Qualities of Great Employees

The Poem “To Be of Use,” by Marge Pierce, could be narrated by a boss of an important enterprise who talks during a job interview about the qualities he or she wants in an employee. The speaker, in this case the boss, also states in each stanza that possessing this attributes will help workers advance in their career.

The first stanza initiates the job interview. Here, the speaker explains that the new employee must be bold and “jump into work head first / without dallying in the shallows” (2-3), learn the tasks fast or “become natives of that element” (5), and remain active by “bouncing like half-submerged balls” (7). By using the term “half-submerged,” the boss places the employee in the starting point or his or her career.

The second stanza is the pathway between an entry level job and a higher rank. To achieve a greater position, the employee has to be a hard worker like an “ox [harness] to a heavy cart” (8), patient such a “water buffalo” (9) pulling against the current, and persistent to “do what has to be done, again and again” (11).

Following this last recommendations, the employee will advance in hierarchy and “submerge [completely] in the task [of work]” (12-13), which gives origin to the third stanza. This expression also addresses another quality that is being determined to complete any assignment. When the speaker adds the phrase “move into a common rhythm” (16) he or she implies team work.

The last stanza reveals the end of the interview. At this point, the boss basically says every “work… is common…” (18). However, being common does not make it simple. Actually, work is sometimes hard and a task can go wrong and “crumble to dust” (19). But the jobs worth it have clear and evident results (20-21) like a “Greek amphora” (22) or a “Hopi vase” (23) that someone creates with labor and effort to accomplish something beautiful.


One thought on “Qualities of Great Employees

  1. I like your breakdown of each part or stanza and discuss what you think the meaning of each one is. I tend to agree with what you are saying, especially talking from a bosses point of view. As a boss these are the qualities you would be looking for. Those type of qualities reduce the learning curve by jumping right in and developing a good working relation with the team so everyone is moving forward to accomplish the same thing. It also implies what she does not like which is someone who works alone and will do anything to move themselves forward even if they step over other people to get there.

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