In Praise of Worker Bees

The greatest thing the world will see?
It is the humble Worker Bee.
Manager Bees will have their place
(The Business has to have a face)
But without the Worker Bee
There’d be no job to oversee.
They make the buses run on time,
Restock the stores and mend the line.
They pay the bills, replace the lids,
Clean the sinks and teach the kids.
I don’t know where the world would be
Without the humble Worker Bee.

I am a Worker Bee. I’m a very good Worker Bee. It took me some time to come to terms with the fact that I am and always will be a Worker Bee. It is inherent in the human condition to want to climb higher up the ladder. I have climbed up there – the air doesn’t agree with me.

When you are good at your job, people assume that you must want more. More responsibility, more pay, more recognition, more of everything. And it’s easy to get sucked into thinking you want it too. I’ve learnt the hard way that it’s not what I want (well, the ‘more pay’ bit was nice but I wasn’t so keen on the rest of it). I really am happiest just doing the job I’ve been given. I don’t need the constant worry about what other people are doing.

And it’s not just in the work field that it is easy to fall into the trap. People assume that if you’re a good committee member, you’ll make a good President. Good players into good coaches, good actors into good directors. It just doesn’t work like that.

Management, whether in the workplace, on the sports field or on the stage, is a skill in itself. I’ve known some spectacular coaches who weren’t star players. Many well-known directors were never starring actors themselves, if actors at all. So it’s okay to say you’re good at what you do, but that you’re not management material. Your gifts lie in your work; others will have the gift to manage that work.

I am reminded of the Peter Principle. “The Peter Principle is a proposition that states that the members of an organisation where promotion is based on achievement, success, and merit will eventually be promoted beyond their level of ability.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Principle) It has certainly held true for me.

I’ve had some spectacular promotion disasters. I once got someone sacked when, only days into taking over a management role, a fellow manager talked me into removing a worker she saw as under-performing. I was terrified. It all happened before I really even knew what was going on. Then all hell broke loose when it was revealed the other manager had no jurisdiction to do such a thing (neither did I, actually).

The two years I spent as President of our local preschool were uninspiring at best, a catastrophic mess of poor decisions at worst.

Each time I try to step further up the ladder, I am invariably reminded that I suffer from management vertigo. Often, I’m lucky if I manage to hold on to the ladder at all, especially on my way down. And I relearn the lesson that I am, at heart, a Worker Bee. Given the last time I had to sheepishly slide back down the ladder was only recently, I am something of a slow learner.

I am determined now, however, to celebrate my role as Worker Bee, to acknowledge I have gifts and talents to offer that are no less valuable just because they are ground-level skills. After all, what would our world be like if we were all a part of management? Horrifying thought, isn’t it?

Worker Bees are the Bees Knees.
They keep the hive alive.

Worker Bee Me

Worker Bee Me

 

 

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