Shop Culture

It’s funny how important the word “Culture” has become in our shops and I think that at times it’s hard for Techs to understand why. Before you roll your eyes and turn away, I want to explain why this is more than just a buzzword and why this should be incredibly important to you.

If you’ve ever worked in a shop and hated coming to your job each day, you know the pain of what a bad culture can lead to. When your alarm clock goes off in the morning and it’s painful just to put your boots on to head to work. You know when you punch in that Billy is going to start bitching about how nobody respects him and how much the world is against him. You know that your Manager might start chewing your ass for going over the estimate on a job that had an intermittent electrical issue. And you most likely got this job because Billy couldn’t properly diagnose it in the first place.

When this happens day after day, year after year, and you don’t see any changes or even hope that there is going to be a change, you become numb to it. It starts to feel like this is your new reality and that you’re going to have to accept it. And when you start to accept this as your new reality, the view of your professional world becomes jaded. This my friend is culture.

Ask anybody that has ever worked for me and they will tell you how much that I stress having a positive attitude. This is exactly why. I’ve worked in both positive and negative cultures and the impact that it has on your life is incredible. How often have you had a terrible day at work and then brought it home to take out on your family? How often have you half-assed a repair because you were pissed about the way you were treated by Management? Neither your family or customers deserve to be treated this way. And you don’t deserve to live a miserable life because of one or two bad apples.

Now, before you start pointing the finger at Shop Owners or Management, I think Techs need to look in the mirror. This is my opinion, and probably not a popular view, but I don’t think that Management is the issue. Every shop that I have ever worked with has a culture driven by Technicians. Even the strongest leaders cannot change the culture in a shop if the people in the shop don’t accept it. The only way that I’ve seen Management change the culture of a shop was to replace the people in that shop.

I’ve been there. I’ve had to let people go because their attitudes had gotten to a point of no return. And most of these guys started off as good people with some very high ambitions of doing great things. Exposing good people to a bad culture can make even the best of people turn negative. I like to think that most folks are good intentioned.

I want you to think about this the next time you bring on an Apprentice, Tech student or a new guy just starting out in your shop. Our culture sometimes has a tough guy mentality of “letting them learn it the hard way because it’s the way I had to learn”. This has been the mentality of Mechanics and Techs for generations, and I think that it has pushed some very talented people away from the industry. And a lot of those people are needed to create the great culture that we all desperately want to work in.

So the next time that you hear the word “culture”, take it seriously. Think about when you were getting into the business and the times where there were guys that helped you out and maybe some that weren’t as helpful. What side of that are you on now that you’ve got a few years under your belt? I don’t care what any Owner or Manager says, Techs run the culture of a service based business and always will. You are setting the tone of how pleasant your shop is to work in. Being a Technician is like a brotherhood and having an outsider tell you that you need to change your culture seems like a corporately driven line of garbage. But in reality, it can change your life and the lives of those you are around the most. I challenge you to take a good hard look at yourself and the message that you’re sending to others in your shop. As I said in the last blog post, we all want better pay and more respect but that that’s not going to change unless we drive a culture shift in our shops.

Be a reason that your shop turns the corner and it will result in you having a happier work and home life.

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