Unloading Fear and Prejudice
Ricardo, Dock Supervisor for Andersen Dairy in Battle Ground, WA, told Session 4B of Turbo's Leadership Development Lab:
"Two years ago, the Assistant Plant Manager came to me with an idea to start an employment program for people who have a disability (Autism and Down Syndrome). I got overwhelmed at the beginning because I had lots of work and stress at the dock where I'm the Supervisor. I'm not against giving an opportunity to anyone to work, but the idea of this kind of babysitting was not in my plan. I began dealing with my crew getting them ready for a new employee who would need to be micromanaged and I was not happy about it.
"The day the program began, I was told by the agency representative who brought us the crew member, that he was not being accepted at other places they had tried because people tended to judge and underestimate his capabilities. I felt bad because I was thinking the same things. Let me point out that my crew member is only 5 feet tall and he is very skinny. I thought to myself 'great, now I have to find the kind of work that he can do, he sure is not going to be able to pull an eight hundred pound cart.' Boy, was I wrong. On his first day of work, he was able to finish his shift like or even better than any other team member that has no health problem. I was so surprised and I left that first day thinking I was underestimating him and making many unjustified assumptions. To this day, he is still with us on the Andersen Dairy Dock and he is more productive than any team member I have ever had. His parents have come to me several times to thank me for keeping him on my crew because he is changed for the better at home. They are surprised that he has been able to work for us this long. When he gets home, he loves to tell them about his day and all the work he has gotten done. His parents say his pride and new-found confidence has been an outstanding change.
"The lesson I have learned from this experience is never underestimate anyone and not just at work, but in 'YOU.' The action I call you to take is to be open to learning from other people, you never know what you can learn by not judging, but learning. The benefit you will gain is a broader understanding of our world. You will use all the talent on your team. You will create a championship team that takes pride in what they do as they continue to outperform all their past performance."
I love this wonderful, warm story of the benefit gained from setting aside long-held prejudice and fear to give a fair chance for success to everyone. Today could be a good day for all of us to set aside some old fear and prejudice.
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