Whatever It Takes

Operators featured in this issue show willingness to take almost anything that needs doing and add it to their job description

Perhaps nothing irks an employer more than a team member saying, when assigned an out-of-the-ordinary task, “That’s not in my job description.”

After college, before landing a job in my field (journalism), I worked on the banquet setup crew at a high-end hotel. One day the maitre’d asked my colleagues and me to polish some silver sugar-packet holders for the banquet tables.

I was indignant; I was hired to muscle tables, chairs and room partitions around, not to do sissy work like shining up table doo-dads, and in not quite in so many words, I said so. After a closed-door “discussion” with the boss, I had to decide if I wanted to do whatever I was asked from then on or find my college-educated self on the street looking for another stopgap, near-minimum-wage job.

I decided my pride could stand polishing some silver, and in the few months I was there my pride stood doing various other non-macho things that just needed to get done. I taught myself to take pride in being part of the team and doing what it took to give customers a great banquet experience. Although I never polished silver again after I left there, the lesson stood me in good stead.


Pitching in

In TPO articles we meet a lot of people who apparently learned a similar lesson somewhere along the line. That’s true in Tacoma, Wash., where operators have helped in various ways to launch and sustain the TAGRO biosolids program.

Their contributions included brainstorming about and tinkering with the production process and the recipe, more or less within their realm, as well as lending a hand in less technical areas like marketing and public communication — likely not disciplines they learned in their job-related training and schooling.

No one had to twist their arms. They believed in the product, and they believed in beneficial use of biosolids, and so they did whatever it took to make the program successful — and it is.


Embracing change

Then there’s the crew at the treatment plant in Willmar, Minn. They spend countless hours, on top of their regular duties, helping to plan and design a new plant with a process they hadn’t run before.

It started with a leadership team taking part in planning and design workshops long before construction started. It extended to many hours of classroom and hands-on training on new equipment and procedures. It extended to making the switch from the old plant to the new, running both during the transition period. Then there was the matter of fine-tuning the new process until everything was running smoothly.

One can only imagine the extra hours the Tacoma and Willmar team members put in and the stress they added to their lives. But I am willing to bet that if you asked them, all would say they loved the challenge and, if asked, would do it again.


This is the norm

Stories like these shatter the stereotype of the public employee who just arrives at 7:30, does the bare minimum, and goes home at 4. We have many reasons to recognize and respect wastewater operators. This sort of diligence, which seems much more like the rule than the exception, is just one more.


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.