The Unicorn Crew: How Superstar Coworkers Make Our Work (And Life) Better
Y’all, I work with some seriously good people.
I’m currently on my flight from San Diego back to New York, on a redeye that is fairly empty. This is lucky because I have written only one sentence of the blog post that I’ll be publishing tomorrow, so I need all the in-air writing time I can get.
But despite having almost no real “work” to do as far as my job is concerned, and despite being under the gun with this week’s deadline, I still am finding it difficult to buckle down and get to typing.
The reason you ask?
They are all fucking outstanding, and it is making it impossible for me to want to focus on my writing instead of engaging in conversation. Each one of them inspires me in different ways, our personalities just jive, and *BONUS* they are not lazy nor excessively rigid flight attendants. This is one of those unicorn crews that makes my job joyful and my productivity suffer. I love it. (And hate it.)
It can not be overstated how much the crew can make or break a trip. It is probably the thing that has the biggest impact on how a trip goes when you’re a flight attendant. It affects my experience of a work trip more than difficult passengers, more than long delays, more than company politics, more than a great layover city or a not so great one. When you have a good crew, your worst day at work is not that bad. In contrast, minor inconveniences or one needy passenger can make you feel like throwing in the towel if your crew is lackluster or difficult.
And believe me, we have those ones too. Coworkers that make you scratch your head wondering who hired them and how they’re still here. But this post is not about that. And, it’s worth noting, those negative Nancys and Lazy Susans and Authority-complex Aurthurs really are in the minority.
This post is about celebrating the serendipitous jubilation of getting that unicorn crew. Showing up to work and just “clicking” with the other flight attendants by your side. Those times when work feels like a breeze, and your downtime feels like a conversation with a best friend, or a therapist, or a stranger that just somehow gets you.
Sometimes I feel like I’m privy to exclusive Ted Talks here on the jumpseat. Experts in real estate, entrepreneurship, creative arts tell me their secrets. Flight attendants can be experts at so many different things.
Hearing about my coworkers’ backgrounds, family structures, hopes, dreams, relationships, accomplishments puts me in a state of awe. Like an episode of This American Life. Every life so full of stories. Every biography worth the telling and worth hearing.
Sometimes it is just about feeling seen, as was the case on this flight when my two badass women-business-owner coworkers. We commiserated about imposter syndrome, unhealthy relationships with productivity, and needing to celebrate small, incremental wins instead of waiting until we’ve “accomplished the big thing.” This feeling—of being “seen”—is powerful. It’s something that we all crave, I think.
We sigh a thankful sigh of relief. We’re not alone. We’re not crazy. We are not the only ones desperately trying to unlock the secret of how to accomplish all our goals, and save money, and stay in good health, and make time for family and friends and love, and get enough sleep, and drink enough water, and do good for the world, and have side hobbies that we are passionate about. And we are not the only ones failing at it.
It’s relief, but it’s a sweeter kind. It’s goodness dripping out of a low-pressure rainfall showerhead. The warmth washing over you, seeping through your skin and into your bones.
It’s not just you. You’re not alone.
The amount of inspiration I’ve garnered from fellow flight attendants over the years is more than I can put into words.
What 'working with your people' looks like
Next month I will have the pleasure of working with one of my best friends. Twice. We are sure to get into some shenanigans on the road in Los Angeles and San Diego (Where our wildest memory to date took place—right Rach?) And having the opportunity to work with your bestie is…the best.
You’ve seen Rachel in posts like “Lone Wolf to Bride’s B*tch: Learning How to Friend” and “Girls’ Weekend in Stowe (Vermont)”
We met at work, and our friendship is the evolution that takes place when a co-worker becomes a “work wife” and then an actual outside-of-work friend, and then to someone you hold secrets for, and entrust your vulnerability to, and count on in times of need. A best friend.
In a job as social as being a flight attendant, this is a common occurrence. In the thousands of other identical uniforms covering varied and very different personalities, you find your people. It is nice when this translates outside of work and you find yourself richer in friends. But you know what? I think those relationships that stay in the realm of pleasant co-workers, pseudo-friends, and enjoyable acquaintanceships are just as important for our overall quality of work…and life.
Knowing I’m working with good people makes me excited to come to work. Or, at the very least, can sway me to show up when I realllllly don’t want to. (Like this week.) Showing up to work with a crew I have never met (we call this stranger danger in the industry) is an excitement all its own. Who knows, maybe I’ll “just click” with one of them. Maybe they are my people.
In the epidemic of loneliness that has been talked about as one of the American population’s big, looming problems, the people on the peripheral of our lives are critically important to our well-being.
The barista you interact with daily. The classmate who sits next to you. You don’t hang out outside of class, but you chat while you’re there. You look forward to seeing them. The regulars who come into the bar—the ones you have gotten to know so well that their drink is poured and in place before they make it to their seat. Whom you have shared laughs and eye rolls and aspirations with. The people in your spin classes, with whom you share friendly banter before class, and sweaty, exhausted “Way to go”s after. And, of course, your coworkers. Not the ones who become your besties, but even the ones you’ve never seen outside of work. The ones who keep you howling with their hilarious dating stories. The ones who share their snacks with you. The one who also had a family member pass away recently, who also got a serious health diagnosis, who also is going through a divorce—the one who knows what you are going through. These people add depth to our lives and color to our days. Make the good ones brighter and the bad ones bearable.
Clearly this peripheral camaraderie, and the importance of good coworkers is not only a part of the aviation world. Those of you in non-aviation jobs have probably thought this sounded like your workplace, too. Working with good people makes your day better. Duh. Working within tense, dreary, uncomfortable, and unpleasant interpersonal relationships puts a strain on how much you like your job and how effective you’ll be in it.
And indeed, the bad of working with a bad egg is worse for many of you because you do it every day.
I’m drawing out this topic in aviation because, (besides being self-centered) with the way our schedule works, it’s different. With most jobs you know, heading into work, what you’re in for. Which coworkers you like and which you don’t like so much. Who will lift you and who will suck your soul. But here in aviation, your coworkers change on every trip. It’s a real mixed bag. And even having your schedule with names on it in advance doesn’t mean you won’t be surprised last minute. When someone calls out, after all, or swaps a trip, someone new must replace them. Who you’ll work with is an ever-revolving mystery door.
Will you spend the next four days giving yourself silent pep-talks, or worse, being extra nice to passengers to make up for your surly co-worker? Or will you spend it in a flow that “just works”, laughing in the back galley, feeling the intangible tug of a kindred spirit?
This is so much of a “thing” in aviation that when we make our schedules we can request to work with certain people and avoid others. Seriously.
For you regular folks—you can totally tell on the plane whether your crew is trudging through the trip or has found their tribe. Look next time you’re on a flight. When things seem tense, disjointed, when you notice poor customer service or receive conflicting information from flight attendants, you can assume these people are not each other’s people.
On the other hand, it is so easy to see when your crew works well together and genuinely like one another. Things will seem light, smooth. The flight attendants will look like they’re getting along. They’ll probably be providing really great customer service, and you might even feel like you’re in on their jokes. They’ll seem awake and alert even in very early mornings or very late nights. There will be an ease about the whole experience, a kind of flow—and this will be the case even in the worst of airplane delays and mishaps.
When this happens, we are all lucky for it. It’s magic.
There is no real point to this post. Just a shoutout to those people who make work better.
To the flight attendants who inspire, make us laugh, or make us feel seen, and to every other co-worker in every other industry who makes the day suck less—Thanks for all you do.