Let’s briefly explore some of the more elemental aspects of maintenance management life. In the last few years, a prodigious amount of effort and time has resulted in mapping the entire human genome. All this research has enabled us to solve the fundamental problem faced by
managers of maintenance workers since the time of the pyramids: what makes maintenance people tick?

It turns out that as we suspected the solution is in those small bits of life deep inside our bodies – our genes. We don’t know definitively if the plight of the maintenance manager is entirely due to genetics. More research is clearly needed. It’s the eternal question of nature (genetics) versus nurture (upbringing).

Genetics of maintenance workers

There are five genetic anomalies observed in maintenance workers. In fact,most maintenance workers have three or more anomalies and some people have all five.

Whining gene: Maintenance people are never satisfied. They constantly scour the environment for examples to support their basic dissatisfaction. Of course, this makes them great maintenance people. A maintenance person can walk by a row of pumps and detect the one with the burned bearing. Remember they are looking for problems. They are dissatisfied and want some reasons. A maintenance career provides those reasons every day. A dissatisfied maintenance worker in a maintenance environment is happy!

Packrat gene: Maintenance people can’t throw things away. It’s bad enough that they have filled their garage (there’s never room for the car) and their basement at home. Their collection is at risk of taking over the whole maintenance shop. If there is a question about this, take a look around the shop. Are there rat holes with old stuff in them? Is the stockroom a mess? If so, then this gene is the culprit. Of course the contents of these rat holes have saved the day more than once.

Toy gene: Oh, I mean the tool gene. How silly of me to get mixed up. Do your maintenance people spend half their income with the Snap-on guy? Are their kids starving because they are saving for the newest and best toys, I mean, tools? When they were kids did they always want the humongous Erector sets? If you notice this, then they are plagued with the Toy gene. Of course, when you need the specific tool you’re happy to have it, since it might save a half-day. Some people think this is gender-linked but it isn’t. My wife has this gene and it shows up in sewing machine items, fabric and fashion magazines!

Independence gene: Getting maintenance folks headed in the same direction is a lot like herding cats. Each person has an opinion and believes his is the best. This gene makes great maintenance guys because they will tell it like it is no matter what you ask, but boy is it challenging to deal with day to day! The really independent ones must have gotten a double shot of this gene.

Dirt gene: This gene is expressed in some maintenance people by a dirty appearance, even at the beginning of the shift. Somehow their clothes attract dirt and grease from the atmosphere. Not every maintenance person has it but you can tell the ones that do. I thought everyone had it until I worked side by side with an electrician. We did the same work but at the end of the day I discovered I was covered with dirt and he wasn’t. I must have a double shot of that one!

I hope you now have a new insight into the maintenance personality. As we’ve discovered, it’s really not their fault. So give them a break today and buy some cool tools.



Joel Levitt is the Director of International Projects with Life Cycle Engineering (LCE). He has over 30 years’ experience in the maintenance field including process control design, source equipment inspection, electrical expertise, field service technician, maritime operations, and property management. A recognized expert training maintenance professionals, Joel has trained more than 15,000 maintenance leaders from 3,000 organizations around the world. You can reach Joel at