Workplace Quotes – United States of America

“Change happens one retirement at a time.”

“Put out the biggest fires first.”

“Kill the nearest lion.”

These are all statements that my father has come across in his years as a mechanical engineer. Note that although he resides in Washington, he works in Portland, Oregon. The second and third quotes both deal with the same idea, whereas the first is disconnected from the second two.

In response to the first quote, my dad says, “Many times we can’t or don’t change the way we do things because ‘that’s the way it’s always done.’” By saying that change happens one retirement at a time, it is implied that change is difficult if the coworkers, bosses, or other individuals at the workplace never leave. Staying at one post for a very long time can make a person extremely stubborn and unwilling to enact change, even if altering a procedure or product is desired or necessary. However, once a stubborn person leaves (presumably due to retirement), his or her coworkers can implement the changes they would have wanted to see take place during the retiree’s time at the office. My guess is that this statement is said in reference to others, not to the self—and certainly not in the presence of the person to whom the retirement applies. This is because it may be viewed as a criticism that the person is too stubborn to effect change.

The second two quotes both deal with prioritizing work. In both situations—the “biggest fire” and the “nearest lion”—the greatest threat is what is to be vanquished. The lesson portrayed in these statements is to tackle the most daunting task first, and then move on to the smaller, more manageable ones. In high school, while trying to juggle my extracurricular activities with my schoolwork, I recall my dad telling me to “put out the biggest fire first.” Clearly, these ideas about prioritization do not only belong in a cubicle, and can be relevant to everyday life when there are multiple jobs that need to be handled.