On Working Holidays

As someone with a service job, I have become accustomed to working on holidays. It’s not fun and I’d much rather be with family. At the same time, the free market explains why businesses are open on holidays and how people could change this if they dislike it.

Last year at Walmart I worked the day before Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving, and Black Friday. Panera is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I worked today, Christmas Eve. Last year I worked Christmas Eve at Walmart.

The worst customers will lament the terrible fact that people are working on holidays. While shopping there.

If people voluntarily decided to stop doing business on holidays, companies will have no reason to be open on holidays. As it is, enough people want to go out and shop that businesses find it profitable to be open.

Most places have more limited hours for Christmas Eve and/or Thanksgiving and are closed on Christmas. If they didn’t, they might lose workers, which could prevent them from opening at all.

Money and employees drive a business. Serving customers well and when they want service has a lot of influence on business hours.

If everyone bought Christmas presents and food before Christmas Eve, shops would be closed that day. Those workers who were asked, “Why do they make you work Christmas Eve?” will not be asked that, because they will be at home with their families.

You can’t change the world if you don’t first change yourself.

Navigating Relationships with Co-Workers

In service jobs, the only thing as important or possibly more important than customer service is teamwork. This has been especially true at Panera Bread where the team is far smaller than at Walmart.

The customers change, but you will be working with the same handful of people day in and day out, so it’s vital that you can work together.

The Non-Worker

The only case I would say feels actually impossible is the co-worker who absolutely refuses to pull their weight. They pretend to work and do small things when the managers are watching, but they don’t do much else. This co-worker puts undue pressure on everyone else to get the work done. Never be this person. Everyone will hate working with you and you will likely get fired.

The Joker

Jokes at work can be great. You get paid to spend a block of time doing a certain set of tasks. Making it more enjoyable helps the time pass and can make the day a little better. Knowing when to stop joking is important. Understanding the difference between funny and annoying as well as what that is to who you’re working with matters. The person who loves to joke all day can either make a shift amazing or dreadful. The people and the jokes involved make the difference.

The Utility Player

I jump around to different “zones” on line. If I’m on sandwiches but have no sandwiches to make, I see if the salad person could use help or if any soups need poured. I don’t isolate myself to my bar and only do that. If someone could use help or if I don’t have anything to do, I jump in to get the food made faster overall. Some other people at work do this also, and they’re great to work with. Teamwork is magnified when at least one person does what they can to help everyone do their best.

These are the three categories of workers that I’ve seen at Walmart or Panera. Shifts can be horrible, okay, or great. The job duties may be the same, but my co-workers make a lot of the difference.

How I Work

Location: St. Louis metropolitan area

Current gig: Crafts or Toys associate at Walmart, blogging here and at Over the Invisible Wall

Current mobile device: iPhone 6s

Current computer: I’m not sure, but I run Ubuntu 18.04 “Bionic Beaver”

One word that best describes how you work: Prioritization

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Google Drive, notebooks and pens or pencils, Gmail, Facebook messenger, my phone calendar with notifications

What’s your workspace like?

Messy. Clutter tends to pile up as I prioritize my work for Praxis, blogging, and other projects over putting away the binder I got out two days ago and finding a more permanent place to store some other things.

What’s your best time-saving trick?

Write down what is done and the next step before switching to a different task.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

My notebook and gel pens. I also have calendar notifications for hard and fast obligations for the day. I made a larger list of ongoing to-dos in a Google doc which I’m still refining.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?

Probably my fitness tracker, headphones, and webcam. If non-electronics count as well, my notebooks and pens.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?

Creative problem solving, thinking outside the “box” to find or make a solution that may be unconventional when the conventional solution is not possible or available.

What are you currently reading?

Niche Down by Christopher Lochhead and Heather Clancy. Other books I’m in the middle of: Eldest by Christopher Paolini, The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller, The Last Safe Investment by Bryan Franklin and Michael Ellsburg, and How Could a Loving God…? by Ken Ham. There are probably others that I started reading and forgot about.

What do you listen to while you work?

I mostly don’t listen to anything while working because I find it distracts me more than it helps me focus. I probably just haven’t found the right kind of music for that, but I prefer songs with lyrics most of the time. I might try making a playlist of instrumental songs and listening to it while working to see if it is distracting or not.

I would welcome any suggestions for instrumental work music, leave your recommendations in the comments and I can make a follow-up post reviewing my experience listening to them while working.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

I like to spend a lot of time alone and working on projects in my own space. I like spending time with people, but I get drained by long periods of in-person interaction even when I’m having a really good time and want to be socializing.

What’s your sleep routine like?

I stay up late and get up late, except when I have to get up early for a shift at my job. I tend to be up past midnight and get up around 9 am if the money making is in the afternoon.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

The quickest way to improve at anything is to work at it every day, even just a little bit.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I consider how I make money work, my projects work, Praxis obligations work, etc. Anything I’m not doing “just for fun” is work. That doesn’t mean it’s unenjoyable or not fun, though. I spend the mornings before my shifts at Walmart working on my blog, Over the Invisible Wall, other projects, or stuff for Praxis. It’s work, but it’s fulfilling and satisfying rather than tiring and draining.

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.

How far I walk at Walmart

I wondered months ago, “How far do I walk during my shifts at Walmart?” I knew it was a lot, but didn’t know how much.

The store I work at is a supercenter, and I walk through the whole store multiple times in my shift. We’re required to come in and go out at one entrance and the time clock is on the other end of the store. Then all of the walking in my department, to the service desk, finding someone to cover my lunch and breaks, etc. It’s a lot.

I thought about buying a pedometer to find out, and the other day I did just that. (Not just to see how much I walk at work, of course, that’d be silly.)

The results are startling.

This is just from today, I don’t have a sample set or anything to compare it to yet.

Before I went to work I had walked 0.69 or so miles.

I was gone for about 9 hours. My total is now 8.61 miles.

I walked nearly eight miles in nine hours! That’s so crazy!

A Hodge Podge of my Knowledge of the MBTI

The inspiration for this post is from this article I encountered today.

The MBTI, or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, is a popular personality test. I’ve taken it and shared my results on my about page, INTX. I find the concept fascinating, even though it’s pseudoscience.

The test was designed by Isabel Briggs Myers building on work her mother Katherine Cook Briggs did. Neither had backgrounds in psychology. Myers was an author, so I would argue she had some understanding of people, but that is still not the same. They built loosely on the work of Carl Jung and his concept of cognitive functions, though Jung himself did not support the MBTI.

As far as using the MBTI as a tool for self-discovery goes, it may or may not have results that accurately reflect the test taker. I can think of a few different people I know who either test differently every time or don’t think they really fit any of the types. I found it fascinating, mostly because the details about my “type” seemed so accurate, to a superficial degree.

People change over time as they learn, grow, and have more experiences. Personality is not a concrete, unchangeable aspect of an individual. The MBTI seems to purport itself to be an unchanging assignment to one of sixteen boxes.

According to the article I read today, the MBTI was intended to be used by companies to place employees in roles they were better suited for. By placing people in a specific box according to their test answers, they could determine that Sally would be better in customer service and Joe would be better in programming. This could be wildly off base, however, depending on other factors and prior knowledge. For example, I’m very introverted and favor thinking over feeling, so a company using the test might think I’d be a bad fit for a customer service role. In actuality, I enjoy customer service and helping people; I’ve had Walmart customers tell me I’m the most helpful associate they’ve interacted with and my manager said I was excellent at it.

I’m fascinated by the MBTI and personality tests in general. I’m adding the books mentioned in the article to my reading list for further examination, so I will likely discuss this again in the future.

In the meantime, share your type and thoughts on the MBTI in the comments!