Finding Joy

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Finding Joy

Author says managers need to help employees ‘find joy, self-worth and recognition’

ROANOKE, Va. — I met Arthur when I worked in the Milwaukee area. He was a wonderful person and I enjoyed him and his family.

He hated his job. He never had a nice thing to say about what he did for a living. He was everything I expected from a man who hated his job. He took full advantage of his annual sick leave and vacation days. He planned out his sick days at the start of the year as carefully as he planned out his vacation days. 

He looked forward to his early retirement from driving public buses and moving out of the Milwaukee area to the state of Utah. His wife had a home-based job that could be done from anywhere in the country.

The happiest I ever saw Arthur was the day he took early retirement and went to work on selling his house and moving to his new life.

After his move, I lost contact with him for a while. When I did reconnect, I asked him what he was doing and he responded he was once again driving buses and hating it. He was very good at that job but the job did not fulfill his need for happiness.

Since I retired from active laundry management, I have enjoyed traveling the world, working in my garden and catching up on a number of projects that I did not have time for while I was working. I enjoy my life and my working career. 

I believe it is important to find joy in what we do for a living. I cannot imagine spending more than 40 years doing something I did not like just to make a living.

The laundry business is a love-it or hate-it type profession. Either you enjoy your work or you will quickly find something else to do. 

I often told my management team that if a new employee lasted through the first week, then we would probably have them for at least five years. I used to remind them that people will not stay where they are not respected and appreciated.

Some jobs, like feeding towels into a folder all day, seem to lack intrinsic aspects of joy. But knowing that job is essential to the operation of the laundry, and in my case, the operation of a number of hospitals, can bring a sense of pride.

Knowing that the boss knows your value and cares about you as a person also increases the joy in simple jobs.

My oldest grandson is currently working as an assistant manager at a convenience store/gas station. He enjoys the work but finds particular joy in interacting with the customers. He has a number of regular customers he knows by name and keeps a rolling conversation with them throughout the week. He has found joy and happiness in his regular daily routine.

I have been working part-time for a while with Enterprise, the car rental company. I get to move cars from the Roanoke airport to the service center and then back to the airport. It is easy work, but I enjoy working with my fellow employees, many of whom are retired and working part-time like myself. 

But there is one employee who hates the job and feels trapped by his need for the money. Everyone hates working with this individual and his quality of work and work attendance are not up to standard. Management will eventually deal with this individual, but they may lose several good employees before they actually get around to dealing with the situation.

As a manager, regardless of our chosen industry, it is our responsibility to help employees find joy, self-worth and recognition in the work that they do. Happy employees do a better job and stay longer than those who do not feel appreciated, valued or find joy in their daily work duties.

As a manager, we can help our employees to find what they need, but they must be willing to put out some effort to find it. The job of a manager is much easier if you have an operation with low turnover and high morale.

It is the dedicated, happy employee who comes to work no matter what the weather because they know they are needed and what they do is a critical part of the company’s success.

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].