"The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives."
- Carol Dweck author of Mindset
Things have not been going well at work. When I started this part-time job five months ago, I thought it would be easy. Within days, I realized that nothing in my past had prepared me for being a cashier in a busy, organic grocery store.
My most recent experience was as a "sales associate" in an upscale thrift store, which included cashiering. On a good day, the entire store might produce $2,000 to $3,000 in sales. Much of the time, I worked "in the back" sorting, pricing and displaying merchandise because handling sales at the cash register was sporadic and easily handled by elderly volunteers with limited physical abilities. In other words, it was a slow, casual and rather undemanding job.
My current job is the polar opposite. It requires memorizing over five hundred, 4-digit codes; learning numerous policies and procedures for deli, bulk, meat, produce, gift card, food stamp, etc., purchases; re-learning how to calculate and count back correct change while being constantly distracted; learning how to use different equipment (e.g., check readers, card readers, cash registers, conveyor belts, scales); and last but not least, learning how to deal with customers, many of whom are eccentric locals and confused tourists. I've had lots of help from co-workers who have patiently guided me over the past five months, and I still have a lot to learn. But, the "newbie" honeymoon is over.
I have figured out that management expects front end employees to be friendly, accurate, fast, and consistent.
Last Thursday, my register rang up over $7,000 in the space of five and a half hours. There is a way to find out the number of customers and the average order amount, but I was too tired to figure it out. My bottom line is whether or not my drawer is over or under, and it was over twenty-four cents. I would consider this a pretty good day at the cash register, except for a mistake I made in good customer relations which was pointed out to me by the Manager on Duty while I was getting ready to close my register. In other words, my error was made public, while customers were trying to ignore my red face and defensive excuses. I thought I was pretty good at customer relations and rather than take responsibility for making mistakes, I focused on how the MOD brought them to my attention.
I also thought I was getting the hang of the accurate part of the job. The "acceptable" over/under is $1 per thousand but there is an unwritten mandate that cashiers have "0" balances. Balances are displayed on "scorecards" posted where cashiers get their drawers each shift, so everyone gets to compare their results with each other. I am at the bottom of the "accuracy" list - no gold stars this month, so far, and a humiliating short of -$19.90 at the beginning of February. To make matters worse, the person who counted this drawer is the one who routinely gives me the worst drawer counts and rather than take responsibility for mistakes, I began to wonder if this person was skimming and blaming me.
Today is a "Front End" store meeting where the stellar cashiers/clerks will be recognized. I fear that in comparison to them, I'll be embarrassed and humiliated because of the recent criticism about customer relations and because I'm on the bottom of the accuracy list. So, rather than view this meeting as an opportunity to find ways to improve my accuracy and customer relations, I fear it. Not good.
Somehow, I have allowed myself to be trapped in a mental hell - a paranoid downward spiral. I recognize this space and while it is stuffy and uncomfortable, it's familiar to me. It's the mental space I occupy where I tell myself that I'm just not good at (fill in the blank) math, not good at (fill in the blank) cashiering, not good at (fill in the blank) public relations.... not good enough, not comfortable enough, so I should quit.
Unless I have to "stay the course" because my life or the life of people I love depended on it, I usually bail. This means that while I've done a lot in my life, I often wonder if there is anything that I've done really well. This morning, I found (or was guided toward - !!) Dumb Little Man, and an article titled Is Your Mindset Secretly Making You Miserable. This brief article references the book, Mindset, written by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck. The book explores the concept of traditional negative and positive thinking in a way that I think I can grasp: fixed mindset and growth mindset.
I am familiar with the concept and have used it to help me overcome some tough personal hurdles in life. Through self help programs, especially the 12 Step program and Course of Miracles, I have learned to consider my harshest critics and/or most uncomfortable criticisms as "teachers" rather than adversaries. I recall friends and coworkers who assumed that I could see the "errors" and mistakes I was making, and lifted me out of my victimhood. They weren't shocked that I wasn't perfect, nor where they shocked or disappointed in the denial process I went through. Some things can't be denied for long, like an angry customer, or a drawer that doesn't balance. Today's article is a reminder that denial and resistance is futile. It wastes time and causes needless anxiety. Learning, growth, effort is not easy and comfortable. It's not supposed to be, and comparing oneself to others is a good guideline, but misses the point in life. I need to put forth my best effort. That effort includes learning through mistakes.
So.... I've ordered the book. I now recognize the downward spiral for what it is: a learning opportunity not to be missed. I am grateful for this opportunity and no matter how painful, embarrassing, negative, these lessons may appear on the surface, in reality, I can be good at whatever I choose in life, if I am willing and committed to work at it.