Experience is a double-edged sword. On the plus side, an experienced bindery equipment staffer can bring lots of skill and know-how to production operations. It saves time, training, mistakes and keeps things flowing smoothly. It’s only natural that owners and managers of printing and bindery businesses love such employees, especially in a region where they’re hard to find.
If the experienced employee learns and grows with the business, they remain valuable. If not, that’s when you see the dark side emerge. You can just hear Darth Vader’s gravel-voiced hissing in this reply from an experienced staffer when questioned about doing a job another way: “I’ve been doing it this way for 30 years.” If you are good at reading minds you will hear the unspoken second half of that sentence: "I will crush you if you oppose me!”
This is a mind closed to new ideas. Such an attitude can also mean that the operator is doing things the way they were done 30 years ago! There is a distinct difference between 30 years of true, valuable experience versus 30 years of the same one year of mistake-filled experience repeated over and over.
In a shop where the owner lets the employees run the business, such an employee is the kiss of death to progress in that department. I see it happen over and over and listen to business owners who admit to letting the employees get their way for fear of a staffer leaving. A talented operator or manager who knows he can’t easily be replaced insists on doing things the way he wants them done. New systems, equipment or products be damned; it’s his way or none at all.
Yet we know full well that absolutely no one is indispensable. Anyone can be replaced. For the business owner faced with a talented employee who has become a detriment, ask yourself if the employee is going to pay your bills when your business fails. That will put your mind right about how to handle the situation. For bindery equipment operators and managers at any level of experience, remember to keep an open mind, ready to learn and change.
Whatever your position in the company, take heart. Even the oldest of us dogs can learn some new tricks and be happy about it.
We see this all the time here at Technifold USA. Some crusty, battle-hardened 30+ year printing veteran will dismiss any or all of our products as crap. But they keep reading our newsletter. Or they stop by our booth year after year after year. Or they keep asking for info. Until one fine day they are in a jam and call to ask if they can try one of our products and “Oh, can you get it to me tomorrow morning?”
When guys like this end up a hero the next day, they become our biggest champions. Suddenly their minds are open to learning again. “What else have you got for our machines?” is a common question. I know of a few cases where such converts even took our tools with them to their next employer!
Thankfully the dark side doesn’t always prevail. If you have a lot of patience you can often open up the closed mind of a colleague and shine some light in the dark. If not, well, cut ‘em loose. After all, the force is with you and you will survive.
Have a story of triumph over the 'dark side'? Feel free to share below!