Friday, September 28, 2012

Find a Way to Be Useful

Who's the Boss?
Who's the Boss? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Weldon Smith

A man, his son, and their dog came to visit me. I was working in the back yard at the time.

I can't remember what it was, but I was doing something.

The man immediately saw something he could do to help me and did it.

They didn't stay long and I didn't expect the man to pitch in and work beside me until the job was done.

But in the short time he was with me and talking about something that we needed to talk about, he found a way to be useful.

His young son was holding the dog leash and ignoring us. I said to him, "See how your dad saw a way that he could help me, and he did it? I didn't need to ask him to help me. I appreciate his help."

I try to teach important things to youth to a fault, perhaps. I understood he was holding the dog leash and couldn't help even if he wanted to, but I'm confident that he wasn't looking for a way to help. It was not part of his way of life. Most children don't think of anyone but themselves very often.

I hope that as he gets older he will understand the importance of being useful. I don't expect everyone who ever walks past my place to do some work on my property, but I do notice and appreciate it if someone does something that is truly helpful.

I participated in a recreational activity with lots of people. When we finished doing the activity, there was work to do to clean things up and put them away. Two of us did all the work. The others busied themselves with eating, taking showers, and playing on the computer.

They had not been taught to be useful, which was especially grievous since they had participated in getting the things out and getting them dirty. I didn't say anything to any of them. It was not my place to confront them and criticize them for how they live.

I see small children sit at the table and eat, and then get up and walk away, leaving their dirty plates, silverware, and glasses for someone else to bus to the sink or dishwasher. Perhaps that is normal for small children.

But it seems to stay normal into adulthood if their parents or some other adult doesn't teach them that it is not okay. I frequently see adults who are happy to play or to eat,. but they think that service is free, and they don't have to do any of the work of cleaning things up or putting them away.

I see people of all ages who let their trash blow instead of taking it with them and seeing that it gets in a trash receptacle.

I think there are lots of bosses who don't appreciate employees being creative or exercising initiative. But I think that most bosses are impressed by someone who can see a way to be useful in a way that won't alienate the boss, and they do it. You can do that once and get a reputation with the boss as a hard worker.

I think bosses notice when people do exactly what they have been told to do and no more, even if the people have perceived that exact message from the boss. It's sometimes hard to not alienate a boss who treats his employees like equipment or micromanages them. Still if an employee will do little extra things, the boss will notice.

Five people may step over a candy wrapper discarded on the floor, and one person may pick it up and put it in a garbage can. The boss will appreciate that the wrapper was picked up and put in the right place. Who wouldn't appreciate a lawn mower that could also pull weeds growing in the lawn, or a toaster that could put the butter on?

And there are lots of bosses who do appreciate creativity and initiative. People who find ways to be useful that lead to extra revenues and profits for the company usually get the promotions and the bonuses.

As I've said before many times, it is sad for a boss to treat his employees like equipment. It is disgraceful for the employees to treat themselves like equipment, doing only what they have been "programmed" to do. There are always ways to be useful beyond the job, in any position, with any boss, in any environment.

We can't allow others to program us. We are human beings, and are capable of programming ourselves to notice what's going on around us and to understand how it affects everyone involved, and then to understand how we can be useful in getting the details and the hard work taken care of.

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