Learn the Interests of your Co-Workers

During our time at any job we will have many co-workers.  Some will be there for a long time, some will only last a couple weeks, some will be funny, some will be hard working, and some will make us dread our work.  Whatever our thoughts are about our co-workers, there is value in getting to know their interests and passions outside of the workplace.  When you work in an entry level position, or at a minimum wage job, you will be required to learn from others when you start, teach people once you have worked for a longer time, and communicate efficiently with the entire staff to ensure that everything is handled quickly and without errors.  The workplace can become frantic and stressful, but understanding who you are working with, and knowing something about them may help you push through the hectic moments.

Learning the interests of your co-workers simply involves asking them questions about their likes or dislikes when work is slow, or when you are working on a simple task that does not require 100% of your attention and focus.  I am not saying you should be having full on conversations every chance you get, and you certainly want to make sure that you are not doing so much talking that it becomes distracting for you or others around you, and you must make sure that your manager or boss does not frown upon a healthy conversation as well. When working together on simple tasks ask your co-worker easy questions about what they have done in the past, what things really interest them when they have free time, about what dreams they have, and what a perfect day would be like for them.  Learn what they like or don’t like about work, and find ways to make things easier for them by helping them master the things they find tough, or by using your skills to cover areas that they are weak in, and communicate with them so that they can do the same.  Opening up friendly communication at work can help your co-workers in many ways, and provide plenty of benefit for everyone at work.

The idea for this post came the other day at work.  I was frustrated with some personal things and my home life, and I just did not seem to be able to leave it at the door.  Working at a restaurant, the first thing I did when I got to work was start on some dishes.  Working by myself in the back of the restaurant was probably not the best idea, rather than relaxing and getting into a good flow, I simply fumed as I thought about what was bothering me at home. I know others noticed that I was upset, and I felt as though I was not bringing the best me to work that day.  After the dishes had been cleared up I was asked to work on the simple task of cutting two large bags of broccoli into bite size chunks with a co-worker.  The job gave us a chance to chat a little, and I approached the task as an opportunity to get my mind off what was bothering me.  I worked with a relatively new employee, and began asking him some questions.  As our conversation grew and I learned more about him, I began to forget what was happening at home, and I began to respect my co-worker more.  After a little pause in the broccoli cutting for some self-reflection, I realized that by focusing the conversation on him and not myself, I was able to engage him in a conversation that he enjoyed while shifting my focus away from my problems.  Focusing on your co-workers interests and having lighthearted conversations with them can help ease you through your work on those rough days.

When thinking about the benefits of conversation and getting to know your co-workers, I quickly realized that my lesson was only one of many positives to come from good communication.  Being able to talk in a relaxed and open way with those around you helps them relax, especially if you can use conversation to build a genuine relationship, and create an atmosphere of trust and safety.  This atmosphere will allow them to feel comfortable with little criticisms, encourage them to work with others, and help everyone feel like part of a team.  The easier communication is between employees the quicker they can work together on tasks that require different skills from different people.  You will learn about what your co-workers are good at or where they have potential for growth, and you will all be able to get the most out of your time at work by becoming more efficient, and having a better attitude.

To be part of a good team you have to know those around you.

To be part of a good team you have to know those around you.

Avoid the Task of Least Effort

This is a topic that I believe extends beyond the first jobs that we have, into the business lives of successful CEO’s, and even our daily routines.  I currently work at a restaurant, which means that there is never a shortage of things to clean, food to prepare, dishes to wash, and so on.  When things slow down after our rush hours, there is usually a period of time where everyone begins to walk around evaluating the needs of the store.  Each person seems to find their little area to work on to stay busy, and if you don’t find the good task first, you are always left with the dreaded dishes.  After watching this pattern, and looking deeply at the tasks that needed to get done compared to the tasks we actually worked on, I began to see how much time we wasted.  Putting myself in an owners mindset and looking at  the important tasks, when we needed those tasks done by, and what could be done that would help the store the most, I began to become more productive.

By looking for the important tasks, even if they are more difficult, smelly, or time consuming, and working on those first I began to feel more accomplished in my work, and others noticed.  By not avoiding the tough tasks, and volunteering for them, my manager began to see that she could trust me more.  She knows that when I am there the things that need to be taken care of will be completed.  I gained more respect from my manager, and have more freedom at work.  While I am there during slow periods, I no longer feel lost, looking for little things to tinker with in hopes that the time moves by faster.  I no longer look for the task that I can halfheartedly do while watching t.v., and as a result I am more engaged at work, and time moves a little quicker.  The tough tasks have over time gotten easier, and I even prefer to do them myself now, because I know the quality of the job will be great.

I believe that this translates into everyone’s life because it is not just a habit we get into at work.  After a long day at work it is not fun to cook and clean.  Avoiding important tasks and making excuses to avoid working on tough things at home is something I know I am guilty of.  I’ll check emails, which undoubtedly leads to becoming distracted on Facebook, and not get to the laundry, dishes, chores that need to be worked on. Creating lists of what needs to be done, and finding ways to streamline working on chores at home can help overcome this form of procrastination.  Checking in on yourself to ask if what you are doing is truly helpful or necessary is a good way, at home or at work, to make sure you are focusing on what needs to get done.

Asking the Right Questions

Many minimum wage or entry level workforce jobs are customer service oriented.  In a lot of these jobs we have to perform tasks to assist customers, direct them to where they need to be, or help them find what they are looking for.  In my current position I find myself answering lots of questions, and guiding customers towards what they want.  I work at a Deli/BBQ, and we have plenty of customers who come in looking for raw meet products to take home and cook themselves.  Many of them are unsure how much product they need, how to cook what they buy, and many are unsure of the differences between some of our products.  Through thousands of questions from customers, I began to see that I had a chance at work to communicate with the customer to answer the questions they did not even know they had, and help them find exactly what they are looking for.

Service jobs provide us with a chance to work on our communication skills, especially learning how to ask the right questions.  Learning how to talk to customers in a way that makes them feel valued, smart, and appreciated can be tough, especially with the variety of people in the world.  Some of my customers are easy to connect with because I happen to notice that we share a common passion or because we both have positive attitudes, but this is not always the case.  It is not easy to communicate well with a customer who has an accent that is hard for me to pick up on, or is grumpy before he walks into the store, but these customers do allow me to practice helping customers who can be difficult.  Learning how to deal with all people, the good customers and the bad, is essential for growth, and it is something any service position provides.  Reflecting on good and bad experiences, and trying to analyze why the experience was positive or not helps you learn what you can improve when working with a customer.

Becoming a source of guidance at work can make you stand out.  People are often unsure of exactly what they are looking for, and since you are the employee at the counter, you are expected to know what they need.  This can feel annoying, especially when you are disinterested in your work, but learning how to anticipate customers questions or wants will help you to direct them.  Pay attention for what most of the customers need, and learn how to solve their problems.  Once you have gotten comfortable with seeking out answers for customers you will become more knowledgeable about your work, and customer needs.  This will allow you to ask the customers questions that you need to know in order to guide them.  I have often found that by asking the right question early on when helping someone I can get them what they need quicker, with less confusion.

Learning how to communicate with customers by asking them the right question can make difficult customers easy, and can make the good customers very happy.  You will shine and feel more involved with what you do, which will help you approach work with a better attitude and more confidence.

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Starting to Grow

Many of us start out our working life while we are going to school, either high school or college, and work a small job to help us pay our way through our education.  I want to talk about my experiences working minimum wage jobs, and share ideas for how to get the most out of a job.  Changing your frame of reference, looking for chances to grow, and keeping a positive attitude are some of the first steps for me towards happiness in my current minimum wage job, and I know there are areas to grow if I work in the right direction.  It takes a little extra effort, but looking for areas that will help me gain experience, being self aware of my thoughts and growth, and trying to improve myself while I work will translate forwards to whatever career opportunity I receive.