Monday, September 04, 2006

Labor Day Musings...

Today as I was resting and relaxing I reminisced a bit about the jobs I have held over the years. The list as I remember it includes several part time and summer jobs, beginning with a paper route in the 6th grade. My mother and sister helped quite a bit through my sophmore year when we finally gave it up. It was an evening paper and I had practice after school for one sport or another all through school, so my responsibility was primarily summers, weekends, and collecting; they did a good job with my paper route...

There were also the occasional odd jobs - lawn mowing, fence painting, etc until the spring of my sophmore year when I began working after school and on weekends at the garden center of the area's largest florist. That summer I worked at the nursery owned by the florist for $1.85 an hour - minimum wage was $2 but they had an agricultural exemption to pay less...I also sold Christmas trees and delivered flowers after I got my drivers license. The following summer I was set to work again on the farm(nursery) and had actually worked for a week when I was informed that I would be required to pay union dues - a good idea run amok. Labor unions have served an important function for the workers in this country, but have at times gotten a little carried away; this was one of those times - I was a high school kid working a summer job for less than minimum wage, would receive no benefit, and would have to forfeit my first 2 weeks earnings to the union. In the righteous indignation of youth I refused, and no longer had a summer job. A couple of days later I found a job for the summer with a home builder for more than minimum wage and spent the summer as a laborer helping build a house.

Beginning the summer after high school graduation I worked as a summer laborer for the gas company each summer until I graduated from college. I also worked in the university media center, at a Bonanza restaurant, and later as a stockboy at a pharmacy while I was going to school. The summer after I graduated from college I worked as a teachers aide in a migrant head start program and umpired little league baseball. The next school year I got my Masters while working as a graduate assistant and part time as a custodian at the College Church. After graduating with my Masters degree I spent the summer working in a plastics factory until I started my coaching/teaching career in the fall.

I worked in a lot of different conditions during all these part time jobs. Some jobs were physically exhausting, some consisted of mind numbing repetitive tasks, some involved interactions with customers. There were lessons to be learned in all of them, but I think the most valuable is the importance of how you treat people. Whether employer, employee, customer, or co-worker, to treat others as you would want to be treated is one of the teachings of Jesus that applies to any situation.

I also worked for a number of bosses and experienced a wide range of effectiveness and ineffectiveness. The most effective have been those who treat subordinates with dignity and respect, provide a clear expectation of the tasks to be accomplished, and to the degree within their control provide the resources or tools to accomplish the task. And did I mention treat people with dignity and respect? I have been somebody's boss for most of my career; I haven't always done a good job on the expectations part, and sometimes have not provided adequate resources, but I have always tried to treat everyone with dignity and respect.

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