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Lesson Twenty-Six — Employee of the Year

If you are going to work for someone you might as well be the best darn employee you can possibly be.Your boss will appreciate you more.You will get paid more.You will get promoted faster.Before too long you will be the boss!On the other hand, if you are not a good employee, you won’t get raises.You won’t get promoted.You will get the worst assignments.In all, you will be miserable, unhappy and distraught.Possibly, soon out of work, again.

The funny thing is, it is just as easy to be a good employee as it is to be a bad employee.In fact, I would say that it is even easier!So, how do you do it?

The first thing you must always remember is that your primary purpose is to make your boss’s life easier.Never forget it.No matter what your position, your real job description is to make life easier for your boss.If she or he has to keep an eye on you, or check up on you frequently, or worry about you, you’re not making your boss’s life easier, and you probably won’t last long.Let’s look at an example.

Rob and Amanda work as baggers at the Piggly Wiggly in Ashland, North Carolina.Rob is the fastest bagger east of the Mississippi.He is an unbelievable bagger.Trouble is, he doesn’t always show up on time, often calls in sick, and when the check out lines are not too busy, Rob disappears to grab a cigarette.When Boss Kean finally tracks him down and says so, Rob will go get the carts in the parking lot, but he rarely volunteers to do anything extra.

Amanda, on the other hand is not a very fast bagger, in fact, she is slow.But she is always on time.She says nice things to the customers like, “Have a nice day”, or “Good to see ya,” and stuff like that.She comes in when she is sick, ready for work but is usually asked to go home and come back when she feels better.When her checkout lines are slow, she helps other baggers, or sweeps the floor, or gathers up carts.She is never bored because there is always something for her to do.She finds things to do.

Which one do you think is the better employee?Whose day goes faster?Why is there always something for Amanda to do, but not Rob?If you have to spend six hours a day bagging groceries, why not make the best of it.Amanda does.Rob doesn’t.Who do you think has the easier job?Who do you think is happier being at work?Amanda, of course.That’s why I said earlier that it is easier to be a good employee than it is to be a bad employee.

Keep busy.Do your primary job thoroughly and efficiently, but if you finish with time left, look for something else to do.If you’re not sure that you should be doing the other things, say to your boss, “I’m finished.Unless you have something else for me to do, I thought I would start stocking shelves.”Remember, the idea is to be as helpful as possible.If you simply say to your boss, “I’m finished, what now?”Your boss will have to interrupt what he or she is doing and refocus on your job instead of his or her own.That is not necessarily helpful, although the intent is there.

Obviously, you should be pleasant.I am sure that you have heard that smiles are contagious.If you mope around and seem miserable, your co-workers will not be happy about working with you.The work will seem dreary and your boss’s job will only be that much more difficult.On the other hand, if you are pleasant and smile, your co-workers will be more pleasant, also.Obviously, your boss would rather come to work every day to work with happy employees than unhappy employees.

One of the things that make your boss’s job easier is showing up on time.If you are not going to be on time, call with an apology and a reasonable explanation.If you are sick and have a contagious disease, call and explain that you would come but you don’t want to contaminate anyone.If you are just not feeling great, go to work anyway.Besides, if you are sick you might as well be miserable at work and get paid for it, rather than stay home and be miserable for no money.

Do not complain about your work to other employees.This is a very popular pastime, however it’s not good for you, and it is not good for the other employees.It is certainly not good for your employer.Most of the time, co-workers simply complain as a way to pass the time, but it is a terrible waste of energy and only makes matters worse.

Make the best of the job.There is always something good about every task.Focus on the good things, and make the best of it.

There is an old fable about three men working very hard at moving a gigantic pile of rocks from the bottom of a hill to the top of the hill.A passerby saw them working and stopped to find out what they were doing.As the first man came back down the hill the passerby asked the unhappy laborer what he was doing.The unhappy laborer replied, “I am moving these stupid rocks from the bottom of the hill to the top of the hill,” whereupon he grabbed another rock and drearily drug himself and the rock back up the hill.A few minutes later, another laborer came down for a rock.The passerby noticed that this worker was not nearly as unhappy as the first and asked, “What are you doing?”The laborer replied, “I am just trying to earn a living for my family,” and grabbed another rock, then headed steadily up the hill with his rock.When the third laborer came down the hill, the laborer said to the passerby, “How are you doing today?” the passerby, noticing that this worker was considerably happier, and replied, “I am doing fine today.What are you doing?”The happy laborer proudly answered, “I am helping to build a beautiful cathedral,” and grabbed another rock and scurried up the hill.

The simple point of this simple story is that the job is what you make it.  If you look at the job as a boring, worthless chore, you will be bored, unhappy and probably worthless.  If you look at the job as a challenge and look to see the value in it, it will be much more interesting and the time will pass much more quickly.

Cathedral worker

As my hero, Mary Poppins, once said, “For every job that must be done there is an element of fun.” (Most of my heroes are fictional movie characters.)

All of these things will help make you a better employee.  However, if you want to be a really great employee, there is one more thing that you must do.  Anticipate.  What this means is that you should try to figure out the next thing to do on your own.  You should be able to anticipate the next task without being asked.  If your boss is a carpenter and you are the helper, pay attention to the task at hand and try to anticipate the next thing to do.  If your boss picks up a power saw to cut a piece of wood, check to see if it is plugged in.  If it’s not, go plug it in.  Do not wait to be asked.  If your boss is cutting the ends off of 2 x 4’s, make sure the next 2 x 4 is ready to go when the previous one is cut.  Do not wait to be asked.  When the last 2 x 4 is about to be cut, start cleaning up the cut off ends, or move the 2 x 4’s to their intended location.  This is anticipation.  When Amanda’s check out line wasn’t busy and another one was, she moved to the busy line and did not wait for her name to be called out on the loudspeaker.  If you apply these simple, common sense techniques, you will be successful at any job you undertake.