Insanely Messy Worker Wants To Be Foreman


From original questioner:

I am curious as to how some of you would handle this. Please share your thoughts

We are a small, custom cabinet shop in the south. We keep around 5-7 people between office and shop. I oversee office and shop. We do not have a formal shop management structure in place which would be, Shop Foreman reporting to me and all other shop staff would report to Shop Foreman with all assignments and my instruction going through the would be Foreman. We have never set this up because we have never had a candidate that I felt comfortable enough to hand off all that responsibility too. So, for now, All department heads report directly to me.

Our most senior, and all around versed, department head does step up, on occasion and relieves me by issuing assignments in my absence and instructing/supervising the helpers. This particular staffer has been considered for, and spoken with, about an official Foreman position. He could be good at it, but, not so fast! Let's take a closer look.

This is where my need for outside input comes in. This fellow is a very good worker. He has been with us over seven years. He is reliable. He turns out quality work quickly and consistently.

The problem I have is not in his work, rather in his work habits! He is a mess!!! Not just a normal mess either. He is the worst I have ever seen in 30 years! He hardly ever picks up after himself, and he is terribly unorganized. He rarely starts a project without having to look around for tools and doesn't put them away when he is done. Any given day, He will be working on a project with tools still on his work bench from 2-3 tasks prior. Literally!!

Take a look at the photo. Here, we are proceeding to assemble a mitered door (which we screw from the sides of the stiles and plug to reinforce). You will notice on the active work bench, Visible wood shavings & debris, Various size screws scattered from previous tasks just waiting to scratch a door face, Drawer clips from a drawer box he worked on earlier, A flat tool-wrench from God only knows what, A plunge bit and screwdriver that has nothing to do with door assembly, and lastly, a chisel and sanding sponge which arguably could be required for the task at hand but still shouldn't be on the work bench. Oh and Best Yet,,, Notice the screws being used for the project are thrown on the face of the pre-sanded panel. Oh, and be sure to check out the nice little trash pile he stands in while working. Gotta stand on a pile of trash while we work!

IT WOULD DRIVE ME INTO A MENTAL ASYLUM WORKING IN THOSE CONDITIONS and I am amazed he is able to turn out any quality work from those conditions!!! Somehow, he does!

He doesn't see anything wrong with it! I have talked to him about it a dozen times, I have reprimanded him over it, I Have offered bonuses to fix it, I have even threatened to fire him over it.

About 2 years ago, with no where else to turn, desperate for a solution, I resorted to not consider any future pay raises until the problem was corrected. We noticed meager attempts show improvement here and there but no real difference. It seems to be in his blood. I am afraid he is not capable of change.

The reason I haven't fired him is this: He brings more to the table than the deficiencies take away. And, because of his disregard to change the habits, he is earning at least $2 per hour less than I would consider if he abolished the problem so there is money left over to pay a helper to clean behind him.

There is one more element to this regreted predicament. I do not tolerate him, or anyone leaving any mess in shared work areas like the table-saw, sanding areas, door hanging area, etc. ever. I refuse to disrespect the other craftsmen with the burden of having them clean up after someone else before they can do their job. I will fire the best cabinetmaker on the planet before burdening all other craftsmen with collecting another's mess!.

The unforeseen things I worry about, Even if it's the case that he doesn't want to change, and is miraculously somehow capable of turning out quality work from a trash-pile, How does it look when our Salesman escorts a classy, high-end customer through the shop and see's this?!?! What happens when another unsuspecting helper goes over and sets down a delicate work-piece only to be scratched by screws and debris left on the table?!?! What example does it set for up and coming helpers now and future?!?

There is a side of me that say's "If you can get the work done to adequate quality and remain on schedule, Do it however you want: Then there is another side that say's "This is how we do it, Get with it, or Get Going".

Please tell me, What is your take?

Do I keep him around with no wage increase and let him be messy in his corner?

Do I continue beating my head on wall trying to change his ways???

Do I take the all or nothing approach and lay down an ultimatum to conform?

I would love for him to conform to proper work habits and begin training for a real Foreman job but as you all can see, We are a ways away from that happening.

What would you do?

From contributor Ga

This is an interesting post.

You mention "He is reliable. He turns out quality work quickly and consistently.". You also mention "because of his disregard to change the habits, he is earning at least $2 per hour less than I would consider if he abolished the problem".

Obviously he has some good traits for you to keep him this long when it bugs you this much. Have you tried to explain it to the whole crew from a global perspective? Sometimes it takes a while for their light bulbs to go off, that I'll be wasting time later trying to find things if I don't take the 10 seconds to put it away right now. A five minute process can easily become 15 minutes if you can't find what you need to accomplish the process.

Have you looked at 2 Second Lean by Paul Akers? It is very simple and gets right to the point. He also has some very good videos that could bring the issues to light easily.

I'm guessing if you portray it in a different light, and pull this guy aside and tell him he could be earning more if he changed his habits, he may begin to do something about it.

From contributor B.

You can't change people......they have to see the need from within and make a change for themselves. Sadly many people never see the need.

My guess is this worker will always be as he is. His work space is most like an extension of his personal space outside the shop. You can either continue to try and look the other way, let him go or.....and this could be tricky.....find a way to keep his area clean for him.

If you have someone that cleans the shop (we use high school students) putting tools away and cleaning benches at the end of the day might be added to their job list. This would have to be handled carefully though as good intentions can easily be turned into insults.

This is a difficult situation but really just another of the typical employee related problems owners face every day.

BH Davis

From contributor mi

Like B. H. Davis said, you can't change people. No way would I move this guy into this position.
I believe an unorganized person has a problem that can be contagious, same as a virus. You have to be careful or the habits spread and begin to have effect on other people working around this person. I also often see on close examination, the lack of being orderly is found in many areas of the persons life.
My wife is a professional organizer, and I have worked in many homes installing systems (closets, storage, etc.) to help people get back on track. It is sad to say, that most will continue with a cluttered life, regardless of how much money gets thrown at the problem, or any effort to get them to change.

From contributor do

So really he does not want to be foreman if he cannot be fairly organized.

More importantly to me would be... does he communicate well enough to be a foreman with the other shop guys?

From contributor Pa

I would say no. The foreman needs to be organized, and a good communicator, and the other workers need to respect him. If he's a disorganized mess, chances are good that the others can't stand him. Don't promote someone just because they can build things. That's a small part of what a foreman needs to know.

If he really wanted to be foreman, he'd get his act together. People who want a promotion without bringing their game to the next level should never be promoted.

From contributor ri

Sounds like a personality trait difference between you and him. I have never been neat and organized. In fact, I'm sitting around piles of paper right now. He probably thinks that you are a neat freak and that you have some poor mental traits as well. Probably wonders how he can keep working for you some times. I'd suggest you not promote him until you are willing to overlook the fact that he is not like you. If you can't do that, I would not be surprised that you will lose him.

From contributor Ma

^^ X2 ^^

From contributor Ca

The good news is there is a lot of low hanging fruit in this situation.

It could be that your fellow is actually being efficient in the same way that water flows down the easiest path.

As near as I can tell from your photo the closest place for screw storage is in those blue boxes ten feet away. The only way to manage screws in that scenario is to have little puddles of screws. If they are a pain in the ass to get they are a pain in the ass to put away.

We used to really struggle with this. Part of the problem was discipline and part of it was democracy. It was hard to get people to put things away anyway and doubly hard to find things when everybody put them wherever made sense to them.

I don't think anybody would willingly store spatulas in the bathroom even if they were short of counter space in the kitchen. It just doesn't make sense to walk that far when you need a spatula. Everybody can buy into this concept for themselves but for some reason are perfectly content to walk 20 feet for some sandpaper each time they need it.

In our shop every horizontal surface has a tool drawer on the right and a screw drawer on the left. The red tools go in the red drawer and the green tools go in the green drawer. You always have a lot of confidence when you go up to a drawer that what you are looking for will be there. The surfaces are always clean because we have matching drawers on both sides of the benches.

We have a lot of battery drills. Battery drills are cheap, particularly if you by them re-conditioned. Our battery drills have a small wooden disc on top of them that is also color coded. A drill with a "X" has a phillips tip. CS stands for countersink. Square is for square drive. You can already tell if the tip you want is in a drill while you're ten feet away.

Basically you have to make it easier to succeed than to fail. The guys will take the easiest path every time.

From contributor ca

I'm with Cabmaker on this one. Your place is antiquated by the picture and you are damn lucky he has produced with what you have him working with.

You are making mitered doors in a very difficult manner and you are not set up well to assemble them either.

Feel blessed he hasn't walked yet.

From contributor Ch

You are overreacting. That bench looks like any bench where someone got interrupted in the middle of their project. From your description, I was expecting something ten times worse. My shop looks like that, and I make a ton of money, produce volumes and volumes of incredible work, everybody loves their job and I love my crew. Everyone has their own threshold, and yours and his are different. There is a point of diminishing returns where "neat" becomes "OCD". In my shop we produce 200k per month in 5000 s.f. It is ALWAYS messy because we produce TONS of custom, one-off projects. Every bench needs to be flexible, every project requires different tools and different processes. If that bench we'really looking at was nothing but a mitered door station, I might expect it to look different. But my guess is that the tasks that get produced there are very wide ranging, and as such that bench is going to look the way it looks.

That being said, it's your shop and you get to make it in your own image. If that is not the image you want to portray, then he's not the right man.

From contributor I'

I'm not sure what the problem is here. It looks like a workbench in use to me, and not a bench in a ready state in case someone comes by to take photos for a woodworking book. If that's the worst you have seen in 30 years, you have led a charmed life.

Does this guy even want to be foreman, or do you want him to be foreman, and in so doing, want to change his work habits and mess with his "flow"?

Some other questions to consider are:

If he does quality work quickly and consistently, why would you even make him foreman, and lose the production of an efficient journeyman? And why would you not give him a raise if he does nice work profitably? Because you and he differ on housekeeping? Would you truly risk losing this guy because he works in a space that is comfortable for him, and to his liking but not to yours? Are you in the custom woodworking business, or are you in the OCD cleanliness business?

Would you rather have someone who is not as good a cabinetmaker, and not as profitable for you, but keeps a neat workbench?

As for the other workers, I have yet to meet the perfect employee. We all have something that does not sit well with others; this is his, what's yours? What objectionable traits do your other employees have? Don't lose sight of your business objective. Step back and think about what is really important for the future of your business. Otherwise, you may have the cleanest shop that goes out of business.

From contributor Ji

Can I get an amen here?
The question was raised in my mind as well.
Why would you consider moving a high output guy that can actually produce, into a foreman position? You'd be better served possibly boosting his pay and keeping him doing his thing (making you money).
"This fellow is a very good worker. He has been with us over seven years. He is reliable. He turns out quality work quickly and consistently." Considered the alternative?
I work in much the same manner, pedal to the metal, pushing product out the door, usually cleaning when we have a few spare minutes. just AFTER the cabinets have hit the conveyor and just BEFORE the dumpster truck arrives (cleaning doesn't take long but sure can interrupt a productive groove.)
I was honestly expecting MUCH, MUCH. MUCH worse from your alarming post.
I envisioned a high functioning alcoholic wearing a WrestleMania half shirt, cutoffs and flipflops standing knee deep in cardboard boxes and laminate routings, looking for a screwdriver.
The walk time to return those four screws and two Chinese front locking clips across the shop cost more than they're worth, making moving them closer to the actual assembly even more important.
You don't need a foreman, you need a director (in a 5-7 man shop that should be you), you also need a young guy/gal cleaning and putting things away througout the shop. BTW your director (you) needs to focus/collaborate on methods and flow.
Product being delivered makes money (supposedly)... cleaning cost money, OCD cleaning loses money and grates on others nerves.

From contributor Je

I hope you have a better example than this work bench! I'd be fired in the first 15 minutes working for you. I mean....look at that work bench covered in wood shavings of every size and the screws....the screws, they're everywhere.... all different sizes from different jobs scattered all over the table.
Have you ever thought you might be a bit OCD!!! If this is the guys typical mess and he's the good worker you're describing give him a break and pick a bigger battle!

From contributor Ji

In further reviewing the photo, in an attempt to reconcile your thinking- I've come to the conclusion that you need to consider being medicated or going in for some couch time.
He's obviously making you too much money, that you have time to obsess over this.
I would however be watching for him to be sharpening the "flat tool-wrench from God only knows what", to stab you in the neck with it.

From contributor Ca

At the risk of making some of you guy's head explode I'm going to post a picture of an archetypical worker's tool box from Boeing airplane company.

There used to be a day when every worker had his or her own personal tool chest. Emblazoned on these chests were ribbons from various campaigns over the years. These chests were basically each worker's personal office. They could run it however made sense to them.

Some of the guys had complete tool sets with high quality tools. Some of the guys just used their chest to store spare clothing or potato chips. The workers who didn't have complete sets of tools, of course, would borrow them from those who did. When the tools came up missing or broken the person who owned them would get compensated by the company.

These tool chests were too damn big to carry into the airplane so they were situated sort of close to the bottom of the ramp. This was sometimes quite a hike from where the tools were needed.

When shift was over these personal tool chests were locked away in attended storage. At the beginning of each shift the worker would roll the chest down the factory to whatever plane they were working on and at the end of the day they would roll them back to storage. Since these guys were on the clock Boeing had to pay them for both directions of transportation. Time they spent hiking was time they didn't spend building.

Like any factory some real estate is worth more than other real estate. It didn't make sense for Boeing to store unused tools immediately adjacent to the airplane so these storage areas were some distance from where the work was being performed.

One of the problems with this approach had to do with missing tools. There was no way to keep track of tools. The obvious cost of a missing tool was the easter egg hunt associated with trying to find it or replacement when they finally realized it was cheaper to go to home depot and buy another one than to search any more. The not so obvious cost was when they finally found the missing hammer rolling around in the fuselage at 30,000 feet.

Boeing decided that since they were the de facto owners of these tools they could be in charge of what kind of tool would be used and where it would live in the workspace. The tools were put on shadow boards and nobody could leave until all the shadows were filled in. This was a great way to ensure that nobody discovered the missing hammer at 30,000 feet and it probably minimized some of the costs of these tools rattling around in a lunch box at 3 feet.

It's a wonderful thing that so many of you can be wildly profitable with a messy shop. This is quite a bit different than just a couple of years ago. Before you go off on this guy about OCD ask yourself if your company can defy gravity.

From contributor Da

What we are seeing here is a good example of the wide variety of work styles and habits. One man's mess is another's productive work space.

What is important is that a shop create a standard to which the workers are expected to work within. This takes training, leadership, and nurturing - 3 things not often found in many shops that are thrown together, with varied individuals of different backgrounds, training and discipline.

The OP will never get his guy to change his ways, and making him foreman will only frustrate the OP further. People don't change unless they want to change.

Since there are so few standards in our chosen profession, the way things get done will vary widely from shop to shop. I have seen shops that are a mess turn out high quality quickly, and shops that are showrooms rarely produce anything short of the occasional art piece. And vice versa. However, I have noticed over the years that a person of neat habits will be more consistent about turning out clean work with little or no problems, vs the ragged dresser, unshaven, fast and loose guy that will always find time to correct his errors. Generalizations for sure, but generally true.

The important thing is to determine your standards for your good reasons - OCD or not, and insure the shop fits within those standards as it grows and evolves. This means paying attention at hiring - showing the prospect the work area and explaining he/she will be responsible to work in such a manner.

From contributor Pe

Criticizing what we disagree with is convenient and simplistic. People rarely, if ever, change. The best coaches/leaders I've worked with have a system in place, yet have the ability to update and tailor specific functions of the system to the strengths of the employee's. We have the choice to focus on positive or negative aspects of life, work, relationships, etc. An oval peg won't fit a round hole but if we change our vantage point the oval becomes round. Just as the judgmental negative comments you've received accomplish nothing, focusing on what's wrong with your employee doesn't help them, you, or workplace morale.

From contributor Ji

Wow. It may just be me, but I realize I'm not running Boeing, building aircraft, or employing aircraft technicians.
I'm not criticizing the OP, just looking at this thru the lens of the available workforce.
His statement about the guy says all I need to know.

From contributor ca


None of us are Boeing and none of us can defy gravity. That does not, however, mean we cannot benefit from some of the culture and logic they employ.

A couple of years ago an engineer from Boeing wanted to buy some cabinets from me. When he & his wife came in he turned to her and said "A lot of FOD here". When she nodded in agreement I asked her what he meant by FOD. That's when I learned about something called Foreign Object Debris. Anything in the work space that is not necessary to complete the work is something you have to compete with. It could be too much WIP or it could just be those old doors leaning against the hardware rack in the OP's picture.

It is hard to change people. Nobody disagrees with that. This does not necessarily mean you shouldn't try to mitigate a bad situation. Some on this forum have accused my labeling battery drills with what kind of tip is in them OCD. If you ask my guys they will tell you it makes it easier to get the right drill in there hand.

Holding veterans to a higher level of standard is not necessarily a bad thing. They are the de facto shop leaders. Youngsters look up to them. If your main guy won't wear his safety glasses you're not going to get your apprentice to wear his. You are, however, probably going to get an eye injury.

I think as business owners we should be applauding the OP's concerns. What he was asking for was how to help turn this situation around. This is a good thing and the kind of thing you would want someone running your shop to try to make happen.

From contributor I'

Some really good points here, and while no one has ever accused me of having a neat work area, I can certainly see the other side of the issue.

Boeing does things the way they do now perhaps because no one wants to hear a hammer rattling around in an airborne airplane; either believing it to be a loose part, or wondering what airplane part the hammer will collide with that is necessary for the continued safe operation of the airplane. Their new system sounds like an operating room, with an operating room nurse counting sponges and needles after a patient is sewn up, so that all the things that should not be in the patient are not, much like the airplane.

Let us not lose sight of the fact that our work is not held to the standards of the aircraft industry, so we do not need to emulate the conditions under which such work is produced. We are not airplane machinists, we are woodworkers. My work only defies gravity when it is securely fastened to the ceiling

Pete D is correct, it is easy to criticize a situation that you donít agree with, but one thing that strikes me is that the OP wants the foreman candidate to buy into a system that does not exist yet. Perhaps if there was a system in place, and he was the only person not abiding by it, the argument against the candidate might have more traction.

Right now it just seems like a culture clash. Perhaps because the shop is profitable, and because profitability is not the immediate concern, it brings about a focus on less important things. No one worries about taking a car that wonít start to the car wash.

Since the OP does not have a system in place, if he values the candidate, he might do well to have the candidate help create the system, and perhaps by soliciting input from the candidate, he and the candidate may have a larger area of agreement on the shop procedures than the OP realizes.

I stick by my personal assessment of the situation as presented, which is that this guy does clean, consistent, profitable work for the OP, and the OP is just complaining because it is his shop and he is personally repulsed by what he sees as the lack of cleanliness of this guyís work bench.

If the OP were not making money, would this even be a concern? If it ainít broke, donít fix it.

From contributor Ji

You sir are genius.
The guy and his wife slinging code (FOD), live and work on a dream bubble financed by virtually unlimited funds, aka government money aka taxpayer money.
In this environment products and processes themselves are engineered to the .9999 degree.
Failure only neccessitates the need for more money to be thrown at the problem.
Those functioning in the real world rarely have that luxury.

From contributor Ch

I don't think this has anything to do with comparing woodworkers to airplane assemblers. A Boeing plane is a highly engineered, low variability product. It is built the same way every time, and as such there is no need for tool carts and the craftsman that use them. However, I can pretty much guarantee you that the company that takes Boeing 737's and converts them into luxury vehicles for billionaires, has a wood shop with a few tool chests. Apples and Oranges. I toured a large cabinet factory a few years ago and the place didn't have a spec of sawdust anywhere. I was not impressed, I was simply indifferent. What they do has no correlation to what I do.

From contributor Ca

I once had a production manager that worked for me for 5 years. He came up through the ranks and didn't have any formal education, It wasn't surprising that he did not know how to operate a fax machine. What was amazing was that he was proud of that fact.

He went on to state one time that he wasn't particularly worried about the economy because "there will always be a demand for craftsmen". This was just before he went to work for another company that laid him off for three months each in back to back years because of lack of work.

I would guess that most of the people on the Woodweb today have been in business for quite some time. Most of us remember what it was like when the phones stopped ringing after 9/11 or the more recent financial apocalypse. We are a hard headed group.

From contributor Pe

I like seeing the woodworking shed opened up to operations like Boeing, it gives us another lens to view our own shop systems/culture. Whether by accident or sought out, stepping outside of our comfort zone or what we've accepted to be the status quo can lead to innovations. Maybe they're small, maybe large scale, maybe they don't work, but trying to improve and reevaluate ourselves and our processes is important. Let's not get stuck in the woodshed mindset and apples to oranges concerns, valuable insights are out there in all kinds of different forms. What can be gleaned from them will be different for each individual & business.

From contributor ti

Here's a thought. After reading your rant, and re - reading it. You titled it, "wants to be foreman" but it's fairly obvious that he never came to you and said " I want to be foreman". Go back and read your first two paragraphs and either edit it to fit your rant or admit it's not about being foreman in the first place.

That said, you can consider getting used to the status quo. You're never going to hire a foreman.

When I first read this piece I thought it was written by the owner of this company, however, it was written on a level higher than a third grader so I knew it could not be.

Our shop sounds similar in size to yours, with same I'll do it all leadership. ....

The daily coming and going is diffused thru the shop by myself and a partner. To be sure, the owner has brought in foreman and production managers over the past five years. At last count, 18. Never neat enough, not enough paperwork, liars. naueum.

Could it be his triple AAA, ocd personality? Could it be that he vacuums himself out of the office every night so that the carpet has nice straight lines in it? Could it be that we fill out so many forms too gather data that's never used for any purpose. ....?

Or could it be that he and you will never accept that the way you build a cohesive team is see the strengths and weaknesses of your team and play to that. Good Luck hammering that square peg; you're going to be swinging for a real long time......

From contributor Ca

Paying attention to chaos is important stuff. It's what allowed us to evolve to where we are today.

A bazillion years ago, when we were still being hunted by birds, we had a greater level of situational awareness. We had to pay attention to every detail. The shadow we saw on the ground could just be a cloud passing in front of the sun or...... it could be that bird.

My father was a great boatsman. He has steered an LST through two typhoons. After the war he liked to go salmon fishing in the pacific ocean. His boat had 100Hp mercury outboard that was perfect for getting out to the fishing grounds but too powerful for trolling. His smaller motor was great for trolling in calm seas but not powerful enough to maintain direction in the bigger swells. His solution was to run the bigger motor as slow as he could and drag a bucket behind the boat tied to a piece of rope.

Back to the bird. In order to stay alive our ancestors had to pay attention to everything. They were particularly focused on danger. It was this angst that allowed them survive and perpetuate the species. This angst therefore is hardwired into our being. The same instincts that make a baby giraffe stand up instantly after birth are the same kind of instincts that keep us focused on chaos. Chaos could just be a cloud in front of the sun or it could be that bird.

Back to my dad; The effect of the bucket was to retard forward motion. A portion of his fuel was committed to holding him back. In much the same way a portion of our brain is committed each day to making sure nothing bad is looming inside the chaos.

You can test this theory for yourself. Take a look at your shop and consider what major dysfunctional corner bugs you the most. What area causes you the greatest heartburn? Which one stands above all the others so high you don't notice the others? Go clean that area up. You will be amazed how the next biggest mountain of shit wasn't even on your radar before. That's because you didn't have enough ram to pay attention to everything at once.

If your shop is clean you have more mental resources to focus on the project at hand. This is not rocket surgery. It's hardwiring.

(I can hear the din of heads exploding)

From contributor Ji

Good thing our ancestors were smart enough not to dive over a cliff to avoid the bird that was actually a cloud.
I don't see the level of "insanely messy" that warrants going wheels off.
Have you ever noticed that genuinely starving people aren't dealing with depression? There directly their effort towards the number one problem face them- where's the next meal?
You don't see depression until someone has too much money or someone else is covering their bills.
I guarantee if this guys company were struggling financially, a few screws and a couple of locking devices wouldn't make it on the radar.

From contributor Wo

I would like to learn how he keeps his work area that tidy - were I that neat I would be ecstatic.

From contributor Ch

This is probably one of those posts that should be left alone and we all just agree to disagree. But some of the logic that's being put forward seems less about practical experience and more about trying to sound smart, or trying to perpetuate an image of your company that you THINK people will be impressed with, rather than what actually makes you more money.

I am an owner. I love what I do, but more than that I want to make money. Every decision I make is about making more money. If I thought for a second that polishing my shop floors to a mirror finish and color coding my screws would lead to higher profits, I would do it. Conversely, I don't allow my shop to get so messy as to be dysfunctional. But these are decisions that are made without concern for what others might think of me, they are only made with profit in mind. Cleaning up takes time. Nobody will argue that a tidy work space is a productive work space. But obsessively cleaning at the expense of productivity is nonsense.

Cabmaker, your dad was smarter than you give him credit. He knew that spending $5 dollars more on fuel per trip was more fiscally prudent than dropping $8,000 on a new outboard. Just like sweeping up your area for 30 seconds before or after you start a project makes more sense than spending 30 minutes vacuuming up every spec with a shop vac.

Like I said, we'll just have to agree to disagree.

From contributor Ca


What makes you think I don't give my dad credit for being smart? Was this something I said or something you inferred?

From contributor Ki

There is a rational and scientific reasoning behind neat workspaces. Yes, 'neat' is a relative term as we see from above.

Using a powerfeeder on a shaper reduces our needed attention - brain power - to do the task without the feeder. We can limit our attention to sticking in the right end, the sound of the cut and when and where the next piece is. Hell, we might even get a little bored if we have to do a lot of pieces. Without the feeder, we have to do the above, but also push the stock through in a steady and even flow, Insure it is tight to the fence, insure it is on the table, keep our hands out of the way, avoid tripping on that cord, and probably more. In short, the feeder is doing more than feeding the stock - it is freeing us up to focus on what needs to be focused upon. Or to be bored. It has eliminated some of the clutter in our brain to the point where we have 'empty' space on our personal hard drive.

Just as your computer can track business functions far better than you can on paper, and frees up time for other things while it does the mundane for you.

Visual or physical clutter takes up space in our brain, just as data does in the computer. Our eyes/ears/other senses are taking in all that info, even though the bulk of it is not useful to the task at hand. Space that could be better used instead of seeing those cabinet doors leaning over there, just at our peripheral vision, hearing that Hendrix guitar solo. Given enough visual and auditory cues, we would say we are distracted. The truth is that the distraction actually happens much sooner in the brain than we may consciously realize. At a lower threshold that is noticeable. That is, we are bugged by whats around us and may not realize it.

Some of the first scientific discoveries in this area helped give rise to Minimalism.

We learn to ignore and filter since this is true when driving (want to talk about distracted driving anyone?), walking, eating or doing about anything.

Frank Lloyd Wright said he could design a house that would cause the inhabitants to divorce, but there was no need for him to do it since there already so many houses being built that way. This was at the start of what became the huge increase in the US divorce rate in the late 1950's as well as the growth of the tract style ranch house.

But paring down the 'noise' and the clutter in our environment does enable a more clean and clear thought process. With practice and effort, this process can be more deliberate and directed. I think anyone could agree that this would be desirable in the wood shop.

From contributor Ca

Well put Kilgore.

This OCD stuff has been around for a long time.

From contributor Je

I agree with most everything everyone is saying except for the OP. Yes, keeping places neat and tidy are more conducive to productivity and you need to control chaos, but take another look at the my evaluation, there is no mess at all. This guy has some issues and I would bet that most of us couldn't work for him.
It's a fine line to walk between keeping really good workers and allowing them to work and driving them bat shit crazy with your neat freak tendencies!

From contributor Ca


If you look at that picture that shop is a shit hole. We only get to see one small bench area. Look at the wall behind it. I'll bet the rest of the shop looks like that too. This has nothing to do with batshit crazy OCD. This place is a struggle to work in.

I am quite sure the OP is not just responding to the isolated events the photo depicts. He's advocating for cleanliness and organization, the hallmarks of any major successful manufacturing enterprise. For some reason the guys on this forum think nobody would want to work for the OP or the OP needs medication or mental health counseling.

Go back and re-read Kilgore's Trout's take on this. "Given enough visual and auditory cues, we would say we are distracted. The truth is that the distraction actually happens much sooner in the brain than we may consciously realize. At a lower threshold that is noticeable. That is, we are bugged by whats around us and may not realize it. "

From contributor ca

I don't think any client gives a crap about how much we pay for our guys to walk around and lose money looking for things.

I do know that a messy office for the boss means a messy shop - that equals less revenue- period.

I hate to say this, but maybe the employee might up his game a little with modern surroundings as stated and a professional series screw gun. Looks like a Black and Decker " Firestorm"

From contributor Sa

Solution here is simple .... shock collars. That way you can zap 'em when their bench gets too messy, and zap'm again when they stop to say something to a co-worker on the way to get the broom

From contributor Da

What is interesting about this thread is the level of defensiveness some have expressed about their work habits. This is evoking almost as much indignation as insulting a person's food choices, ethnicity, or tastes in music. That is, it got to people's cores real quick. I think I'd be better off disrespecting their wife and kids than asking them to clean up their workspace.

This is a sign that there is a bit more going on than what meets the eye. The old &quote "Milady doth protest too much, methinks...." as the Bard may have said. And has anyone tried the alternate/opposite to what they do to see how it suits them?

Perhaps it is that they already are so distracted, and unaware, and it comes out in this defensiveness. Their level of distraction is so ingrained that it presents itself as defending all comers in what is perceived as a personal attack rather than a boss's suggestion,good idea or mandate. If you don't know, you don't know. Know what I mean?

From contributor ca

I disagree with shock collars as that would probably backfire. Dog collars and an invisible electric fence, however, would keep the can of bond within a reasonable proximity of the bench.

For the record, I also agree with those who suggest this fellow is not a good candidate for a foreman position. If he is a good enough builder it might make sense to appoint him a protege that assists and cleans up after him. This is not about school yard democracy. Everybody is not equal or special. I doubt very much that washed his own coffee cups when he was Skipper of that LST.

The color coded tool drawers really do work. You can use them to make it easier for Skippy to put Billybob's tools away. Billybob might even embrace the idea if it was easy enough to get done because we already know that Billybob is into easy.