A few weeks ago I was job coaching with a student who was recently employed in a large supermarket. One aspect of her job is keeping the shoe department clean, which includes removing trash from the floor, putting away stray items, and ensuring that the boxes are all neat on the shelves. On one particular night, the store was having a special sale, which brought many customers into the store to purchase shoes. As we hustled back and forth through the department replacing tops on boxes, picking up shoes and trash off the floor, and putting away cereal, underwear, and other items that customers randomly left on the shoe shelves, my student and I kept smiling as we talked about job security and the fact that without customers who bought shoes, she would not have a job.
However, I couldn’t help but wonder if those customers had any idea how frustrating it was to find trash on the floor every time we turned around. Did they really think it should be someone else’s job to pick up the shoes they decided not to buy (all ten pairs)? How did they expect us to get to our other departments when the shoes were falling off the shelves and stray items were making some shelves look more like the sporting goods or grocery section than the shoe department?
For employees such as my student, a smile, “thank you,” and an extra effort to clean up after yourself goes a long way toward maintaining that smile on their face, and enabling them to feel good about their job and the people who make it possible. And the same is true at home. Should someone else have to clean up your dishes after you eat? Straighten the messes you leave around the house? Wash the clothes you get dirty? While families assign chores differently according to their values, needs, and the age/abilities of each family member, in our household, we work to ensure that everyone (even the three-year-old) is contributing to the household responsibilities, especially when he or she is the one who created the need for the work!
So, while we can be thankful for the people and circumstances around us that create a need for each one of us and the work we do (“job security”), we can also make sure we are thoughtful and responsible (that’s “social insight!”) so that we don’t create too much job security for others!