Giving Direction Can Be Electrifying (Literally)

Do you give the appropriate amount of direction?  It can mean the difference between a job well done, or it can mean someone gets a “shocking” surprise. 

A friend of mine happens to be an electrician.  When we get together, he loves to tell me stories about instances of coworkers, or himself, getting juiced on the job.  Most of his stories are about accidents, while other times, they seems to be gags.  Apparently, if you’re an electrician, you constantly need to watch your back when standing on metal ladders.  You never know when a coworker might walk up and use your ladder to complete a circuit between a positive and negative wire just for fun. 

My friend tells me that there’s nothing as satisfying as goosing your buddies on the job, though I don’t think my own coworkers would appreciate me running around turning them into my personal army of Frankensteins.

Earlier this week, my friend and I decided to meet up for a BBQ.  Without missing a beat, our conversation began with a recent incident at one of his contracted jobs.  A journeyman electrician was showing an apprentice a specific wiring job.  The journeyman gave the apprentice an overview of what tasks would be involved, and how the apprentice would go about completing the job, before they started the work.  The journeyman told the apprentice he’d be right back, with the apprentice not knowing the journeyman was going to switch off the circuit breakers. 

The apprentice decided that he knew enough about how to complete the task and he decided he would get started before the journeyman came back.  The apprentice was so new that he forgot to check whether the power had been shut off on the wires, and made his first cut.  Instantly, he was blown backwards and was knocked back so far that his shoes blew off.  

Knowing how much (or how little) direction someone needs can help avoid mistakes on both sides.  While the apprentice should have confirmed it was ok for him to start the work, the journeyman should have told the apprentice not to start without him and that he was going to shut off the electricity.  With too little direction, we leave the door open for the people we instruct to make mistakes and/or doubt themselves.  However, with too much direction, the individual receiving the instructions will likely become annoyed.  The right amount of direction equals successful and happier workers.

Let this be a lesson for all of us.  We never know when an employee might decide to stick a fork in a light socket.

What are your stories about “shocking” amounts of direction?  Leave your comments!

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