There are those jobs where you are constantly worried about getting fired. Your co-workers warn you every time the Boss is on the premises. It's stressful. You have no freedom. You owe your employer a Job. It's like they did you a favor and hired you. This Great Depression mentality somehow managed to survive the test of time.
Why is the Boss portrayed as this evil person that is always angry. One that tolerates no mistakes. In most cases, if you make the effort to communicate with your “boss”, it will be just like having a conversation with any other coworker.
I worked at a place where everyday someone will tell the story of how someone was fired for doing something. A popular story was of a guy that was organizing the dollies in the warehouse and decided to ride on top of one like a skateboard. At the same time, the CEO walked in the warehouse. He spotted him and fired him on the spot. Usually the story ends with a lesson: Don't ride on the skates or dollies.
I heard so much of those stories that they started to sound like old wives tales. Or more like tales parents tell their child to make them stop whatever they are doing. If you whistle at night, a monkey will pee on your bed. No offense to monkeys but this is my contribution.
I even have a story of my own. Maybe because I was part of it, it played out differently. Here goes.
One day something strange happened. It was the end of the day, and I was finalizing the last orders before closing up. The CEO and the President walked into the warehouse, where the little place I like to call my office was located. They seemed to have been arguing about something.
They walked to me, hiding behind the mountains of closed orders that makes up my desk, and asked if I can show them a particular bed. Hästens was the brand. I could spot a Hästens bed a mile away. But the one they wanted was different. It didn't seem to have that Hästens style. Still costs ten thousand dollar.
I picked up the phone and called one of the my coworkers to meet me in the upper warehouse to help me get the bed. Mentioning the words “CEO” and “President” in the same sentence increase workers performance by at least 90%. We met on top and pulled the bed from the ruckus we call warehouse and surprisingly it was already put together. My guess was it was prepped to be displayed in the store the next day.
The CEO asked if we can carry it to the middle of the room so they can get a better look. I grabbed the bed by the headboard and my coworker grabbed the other side. As we lifted it, I noticed one of the legs was not attached properly. The headboard covering my face, I couldn't signal my partner of the problem. Before I could make a sound, the leg detached and the sound of it hitting the ground distracted my partner who, in turn dropped the lower part. I lost balanced and also dropped the headboard and the bed fell apart like a controlled explosion.
I was still as stone. One eye fixated on the CEO, the other on the president. My mind however was far away in the future. I saw myself sitting in a dark room, in front of a computer browsing Craig's list. My family behind me being very supportive. I was promising them I will find a better job soon. I snapped out of it and looked at my coworker. He was only a few feet away but I could tell he was not here.
The CEO looked pensive. The longest 10 second of my life passed, and I am sure any bystander would have thought we were in a Mexican standoff.
“This is why we shouldn't buy cheap beds!”, the CEO said, breaking the silence. They walked away and continued their conversation.
We were not fired. To this day, in the warehouse everyone thinks this story is a myth.
This event made me think a lot about this Boss mentality. Everywhere I worked, even if I got paid very little, I made sure put in a lot of effort. I took it personally to do a good job. As a result I made a lot of mistakes, but those mistakes where lessons that those who were too careful, never got the luxury to learn from. This is what differentiated me in the eyes of the boss.
If you work at a place and you put in a lot of effort and you still think you can get fired for making a very small mistake, then I suggest you rethink your position. This is a signal that you need to brush up your resume and look for another job. If you think that maybe the job you do is too easy and you can be replaced, then it is up to you make a difference. You will be surprised how making very small incremental changes can differentiate you from the crowd.
You want to be the go to guy or girl for a task. You want to be the person everyone can count on. You want to be the person with a secret recipe. Not a modular employee that can get kicked out then replaced with the same model in different color.
If you are too concerned to keep your job, chances are you lost it already. While you are still getting a paycheck, look for another. Look for one that you can learn to love and put the necessary effort to grow and make a difference.
“Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere” — Anton Ego (Ratatouille)
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