The summer between high school and college, I worked as a lawn care specialist. What that really meant was I drove a big truck filled with fertilizer and applied it to people’s lawns. Because of the chemicals involved, I had to wear jeans, boots and a long-sleeve shirt. And being summer in Florida, it was hot. Hotter than most people can imagine.
What I liked about the job was the freedom to determine my route each day, not having to be dependent upon others and the solitude working alone can provide. However, that lawn care job was the first time I recall feeling stifled.
After shadowing one of the other employees for a week, I was assigned my own truck and given a clipboard. Every day when I reported, the clipboard would have 8-10 jobs. To avoid the summer heat, I arrived early each day and often completed all the jobs I’d been assigned before the others.
About a week into it, I could tell some of my co-workers were skeptical about how I got the work done so fast. And then, confirming their distrust, the boss told me he was going to ride along the next day.
You see, unlike my co-workers, I only took a 15 minute break for lunch and I didn’t stop for smoke breaks at each job. As a result, I easily shaved an hour off my schedule. But instead of being applauded for my efficiency I was accused of cutting corners.
That was the longest day. A 30 minute lunch and several mini lectures about proper application techniques had us rolling into the shop after all the others had finished their jobs. Aside from being a little humiliated, I was troubled by the choice I had to make–either take more time to lollygag, dawdle and twiddle my thumbs or continue to work efficiently and face continued scrutiny.
I chose the latter. Unable to change the situation, I decided to deal with it until the summer ended. I also vowed to myself to always remember what it felt like to be stifled and to never do that to others.
Have you ever felt like this? Has it affected the way you work with your team, or the way you lead and support others?