’re cutting lawns for your father’s landscape business. Granted, he let you enjoy a couple weeks post graduation of sleeping late with no responsibility. But on the Tuesday after the Memorial Day Holiday, it was time to man a mower.
You sure wish you’d paid more attention to the books in school. Your parents have always worked hard, but it’s been pretty much just making a living. So there was no college money earmarked for you. Therefore you were banking on getting an athletic scholarship. But on all your career days and during every guilt ridden interview, the immediate red flag was your poor grades. No institution was willing to overlook academic underachievement for the sake of athleticism.
As a result of your lack of effort, you were given an ultimatum. If you were to remain under your parents roof and were no longer a student, you had to get a job.
On the morning after the holiday, Dad banged on your bedroom door, opened it to your garbled “What?” grunt and explained, “You haven’t got a job lined up…so until you do…you’re gonna cut grass…be ready in 15 and put on these.” He threw the customary green uniform on your covered head.
Grim reality but hidden reward
Although the pay was decent and your dad treated you fairly, you basically hated working in landscape. Everything from mosquito bites and poison ivy to slipping on piles of forgotten dog poop; that was the life for 10 hours a day, five days a week.
Plus, working in the hot sun and walking marathon distances made you too tired at night to hang out with friends.
However, there was an invaluable life lesson learned about getting back what you put in.
You see, the downfall of your education was your lack of discipline. But while working for your father, you developed a previously unforeseen work ethic. You took pride in manicuring properties and were likewise appreciative of the satisfaction of customers, as well as your father.
Still as mentioned, you didn’t really like your job, and you weren’t handcuffed to a cutter. Your were clearly told, “If you find something that has a chance for a future…you can go.”
The Holiday Season
It was the middle of October when it had become apparent the scheduled work was slowing down. Your dad had always planned for autumn leaf cleanup, but even with that, the workweek had gotten shorter. Plus the winter winds were right around the corner, spelling an inevitable halt to business.
Luckily, a “Now Hiring Holiday Help” sign had been posted at your local discount superstore. You figured it was the perfect opportunity to continue making money and possibly get out of the landscaping field for good.
You went inside, filled out an application, and asked to see the manager.
After a few minutes of nervous pacing around the customer service desk, the manager approached. He recognized immediately that you were holding an application, “How are you young man…listen…if it’s about the holiday jobs…just leave it on that pile over there.”
You felt heat surround your face, intimidated by his assertive posture and position. Putting your head down, you turned away. But suddenly you had a rush of What do I have to lose? confidence. You turned back and said, “I’m sorry…there is something I wanted to say…it’s been a pleasure meeting my future boss.” You reached out and shook his hand.
Well, you must have made a good impression. By the time you got home, there was a message from the Personnel Department asking if you could start next week.
The Toy Department
Bright and early Monday morning you arrived at the store, completed the necessary paperwork, were handed a blue shirt, and then directed to the Toy Department to meet the supervisor, John.
Right out of gate, you and John hit it off. You walked the department, he gave you some pointers, and he set you to task.
For the most part, the requirements of an associate in Toys were to stock the shelves, help customers, and stock the shelves some more. Remember, it was Christmas time in a store that advertised heavy and guaranteed the lowest prices. So like clockwork, holes in the shelves popped up constantly throughout the day and especially on weekends.
High praise and revelation
About a week into the job, John was tooting your horn, “I always know what aisle you’re working in…the merchandise is packed out and everything’s clean as a whistle.”
Then he added, “Are you aware that management usually asks the most impactful employees to stay on permanently after the holiday season?”
That was news to you. Here was your opportunity to make a name for yourself and potentially climb the retail ladder. Needless to say, you wouldn’t have to run from bees or pick ticks out of your hair in a climate controlled big box store.
For the next two months you took your position very seriously and did everything to the best of your ability. And sure enough, you were asked to stay on after the holiday.
But…there was something you’d noticed about the other associates in Toys, and throughout the store for that matter. There seemed to be a retail culture that was counterproductive to the philosophy of the company, an attitude verbalized in the break room and parking lot and restroom, then carried out on the floor.
Employees would commiserate over store policy, scheduling, pay, job requirements and pretty much anything that strengthened their secret community of, for lack of a better word, slackers. Management and Corporate were practically thought of as Darth Vader and The Evil Empire.
So while you were going start to finish with a sweat soaked forehead, your aisle counterparts were talking about the game, texting on their phones, and pulling disappearing acts that rival Vegas headliners.
Normally you would stay focused on yourself and your own behavior, but lately you’ve noticed that John was addressing your impressive level of achievement but rewarding it with a significantly bigger and more difficult workload.
Most of the day, you were seen sprinting up and down the aisles and back and forth to the stockroom. And in your travels, you passed clicks of paid employees leaned against displays and counters, giggling at your level of devotion.
Admittedly, you had planned from the beginning to work as hard as possible. You were inspired by your disinterest in landscaping and the potential for a lucrative career with a well established retailer.
But there’s still a human side of you that begs the questions, “Why should I be doing twice as much work for the same or less pay as other employees?” and “Am I being taken advantage of?”
What is his Callemonit if he’s truly stressed? Does he go to his supervisor John or maybe the store manager with his concerns? Have you ever felt like you were working significantly harder than fellow employees to make up for their laziness? Did you ask, “Where’s the fairness, and why are they getting away with it?”