Recap: Forward Tilt Ep 36

This is part of a series of posts called Recap. In it I will share my notes on the content I consumed followed by my response. The content could vary from a podcast, to an article, to a Youtube video, to a book I read. When applicable, I will link to the content.

Today I listened to Praxis’ Forward Tilt Podcast Episode 36, Finding Gold in the Grunt Work. In this episode, Isaac Morehouse discusses the value of being eager and willing to do grunt work.

Notes

Isaac tells the story of conversation with a CEO who has an employee who wanted a raise but hates grunt work. The CEO doesn’t ask that employee to do grunt work because it’s clear he really doesn’t want to. Another employee higher up will do it. The CEO even has to do it sometimes!

You should want your opportunity cost to get higher so you’re most valuable activity isn’t usually getting coffee. Someone has to do things like coffee runs, let that be you. You’re never too good for grunt work.

If all you’re doing is grunt work, take ownership and prove you can do otherwise. You shouldn’t have to ask to do less grunt work, if you prove you are valuable you will be given more important work to do. And if you’re always fine with doing grunt work, that’s an added bonus.

You could be valuable but not everyone knows or sees what you do. With grunt work, it impacts more people and is highly visible.

Create value in other ways if you’re only doing grunt work. Be eager, volunteer to get things, clean up, etc. “Sometimes the work isn’t glamorous.” If someone is afraid to ask you do to the crappy things you’ve made yourself dispensable.

Response

I work at Walmart in a retail position. My two primary responsibilities are customer service and improving the cleanliness and appearance of the aisles in my department. The second, referred to as “zoning,” is necessary to improve customers’ experience in the store. It’s easier to shop when the aisles are clean, organized, and you can see every item on the shelf. Zoning is tedious and can be categorized as grunt work.

During my shift, I am assigned a department, either Crafts/Stationery or Toys. I’m almost always the only person in my department, excluding short periods of overlapping shifts. That leaves me solely responsible for the zone. Customer service trumps zoning, but the zone still has to get done. Additionally, we’re almost constantly short staffed in some area and I will get asked to help out either with the zone or customer service.

For example, yesterday no one responded to calls to the paint counter or sporting goods counter, so I did. I asked the customers at the sporting goods counter what they needed. I was unsure of what to do, so I had it announced again that customers were still waiting. At the paint counter, I mixed paint for two customers who’d been waiting.

When I’m in Crafts, it’s common for a manager to walk by and ask me to zone two aisles in Housewares, the rugs and curtains. I always say yes, pause what I’m doing, and fix those aisles before returning to my department.

Lately we’ve been short staffed in Crafts, which I consider “my department” because it’s where I hired in. There are four Crafts associates: one lady who is on leave, one lady who’s been calling off, the department manager, and me. As such, I’ve taken it upon myself to pick up the slack so we don’t fall further behind and so we can catch up to where we should be as soon as possible. The lady on leave was the only one who knew how to make fabric remnants, pieces less than a yard long, so she taught me before she left. I’ve taken most of the pieces under the fabric table and made remnants so customers can buy them. We have to pull top stock, the boxes that are on the very top shelf, down and put it out on the shelf for customers to buy. The top stock shelf is where we first put overstock, when possible, but it needs to go out once it’s no longer overstock. When I have time, I make it a point to work the top stock to make it easier for the department manager.

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