When You Work For a Man

Years ago, most offices had a saying stuck somewhere on the walls. It might have been near the copier, near the coffeepot, or near the water cooler – where supposedly everyone gathered. (Funny, I never saw people gathered around any water coolers where I worked.)

These words were a motivational saying that showed up when the copy repairman arrived. When he repaired the copiers the man needed something with words and graphics on it to test the copier, and he brought his own pages with him. He gave a copy of the week’s or month’s motivational quote to the receptionist or secretary before he left, and she usually made a few copies – one for the boss, who ultimately posted it in some prominent place, and one to each of her closest co-workers. In every office where I worked- in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Texas – there were copies of this saying. It began, “If you work for a man, work for him…”

Long ago, my last withered, crinkled and yellowed copy of those words disappeared from my personal files. The gist of the message, of course, was just how it began. If you work for a man, work for him. Give him – or your job – the attention it deserves, since he – or the company – is paying you to work.

In an Internet search, I found two quotations similar to the ones that adorned the offices and break rooms of the past.

If you work for someone, then work for him: Speak well of him and stand by the institution he represents. Remember, an ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness. If you must growl, condemn, and eternally find fault, resign your position and when you are on the outside, complain to your hearts content. But as long as you are a part of the institution do not condemn it.

~ Elbert Hubbard

When you work for a man, work for him. Give him your dedication, honesty, sincerity and 100% of your skills. If you must damn him, do so from without; quit and then damn him to high heaven if that is your wish. But while you are in his employ, do nothing or say nothing negative about him, or to him.

~ James Ellis Dolan

The second version sounds more like the one we had in offices throughout the land.

Today, we need this quotation or something similar posted on offices, in retail stores and in fast food restaurants. We need words like these everywhere today, at least in the United States. Customer service and company loyalty are really lacking.

It might be a good idea if we made words such as these a part of our educational system and shared them during new employee orientation and training. I wonder, though, if it would make a difference. These words may not be specific enough for today’s employees. We might have to explain what is and is not proper behavior for an employee.

When you work for a man, work for him. Give him your best. Do not spend time checking personal emails, creating listings for single’s personal web sites, or doing your Internet shopping at work. The workday belongs to the man or the company that pays you, and you are paid to perform a job, not to do your personal business. Company phones, copiers, fax machines and computers are there for company business. If you must speak on the phone, please try to do so on your lunch time or coffee break.

~ Marilyn Mackenzie

I wonder if having words like these posted in a prominent place would really make a difference. When customer service or loyalty issues are raised in the work place, employees shake their heads up and down in agreement. They agree that Joe and Charlie and Susan really should do better. But they don’t seem to understand that the admonishment is meant for all employees.

On their days or evenings off, they get quite perturbed at the receptionist at the beauty salon because she speaks on the phone with her boyfriend, paying no attention to customers. They get angry with the convenience store clerk for using the phone for personal calls. They hate it when the grocery cashier and bagger are in a discussion and ignoring the needs of customers.

Then as return to their own jobs, they let the phone ring and ring, letting calls transfer to their voice mail. They spend the first thirty minutes of the day checking their own personal emails. When their children arrive home from school, instead of just taking a quick check-in call, they spend thirty minutes talking.

At any given time of the day, employees may be in the midst of important personal calls – with collection agencies, possible future employers, or with their children. But that is different. It’s the other employees who have the problem not working as much or as quickly or as long as they should.

What ever happened to those dreaded efficiency experts? Remember them? If they were to visit today’s offices, retail locations, restaurants and other businesses, would they find efficiency? Or would they find that the average employee today only works about five hours of the scheduled eight-hour shift. I think we all know the answer. Today’s employee has forgotten that when he works for a man, he should work for him.


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