For the past 10 months, I’ve been working as a flagger for a major road construction project near my home. It was a job I found via Craigslist. It really wasn’t my first choice… or my second… or third. But as far as jobs go, it has some definite advantages. I like being outdoors, and this job certainly keeps me outside! More importantly being a flagger has also taught be how to be a better person.
I’m not naturally an assertive person. I tend to be the guy who hangs back and let others make the decisions. As a flagger, my job is to control traffic. My purpose is to keep the other construction workers and the vehicles on the road safe from each other. I can’t let drivers make the decision of whether or not they can go. Of course, they are going to decide they can go. As a result, I’ve been more assertive. When I first started, I would timidly raise my stop sign to stop traffic. Often, as many as five cars would run my stop sign before traffic stopped. Now, I boldly raise my sign and wave it to get drivers attention. I motion them to stop or go a certain direction. I act with purpose.
Outside of work, I’ve been trying to carry this into my general behavior. I recently participated in a focus group. Previously, I would have gotten only a couple comments out while the conversation was dominated by more extroverted personalities. This time, I answered nearly every question, asked questions of other participants, and raised my over-all position several times.
When you are assertive, you get things done instead of things getting done to you.
Flaggers are up there with politicians and used car salesmen in terms of popularity. (But not in terms of lying!) It makes sense. My job is to inconvenience you. You don’t want to be stuck in construction. Many drivers get upset. They may yell, swear, or make rude gestures. More often, they will do all three. There are two ways of responding to this.
I could yell and scream back. I would constantly be getting my dander up, which would eventually lead to stress-related health problems such as high blood pressure. No thank you! The other consequence that could occur from getting angry: I could get fired. I’m not allowed to yell at motorists. Losing my job wouldn’t be very good for my blood pressure either.
I could stay calm. Empathize with why they are upset. Do my best to minimize the disruption to their travel. Staying calm can diffuse a tense situation, and you will make better decisions.
Life is full of tense and stressful situations. I’m not a big one for confrontation, so whenever I got angry in the past, I would usually just storm off to be by myself. The lack of assertion would come up and the other person would get their outcome without my input. By staying calm in situations like these, I can stay and help resolve the situation. The cool head will lead to better resolutions, and I will have buy-in on those decisions.
Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m bad at paying attention. It’s possible that I may have A.D.D. but I’ve never bothered to get a definitive answer. Why bother? What would knowing change instead of just trying to manage my attentiveness issues? But not paying attention while on the road can be deadly. That’s why flagging is considered one of the most dangerous jobs in America. There are a large number of accidents and flagger fatalities each year. In almost every case, they were easily preventable by paying adequate attention to your surroundings.
Before this job, I hadn’t bothered with working on my attention. It just wasn’t a priority. But I’ve become accustomed to things like breathing and the use of my legs. So I’ve actively worked on my attentiveness. I’ll never win any awards for my attention to surroundings, but I’m generally aware of what’s going on around me.
What life lessons have you learned from your jobs? Have you ever taken a job just for the money and used the experience to grow as a person?
- Sometimes it’s not your appearance. (iprobablywontlikeyou.com)
- No Good Reason to Die…Highway Work Zones (donnagore.com)
- Paying Attention (brucegerencser.net)