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An MBA Doesn’t Mean You Know How To Work Smarter Rather Than Harder

, , , , , , | Working | June 10, 2020

This story was told to me by my father. In the 1990s, he worked for a machinery company in a supervisory position. One requirement of his job was to travel to different warehouses across the country to double-check on productivity. One such location was in Michigan, where the story takes place.

Our tale involves two specific workers. One, [Worker #1], did not graduate high school due to life circumstances and was a very efficient worker in his forties. The other, [Worker #2] was a recent MBA graduate who was rather… vocal about his accomplishments.

Part of the job was to pack order boxes with the specified machines or tools needed and then ship them off. These orders would come in large quantities at a time, all of them containing the same parts. Because of this, the company had a specific way of packing them. Each box had a pack list, and you were required to things in a certain order.

[Worker #1] would do the smart thing — having worked for the company for years — and load up his item cart with empty boxes, then march through the aisles and collect all of one item at once, per cartload. This way he only had to go to each product’s location in the warehouse once per cartload. 

[Worker #12] decided one day that this wasn’t effective. He thought that because he “had an MBA” that he knew better than the guy who’d worked there for years, never mind that [Worker #2] also thought that [Worker #1]’s way was the slower to get more orders out at a time. [Worker #2] seemed to think that it would be faster to grab the items needed per one box at a time. 

After a week of hearing [Worker #2] talk out his backside, Dad decided he’d had enough and made a bet with [Worker #2]. They would finally see who was faster, [Worker #2] or [Worker #1], and the loser would buy everyone on the shift the meal for the day. [Worker #1] was hesitant, because he couldn’t afford to buy that much food. My dad, knowing how this would turn out, told [Worker #1] he’d spot him if they were wrong.

There was no specific number decided on, just that the one who did the most would win and that the end time was lunch. They were each given a cart and a list of orders that needed to be fulfilled by the end of day, and the timer started.

[Worker #1] went off as he always did, cart full of twenty-five empty boxes, and went down the list of items per box. [Worker #2] went out with one box on his cart, loading it with the list before coming in and sending it down the line to be shipped. An hour passed, and [Worker #2] was running around like a headless chicken while [Worker #1] is just calm as can be with the second cart load completed. 

For those keeping score, after the first hour, [Worker #1] had fifty done. [Worker #2] had five. By now, a few of the nearby workers had noticed and were keeping track, as well, taking part in snarking at [Worker #2] as he ran around and in general making fun of his pace, mostly as a means of payback for all the hassle he’d put on [Worker #1].

The lunch bell rang, and as everyone expected, [Worker #1] had beaten [Worker #2] handily. The ninety-eight he did were far better and prepped than the twenty-five [Worker #2] had completed. 

Properly contrite, [Worker #2] was true to his word and paid for lunch for everyone on shift. Dad claims it’s the best meal he’s ever had.

This story has been included in our June 2020 roundup as one of that month’s most memorable stories!

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