An email from Meg made me realize that in previous posts I had under-emphasized the responsibility each of us has to choose to be our best selves at work and in every setting of our lives.
When I was 16 years old, working for Gedney pickles and standing at a bin where we stuffed pickle spears into jars manually for 8 hours a day, I learned that only I had the power to make the job rewarding for myself. I created a daily competition to pack more jars than I had packed the prior day. I became the fastest pickle packer in the plant. It made the time go by more quickly and it was fun to compete, even if just against myself. I’ve carried that through all my jobs and shared it with my kids. So no matter how nasty the job is, we have to find ways to feel rewarded and often that entails reinventing the job, which I’ve pretty much done with all my jobs.
And I’ve also learned not to fear things that I don’t understand. When I came to IT Telecom and they laid off the whole team except me, I had to recreate 30 years of telecom architecture. I just peeled off one layer at a time, disconnected unused services, saved the company thousands of dollars each month, and felt terrific for accomplishing it.
Toxic employees would see opportunities for savings and keep it to themselves figuring “if my boss doesn’t see it, why should I?” Work ethics are not easy to teach, but managers needs to realize it is crucial to success and they should spend more time helping employees find the fun in the job and the passion to help the company thrive.
I’ve been very lucky because, at times, my employers have tried to “box” my jobs, but being the conformist that I can appear to be, they thought I was doing well. In reality, I was reinventing the jobs, letting them think the changes were their ideas. I could never have been productive if I wasn’t allowed to be creative, inquisitive, and progressive.
Similarly, reader Margaret wrote: “There have been jobs that I had that I didn’t like. When I’ve been in that position, I tried to think of at least one thing, often more than one thing, that I could change in the situation to make the job more to my liking.”
We are responsible for the lives we create or do not create.
4 thoughts on “The Fastest Pickle Packer in the Plant”
Thanks for the Monday-morning inspiration, Tom! You’ve inspired me to make this week a great week.
I really like what Meg wrote! She’s a great example for us all! She turns the situation to her advantage and helps the company and those around her. What a great role model!
I can relate to Meg’s comments — had a similar experience when I was 17:
It was my first job, at Douglas Aircraft Co., and I was assigned to “the vault” to change pages in the manuals as each department updated their specifics.
My location in the building was isolated; I worked alone; the task was extremely repetitive. I sang to myself, read a bit from some of the pages, greeted the rare visitors with a smile, and worked with a degree of concentration required as I assumed it could make a big difference (maybe even “life or death”, I imagined) if one of the pages was missing or incorrectly placed!
Two days later, I was re-assigned into a position of assistant to the secretary of one of the divisions!! “They” were using that boring and isolated entry position as a testing ground to assess the potential of new employees!!!
Eleanor:what a great story. Thanks!