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Inner Cleaning (Part 1)

Help employees find contentment in their work

PEMBROKE, Mass. — It is not easy being a drycleaning employee.

The work is repetitive. The pay is not great. In the summer, it’s stifling hot.

You are “tied” to a machine or a counter. Your movement is minimal for eight hours. The noise level can be daunting. And the smell does not imitate the great outdoors.

As an owner or operator, when you hire someone, you negotiate a salary and other terms, and the prospect accepts. So you say to yourself that you’ve provided a job. Now it is up to the new hiree to do their job, to become a contributing member of the team.

But perhaps that’s not sufficient. Perhaps you have to provide motivation beyond the salary.

One method is to become a taskmaster. You continually push the person to work faster, focus on tasks.

Another method is to call everybody a family member. You repeat the mantra, “We get the job done because we don’t want other co-workers to be in the lurch. We are part of a team.”

Still another approach is to preach the gospel of work.

The gospel of work — what is that?

It is that work is its own reward. That doing your job, day after day, makes you a kind of hero. That pushing through the workload is an honorable way to spend one’s time. There is a satisfaction to be realized in doing a good day’s work.

I can hear you saying, “Yeah, right. My people do it for the money, period. That is the only reason they come in every day. They do it because they need to pay their bills.”

In fact, research has shown that work, even at low levels, provides meaning to life. Interacting with a group of people on a regular basis provides stability. Maintaining regular hours creates a schedule.

Completing tasks is inherently satisfying. Being challenged regularly is good for the brain. Making even small decisions keeps one stimulated.

Finishing one’s work provides the permission to enjoy the non-work time. Earning a living sustains one’s ego. Start this proselytizing at the hiring point.

Say: “You’re going to be our new presser. Sure, we can’t pay you a lot. But you’re doing important work, work that if done shoddily would ruin us.

“So my advice is to get into the work, make it an extension of yourself. Let the job seep into your bloodstream. Develop a routine, but be flexible.

“Concentrate on every garment, in that each piece must be perfect. Sure, mistakes will occur. Don’t let them overwhelm you. When you leave your workstation to go home, you know that you’ve done a good day’s work.”

To the part-time counter staffer, say: “I know it’s a part-time job for you, and you’re just doing it for spending money. But work is good for everyone.

“To complete a shift and to satisfy 99.8% of the people, to interact well with the staff, is an accomplishment. You can go home proud. Take pride in the work itself.”

Check back Thursday for the conclusion.

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(Image licensed by Ingram Publishing)

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