Do you keep getting shit from the people that you work around for working too slow? Do you think you're working your ass off, but you still can't seem to keep up with everyone you work around? Then this episode is for you.
I was sent a message recently through Instagram by someone who asked me “What can I do to increase my speed while working? I feel like everyone around me works much faster than me and I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.”
Well in my experience there are 2 different types of workers in the trades, when it comes to pace of working. There are those who work slow and methodical, and those who work fast and hard. That’s not really true though. There are those who work slow and inefficient, fast and efficient, slow and efficient, and fast and inefficient. There are those who are lazy, and those who keep working constantly. So really there are many different types of workers, but for the most part your pace and quality will be the noticeable trait of how you will be judged in this environment.
This can be a rather sticky subject but there are a lot of people out there in the trades that talk about how fast they work or how slow they work and both argue about how their method is better.
Fast and Hard
There are some companies that specialize in being able to pump out large volume, so speed and efficiency are of extreme importance. These companies, a lot of times, are competing for jobs through the bidding process so the jobs they accept are traditionally lower than a lot of other companies. This does not leave much margin for error, nor does it allow for meticulous care nor working at a slow, calm pace. There is nothing wrong with this method, it is just how a certain segment of this trade operates. And it’s not limited to just the electrical trade either; there are a lot of other trades that do things this way.
Slow and Meticulous
Another large portion of the industry, and this applies to almost all other trades as well, focus on bidding high and working slow, safe, and precise. These companies typically, not always, bid higher with the understanding that a job will take longer. They want to ensure that everybody is doing safe, clean work and nobody is in a rush to get anything done, unnecessarily. Of course things happen, problems come up, and deadlines are still an issue, but overall these companies value the fact that they work slow and take their time. And just as the fast and hard companies above, the slow and meticulous companies are usually known for their style of work.
The Sweet Spot
This is only MY opinion here, but I believe it is the most beneficial to have a company be a combination of both. There are some jobs that you’ll need to be fast and effective, and there are some that you’ll need to be slow and meticulous. I’ve worked for companies that have certain crews that are fast, and some that are slow. The boss gives the slow “white-glove” jobs to the slow, meticulous guys (girls) while the fast jobs that are time sensitive go to guys that can get out of first gear. And they tend to have crews that fall in the middle and can handle both environments. If all of your crews can be cross-trained in a way that allows everyone to have multiple gears and work together in a way that everyone understands what the time and place is for each, I think that will benefit profitability in an outstanding way.
Beyond the scope of the company, is the individual personality of the worker bee. Each person is unique and different in who they are as a human. Once you put tools on them they’re going to operate at near the same level that they operate in the rest of their life. If they’re an ass-buster just walking down the street, eating, talking, they’ll most likely be an ass-buster on a job. Their general pace of doing anything is with a certain type of “purpose.” On the other hand if you have a person that walks slow, gets up slow, talks slow, and generally takes a lot of time leisurely doing everything in their life, they’ll most-likely wear their tools and use them in the same manner. This is another type of “purpose.”
Neither of these traits are bad or wrong, they’re just different types of humans. Some people love to take their time doing something right and not feeling stressed by pressure while doing it. Some people feel the most accomplished when they’re flying through things and accomplishing a lot while sweating their asses off by the end of the day. Again, just different people.
Laziness and Distractibility
Colten and I talk about this in the video at greater length, but there is another element of being slow that is unacceptable. If you’re the type of worker who constantly has their phone in their hands, or takes frequent “breaks” when it’s not break time…I’m talking to you. You need to get your shit together and put a fire under your ass to work harder. You’re being paid to work, not being paid to be lazy and only put in your minimum effort. I guess if you’re ok with being paid minimum wage for years and never getting your license then don’t listen to me. Nobody wants someone working for them who’s off somewhere else and doesn’t give a fuck about their job. If you can’t leave your phone in the truck and be ok for the day not seeing it, or interacting with it then there’s a problem. I’m not talking about listening to Spotify on your phone and working all day. I’m talking about sitting on Facebook, scrolling through Instagram, or talking shit on Reddit while you should be working. You’re stealing money from someone if you’re doing this. You agreed to work, they agreed to pay. They didn’t agree to pay you to watch kitten videos throughout the day. If you can’t tell, this shit pisses me off. If you’re being told that you’re slow, and all it takes to get you faster is putting your phone down and focusing it is a fixable problem. Just have some integrity and change this bad habit.
The last issue that I’m going to touch on is personal experience level. If you’re a first year apprentice you’re not going to be anywhere near as fast as a 4th year or a Journeyman. To be expected to be is just asinine. Speed comes with years of doing this. You need to spend time learning the tools, the materials, and how/when to use both together. This normally takes 2 years. The next 2 years are used to get your confidence up and build you into an independent worker that can be trusted to be left alone running a job. These are the 2 years you’ll have the confidence and understanding behind you to be able to rush, or slow down. You’ll start to develop 2 or 3 gears. First gear is just a normal relaxed but efficient pace. Second gear means “pick it up, we’ve got to get shit done quickly.” Lastly 3rd gear is “something or somebody fucked up and we’ve got to lay the hammer down like we’re motherfucking Thor right now.” 3rd gear is typically a risky place to be. It means a lot of things are at risk of being forgotten, left out, done wrong, or done without safety in mind. With proper planning, training, and expectations you’ll know how to work in 2 gears but alas….there are days out there where a 3rd gear is a lifesaver in a pinch.
If you’re an apprentice, don’t be so hard on yourself. Give yourself some time. Just try everyday to do the best work that you know how to do in the quickest time that you can make it happen and you’ll be alright. If you’re working for a company that doesn’t appreciate or understand that, maybe it’s time to look around for a different company.