Workplace Wisdom

Piercing Questions about a Successful Manager

Daughter had been asking to have her ears pierced for as long as, well, for as long as she knew what it meant. So we went to the mall. To the accessories and jewelry store, Claire’s, which had the most extensive information online about the piercing process, and the most complex set of disclosures and disclaimers. From my perspective, all these warnings and disavowals probably meant that they’d had significant experience.

Claire’s is a teeny store, crammed so full of inexpensive hats, scarves, bags, boots, and jewelry that some girl or her mom is constantly knocking merchandise from the displays to the floor as she tries to navigate the barely existing aisles. Most of the staff looked too young to vote, let alone drink — except for the mid-to late-20-something manager, who was working the single cash register and looked jaded, but not bored.

Practice Makes Perfect Experience

“Done this often?” I asked, the way you want to know if the GI doc has done a lot of colonoscopies. “Eight years,” she said crisply, and we were good to go.

This was an elaborate procedure that included surgical gloves and much antiseptic. Daughter sat, unflinching for the piercing, and we left with a pair of gold studs, a specially branded follow-up kit, and only slightly reddened ear lobes.

How many things can one manager do and be a good manager? The amazing thing was that in the 15 minutes it took from original inquiry to exit, the manager switched roles from cashier to information desk attendant back to cashier and then to surgeon, all while directing her staff, shooing girls from blocking the store entrance, and being quite pleasant to us. She conducted the piercing process with a stream of girls practically brushing her back as they walked in and out of the store, some of them lingering to gape in anticipation and ask about their own potential piercings.

Cool, Competent, and Capable

It didn’t seem appropriate to grill her about her compensation or growth opportunities, but I couldn’t help thinking that this young woman, with her noticeable sang-froid and eight years’ experience, could handle a much more demanding job, a higher status job, a better job.

But then, who’s to say? A white-collar corporate job wouldn’t necessarily be any more demanding than coping with all these people and their needs in the equivalent of a very crammed and messy walk-in closet. Certainly she might not be able to replicate the level of variety. And I’m very glad she was working at Claire’s when we needed her. Her aplomb and experience gave me confidence that I doubt I would have had with one of her subordinates.

The experience was a good reminder that everyone doesn’t necessarily want the same kind of work, environment, or status any more than they might want the same kind of earrings.

Onward and upward,

LK

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