The Apprentice

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The Apprentice

November 2018

Once upon a time there was  a master carpenter whose products were in big demand. He was so busy that he had to employ several apprentices at his small carpentry shop to assist him to get all the chairs and tables and beds completed. He had one apprentice who was the most skilled and the most knowledgeable and had been working with the carpenter for a long time. He was in fact able to do most things that the carpenter could. The carpenter always put this person in charge when he was out delivering finished items or collecting supplies with the wagon.
This apprentice did all he could to support everyone in the carpentry shop, he helped customers, he got involved with personal issues that the staff had and as a result he was liked by all. He felt that he was very important to the overall carpentry shops survival. As the surges and slowdowns in the demand for their products drew in new people and then saw some leaving, he became more and more aware of his importance to the business. In his heart he had quite a warm feeling in his recognition of his importance.

Sometimes the carpenter would ask for something in a hurry or would ask for something that the apprentice had promised previously to do as customers needed their orders completed to the best standard that the shop promised and had a reputation for. Sometimes, when the carpenter asked for immediate responses or action on previously promised issues, the apprentice would already be busy working on another issue that he considered important. The apprentice would immediately feel antipathy to this interruption from the carpenter, afterall he was busy with his own action plan in order to stay on top of his own promises to himself. In any event, he knew that he was doing the right thing and that the carpenter did not fully understand the negative impact of his requests on him. He would, therefore, continue with his tasks and, in a kind of polite way, promise to address the carpenter’s issues responsibly and soon. In this way, the apprentice created a world around him that worked for him. He reminded himself repeatedly that the carpentry shop could not do without him. He knew better than the carpenter what needed to happen on the manufacturing floor. He also respected the carpenter and liked being there as the widely known quality of work standards upheld by the carpenter and his insights into the market needs kept the shop busy with the right products. The master carpenter was also forgiving of errors and omissions by the apprentice and others. The apprentice helped the others understand the carpenter saying that he was demanding but never really followed up so they should not worry when the carpenter was demanding. Slowly but surely the apprentice found himself ever busier both with his responsibilities and engaged in the smaller issues of being a buffer between the carpenter and the rest of the apprentices. The apprentice’s time also filled up as he found himself taking on tasks that the other apprentices could not complete to the right standards or quality because he had made himself into the promiser of ease and happiness in the shop.

The carpenter could see that standards were dropping, he started to challenge the apprentice but the apprentice continued to say yes to the carpenter and then carry on as he had done previously. The apprentice had found a position of respect for himself within the shop. And so it was that things were done for the apprentice rather than the customers. The apprentice started to see the delays and quality issues and started to blame the carpenter for the amount of responsibilities that he had. The carpenter discovered that machines were not stripped and repaired as required, this lead to more breakdowns and more quality issues. The apprentice got ever more indignant and started to hide realities from the carpenter so that he could have time to rectify matters. The problem was that he could just not find the time any longer and could not get others to understand and do things properly anymore. He had to do his best just to catch everything and hide what he could not do himself. The other apprentices were happy to come to work and ask for days off. They were happy to get the extra pay for working weekends because things were getting further and further behind. This then started to irritate the apprentice as he was helping them but they were not helping him in return. It was an assumption of the apprentice that if he helped others out, they would do the same for him. He discovered that this was not the case but, despite all this, he could not bring himself to challenge them and decided that he needed to apologise to the carpenter who was always accepting of apologies. And so he apologised and so the carpenter accepted this. And so the apprentice went back to his old ways.

But this is not what happened in the end.

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