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Inspiring workers’ pride in their work

To a point, I think pride in one’s work is an inherent quality. Either a person has it or they don’t, and some people just seem to take more pride in their work than others. I feel this trait is most obvious with simple or undesirable tasks. When a person must do something they might consider beneath them, or something they really don’t want to do, it is most difficult to show any pride in what their doing.

Admittedly, this is a topic that has more to do with Human nature than it does with CNC machine tool usage. And I’m no expert in Human nature. But it’s pretty easy to tell the difference between a person that takes pride in their work and one that doesn’t.

In my experience, people that take pride in their work have certain standards about when they consider a job to be finished or acceptable. These people tend to be meticulous and detail oriented. Without guidance, they may actually do things a bit too well, completing a task in a much better fashion than is necessary or acceptable. For these people, their standards are higher than the employer’s. So while pride in one’s work is a desirable quality, it must be tempered with well defined qualities of what is acceptable for a completed task.

Again, I’m not sure pride in one’s work can be taught. But it can definitely be discouraged in poor working environments where people don’t take pride in their work. Frankly speaking – and again, in my experience – people that truly take pride in their work will not accept poor working environments. When faced with working for a company that is filled with people that don’t take pride in their work, most will quickly move on. Or, you might see a person beat his or her head against the wall in this kind of company for a while, but eventually they will either leave – or their spirit will be broken and they’ll start behaving like everyone else.

In my opinion, the best way to inspire pride in one’s work is through example. In your CNC environment, consider first the lead people, managers, foremen, and anyone else that assigns the work in your company. These are the people that your company’s CNC setup people and operators see and relate to on the most regular basis. Also consider people that your setup people and operators must depend upon most regularly, like tool crib attendants, programmers, and quality control people. These people must show pride in what they’re doing – or you must replace them with people that do.

It should almost go without saying: A worker’s natural tendency will always respond in like fashion to the environment around them. With management and support personnel that show the traits of taking pride in their work (having high expectations of themselves), so will the worker. Indeed, they’ll feel inadequate if they don’t. It’s simple peer pressure – especially if the majority of workers in your company have already bought in to the system.

Sincere and tangible positive reinforcement must be provided for workers that show desirable traits. In too many companies, people are treated the same regardless of how well (or poorly) they do. I’m not talking about rah-rah meetings that sum up some kind of vague company achievement. I’m talking about having one-on-one meetings with you workers to show appreciation of a specific and recent job they’ve done well. It’s amazing how well people respond when they truly feel appreciated.

And here’s an important suggestion for your one-on-one meetings. Keep it all positive. If there is anything negative you want to say, save it for another time. Nobody likes the compliment, compliment, slam approach. You know what I mean: “Great job Tom. You got that job out on time when we thought we were going to have a late delivery. But, when you finished, you didn’t clean the machine.” The worker leaves this kind of meeting wondering what you really wanted to talk about. She’ll only remember the negative things you said. And the next time you sit down with her – no matter how many good things you say – she’ll be waiting for the “But…”.

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