Personal Assistant Lessons for Life & Work: You Never Know


At the ripe age of 15-years-old, my first job was as a dishwasher.  It was at a national restaurant chain with a good reputation.  The eye-opening truth: I was learning the reality of life by doing hard time in the back kitchen.  Believe me, cleaning greasy dishes all day, every day is very sobering.


After about a week, I started becoming very efficient in the kitchen.  During the busy times, I could work fast enough to get my work done and help over in the other departments as well.  The staff loved that, and I became everyone’s friend very quickly.


As is true in any work environment, we had that one person in the restaurant that was always very negative, and for some reason he greatly disliked that everyone was fond of me.  He, Sam, regularly told me that I should mind my own business and stay in the dish room. To add insult to injury, he liked telling jokes about my mother.


I actually wondered if I should stop helping others because it “wasn’t my job.”  Additionally, since my boss didn’t even know about it, I thought it may be a waste of time.  After a lot of thought I decided that I absolutely should be helping my coworkers, regardless of what Sam said.


Decades later I’ve been able to look back on my successes, both personally and professionally, and have never regretted my decisions to help others – even if they don’t deserve it.  When a person knows they are doing all one can to get the job done, there is no greater satisfaction one can achieve.  If you know, that is all that matters.  Incidentally, the right people will always find out about it anyway.


If you’re wondering what happened to Sam, I don’t blame you.  What should I have done?  Reported him to my boss to get him in trouble?  I could have got him fired for the things I knew he was doing wrong.  I could have, and I did not.  I did the opposite.  I tried to help him.  He refused, but I persisted.  I was able to recognize that he needed help, and I offered and continued to offer until he accepted.  I felt obligated because I was able.


By having a winning attitude, not only did I ascend the ranks and increase my pay, but I won the trust of everyone I worked with. As it turns out, Sam was dealing with some very tragic events in his life, so I’m glad I didn’t judge him.  Sometimes we just have to dig deeper to find the truth.  Guess what?  Someone will return the favor some day when you need the help, usually when you least expect it.


My father used to be an executive for a national retailer.  One fateful day, he was on an airplane trip back home when he heard someone sitting in front of him mention his company.  My father listened carefully as the man explained to the person next to him what “dummies” the executives were at the corporate office.  Apparently, the man worked for the corporation in another state and didn’t even realize his insults were being heard by the man who could fire him with a phone call.  You’re probably wondering if my father fired the man. No, he did not.  As leaders we must accept responsibility for things that aren’t correct, even if we don’t like the messenger.


Was my father directly responsible for the man’s bad day?  He wasn’t.  But as an executive for the company he understood that if there was miscommunication somewhere in the Midwest offices, he needed to handle it.  Incidentally, it turns out that man later got himself fired for another reason.  Sometimes things just work out that way.  The lesson I learned was you have to try and fix the problem first.  Don’t just give up on the person.  If you are having problems with someone at work or at home, HANDLE IT!  Don’t let days go buy because it’s unproductive and distracting.


Easier said than done, right?  I know.  I’ve had terrible conflicts at work.  Issues I thought I could never resolve.  Find what you don’t like in someone else and you will be surprised that it might be something in yourself you have a problem with.  If there is conflict, attempt to resolve it.  If you can’t, get help.  A mediator can be a very important step in that process.  Remember, if there is a conflict, we must look at what our responsibility is as well.  There are three sides to every story.  Side A, side B, and the truth is side C.  Remember that.


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