Blue Collar Workers Have Brains Too Throughout our modern society there has always been a cultural divide between the upper class of white collar workers who have received higher education, and the blue collar workforce who make up the middle and lower class of society. It is the assumption of the white collar class that the blue collar force are a simple minded group who rely on manual labor jobs because they don’t possess the intelligence necessary to make it in the white collar world.
In his article “Blue Collar Brilliance,” Mike Rose discussed how the working class of blue collar workers is often underestimated and not given enough credit from their white collar counterparts. He states that through his research and observations, the blue collar workers indeed exercise significant intelligence in their work, and that they shouldn’t be shrugged off by those of a higher social class simply because of their placement on the occupational ladder. Rose described that he was raised in a blue collar family, but that he sought a higher education a means for fulfillment and to make a solid living.
What I found interesting were his observations through his studies after graduate school. Rose states, “Intelligence is closely associated with formal education-the type of schooling a person has, how much and how long-and most people seem to move comfortably from that notion to a belief that work requiring less schooling requires less intelligence” (Rose, 247) I agree with Rose in this statement because of my experience growing up, I was always taught that success in this life is tied directly with a formal education.
If I wanted to make something of myself, I better go to college. Much to the chagrin of my parents, I put off college and entered the workforce as an apprentice meat cutter. Over the years I have worked my way up and was eventually made the manager of a meat department. I have found that through my experience in that occupation that I have learned more about business hands on than in any of my business classes. Rose makes an interesting point about the hands on application of such important tools in the working class.
He states, “Though many kinds of physical work don’t require a high literacy level, more reading occurs in the blue-collar workplace than is generally thought, from manuals and catalogues to work orders and invoices, to lists, labels and forms” (Rose, 253) Rose is surely right about that because I have learned more about what it takes to make a successful business with things like how to manage costs and labor, how to regulate your purchases as to meet your sales needs while keeping shrink or loss to a minimum, and how to increase your gross profit margin by streamlining merchandising methods than I ever could in a classroom.
He described observing his mother Rosie as a waitress in a diner and all of the mental juggling she displayed in order to keep her customers’ orders organized, the food delivered properly in a timely manner, and make sure they were satisfied and felt important. He also noticed that she was not only a waitress, but often times wore the hat of psychologist in listening to the personal stories of her guests, and catering how she treated them and responded to them as though she was their friend and support system.
I agree that the blue collar workforce is often looked down upon by those who have chosen the path of higher education and belong to the white collar workforce because I have been a member of the blue collar crowd for over ten years and can testify that it indeed requires significant skills in order to fulfill those jobs. I have worked in a restaurant for several years and have experienced how difficult it is to multitask and keep every customer happy while juggling several tables and keeping multiple orders organized in my little filing system in my head.
It truly requires a special brain to be a server in a restaurant, to possess the necessary skills as Rosie did with the ability to group tasks together in order of priority and work efficiently in a flowing motion rather than running around in circles barely keeping your wits about you because you can’t keep your proverbial balls juggling in the air. From experience, when you drop one ball or make a mistake, all your other balls usually come crashing down on you. That is what we in the business call “crashing,” or “being in the weeds. I have seen such a high turnover of staff that couldn’t manage all the responsibilities and possess the customer service and people skills necessary for when things go wrong. I agree with Rose’s point of how the hat of psychologist is worn while performing those duties because you can completely screw up a persons’ food order but give them exceptional customer service and make them feel special by listening to them, show them genuine empathy and they will tip you well no matter what mistakes are made in their dining experience.
I have had several regular customers come into my restaurant and request me as their server because I make them feel special, and I engage in real conversation with them and have subsequently built real friendships with people because of the way I treated them as their server. Nothing made a regular customer feel special like having their beverage of choice delivered to them as soon as they sat down without needing to ask for it. I have had many coworkers ask me how I consistently made better tips than they did, when we are serving essentially the same demographic of clientele.
I explain to them the key is to be a good listener such as Rose’s mother was to both verbal and non verbal messages, and do the little things in order to make them feel special and not simply be a robot delivering their food and drinks. Many people assume that servers in restaurants belong to a lower social class, but because of my experience in that industry I agree with Rose that it takes a special person to fulfill those positions.
I appreciated Rose’s recognition of the blue collar force as one who possesses significant intelligence; because I am a member of that class and feel that I have often been judged as someone who lacks the necessary intelligence to make it in the white collar world. I applaud his arguments that the blue collar force should no longer be looked down upon as inferior. Works Cited Rose, Mike. “Blue Collar Brilliance. ” “They Say/I Say”: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing : With Readings. Ed. Gerald Graff, Cathy Birkenstein, and Russel K. Durst. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2012. N. pag. Print.
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