He was a young man at the age of 20 who had gone to work for a concrete company right out of high school. It was a very hierarchical Union outfit and he had been laid off as he was the youngest and newest. That is how he came to work for me in my small construction company. It was clear to me that he had learned obedience at the hands of experienced old timers who guarded their status by making the less experienced feel small. Or perhaps they thought that belittlement was the best way to motivate someone to do better or try harder, but I suspect this would have only been a rationalization for their behavior, and the reason for his treatment was better explained by the former. Either way, he expected this treatment of initiation to continue in this new job. The timing of his hire could not have been better as I had just landed my first large concrete job. I knew how it was done and what to do but had little experience. In talking the new project over with the young man, it was clear that he had been paying attention on his former job, just was never allowed to handle the important tools or jobs. He seemed surprised when I handed him the magnesium concrete float and edgers, but the look of surprise soon gave way to the look of determination and concentration. It was going well and I quickly decided to relegate myself to the grunt work. I told him “you’re in charge”. An airplane could have crashed nearby and he wouldn’t have noticed, he was so focused. As the job finished, and well it did, you could see his expression turn to a bit of pride.
A situation like this does not come along very often, requires a motivated person, and is something that could backfire, but it’s neat to see when it does happen. If you can make an accurate assessment, take a little chance, and allow something like this to happen, there is significant joy in it. Even though I was only in my late twenties, the old man, it made me feel a little proud and fatherly myself. I wish I had more experiences like this one to share.
(this was the first article done by voice as typing is getting beyond my fingers)