“Sent you a voicemail, but I won’t be able to make it into work today.”

This is the text I get fifteen minutes before Saul’s shift. It’s his last shift before the weekend and it is not the first time this has happened. Managing someone like Saul can be difficult because I know why he won’t be able to make it into work today. The reason is something I understand, yet have a difficulty justifying some times. Which is unfortunate for his coworkers, because as I try to spread his workload out amongst the rest of the other employees throughout the day, they all guess at why he isn’t in today.

It’s because he is depressed:

Managing someone like Saul can be hard, especially because it is something I have struggled with in the past. I know what it is like to feel like you are wasting your life away at a job that you do not want to be at. I know how it feels to be trapped because you need money coming in, but barely have the energy to get out of bed. I know what it feels like to want to give into that feeling and up-n-quit, while being painfully aware your rent says you can’t. It sucks.

I am a twenty-two year old boss of a nineteen man crew, a crew filled with people mostly my age. We work in a pretty physically demanding job and our entry level position pays minimum wage, we do our best to make it fun, but at the end of the day is it a blue-collar job. The company I work for has been going through a pretty crazy refocus on what they want in a manager over the past couple years. It’s gone from the rough-n-tough baby booming rub-some-dirt-in-that-ers to the I’m-sorry-I-made-you-feel-that-way-could-you-explain-why-you-felt-like-that-so-I-can-better-understand-you-ers. We’ve evolved a little bit. The evolution?

Empathy:

That’s it. Just put yourselves in their shoes, it’s not always easy, and I find myself having to intentionally setting aside time really think on it, but it can make a huge difference. As a boss I find I have to balance the wants of my employees and the wants of my employer, which can be hard. It’d be a lot easier to focus on just one of them instead of trying to juggle the both of them, but if I did just focus on the desires of my employees, or strictly the desires of the company, I don’t think I’d last very long.

This leads into a lot of other philosophies I have about the workplace, but to really boil it down, your employees are humans, not robots. I worked for a big tech company for two years, and at that job we were expected to work like robots. Things like needing time off for a family emergency, or not wanting to claim every team achievement as my own seemed foreign to them. I took a blue-collar job where we work with wood everyday, and the current sitting president gave a speech the first month I was there about his philosophy. The one part that I will paraphrase has always stuck with me.

“Wood isn’t perfect. It has knots, and in when exposed to weather it is going to crack and bend, but that’s what makes it wood. It was never going to ever be perfect. I like working with people that understand wood. Because people are like wood. They are never going to be perfect.”

I carry that with me everyday at my job. I go in, understanding that people are never going to perfect, and it saves me from the headaches that I saw my old bosses deal with/are probably still dealing with. Several of my employees have gone to college and come back, they have a huge amount of student debt, some are living back at home, and others are living paycheck to paycheck. As their direct report, I understand that I alone can’t change this, but I am going to do as much as I can to try and take the load off. I am at work for at least forty hours a week. We literally see each other for at least a quarter of our entire week. If you are counting sleep and commute, than it is creeping closer and closer to half of the entire week. With that in mind, I find it super important to make an active effort to like the people I work with, and that the people I work with enjoy the workplace.

Some quick-tips I’ve had to learn quick to help people enjoy their job:

They’re here for money:

There are pros and cons to every job, but every job comes with at least a little bit of money. I don’t expect any of my employees to be jumping up and down to get to work in the morning. Most of them are here because in one way or another they have to be. But…

People want to work:

They just want their work to mean something, it’s up to me to explain why their work is important, and up to them to decide for themselves whether or not they believe it. Part of that is being able to talk to you about it if need be, which is why it is important to…

Make yourself available:

No one wants to talk to you if they feel like they can’t ever talk to you. You’ll want to talk to your employees anyway because you’ll need to…

Play your employees to their strengths:

Don’t take your most social employee and stick him on a solo-project for two weeks, and don’t take your most anti-social employee and make him present the big topic for the next meeting. This one might seem obvious, but it’s crazy to me how many people don’t seem to have the ability to see the differences in their employees! And finally…

Set clear goals:

People will not do what you want them to do if they don’t know what it is you want them to be doing! (At this point it might sound like nonsense, but I swear it is true!)

This article is the first in a series I am hoping to chip away at over the next twelve months. Work takes up such a large portion of our life and for most is unavoidable. Which is why I find different individual’s thoughts and experiences at their work so interesting. I hope to contribute my own thoughts, stories, failures, and triumphs to others who find this kind of stuff as interesting as I do. I’ll close my this first article with one of the ‘mantras’ I tell my employees:

I can’t fix all of your problems, but I can try my best to make your life not suck for the forty hours a week we’re here.

As depressing as that might sound for some, I find myself still positive and encouraged with the fact that although work is a large portion of my waking hours, my work and my job do not define who I am as a person. At the end of the day, this is a job that I will probably have for a handful of years before moving onto the next one, and that’s alright. I love what I do right now and am learning every day how to best make everyone’s job, work.

“You can look in the mirror and find a million things wrong with yourself. Or you can look in the mirror and think, ‘I feel good, I have my health, and I’m so blessed.’ That’s the way I choose to look at it. Stay positive; stay focused”! Ms. Priyanka Singh, Entrepreneur

Source: by Brady

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