January 13, 2009
Even in the best of times, negativity can rear its ugly head and create problems in the workplace. In today's turbulent economic climate, fighting negativity may seem an almost impossible task. However, it's more important now than ever to keep negativity at bay. This article explains why.
Man oh man, is negativity rampant today. Turn on the news, and you're hammered with it, mainly because bad news sells better than good news, and with 24 hours of our time to fill, the more bad the better. But with the current economic crisis, the bad is being hammered into my head by the radio, TV, newspaper, and dadgum magazines!
In college I had an English professor who, after talking about the prevalence of violence in our society, reminded us of what it was like to live in ancient times when people lived and died by the sword. Cities were plundered and people slaughtered on a regular basis, and it would've been a scary time to live. There would've been some mean headlines back in those days!
Another teacher came in one evening and told us she felt bad because she had just gone off on a homeless guy. He hit her up for change, and she pretty much told him that he was better off than she was! She was working an eight-hour job with overtime, and driving across town in Dallas traffic to teach a night class. (Dallas traffic is enough to make you go off on anyone.) On top of that she was taking care of her sick mother, who had no health insurance, and trying to make her house and car payments. She felt really bad that she had gone off on him, but we all assured her we'd have probably done the same.
Funny how perspective works; it's all in how you look at something, not just visually but mentally.
In the U.S. we have a lot to be thankful for. If you have shelter and food on the table, you're better off than the kings of old. Kings and queens during biblical times woulda' loved to have running water and a refrigerator, let alone all the other comforts we have. If we are healthy, we should jump out of bed happy to greet another day. But most of us danged sure don't, and a lot of times I'm one of the guilty ones, though I try not to be.
One of the best books I've ever read is The Power of Positive Thinkingby Norman Vincent Peale. In a nutshell, he taught how important it is to keep a positive outlook. He believed you needed to chart a course to success in your mind first and foremost, and then begin to work to achieve it. Many times that practice has picked me up when I was feeling down.
Look at people's faces on Monday morning as they drive to work. Man oh man, will you see some frowns! And what kind of mood do you think they're in? The other day I stopped to let a lady in my lane, and the guy behind me went nuts. He starts blasting his horn and screaming at me! And the funny thing was it didn't matter anyway, we still would have caught the red light, whether I had let her in or not. I wanted to get out of my car and say "DUDE! Why are you being so negative toward me?"Well, I wanted to say something a little harsher, I admit. But it's best to just keep on going; ain't worth getting in a fight or, worse, getting shot.
I'll always remember a lesson I learned from a fellow I served with in the Army. Fred Price was an awesome guy from Oakland. One night we were cold and wet, sloshing through the mud because we had to clean the engine compartment on our tank. The engine was pulled for repair, and the only time to put it back in would be at zero dark thirty.
We were in the middle of nowhere, somewhere around the East German and Czech border, and I was griping and bitchin' nonstop. I noticed Price was quietly going about his work, and I can only imagine what he was thinking. Here he was drafted, overseas, in the middle of nowhere, cold and miserable, having to listen to a guy below his rank whining like a stuck pig. I'm lucky he didn't knock my block off.
Instead Price was just doing his job, so I asked why he wasn't complaining. He told me the job had to be done, and it was up to us to do it. Plain and simple … he had put me in my place and taught me something I've always remembered. We worked long and hard into the night, and when we were done I was dirty, greasy, cold, and tired. But you know what? I also felt damned proud the next morning when we put our engine back in its spotless compartment, and it was great to see our tank commander, Sgt. Simpkins, a man who expected no less than excellence, happy with our work.
That feeling of doing a job right and doing it right the first time is what we have to convey to the new welders out there. We have to make sure that they don't bring all the negativity in the air into the shop or job site. And that goes for everyone else from management on down. If you're an owner, you need to make sure your employees—everyemployee—know you care about them. And if you're an employee, you need to give 100 percent for the company that is paying your wage.
In The X, Y, Z's of Management,I discussed the importance of management and employees respecting each other and working together.
As welders, we gotta' do the job without griping. Wait a minute, now. I'm getting just plain ridiculous! There's got to be somegriping, just not all the time. The welder needs to see the boss's point of view too. Welders are under pressure to get the job done for shop owners, and owners are under pressure to make a profit. We're all in the pressure cooker together.
Times are tough, but I'll guarantee you this. If we combine our efforts as management and employees, keep the lines of communication open, and cooperate with each other, we'll get through this mess … together.