It was merely another bus stop maintenance crew that tumbled out of the van and collected brooms, trash bags, and shovel to
attend to their duties. Except for gender and race, they initially appeared to be a homogeneous group. They worked together
well, coordinating efforts in order to maximize outcome for effort. They were teams of workers.
Initially, the differences were imperceptible. But the people became classes of workers in the short ten minutes they spent
on the site. As they worked in their safety, day-glow orange caution vests, one could speculate on whether these people were
all employees of MTA or whether some of them were individuals who were doing community service in order to pay off traffic
citation fees. If the latter, this was a commendable choice because of the altruism. But if this isn’t related in any
way to your career path, it does little for the sake of networking and getting into venues that can advance one’s career.
On the other hand, networking is about building relationships. Relationships are important at every end of the organizational
chart. The lowest person in the hierarchy may be the one who has a great deal of insight into many matters. Because some deem
them to have little importance, many forms of “intelligence” will be discussed in their presence. Some individuals
really like their jobs and have no desire to do anything else. They know all the things that go into doing their job and how
other parts of the office work with them. They also know how each affects the other. So being in this group was not a major
networking mistake. It’s part of building a great foundation.
One worker efficiently used her broom in short shoves and achieved good results. She was agreeable to what she was instructed
to do and went about it without delay or discussion. The person who’d given her guidance offered an over-the-shoulder
observation to another team member about why she was working so fast. When she returned to earshot of the conversation, the
team member talked about the timing. When they finished that stop, there would be time to “kick back” and then
there was lunch break.
It was time to investigate. “You see yourself getting this work done so that you can get to the better things. Is that
true? And you don’t see yourself doing this forever. You see yourself advancing. True.” The observations were
confirmed. “You’ve got the right attitude. Keep it up.”
While the affirmation was correct and was like a cheering crowd lining the route of a marathon, there was one element missing
from the advice. No matter how different your goals are from your team mates, it’s very important to treat your team
members with respect. You’re still a member of the team. The point of a team is cooperation in order to achieve the
goal – getting the work properly done.
Their work on that stop was completed. They did not spend the next 20 to 30 minutes kicking back on that stop. Brooms were
neatly returned to the wagon trailer hooked to the van. Excess bags were put into the storage cage and locked to avoid blowing
and spilling. Collected trash was tossed into the open cage bin.
The workers trooped past. The people had a new look. It was possible to pick out which ones see this as a job that they will
keep doing until there’s no more work. It was possible to see which ones were motivated to find a way to advance. There
was more than one with that attitude. It was not necessary to brag about it. It just showed in the look on the face, the focus
of the eyes, and something about the confidence of the step.
There was one more thing that exposed the one worker. Although subtle, as she passed me on the way to her seat in the van,
she said, “Thank you.”