It’s come to the point that whenever someone walks into my office, I cringe. Because if someone takes the time to walk all the way up across the factory floor, taking their precious ten minute rest period to come to my office, chances are good that they’re going to yell at me or to me. What can I say, I’m in HR. My office is the place people go to vent their frustrations.
This day was no different. I heard the firm, purposeful footsteps coming up the hallway, and heard our office assistant point the associate into my office. What was it going to be? Attendance? Medical leave? Job rotation? I steeled myself for the oncoming storm, but I was shocked to find out what it was.
Bad materials. Wrinkled fabric that couldn’t be used in the assembly process. Associates on the floor were near tears over these materials. Not because it was frustrating to work with, even though it was, but because they were failing their customers. People were upset because they were unable to make a quality product that they could proudly sell to a consumer secure in the knoweldge that they made that unit and that it was as perfect as they could make it.
I tried to reassure the associate as best I could, while inside I felt sick and disappointed in myself. I told her I’d make sure that someone in management knew about the problem, that I’d see where the solution was headed, and I’d make sure she was updated, all the while realizing my worldview had been shaken a little bit, and what kind of person that made me.
Apparently at some point, regardless of my own middle class upbringing, I absorbed the message that people who work in a factory don’t care. They don’t care about the work they’re doing, they don’t care about the customer, and they certainly don’t care what the end result looks like. They’re just there for the paycheck.
What kind of overeducated, elitist snob does that make me?
I care about the work I do. I care that I produce a quality product. That I come up with great solutions for problems big and small. That I can save money without cutting corners. I care a great deal about those things. My work is different, but it’s no more or less valuable than anyone else’s work. I am reminded of something my mother and grandmother always said, and I thought I believed until this moment:
“There is honor in all jobs.”
We must keep in mind that all workers, all people take pride in what they do each and every day. That we each want to do the best job that we can do, and to be recognized for the value we add to the groups to which we belong. Whether you’re blue collar or the CEO, the job cannot be done without you, and you have a right to take pride in the quality of the work being done. All work is honorable, if at the end of the day, you can say you did your best and tried to make the highest quality product you could.