In praise of the American Worker.
The sound of the alarm fills the early morning. Julie slams her hand down, hoping to stop the insufferable noise. In one hour, she will be walking into work, a coffee in her hand and a determination on her face. Like millions of others across the country, she is beginning her workday.
According to Statista, there are over 150 million workers in America. (Statista , 2021). In 2022, we will add an additional 2 million workers. Thirty-four percent of those individuals are gig workers.
On Monday, September 6th, we will celebrate Labor Day. According to the Department of Labor, “Labor Day is an annual celebration of the social and economic achievements of American Workers.”
Like most American Workers, Julie works to eat, have shelter, provide for her family, and save a little bit for her retirement. She wakes before the sun rises, and for eight to ten hours a day, she focuses on the business’s needs. At times, putting herself second.
I have had the honor to travel the United States working with executives, managers, and coworkers to help them be better at work. In our conversations, I have been introduced to many dedicated, hardworking, ethical, and passionate workers. Steelworkers, RailRoad Engineers, Fishmongers, Copywriters, Marketers, Doctors, Human Resources Professionals, Navy, and Army Personnel, Caregivers, Social Workers, Automobile Technicians, Waitstaff, Event Planners, Nurses, Dentists, Accountants, Administrative Assistants, Payroll Specialist, Quarry Workers, Trainers, Coaches, Chefs, Tree Surgeons, Retail Specialist, etc.
Julie moves through her day, writing copy, discussing strategies for the upcoming holiday season, attending meetings, and helping her boss. It’s not glamorous. It’s work. At the end of the day, there is not a cheering audience to recognize her efforts.
Each workday, millions of workers go to work and do the best job they can. Without these workers, the businesses would fail.
Let me repeat that.
Without these workers, the businesses would fail.
It is easy to take for granted the work of the American People.
Yet, without these workers, our economy would fail.
According to the United States Department of Labor, “American Labor has raised the nation’s standard of living and contributed to the greatest production the world has ever known.” (Department of Labor, n.d.) They do the work that drives our businesses and drives our economy.
They deserve respect. We deserve respect.
One lesson that all supervisors, managers, and executives need to learn is that the business is just an idea without your workers.
On Tuesday, September 7th, when you return to work, imagine what worked would be like without your employees; how much production would get done, how many customers you would serve, how many buildings would be built, how many packages delivered, how many television shows produced, how many lawns that would be cut and so on.
The answer is none.
Each of our employees brings value to our organization. For that, we should be grateful. Labor Day is a reminder of all the good a single worker contributes to the world.
At the end of the day, Julie clocks out and heads home. The sun is setting in the west, and she marvels at the bright colors reflected in the clouds. Before Julie left, her boss had stopped her and thanked her for helping the company succeed. A simple gesture of recognition.
John Thalheimer is an award-winning management consultant, author, and business owner who focuses on the human side of work. Each year, he delivers hundreds of workshops to help executives, managers, and coworkers improve their performance at work and beyond. His work centers on the foundational drivers of performance, including direction, intentionality, measurement, energy, and systems. Clients include LBMC, Center for Non-Profit Management, Bridgestone, United States Navy and Army, Belmont University, Pryor Learning Solutions, Bloomington Normal Water Reclamation District, and many more.