Thursday, August 03, 2017

Wednesday's Words, by Morgan Ashbury

One hundred and twelve days, and counting.

As the date of my husband’s retirement draws nearer, the reality of the change we’re about to undergo begins to press home. Sometimes, I’ve been guilty of looking at what’s about to happen to us as we enter this brand new phase of our lives—embracing David’s retirement—through the lens of how it will affect me. I’m working hard to let that go for awhile, and concentrate instead on what this will mean for my beloved.

Something David said the other day really brought this need into focus for me. He said, “For the first time since I was 16, I will not have a boss.”

That admission brought to mind the very real fact that I, myself, have been without a boss since 2002. Over the last fifteen years, I’d pretty much forgotten what a pall it can be to have a boss. I think we can file that realization—that I’d ‘forgotten’ under the heading, “denial is more than a river in Africa”.  I spent some time over the last few days recalling just what it was like. I figured this would be a good way to really understand my husband’s state of mind.

In truth, over the course of my working-outside-the-home career, I’ve had a couple of perfectly awful bosses—one who claimed he shouldn’t be subjected to the sight of me with my cane; and one who worked hard to try and make me quit so he could hire a former female co-worker whom he really liked from his previous employer. That last situation was a case of bad pheromones all the way around; he didn’t like me from first sight, which really hurt me at the time. He found his victory when I had my first heart attack; this company had a habit of getting rid of employees who might need to take advantage of their “self-insured” long term disability. My victory was in giving him, on that last day, a list of books on people and leadership skills, pointing out to him that he didn’t have any of either.

To this day, if I think too hard about how either of those people treated me, or of what it was like to put up with their verbal abuse and crap attitudes for as long as I did, I feel a little bit sick to my stomach.

I’m excited for my husband to get to that day of no boss.

David has been at the quarry for nearly forty years. His first boss there, the man who owned the then family business, who took over for his own father—this man just recently passed away. There was no funeral per se, just a “celebration of life” sort of visitation, and of course we attended. This man, though sometimes driving my beloved to curse a blue streak, was nonetheless very good to us. He was always there if an emergency arose, and trust me, we had more than a few of them along the way. He was the first to offer a helping hand when we lost our house to a fire, and much later, when I had to have emergency triple-bypass surgery.

The first two bosses David had after that man sold his family company to a large conglomerate were good, decent men. They were fair, and sought to make the employees under them feel as if they mattered. In turn, they quickly discovered the men now under their supervision would work hard in return for that respect.

That last point leads me to digress: why are corporate managers too stupid to understand this one salient fact of human nature? Give an employee the sense he/she matters, let them know their contribution is important and appreciated, treat them with respect, and the return on that investment of time and attitude will make the corporate bottom line swell! Doesn’t cost a damn penny, but returns thousands. I wish they’d all get a clue.

The next two bosses David had, however, clearly had no people or leadership skills. They completely killed David’s love for his job. That was his largest source of personal pride, and of the way he defined himself in the world. All that, and in the end two exceptionally mediocre “corporate soldiers” took that away from him.

The boss he has now is a good man, but for David, once some lines have been crossed, that’s it. His current boss worked his way up through the ranks, and so he is less arrogant than the previous two, more understanding that a company whose product is gravel for the construction and cement industries is really built upon the work done by the men on the floor—and that the quality of their work is directly related to the respect and dignity with which they are treated. In short, he has good people and leadership skills. The men under him feel as if he truly has their best interests at heart. I think he does, because he has argued, successfully, against a plan the company had last year to lay employees off early. It is a seasonal industry and some layoffs are inevitable. Of course, David’s seniority keeps him working the longest, but he had lots of layoffs with the company over the years, especially in the beginning. In that regard, and many others he’s paid his dues.

Right now, he’s at that stage where he really wants to be done. He may have more than forty years in the tank, and only four months left to go, but human nature is what it is. These last few months are beginning to feel like forever to him.

He’s eager for his new beginning.

Love,
Morgan


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