The nature of Full Circle’s organic beginnings, means that I’ve worked with a range of men, whom have been the extra labor required for pressure cleaning, roof cleaning, timber maintenance and roof painting projects. In each case there’s been a reflection both ways that is both ordinary and extraordinary.
So often is the case, especially with men, that we want to prove our worth and show our co-workers or bosses that we’re a great worker, especially in the beginning. We do this in a variety of ways, some I’ve noticed that are OK and others that are really quite compromising to one’s health. And how does this affect the quality of the work and the quality of reflection to those in our proximity?
I feel that all business owners who employ people have a responsibility to support their workers. Of course people get into business to make a profit, but what about the potential of lifting others-up, with you, along the way? I know I’ve worked for some people who’ve utterly changed my life thanks to their strong positive reflections and direct support and I also know I’ve been burned by others who chose not to accept really any responsibility at all.
Last year I had a gentleman working with me, who was certainly senior in age and experience; it was absolutely brilliant to have him onboard for the work that was presenting at the time. Being a very open man (let’s call him Jack to keep his real identity private), one morning as we were driving to a roof-cleaning job, he explained to me that he hadn’t slept very well and just wanted to be out with it. ‘Such is life’ I shared with him unperturbed and told Jack that perhaps today we just pace ourselves more than usual. But, from years and years of physical work and perhaps a bit of that ‘old school’ colloquial way, Jack said not to worry and that he was going to buck-up and just get a coffee into him; he wasn’t going to let me down. He asked me to pull over at a café further down the street.
Now this sharing is for a point, not as a glorification. It may seem very normal, perhaps trivial to some, but when your body is a bit tired, it’s essentially saying to you: ‘take it easy on me please, I don’t have heaps of energy to burn right now’. Not being a coffee drinker myself and someone who stays away from stimulants from years of experience in knowing what sugar and other uppers can do to the body (#adrenal_fatigue), I questioned this apparently very normal thing to say.
It’s rare, especially for an Australian male to share with his co-worker that he’s had a bit of a rough night sleep, or he’s feeling a bit low – so already Jack is ahead of the game with his ability to be vulnerable (in truth a man’s greatest strength). Furthermore, after pondering on this for a moment, I surprised him with my response; his reaction was a moment I’ll never forget.
I simply stated to Jack, that considering he was tired, he must know that at no time, not now or ever, for the duration of the time we work together must he ever feel pressure to push himself, to override his body or his feelings, to try and please me or achieve some sort of work outcome at the expense of himself. I mean, I had done this myself almost all of my life and hated it; why would I ask someone else to crunch him or herself for me?
We were sitting in the ute idling, stopped in traffic in Byron Bay. Jack turned to me a little bit confused at first, then the light went on and rather than insist, as he was often know for doing so, he surrendered, turned his head back to facing the front and quietly said “that it was the single most lovely thing that anyone had ever said to him”.
I feel I made in that moment the most responsible choice I could muster, that would support our working relationship, his energy levels and that of the experience of the client - who gets to have two workers, in rhythm to themselves producing the best quality work they’re able to – even if it took a little bit longer and cost another hour in wages. Why stress over such small things? Not over doing work that day was going to lead to Jack having energy the next day anyway.
Was it John Wayne? Who was it? I don’t know who started this ‘do a line of concrete and harden-up’ consciousness that plagues Australian trades businesses (and the rest of the world). And honestly I don’t care, for Jack and I continued working together for quite some time - peacefully and respectfully, without drive, an underlying fear of not being good enough, fast enough and certainly not hard enough. There was no competition and certainly no perfection. Jack still drank the occasional coffee, but it became less about getting him fired-up and more about the other reasons he enjoyed drinking it.
I’d go so far as to say that a large proportion of the laboring work force (generally) would benefit from more connection to their bodies, the way they work and increased self-care. I have no doubt that Jack has gone on to be a role model in this arena for his co-workers, I am inspired to continue reviewing my responsibility as an employer and with more of the same, I have no doubt that our customers appreciate service-providers like us turning-up – ready, alert and energetic, not artificially stimulated, resentful and flogged.
Whether we like it or not, we’re a role model for the guys next to us, so how’s your level of self-care and respect for others? I ask, because this (and so much more) is what you’re reflecting all day everyday, whether you like it or not.