WORKER STORIES | WHAT WE HEARD
KEEPING IT POSITIVE
All but three of the workers we spoke to talked about great co-workers and a good working relationship with their bosses. Some were willing to trade off earning more because they valued the positive and supportive work environment.
“It’s a family. Everybody knows everybody else. I think it makes it a stronger business.”
While not obvious from his appearance, 53-year-old Rod has terminal cancer. He is certainly not seeking to be his own boss anymore (after owning a remodeling company for years in Massachusetts). Rather, he wants a job that provides a secure income and a supportive work environment and that keeps him busy while he is in stable health. Rod thinks he has found what he is looking for working with a Denver company that manages traffic around road construction.
The company owners know his condition, and they gave him time off when he had a health scare a couple of months ago. Since Rod is experienced, mature, and reliable, his bosses often give him priority to work additional hours as projects arise. Rod values that the owners are “good people” who give those who need it a second chance. The company works with a local halfway house for men recently released from prison and needing steady work. He says he has seen his boss pay for work boots out of her own pocket just to get someone started in a job.
"Meaning and purpose, positive engagement and involvement, and work friendships contribute to the quality of work life."
James is a 31-year-old receptionist and administrative support person for an acupuncture business in Lower Manhattan. Although he recognizes he does not make “a ton of money,” he really enjoys being part of what he coins his “acu-family.” A previous position in a different state was “very toxic,” so the positive work environment in his present position is valuable for his mental health and motivation for work. His current job has also given him the confidence and knowledge to start thinking about his next move as a tattoo artist, and potentially becoming a business owner himself someday.
“...It would always be nice to have more money, but in the service industry I know what I’m getting into, and working at a place that I enjoy is definitely worth it. It’s nice to come to work with bosses that you like and respect and consider friends.”
Caleb, a 25-year-old bartender and cheesemonger at a local retail and spirits shop, chose his current job not because of the pay, but because he values being part of a small, local community. Originally from New Orleans, he sought out a piece of the city that appreciated and supported local businesses and a workplace with bosses whom he could respect. He noted that he could have worked as a freelance writer for a publication while pursuing graduate work in writing, but his job is more flexible and less stressful and allows him to engage with locals.
One-third of workers cite their work environment and co-workers as the best part of their job.
Valeria, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, has been in the United States for more than 20 years, working in beauty salons since the third day after her arrival in New York City. She left her last position due to an unsupportive boss and has been at her current salon in Harlem for more than 12 years. She describes her two co-workers and boss as a tight-knit family in the best sense — giving each other praise and working collaboratively. She also described the difficulties faced by the salon in recent years, as the economy slowed and as clients cut back their visits to the salon. Despite some very slow weeks, she works on a fixed salary, and until now, her boss has made every effort not to cut back her pay. According to Valeria, the attitude is that they are “on this boat together.”
“95% of workers said their opinions and suggestions were valued by the business.”