Author Topic: Managing a Blue Collar Workforce vs White Collar  (Read 4430 times)

epower

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Managing a Blue Collar Workforce vs White Collar
« on: December 01, 2017, 01:52:49 PM »
I've moved into my first management position in warehousing and distribution a little over three months ago.

I'm relishing the challenge thus far and I feel I'm living up to my potential.

However, one thing I'm rather not enjoying is having to deal with the more... basic type of people in our society (low education, low responsibility, low skills, etc). My staff of a team of nine has three others that are admin or floor supervisors and the other five staff are storeman who drive forklifts, load/unload trucks, etc.

I'm finding dealing with their poor attitudes, lack of drive and ambition and overall "I don't give a ****" attitude to work and their careers in general a bit hard to deal with. I'm day dreaming of the day where I manage more white collar workers who are a bit more intellectual and be better to deal with.

Or am I just day dreaming? Do these issues happen no matter how far up the ladder you go? I'd like to think people at my level are easier to manage as we understand career and workplace concepts more.

Love to hear your thoughts.

Schaefer Light

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Re: Managing a Blue Collar Workforce vs White Collar
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2017, 02:18:45 PM »
I'm a white collar worker and I don't give a fuck ;).

Orvell

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Re: Managing a Blue Collar Workforce vs White Collar
« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2017, 02:31:29 PM »
I'm trying to think of a better way to put this, and I'm coming up dry: respect your employees more. They make the business go.
I work in a construction field, and one of the things I respect about the company I work for is that they genuinely respect their field personnel. The field (or the warehouse) is where the company's bread and butter happens. Don't diss them just because they have different life priorities.

Catbert

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Re: Managing a Blue Collar Workforce vs White Collar
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2017, 05:02:33 PM »
Don't think of supervising white collar employees as an improvement.  Different...maybe.  More education and (maybe) smarter = crafter when avoiding work or undermining boss.  More ambition can make for a more cutthroat environment. 

I think ultimately Orvell is right, you need to respect the employees more.

With This Herring

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Re: Managing a Blue Collar Workforce vs White Collar
« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2017, 05:42:33 PM »
I've never been a manager, but you are just daydreaming.  At OldJob, and accounting office, there were always 2-4 full-time slackers (in the non-manager pool of 10-ish).  On the surface, the attitudes looked better, but these people were all say one thing but do another.  Constant long lunch breaks (3 hours when it should be 1 hours), playing computer games/fussing with social media/online gambling (seriously!) instead of working, faking timesheets, everything.  The many bosses were so hesitant to fire anyone ever, or give raises and bonuses fairly, or even discuss an employee and find that he had produced little real work in the past month that there was not a huge amount of incentive to put full effort into work.  One of my relatives used to work at a very large, white-collar company, and there it was often even easier to slack because of the many layers of bureaucracy.

Consider the wages of those you are managing and how easy it would be for them to get those same wages elsewhere.  What incentives do they have to give extra effort?  How have you treated them, and how have previous managers treated them?  Have they gone through a whole slew of managers in a short time?

I would strongly advice you against equating formal education and intelligence, and I agree with everyone who says you need to respect these employees more.

Syonyk

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Re: Managing a Blue Collar Workforce vs White Collar
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2017, 05:50:10 PM »
^^ Yeah, slackers exist everywhere, it's just harder to tell when their output consists of bits on a hard drive, and they've discovered that sending long bikeshedding emails a few times a day is a 100% valid replacement for actual work.

I do some pretty esoteric work in the tech field at times, but I enjoy getting to hang out with people who do physical labor type work.  There's a lot less passive aggressive crap, and if the goal involves moving a lot of dirt, fear the guys who do that stuff for a living.  They're barely breaking a sweat when everyone else is wiped.

Then again, despite working with tech, I enjoy getting my hands dirty (though... I recently discovered just how cheap thick latex gloves are, so my actual hands get dirty a lot less and my gloves get dirty a lot more).

Johnez

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Re: Managing a Blue Collar Workforce vs White Collar
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2017, 06:04:44 PM »
This is hilarious considering the fact that 100% of message boards have at least one thread dedicated to white collar workers slacking off, "working" so hard with YouTube videos and blogs. Prefers "intellect"....lol, just the kinda boss I wanna bust my ass for!

How do you get your guys to bust their ass? You give them what they need and stay out of the way. The "smart" managers with their ideas and rules and systems seem to really struggle with resistant workers, lack of motivation, and productivity issues. Have they looked and listened? Mostly after their ideas fall flat. Then it's always the workers fault. Like a carpenter blaming his tools...


Sailor Sam

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Re: Managing a Blue Collar Workforce vs White Collar
« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2017, 06:10:24 PM »
As an officer I've supervised many, many enlisted personnel, which I think equate to the blue collar vs white collar issue you're discussing. I've been taking leadership and management classes for over a decade, and I recognize the pure white rage that underlings can ignite in your bones.

I have sympathy for what you're feeling, but I've also learned that ever moment of management rage I've ever experienced was at least half my fault. I think there are 2 issues in your post that you need to work on.

1. I think you're dealing with a cultural bias, where greater education equates to greater worth as a human being. It is not a great attitude, and it's your responsibility to fix your shortsightedness. I'd suggest a book or class on emotional intelligence, with a bent towards management. Starting from the standpoint of assuming people under you are troglodytes will make for a highly miserable experience for everyone involved.

2. You seem to have a disengaged workforce. As a manager, its your job to advocate for your folks, and see that they are mentored. You need to stop assuming their dissatisfaction and disengagement is a natural result of being a troglodytes. This is management 101 here, and while it's simple, it ain't easy. The fix is to get to know your people as human beings. Each workplace has a few bad apples, but most working adults want their job to offer them mastery, autonomy, and purpose. Figure out how to give them that, and a majority of your workforce will come to work with a very nearly pleasant expression on their face.

Reynolds531

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Re: Managing a Blue Collar Workforce vs White Collar
« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2017, 07:05:22 PM »
I've worked in finance and now in construction.  I much prefer blue collar.

Totally agree it's about respect. Not too many college professionals can run a forklift 12 hours a day. And do it safely.

I would treat them as partners. Only issue orders when you don't get what you need. If you have good blue collar people they know how to get the job done and more importantly they want it done well just as much as you do.

Flyingkea

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Re: Managing a Blue Collar Workforce vs White Collar
« Reply #9 on: December 01, 2017, 07:52:57 PM »
Just a bit of anecdata here - I used to work in fast food, and most of my coworkers were not well educated, or even looking overly far to progress. On the the other hand, I have worked light blue collar (as a pilot) so people who have approx 100k in education, and I worked far harder as a fast food worker than I have ever worked as a pilot.

Fast food - you are on your feet for hours at a time, dealing with customers (and in all honesty? The white collar businessmen were the pits to deal with), if you are not serving customers, you are in the kitchen cooking. Or cleaning. There was lots of cleaning. There was rarely any time to stand around.

Now, as a pilot, I feel stupidly underworked, especially at my last job where we were salaried. (Now I'm casual). You have people sitting around pretending to look/be busy. I would browse online, or just make myself scarce, in fact, one bad weather day my boss actually went "wohoo! Clash of Clans time!"


A huge part of workforce participation is about management. I've seen it said "you join a company for the money. You leave your old job because of your manager".
I had a boss who resigned, and almost everyone in the place celebrated. He had good ideas, and high standards, but he was ex-military, and was really abrasive, unforgiving, and railroaded anyone and anything that got in his way. I was so happy to leave him far behind.
I now work for a guy, where within 5 minutes of meeting him, I wanted to work at the place because of the culture that had been created there. Don't get me wrong, it's not all sunshine and roses, and there is plenty that could be better, but when you find a halfway decent manager, you try to hold onto them.



ElleFiji

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Re: Managing a Blue Collar Workforce vs White Collar
« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2017, 09:12:35 PM »
As of right now, when there aren't too many quotes memorializing this moment of frustration, I hope you wake up with a clear head and rephrase some of your post.

I am from a middle class family, with merchant and working class roots. I went to grad school and worked in a professional field. And then I grew up and moved into a self-employed working class career and I love it.

I think one of the things we forget about with the blue collar and pink collar fields, is that you don't get to just turn up. You work. All day. Usually someone else gets to make choices about when your lunch is, and how often you have to interact with Bob who is a good guy but makes you crazy. You can't let yourself drift for a day and a half and then make up for it. The days you're just punching the clock, everyone knows.

And when the people managing you don't get it, or think they can optimize your value as a resource, or make you spend five minutes listening to team values? You mentally clock out. But when the people managing you understand what it's like on the ground, and listen to why you do it your way,it works better.

And  not sure what your level is - but if these people are in the jobs they want for now, that is gold. And since they have to meet targets, managing them should be a dream.  I don't know who you think white collar workers are, but I don't think job titles are the cause behind your management issues

katscratch

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Re: Managing a Blue Collar Workforce vs White Collar
« Reply #11 on: December 01, 2017, 09:39:00 PM »
In my experience as an employee running the gamut from minimum wage to professional wage, and as a former manager/director from customer service jobs to healthcare, my employees responded to the culture I created.

Meaning, if you think people are less of a person than you, which is how you come across, why the hell would they want to work harder? If people in your workplace are performing to their job description, and you're just bothered by them being less (motivated, educated, etc) than you, well then you're just being an elitist douche. I'm hoping that's not the case.

One of my favorite management gigs was one summer at a fast food restaurant. Their manager had left unexpectedly due to a family emergency. I was recruited to work there while buying a lemonade and chatting with an employee at the cash register.

They had lost staff in the shuffle, and subsequently the parent company brought staff in from a neighboring town that was mostly migrant farm worker families. The district leadership warned me that the people they were sending had poor performance evaluations but we needed to fill the gaps until we could hire and train new staff.

The following month we were the highest performing restaurant in the state, and all of my employees had stellar evaluations. Most of them were driving two hours one way to work for me, and over half planned to stay at my location long term.

The difference? I got to know them and their stories and respected the hell out of the fact they were there to flip burgers and make milkshakes. I have high standards for myself, first, and expect my staff at any job to fulfill the expectations I set for them. I tend to have excellent feedback from both staff and higher ups at all my jobs because I'm a team builder and motivator - essentially, a leader rather than a manager.

Your post comes across as though you are very comfortable being a manager but haven't yet figured out how to be an effective leader. I'm curious what positions you held prior to this level of management.

I've had several jobs where I was sent in to a healthcare location to turn things around. It can be difficult to change workflow and habits in a culture that isn't up to the standards you want to see. In my opinion that issue has very little to do with a person's socioeconomic status or education, as you've stated, and everything to do with the former and current workplace culture. I've found it most effective to bring standards up by proving I understand the work - for you maybe this means getting onto the floor and working side by side with people in the name of learning more about their workflow - but really it's about showing them you are worth working hard for and that you will hold people accountable to perform at the level their job description requires.

In my current role in a hospital, I will definitely admit that the laziest workers I've ever met, in 28 years of working full time, are professionals making 90k that have shitty managers. If I had to work directly under the management here I'd be gone tomorrow. So in your case, again, it may not be the level of education/status but the environment.

I wish you luck in figuring out how to navigate this phase of your career.

katscratch

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Re: Managing a Blue Collar Workforce vs White Collar
« Reply #12 on: December 01, 2017, 09:40:59 PM »
As of right now, when there aren't too many quotes memorializing this moment of frustration, I hope you wake up with a clear head and rephrase some of your post.

I don't know who you think white collar workers are, but I don't think job titles are the cause behind your management issues

I cross posted.....this very eloquently sums up my thoughts.

shelivesthedream

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Re: Managing a Blue Collar Workforce vs White Collar
« Reply #13 on: December 02, 2017, 02:40:50 AM »
1. Read the Ask a Manager blog. Yes, it will be relevant to managing blue collar employees.

2. Set up an informal meeting/coffee date/lunch chat with each and every employee you manage. Not too long, maybe fifteen minutes, and only two or three per day. Tell them about yourself in two or tree sentences. Ask them to tell you what they like about working there, and what they think could be improved about the working environment and management. Your goal is to STFU and listen. You could take notes if you wanted, but whatever they say, just say "Interesting thought" or "I hadn't looked at it like that". At the end, thank them sincerely for their time and let them know you'll be thinking over everyone's feedback and seeing what you can do. Then actually do that. And let them know you're always happy to chat if there's something on their mind about work. You might be surprised what they like and what bothers them. My experience of reading the blog above has opened my eyes to the fact that "We used to have a water cooler but now they took away all the plastic cups and replaced with with this awful tap" can be a HUGE DEAL in a workplace, but it's not the kind of thing people bring up unless asked or unless it pours out in some huge tirade. But you can earn a lot of goodwill by fixing little things like that.

3. Explain yourself when you ask them to do things. "We need to get this shipment out today because we've got a new block of widgets coming in tomorrow and we ought to start on that with a clean slate, so please could we have all hands to the pump so we can get it out by five and all go home."

4. Roll up your sleeves from time to time. Not loads, but just for the little things that really are unskilled like sweeping up at the end of the day once in a while.

matchewed

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Re: Managing a Blue Collar Workforce vs White Collar
« Reply #14 on: December 02, 2017, 05:10:05 AM »
You are managing people. People may do white collar work or blue collar work but they are still people. The problem will be more with your ability to manage and the culture you establish at your place.

If you are willing to work for them then they will be willing to work for you. I do not see this being the case with how you are approaching this scenario.

Dicey

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Re: Managing a Blue Collar Workforce vs White Collar
« Reply #15 on: December 02, 2017, 06:55:53 AM »
I'm relishing the challenge thus far and I feel I'm living up to my potential.
Wow! This literally hurt to read. It is my sincere hope that you read and steep yourself in the sage advice that has been offered here. The change you implement in your current attitude will stand you in far better stead than the mindset you're currently displaying.

Dr.Jeckyl

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Re: Managing a Blue Collar Workforce vs White Collar
« Reply #16 on: December 02, 2017, 08:31:00 AM »
However, one thing I'm rather not enjoying is having to deal with the more... basic type of people in our society (low education, low responsibility, low skills, etc).

Love to hear your thoughts.

WOW, just WOW! I can only imagine one of these "basic types" reading this and what they would think. Just because someone doesn't have the same background, degree, or opportunities you've had in your life doesn't make them "basic". I manage blue collar front line employees as well as white collar managers. The only reason my job and the jobs of the managers that report to me exist is due to the hard work of the front line employees that are working their butts off.

I transferred to my current location a couple of years ago and had many employees that were dissatisfied and just generally grumpy. What I found was that they had low morale and low job satisfaction due to previous management not willing to listen and communicate. Everybody has a story, have you learned your employee's stories? I have some of the smartest, hardest working people that work for me. Just because their work van is their office and my office actually has a desk, door, and pictures of my family doesn't make me more important. My job is to be their leader, their coach, their mentor, and sometimes just a set of ears. I listen to issues going on outside of work. I try to find ways to motivate them and get them excited about work. I'm a white collar worker that struggles with motivation because my boss doesn't care. I don't want the people that work for me to feel the same.

Retire-Canada

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Re: Managing a Blue Collar Workforce vs White Collar
« Reply #17 on: December 02, 2017, 08:37:46 AM »
Or am I just day dreaming? Do these issues happen no matter how far up the ladder you go? I'd like to think people at my level are easier to manage as we understand career and workplace concepts more.

Love to hear your thoughts.

You'll find bad managers at all levels of an organization and where you find bad managers you find bad attitudes and poor motivation. It's possible to have a bad apple on any team that is not going to ever be awesome, but when you have a whole group of people on a team with issues I would look to the person in charge and figure out what they are doing wrong.

Based on your post it sounds like you don't respect the blue collar folks on your team. That's not going to get you anywhere good.

It's not possible to give you a bullet point list that will tell you how to become a a good manager and ideally transcend management to leadership. I would start by finding a mentor in your organization who you can talk to and maybe read a couple books on the topic. While you are doing that you could talk to the blue collar folks and actually listen to them. I bet they are communicating important stuff to you all the time, but you are not hearing them. Once you start listening to them you'll have the ability to connect with them and start to motivate them. It's a process so don't expect any overnight changes. That said learning how to be a good manager and possibly a leader will facilitate/accelerate the rest of your career.

lhamo

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Re: Managing a Blue Collar Workforce vs White Collar
« Reply #18 on: December 02, 2017, 08:46:53 AM »
Please run, don't walk, to your library or amazon and get this book:

The No Asshole Rule by Bob Sutton.


FIFoFum

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Re: Managing a Blue Collar Workforce vs White Collar
« Reply #19 on: December 02, 2017, 08:59:06 AM »
There have already been a lot of excellent resources recommended above.

I would add - You seem to be mistaking the white-collar/office professional culture of appearing to care about a job as more than a needed income for actual caring or work ethic.

From a blue-collar perspective, many of these white-collar norms are fake, ass-kissy, and general bullshit.

Almost EVERYONE shows up for work because that's how they will pay their bills, support themselves/their family, and maybe reach a point where they don't have to do it anymore. I mean, that's kind of the point of this website/forum - being able to reach a point where you don't have to?

No one is deserving of more respect or likely to be a better employee just because this fact is expressed in one way or another (or covered up due to expected social norms).


Dicey

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Re: Managing a Blue Collar Workforce vs White Collar
« Reply #20 on: December 02, 2017, 11:53:41 AM »
My husband is in the trades, and would easily be classified as Blue Collar.

Humblebrag Alert: Please forgive me, I'm going to make a long, rambling point.

Here's what our Blue Collar life looks like. Our lovely home is valued at over $1.3M. It has no mortgage. It is beautifully furnished, mostly from consignment stores. It is within easy walking distance to his work. Our cars all match and look great. They range in age from 2002 to 2014. They are paid for and DH maintains them meticulously. We do our own home improvements. We own multiple rental properties in a resort area. Our net worth is a around $3M. He also has a Defined Benefit Pension Plan that is rock-solid and has amazing health benefits. We have zero consumer debt. We are FI, and I am RE.

DH does not have a college degree. His grammar is occasionally atrocious. He missed most of third grade due to a critical injury that kept him hospitalized for months. Whenever he drops a clunker, I say a prayer of thanks that he is healthy, with all major organs intact. He can teach himself how to fix anything, typically via YouTube, reading dense technical manuals and using his brain. He's insanely logical, but not pedantic in the least.

He's the smartest, most practical and most generous guy I know. If you have a problem, he's the one who can and will help you figure it out. He has a friendly word for everyone he sees. He has above average vision and he sees things that others don't. He sees other people's pain. He never forgets a face. He remembers all the important things.

In sixteen years at this job, he's never taken a sick day. He is never late for work. He is hard working and works smart. He is extremely self-motivated. He always has his boss's back. He can fix the shit that others screw up and does it willingly.

Tomorrow, we are going to a Christmas Party at a former mayor's home. The future mayor's party is on the calendar for Friday. He can speak in a friendly manner with anyone from any walk of life. He enjoys live theater and Nascar NHRA. He is an active community volunteer and gives generously to community-based non-profits. He helps others willingly. He does not smoke and drinks very minimally. No drug use of any kind. In a full course of adult orthodontia, which included tooth extraction, and lowers twice, he took aspirin maybe three times. He looks as good in his thrifted tuxedo as he does in his new Costco fleece-lined jeans, because he exercises and stays fit. Come to think of it, he doesn't swear much either. At least, compared to his lovely wife :p

Okay, I think I'll stop now. Later today, I'll show this to him. I suspect he'll be slightly embarrassed. Especially the part where I tell y'all I love my Blue Collar man with all my heart. ♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡

EPOWER, I kinda doubt you'll get my rambly point, but I sure enjoyed writing this. Perhaps someday you'll understand. If not, the loss will be eternally yours.


Edit: I showed this to DH. His only comment was "I don't follow NASCAR".  Oops. Fixed that. I probably could mention that he doesn't sit around watching tv much either. He records and watches the highlights well after the fact, or he views it on his not-an-iphone while he's on the (free that he fixed) treadmill in the garage. What a guy!
« Last Edit: December 03, 2017, 09:39:26 AM by Dicey »

Goldielocks

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Re: Managing a Blue Collar Workforce vs White Collar
« Reply #21 on: December 02, 2017, 06:05:56 PM »
I have worked most of my career on the backstage support for supervisors in warehousing, distribution, logistics and light manufacturing.
I have toured many warehouse (I think I estimated 100 at one point) and talked with many supervisors and manager.  I understand what you are saying...

But, the management / supervisor culture is a huge driver of the employee attitude.  Also, the region that you live/work in, no doubt about that.  Minnesota is different from Pennsylvania, from Hawaii.

My first recommendation, as your turn over is likely fairly high, is to focus on immigrants with limited english who have some education in their home country, or people with a disability (the deaf guy was amazing at warehouse work).   Also look to see how many women are employed there.  Women in the workforce have a tempering influence on some of the worst behaviours that may be irritating you.   Women to actually show up for warehouse work WANT that pay which is usually a lot better than minimum wage retail with crappy hours and it shows... having people there who are very happy to have the job and are concientious about it influences others.

Then, I was going to say -- tell these employees directly how happy that they have been hired and how much they mean to the company, and look for ways to make their work go more smoothly, and then I realized that that is really what ALL your warehouse employees want.

The best advice would be to arrange with employees a day where you work, with an employee beside you.  Depending on union environment, you work while they stand and direct you, or you work together.  The point is to understand what are the problem points for getting the work done in that specific role -- when it is too heavy, too fast, too boring, too dusty, or whatever.   This takes a bit to make happen, but is so worth it. 

Slackers exist in all workplaces, and are easier to deal with in the warehouse, really.  They have performance measures that are clear and can be managed.  The way they express dissatisfaction with the workplace is the key difference.

Good Luck!

PS if you don't have an employee yelling at you at the end of each shift (often the same employee), be thankful.   Some warehouse cultures it is how they "blow off steam" about a crappy work day, treating the supervisor like a verbal punching bag.