Let’s Be Sure We Aren’t the Problem

When I was fifteen, I got a summer job working at a gas station/garage. My duties were to pump gas, wash/wax cars, change oil, and keep the garage clean. You can tell it was forty plus years ago based on those assignments. There wasn’t the level of automation back then and those manual tasks allowed me the opportunity to work. I was very thankful to have this job, but to be honest, I hated every second of being there and couldn’t wait for school to start.

I had no problem with hard work. I had started mowing lawns every summer when I was twelve, and I needed the money in order to have spending money for the school year. My parents were divorced, and my mom was doing all she could to just provide for basic needs. I viewed the ability and opportunity to work as a blessing. However, this job was a miserable place for me to go each day. I wasn’t trained very well and therefore wasn’t very comfortable with what I was asked to do on a regular basis. The other workers were not very accepting or engaging of me and that caused me to be very insecure the entire time that I was there. The owner wouldn’t tell me my work hours for the week to allow for me to plan anything else for the summer. I would often find out that I was working a complete weekend shift on Friday. It seemed like I was corrected and criticized on a regular basis, but I rarely heard any positive feedback. I never knew where I stood with those that hired me. I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.

After thirty plus years in manufacturing, I recall instances where all of those issues likely took place in the workplace for facilities that I worked in as well. Those same issues impact workers today. Those same issues that impacted a fifteen year old, impact people of all ages. People need and want to be trained well to feel comfortable. They want to be part of a team and be accepted by others at work. They want balanced, regular feedback on performance. They want to know their work hours and be able to plan for things outside of work. People want to be a part of something with a purpose and identify with something beyond just getting a paycheck or some owner’s goal that they can’t relate to personally.

It is very easy for us today to talk about this generation not having the work ethic that we had. It is very easy for us to label this generation of workers with many catchy phrases that denote their lack of toughness, lack of desire, and lack of commitment, Hey, those comments may be warranted in many cases, but before we just go blaming and complaining, we might need to take a step back and evaluate the workplaces that we lead. What kind of environments are we leading? What type of workplace cultures are we developing? What levels of leadership are we providing? Those are some key questions that we might want to take a look at before we just keep going through the hiring process over and over again as staffing challenges continue.

Staffing challenges are impacting everyone today. There are obvious changes in the views workers are now bringing to the workplace. The key is and always will be leadership. Those leaders that can adapt, create desirable workplaces, define purpose, create identity, and engage with people at a meaningful level will ultimately find success in this staffing challenge. People want to be a part of something with purpose that they can identify with beyond just getting a paycheck. People want relationships in the workplace. People want a life outside of work. People want to know what’s important, how they are doing, and how they can help. People, whether they realize it or not, want solid leadership.

Take a step back this week and evaluate your facility or organization. I still recall that gas station/garage experience. I couldn’t wait to get out of there and find something else. Don’t settle for that level of operation for your people. Create something people want to be a part of with you. You be that leader worthy of following.


This will be my last post on WordPress. I will be consolidating my posts to just using LinkedIn. Please consider following me on LinkedIn for weekly postings on various leadership topics.

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